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Grateful In The Gambia

My entire experience has changed me as a person and to reflect upon my time and my experiences seems incredibly personal. I’ve gone from arriving and being completely overwhelmed, careful, scared, to now being able to jump in a 8-8 cab or on a Gelli Gelli (bush taxi) and travel around the country relying on my knowledge of the local language, and occasionally the directions from kind strangers.

In both in the day-to-day office work that I do, and in my social activities after work and on the weekend – I no longer feel that I am just an observer. This is reflected in the small social behaviours I have adapted during my time living here. Greeting anyone you walk past with a “assalamualaikum” or a “nanga dev?” Greeting everyone individually and asking how their evening was, when you first walk into the office in the morning. Inviting others to eat with you, or to have a piece of your lunch (no matter how hungry you may be). Walking a little slower – no need to speed past someone on the street. Plus, walking fast in sand is really hard. Playing football on the beach after work – don’t worry, everyone will be there and there will always be a game. Asking someone’s full name and where they are from when you first meet them. Being confident in talking to the Principal and teachers when I go into school for the data validations I need to do for work.

A lot of these seem basically simple tasks, but after living in large cities – I’ve lost a lot of these small social niceties that make the day a little more enjoyable. Furthermore, I’ve had time to reflect on when I am shy or uncertain (as I was when I first arrived) why I revert to a quiet self. Being here has forced me to be outgoing and to bring back out that small-town “Canadianness” and social niceness that has long since been hidden away from my personality after living in large fast-paced cities.

I’ve learnt so much from my experiences here and the people I work with. Both technically and with transferable skills I will bring to future employment opportunities through my own confidence and personality. The only way to say thank you for this experience is to take all the things I love about The Gambia, all the small characteristics I’ve adopted, and to keep them with me.

I guess what I’m trying to say is thanks…and this experience was not taken for granted.

Danielle Howe is working with the Nova Scotia Gambia Association in Kanifing, Gambia.

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