Day Ten - Monday, Feburary 4th, 2002 - Sanyang Nature Camp

A bit of an easy day really. It was very windy today for our language session which we held in a small, unused, building on the site (odd, that). The dust from outside and from the chalk that Alhaji was using was quite something in the “enclosed” area (well, a massive open doorway and windows…).

We learned a bit about Gambian ceremonies today and concentrated a lot on the rite of female circumcision (known as Female Genital Mutilation or FGM) since there were a few people (including myself) in the group that are quite concerned about it still being practised. Evidently the children are taken into the “woods” where the operation is performed by other woman with rudimentary tools and there have been numerous problems with this (including girls bleeding to death). Recently there have been woman who refuse to have it done so a recent trend has been to have the procedure performed on infants (who cannot complain so much). The woman in our group were warned NOT to follow any group going into the woods as it would be assumed that if you go you wish to have the procedure performed on you. It was interesting to hear that there is no real religious basis for this practice, only a matter of tradition (and also, it was suggested, male selfishness since polygamy is still practised here and men are concerned about not being able to satisfy all their wives so they have them circumcised).

We also discussed a bit about marriage and it was interesting to learn that although couples can now court each other without the parents being involved, the marriage ceremony actually involves the parents ONLY (the couple are not present).

After lunch we headed off to the beach where I went for a walk with the trainer Ebrima down the beach past the fisherman and the hotel to the end of the sandy part of the beach and the beginning of a more rocky section. We chatted about various things including my possible continuing on with language training (he typically does it for VSO volunteers) as well as my asking a few questions about life in the Gambia. Quite interesting.

I managed to get into the water but it was VERY wavy so I was only out for a few minutes before heading over to the bar (where everyone else was) for a drink. Eventually we headed back and passed the ladies working in the vegetable fields (the woman do this work, not the men).

Before dinner we had a two hour language session (thankfully, with a bit of a break in between) – a bit much. Dinner was lady fish cooked in tinfoil (VERY nice and tender). Cards again tonight…Though we also saw some REALLY big red ants outside our rooms before bed…

⇒ Continue to Day Eleven - Tuesday, February 5th, 2002 - Sanyang Nature Camp