Well, my parents finally made it to The Gambia... they left yesterday. I was sad to see them go, but we had a great time while they were here.
We spent the first week traveling upcountry to see some local tourist sights and visit my village. It was a very busy but fun week. We joined a tour, which traveled partially by land and partially by boat. I especially enjoyed the boating parts of our trip. I've traveled the length of this country more times than I can count now, but always by public transport on poor roads. For a country that pretty much consists of a river and the narrow strip of land that surrounds the river, it's not often that I get to travel on the river... so it was definitely a treat. And on top of that, we really traveled in style on our boat trips. We were served coffee and tea, cold beverages, and lunch. We even drank bottled wine (not wine in a box) out of real wine glasses! The other members of our tour were mostly bird enthusiasts from the UK. On our series of boat trips throughout the week and saw not only birds, but chimpanzees, hippos, dolphins, monkeys, and baboons. It was a nice reminder that I do live in Africa, after all. Usually, the only animals I see are goats, sheep chickens, and cows.
For one day of our trip, we made it to Fatoto, where my American family was finally able to meet my Gambian family... and my father, James, was able to meet his tokara (name-sake), James. They also ate some good Gambian food and were able to visit my school and meet some of the teachers I work with. One of the highlights of my trip was that my mother stayed in Fatoto with me overnight. It was a short visit, but at least we had time to walk around my village, meet some
lunch in my hut
of my students, and spend some time visiting with my family. She was subjected to Pulaar lessons from my brother, Samba. She took bucket baths and used the pit latrine like a pro. She even traveled back to Basse with me in an overcrowded Gile Gile. She did great.
My Gambian family was thrilled to have my parents there. It meant as much to them as it meant to me.
James with James
Other hightlights of the upcountry trip: We spent one whole day in Basse, seeing the sights and hanging out with my Basse family and friends, mom and dad had the experience of having to help push-start one of the vans we were traveling in (a true Gambian experience), I finally got to see dad sleep in a tent, and mom and I took jimbeh (drumming) lessons, followed by African dancing.
After our week upcountry, we spent one week at the beach. We took a few "excursions" for shopping and sight-seeing, but mostly just spent time relaxing and eating good food. I know my parents were relieved to be sleeping in airconditioned rooms with constant electricity after some their upcountry accomodations. And now that I've had a week to relax, it's time to head back upcountry and back to work!