Day Thirteen - Thursday, February 7th, 2002 - Sanyang Nature Camp

I did not really get a lot of sleep last night, I guess it has been the worrying about the homestay beginning tomorrow. A lot of us are nervous about the experience because of the artificiality of the experience and the awkwardness of the thing. It took 34 minutes and 4 seconds for bread to arrive today – not that we time him, by any means, just that we noticed…Perhaps he met a few people to chat to in the village today?

Our last language lesson was held after breakfast and was quite good with Alhaji giving us a bit of a pep-talk and a few phrases that might be useful during the homestay (of course, none of us will remember the phrases but it is the thought that counts…we hurriedly scribbled them all down so that at least we can look them up).

One of our group received a disturbing phone call from home today. They had got ahold of the number of Ebrima's mobile from VSO in the Fajara area (the head office here). It was quite a shock to a lot of us about the fact that we are so far away and there is so little we can do for anyone back home. It was unfortunate that they refused to talk on the first phone call and said that they would call back later in the evening with more details which made the day much more difficult for them to get through – waiting for the call.

Religion was the next section for the day that basically focused on the Islamic faith which is predominant in the country though there are some Christians. It was interesting to discuss the various elements of prayer that must be observed every day as well as the “pillars of Islam” including the trip to Mecca.

Lunch was chicken yassa which is another of my Gambian favourites though the pieces of chicken were absolutely HUGE.

We began the afternoon with a trip in to see the Iman – the spiritual head – of the village. It turns out that the Iman himself had actually left yesterday and so we talked briefly with the “deputy” Iman in the Iman's house which was VERY warm (having only a tin roof visible from the inside – no insulating layer that would be provided by a ceiling). It was interesting talking about the Koran and the traditions involved in the village. Children in Sanyang are still taught the Koranic teachings using slates.

After the warm house, we were grateful for the air-conditioning of the vehicle as we returned to the camp. There were a lot of cattle and many people on the road today for some reason.

The afternoon ended with a visit from a traditional herbalist who showed us samples of the herbs he deals with including one that keeps away mosquitoes, another for impotency, another used as an antiseptic and yet others for curing of an upset stomach. It was very interesting and ended in us heading out along a path out of the camp (which we had not noticed before) in order for him to actually point out the plants. We wandered along the narrow path just looking around with the palm trees and the various scrub plants. We were surprised to find a massive termite mound which was about 30 feet high and as tough as concrete. Many of the plants along the path had been dug up for people to get at the roots for their medical (and other) properties.

Ping-Pong Me (Blush) Playing Ping-Pong with Alhaji and Ebrima (Courtesy Jane)

We were then able to relax and prepare for our trip to our homestay families tomorrow. Dinner was (fish) benechin which was, again, quite good. The phone call we had, in a way, all been dreaded arrived for our colleague. It was not good and they had to head off to bed early. It really gave a bit of a sombre feeling to everyone here for the evening.

I distracted myself by getting involved with a game of “crazy 8s” with Alhaji and a few others. It was great fun and very exciting. Just what I needed.

⇒ Continue to Day Fourteen - Friday, February 8th, 2002 - Homestay - Sanyang Family