BANJUL, The Gambia, Capitol
A Barber of Banjul. This is on the streets of Banjul, the capitol of The Gambia. There is a tarpaulin over the shop, and the sun beats down mercilessly upon the street. It is about 90 degrees (F) that day.
My cousin Ray has engaged 17 children just outside of arch22. Minutes later of course a Vendor will be asking us to buy things - capitalism at work. When I return from the top of Arch22, we give away 1/2 a pile of tissue paper. Now, giving away tissue paper to a westerner would be insulting. But these kids were more than eager to receive it. They were ready to kill for this tissue paper. A pack of hungry wolves descended upon the tissue paper and it vanished in a puff of snarled fingers.
This is a picture overlooking the dusty run down capitol city of Banjul. Notice the Mosque in the backdrop (on the left). 90% of the country is Muslim, a consequence of the Soinke-Marabout civil war. In 1850 the Muslim villages (Marabouts) declared a holy war against non-muslims (the Soninke). And then thousands of Fulani Muslims invaded, until today, the Muslim religion has captured the minds of the people. When we were in Gunjur the entire town stopped for a midday 2PM prayer. An Imam was spewing a religious sermon over a loudspeaker. Everyone stopped literally where they were broke out a mat, faced east, and kowtowed in prayer. They touched forehead to ground several times. The schoolchildren held the koran. They do not receive a liberal education, but a religious one. This intellectual poverty is far greater than their material poverty. Notice to the right of the picture the television station. There is only one station in the entire country, serving about 5,700 televisions for a population of 1.54 million. Really only the capitol and a few surrounding cities have television reception. Internet? Forget it.
This is the Arch 22 Monument. I paid 50 dalasi to enter ($1.70 USD). At one point the spiral staircase was so dark I had to break out my LED flashlight which I had attached to my belt loop. The top of Arch 22 promises a beautiful vista over the capitol of the Gambia and was well worth the sweaty climb.
Pictured here are traditional weapons. This was a little museum at the top of Arch 22. A load of farangs had just been disgorged from a tour bus. The country receives 2000 international visitors a day, they have to go somewheres and most of them visit Arch 22. As you move out further east there are fewer and fewer westerners. By the time, we reached Basse Sante Su we were the only ones. The weapons have been modernized unlike most of the rest of the country. The police and soldiers all use pretty modern looking rifles/guns.
Pictured here are traditional tools of agriculture. More insightful though was when I got a chance to discuss with a person from Taiwan at JanJang Bureh (Georgetown). Because I speak fluent mandarin I was able to find out a lot. Taiwan has donated their agricultural knowledge to bring modern tools and techniques to this country. Mr Cheng told me that the people are lacking in knowledge of proper nutrition. The people appear vigorous and have a super physique, but if confronted with a minor illness their poor nutrition shows through. This was also borne out by the meals that I had, lacking in fruits and vegetables. They ate an extremely narrow diet of ground nuts, bananas, bread, rice with spices, and watermelon. Though they had varying combinations of the above. For example I had a ground nut sandwich (bread) with spices. I had a meal consisting of rice with spices and bread. A fascinating passage in the lonely planet guide to Gambia went like this : "A western restaurant owner had an argument with her chef. The patron had asked for a vegetarian meal, but the chef put in beef in the dish. The owner angrily stormed in and asked why beef was put in the dish. The chef said if you can afford to eat beef then you should!". It illustrates a difference in thinking. The chef could not understand how someone could be a vegetarian if they could afford to eat meat. In the west, the land of plenty, a vegetarian can get sufficient sources of protein to substitute for meat. In the Gambia there is only meat or no meat. Well, there are ground nuts but after eating a few pounds of those you get pretty tired of them.

Mr. Cheng also explained to me a perennial problem of helping the poor. If you give they will take. But if you only give they don't improve. You must learn to teach before they can help themselves. At first the Taiwan government was only giving money aid and tools. Then they learned to set up classes, and lease equipment, giving the locals an incentive to actually learn and work.

