It’s been 25 days since I stepped off the plane in The Gambia. .
24 days since my first day of work at ‘The Nova Scotia – Gambia Association’ a small NGO who delivers health education to over 100 schools and communities throughout The Gambia.
23 days since I wanted to, literally, “bless the rains down in Africa”, when an all day thunderstorm dropped the temperature from 38C to 29C.
22 days since beginning my “lessons” in the local language, ‘Wolof’.
21 days since, after confidently walking into the office greeting everyone in ‘Wolof’ and feeling so smug with how much progress I made, being stunned to learn that there are 3 other local languages that everyone in our office knows how to speak in order to deliver our health programs – just going to focus on learning one at a time for now.
20 days since I was given my Gambian name (Fatima) and Mathura was giver hers (Aisha).
15 days since we had a mechanical malfunction with the toilet at home, and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder during the process of trying to ‘fix’ it...sorry Mathura.
14 days since I felt completely overwhelmed.
13 days since Islamic New Year.
10 days since Uncle Sauwara, the shop owner in front of our office, started putting our favourite sandwich bread aside, knowing we’d be down everyday for lunch to order ‘tapalapa auch omlette’.
9 days since, at 3:30am, I declared my hatred for roosters, all roosters.
7 days since I was laughing at a joke while sitting between our Finance Manager and one of our regional coordinators in our NSGA vehicle, and truly felt that I belonged.
6 days since our meeting with one of NSGA’s partners, Action Aid International The Gambia, and felt the pang of jealousy of their air conditioned office.
4 days since I learnt how to make my first Gambian dish, Chicken Chu.
2 days since my 25th birthday, my first Gambian birthday (Besbu Delusi Moneh!) which I got to celebrate by going to the beach – when have I ever been able to do that in November?
1 day since meeting with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to discuss strengthening the partnership between the government and NSGA to build capacity and resources through collaboration over the next three years.
Only 20 minutes since I last declared my love for my office fan – a regular occurrence, mind you.
It’s only been 25 days, but I’ve experienced so much, so quickly that it has been difficult to stop and reflect for this blog entry.
So far my career in global health and international development has only been compiling research, writing reports, fundraising, or inputting/analysing data – all from the comforts of an office. But to be in the field, to see the programs implemented, it’s awesome. And I don’t mean that in the ‘valley-girl’ slang of the word. The work here, it’s awe-inspiring, back-breaking, and sometimes frustrating. But you can see the impact of NSGA and it’s programs. Most of the senior staff used to be Peer-Health Educators when they were in high school, and since then have stayed with NSGA throughout their careers because they believe in the importance of delivering health programs to empower the next generation.
It’s…just awesome, and I can’t wait for what the next 173 days will bring.
Danielle Howe is working with the Nova Scotia Gambia Association in Kanifing, Gambia.