First impressions of The Gambia:
- the driving over here makes this morning’s dash to the airport this morning look pretty weedy – think pulling out directly into the path of oncoming vehicles and then neither driver attempts adjust their speed
- there are little kids everywhere on the sides of the road and all are wearing beautiful and immaculate brightly coloured clothes because it is currently Eid al-Adha, known locally as Tabaski. Gambia is a predominantly Muslim country (95%), but tolerant of other faiths and even has its own brewery.
- at the airport and car park you are surrounded by scores of people wanting your old newspapers, trying to help with your luggage, or just wanting cash from you just because. The local scam is to pretend that they know you already “hey, I’m from your hotel” or to pretend they previously did a service for you which you didn’t pay for “we took all your bags to the car and you didn’t pay us”. I gave a chap 40p to take my bag (it was all I had!) and he looked at it with sheer contempt. Perhaps he’s been reading those old newspapers about the British economy…
Dinner at Martin’s was great, we drank the local beer JulBrew which is a fairly standard lager for tourists and ate a starter made from battered and fried black-eye bean paste. Martin and his wife Joyce are Ghanaian. Jouce made a vast dinner including a specialty of kimke – a fermented corn maize dough which is wrapped in corn leaf and boiled.
We are staying in the MRC Gambia compound which is large (1 mile around) and enclosed in a private compound with high security. There is a hospital on site and the patients queue in the mornings to be triaged by a nurse, who then refer to the outpatient department if there is need. This is also a way of recruiting patients to the various MRC clinical trials which are conducted here. Inside, the offices are modern with good Internet and office facilities.
Tomorrow: market, crocodiles and I finish preparing my 3 talks ready for the start of Thursday’s conference!
Gambia Fact: The extent of the Gambia border was determined by the range of a patrolling British gun-boat going up and down the River Gambia!