Another interesting fact was that before Mr. Cheng (Taiwan) arrived and showed them modern irrigation they would only plant and harvest with the seasons. This had been going on for hundreds of years. A reader of this might ask : "why haven't didn't they learn irrigation before?". Many reasons, keep in mind slavery itself was only abolished in 1807 (millions of Gambians were enslaved by whites), then in 1850 the Marabout-Soinke civil war occured. In 1941-1946 (during World War II), european powers carved up and controlled Africa. Only on Feb 18, 1965 did the country gain independence to join the commonwealth of the UK. And finally on April 24th, 1970 the Gambia becomes a republic, and a wholly independent country. They are still incredibly poor, massively illiterate, religiously driven, and are only now just picking up the skills the West mastered 1000 years ago.

  FARAFENNI, The Gambia, Market-town
This was one of two hotels (guesthouses) in Farafenni. We stayed at Eddie's just around the corner. We had a soda just across the street from this hotel. I like this picture of goats cross in front of a hotel, where can you see that in America?
This amazing one man smithy is a little self contained industrial revolution. His metal working skills allowed man to rise above the monkey. He has all the capabilities to work metal in this little hut. A tiny blow furnace to heat coals. A slab of metal(s), and a quenching cup. Tempered steel is produced by quenching the metal as it starts to cool. From red-white hot down to a blueish color. Just at the right moment(color) you drown the metal in cold water. This put a protective oxide layer on the metal , and if cared for will last your lifetime. The smithy here is making Solder. Just minutes later a person with a radio will walk up and dip a metal stick with hot solder on it in an attempt to fix a radio. Around the corner from here a lady is setting up shop. She cuts in half a watermelon to sell. She has a baby slung on her back. The average women has 5.4 children in the Gambia.
This is the first third world country I visited that didn't have bottled water. This baggie of water is prevelant around the entire country, and cost 1 Dalasi ($0.03 USD). You have no idea where this water is from, but you also have no choice. It isn't brown , doesn't taste polluted and we didn't get sick from it.
Farafenni is a market town. People come from all over the countryside to this market. There are perhaps 100 little stalls and stands. Each person or two is a little store. There are actually standing stores with 3 walls, but perhaps only 30 of those. The ground is dirty, and dusty. And pictured here is rotting fly-ridden beef for sale.
At this fish market store just down from the Beef store, about 7 vendors are selling fish. I ask how much they are , this man says 4 fish for 10 Dalasi ($0.34 USD). This is also fly-ridden fish, smelly and rotting in the open.
Pictured here is a husk of a car. Similar to the Minivans that we will use to traverse the country. Small crowded and used to death. Afterwards they meet a scavenger's death as usable parts are recycled into other vehicles.
  BASSE SANTE SU, The Gambia,
This picture of me next to a Candle has a long story behind it. We had travelled across the entire country to get to Basse Sante Su. Starting at Banjul we went to Barra (by ferry), then by Minibus went to Farafenni. Stayed the night at Farafenni, and the next day checked out the markets. Then went to Yeletenda took a small ferry, then a harrowing taxi ride to Soma , and then to Basse Sante Su. During the trip, I made friends with a government worker named Mohammad, he told me what it was like to work for the government. He deals with the export market (ground nuts). He helped us find Basse Guesthouse in the dark when we arrived at Basse Sante Su. The hotel owner, candle in hand found room number 2, stooped down with candle unlocked the room, and then walked to the center and lit the tiny candle in the middle of the room with her candle. A candle light stay. It was hot in the room, probably about 95 degrees. We couldn't sleep. We opened the windows. We sae someone outside with a flashlight. Thinking we might be robbed we moved our backpacks around. We tried to sleep. I think I got 1 or 2 hours of sleep. I woke up to the fzzfzzzzzzfzzzzzzzzz of a mosquito. That's right the room had no electricity, it had no fan, and no screens on the window. We paced around outside to avoid the mosquitoes for hours. I'm exhausted. We discovered about 40 mosquito bites on each of us the next day. I half slept on the porch in the cool, brisk pre-dawn air. It had enough wind that there were few mosquitoes and I half slept/sat in a chair the rest of the night. That was by far the most horrendous car ride and most horrendous bug-ridden night of my life.
