Day Three – The British High Commission and the market
The best part of today for me was meeting the UK High Commissioner in the Gambia. What I found so fascinating about her was how empowering her aura was, how she spoke so confidently. It was clear why she was in a leadership role. And she gave us all a really good piece of advice: being a leader is to do with being authentic, she said, rather than trying to be a generic type of leader. You can’t fake it.
After a picnic lunch in the beautiful botanical gardens, we went to a mango processing plant. The manager of the plant told us he thought it should be a human right to travel and work wherever we like to go because we don’t choose where we’re born. And because we’re all human beings we all have the same right to experience planet Earth; and then he touched his heart. I liked that a lot. He’d travelled to so many places and lived in four countries and could have stayed in any of them, but he chose to come back to The Gambia because he loves it the most.
But part of the day really shook me. Driving back from the processing plant we passed through a busy market. I’m pretty sure there were more goats than people along the roads. This is because it’s Tobaski on Sunday. Tobaski is a religious festival. Every family buys a goat to take back to their compounds which they slaughter for the festival. There was so much stuff in the middle of the road through the market. So much stuff, spilling out everywhere. All these thousands of people trying to get into the market in the heat of the day: it was incredibly tiring, so hot and the thought that they had to deal with this every day was shocking. We were approached by a little boy. They like to shake our hands here, but this boy had an ear infection. And it really upset me. If there’s anything wrong with me at home I can go to the doctor, get medication, and I’ll be fine. But I felt this boy will have to deal with it himself.
I must admit, I’m really struggling with the amount of insects everywhere. I’ve been applying mosquito spray all the time but apparently it doesn’t always work! And the flies! I shouldn’t complain about it because other people live with this all the time.
We bought some material from the market which is going to be made into skirts and tops for us. I’ve never had anything properly tailored for me and the fact my first tailored piece of clothing will be from Africa is very special. Being measured for the clothing is exciting. It felt so personal. And that’s what this entire country feels like: it feels personal. This is the smiling coast. In the UK everything is business based. You use the self checkout, but here you get to interact and shake hands with everybody you meet.
The Gambians make up for what they lack in economic wealth with their social wealth.
And actually, that’s what the High Commissioner was emphasising this morning. At home, we take so much for granted, not least our human rights. Here, they’re only just beginning to regain their human rights after a regime riddled with corruption for twenty-two years.
Izzy Harte, 17