The rest of the nights in the Gambia weren't so bad. We found good guesthouses with screen windows and fans. Perhaps the Atlantic hotel in the Capitol had electricity 24/7. But most hotels had electricity like 4/7 (using portal electric generators). That is, most hotels had electricity for about 4 hours in the evening from 8PM - 12AM. It was too expensive to run them all day. Gas cost about 25 Dalasi per Liter ($3.25/gallon). Basse guesthouse had electricity 0/7. In other words, no electricity at all! Pictured here is me next to an electric generator.
  YELETENDA, The Gambia,
Pictured here is the small port town of Yeletenda. A tiny town with few people and a few row boats. We only passed through here on our way to Soma. Full of vendors trying to sell you things you don't need. Well I did buy my Indiana Jones hat here.
The following pictures are from the village of Kerewan Badala. Here we were warmly greeted by the villagers (who of course wanted money). But we got to see how they lived, where they lived and asked them numerous questions about their lifestyle. We essentially got a guided tour of the village. We gave the about 500 Dalasi (a small fortune), but converted to US dollars that's $17.0.
The trip to this village was a wonderful experience. Kerewan Badala is a typical Gambian village, a place where radio hasn't reached, a place where Television, electricity, the automobile, hair dryers, and saturday morning cartoons don't exist. You have stepped back in time 400 years by visiting any of the hundreds of Gambia villages. They are easy to find they are all over the place. In fact, Kerewan Badala we weren't looking for specifically we just walked into the village from Basse Sante Su. We saw villagers making flour from wheat (in a 3 feet Mortar and Pestle). Crops everywhere (this is living by subsistence farming), chickens running around (for meat/protein).
Yes, this lady's son (on the right) here is naked. You think the Europeans are liberal about clothing? Ha! I saw loads of naked people in the Gambia. One that sticks out in my mind was a restaurant we walked into in JanJang Bureh. A mom and pop restaurant. We walk in and the Lady is topless carrying a naked 1-1/2 year old baby. Some of the children had never seen an Asian person (because we were called "White"). Most of the teenagers knew who asians were probably because of the Taiwan agriculture project and Japanese fishing project.
These straws I think are the roofing material for the huts.
Have you ever wanted to live in seclusion from the modern world? Have I got a place for you. Grow your own food, live off the land, no contact with the modern world. Ok you have to go to the bathroom in a stinky hole in the ground, and there is no radio, TV, internet, books, refrigerators, automobiles, hairdryers, alarm clocks to bother you. Only lots of hard sweaty work in 90 degree heat warmly greets you.
This woman and her children were very nice. We accepted their address and promised to mail her photos. Note that he hut is about 8 feet tall at the top of the cone. So a person could stand up in it. It is about 9 feet in diameter and the bed takes up about 1/2 of the space (as seen in the picture). This person owns very little in the way of material goods.
Another shot of Mrs. Jallow.
Her daughter Maimuna, gave us their address:
    Maimuna Jallow
    she is a student
    from Fulladou East District
    in Basse Kerawan Badala
    Alkalo is Sibitenden Jawara
    Basse Sante Su
    The Gambia, West Africa.
(BTW a Sibitenden Jawara is a tribe leader) As you can guess letters are almost non existent here. At one point in the trip we saw a letter being delivered from the minivan that we were in to another person on the street. It took a whole 5 minute conversation and stopping in the middle of the highway to hand off this letter. Forget mail trucks, forget the internet. This village receives a letter a month, if that.
Seen here clothes drying on a dry line. Daily chores take a tremendous amount of time - from washing clothes, to growing food, converting food into an edible form, cooking meals after conversion, and on top of that trying to make some money selling goods/wares/food to the nearby town of Basse Sante Su.
Pictured here in Kerewan Badala village some donkeys next to an Ox Cart
Every person you bump into in the Gambia is looking for a way out of their situation. And will try to hoist onto you their address in the hopes that you will sponsor them in school, or give them money. The median age in the Gambia is 17.4. So most people are young. Poor nutrition will not bother you when you are 20, it kills you when you are 50. In fact the life expectancy for a Male is 52.8, for a female 56.8.
This rather odd looking little hut is a slow cooking oven. On the inside are stones and blocks arranged in a fire proof way.
Here are some fish that have been caught by the Jan Jang Bureh village. They are sold in the open air on a wooden rack. Interestingly enough, there a few insects, though this does smell pretty fishy here.
This is a school in Jan Jang Bureh , the town. It is attached to a Mosque next door. All the children wear uniforms. Children go to school (learning from the Koran) for 1/2 a day. Most children can not afford the time to go to school, as they are needed "down on the farm". To get a high school degree is a great achievement in the Gambia. A university degree is extraordinary. Why? Because you have to travel to the Capitol , in Banjul to get one. And it requires many orders of magnitude more money than the typical person has.
This amazing little ferry is hand powered. It holds 2 automobiles, and about 40-50 passengers. This cable in a guide rail gets the ferry across the Gambia river. Pictured here is my cousin hard at work, while I snap the photo. Just after I snap this photo I will go back to pulling on the cable as well. It is a thick 2 inch diameter cable. People use pieces of plastic so they don't damage their hands.
Here I am next to the hand-powered ferry, from which I just disembarked.
This is another village, called Jan Jang Bureh. This is a smaller village than Kerawan Badala. We are not here for very long (about 3 hours), and it looks very similar to Kerawan (see above). Here I am trying to take a picture of a family of chickens (complete with Rooster, Hen and Chicks) but the chicks and mom have dived into the fence just as I was taking the picture.
Here in JanJang Bureh village I am folding Origami for the children.
  SLAVE HOUSE, Jan Jang Bureh
450 years of slavery plauged the Gambia. The Portugese transplanted 4.5 million slaves, and the British 2.5 million slaves. Then in 1807 the British outlawed slavery and actually protected the Gambia from further slavers. So many slaves had been transplanted from the Gambia that today in 2004, 20% of North Carolina African-Americans are of Gambian descent. Alex Haley's novel "Roots" is set in the Gambia. Following the movie Roots, the Gambia gained a small spotlight, and therer was a surge of tourism. Today (2004) about 100,000 tourists visit each year. I was the 449th visitor from America in 2004. (By comparison, the US gets about 38,000,000 visitors internationally each year). Pictured here is a cage within the slave house. This is the first floor, and the cellar is also a place where slaves were kept. This pen pictured here is a completely enclosed metal cage. There is only one entrance and about 4 rooms.
You can see the cellar here, where slaves were kept. It is about 4.5 feet tall (you have to stoop). There is a small water hole where water would have been lapped up, food was tossed down holes from the first floor, and another small hole served as a communication hole. There was also a section of confinement for the "agressive" slaves (as the tour guide called them). And he showed me manacles that were used to hold the agressive slave in place. You can also see more of the first floor cage.
A sign describing the significance of the slave house. Note the Slave house is on the left.
The back side of the sign.
  WATER SAFARI, Jan Jang Bureh
We went on a 4 hour water Safari from the BoBaoLong guesthouse. We hired a tour guide and he arranged for a boat trip the Boat Tour cost 1,400 Dalasi ($47.6), and Sariff the Tour guide we gave him 500 Dalasi ($17.0). This was rather expensive but considering we got a private boat for 4 hours for two people with an extremely knowledgeable guide, we made off pretty good. This was, of course a small fortune for them.
We saw lots of birds and the possibility to see a Hippopotamus in the wild. But we didn't see a hippo. We did see however this amazing 20 foot tall ant hill!! These ants according to the locals are about 1/2 inch long. This ant hill is abandoned. Notice the dead tree eaten and stripped of life behind the ant hill. We saw about 20 of these ant hills.
Here I am pictured next to an ant hill. I am looking at a water duct of the ant hill (see next picture).
Here is a close up of one of the water drainage ducts (about 2 inches in diameter). This duct carries rain water away from the ant hill, so that the structure remains standing even during heavy rains.
  in transit JanJang Bureh to Gunjur
These hand woven baskets are placed over crops so goats don't eat them.
This collection of huts is a lower basic (primary) school.
Pictured here is a small girl whose name is "Ho'wwa". She has balanced on her head a little plate of nuts. Each one of these she will sell for 1 Dalasi ($0.03 USD). I bought 6 of them and tipped her on top of that. As you travel across the country every pitstop will have food vendors who wait along the side of the road or at minibus stations all day long going between minibuses selling food. But the products were the same almost everywhere you went : Peanuts (ground nuts), Watermelon, Water baggies, and Bread. In Brikama, they sold cakes which were delicious. Of the dozen or so times we stopped, Brikama was the only variation on the nut-watermelon-water-bread vendors there were.
The "national highways" are a joke. There are two of them the northern one and the southern one. The northern one is unpaved, the southern one was so full of potholes that you wished it was unpaved. The potholes were the size of Jupiter. Well, ok maybe just the size of Mars. But they were huge. I mean really really car sized huge. They were so big we NEVER drove on the road itself. In fact most of the time we spend either entirely in the breakdown lane (which wasn't paved), or weaving around like a maniac trying to avoid the potholes. I felt like I was in the video game frogger. One-third of the time we spent on the wrong side of the road trying to avoid potholes. They usually drive on the right even through they were a british colony until Feb 18 1965.
Pictured here is a typical toilet. This is in Bansang. I used this toilet during a minibus pitstop on my way to Gunjur. This bathroom is actually shared by 4 families. The little plant watering spout washes you off. As far as I can tell there is no running water down there, basically you just go in a septic tank. It smells like 1,000 people flatuated simultaeously. It was a grueling and torturous 7 hour bus ride.
  REPTILE FARM, near Kartong
A pet monkey at the entrance to the reptile farm. This monkey charged me, threw its bowl at me and the sulked.
Omar is holding a snake.
  KARTONG, The Gambia, Border town with Senegal
Kartong is a small border town between Gambia and Senegal. We had to walk for about 30 minutes to get to the border. The road well paved amazingly enough, had almost no traffic. A cow lazily made its way across the street. Pictured here is a typical home of Kartong
Pictured here are crops being grown, Omar (our tour guide) told us what the crop was. If I remember correctly, it was Couscous.
  CASA NOSA, Senegal
Casa Nosa was not easy to get to. We had to hire a tour guide to get us there. In the native language of Wollof he was able to negotiate a private ride to Kartong, the border town with Senegal. This is the only place I have been where a border with another country doesn't require visa/passport checks. At least this is what the Lonely Planet guide said. But on the way back the guard gave us a hard time "How do I know you aren't terrorists?" Our guide, Omar talked to the guard and allowed us to BRIBE him for 50 Dalasi! This was the first time in my life I have ever bribed anyone, let alone a government worker/official/guard.
  GUNJUR, The Gambia, Fishing Village
Pictured, a lady sorting some fish behind the shadow of a boat. Trying to catch from repreive from a merciless sun.
Here is pictured another one man forge in Gunjur village. We watch him for a bit, he is making an Ax head from which the villagers will cut canoes from, cut wood for smoking fish, and cut wood to make shipping crates to transport fish in. His hammering on the metal is intolerably loud. I can't stay for too long before I have to leave the hut. TINK! TINK! TINK! He blows the flames of the coals with a bicycle wheel.
This is a movie house. The chalkboard has the listing and prices of daily shows. The building in the background is the actual movie house. Note they are matches from England. Soccer (football) is their pirmary sport, as it only requires a ball.
Pictured here is a photo studio in the town of Banjul (distinct from Banjul village)
A man is making a fishing net by hand. It is quite a production, the making of fish nets. Many people are involved in making them.
Here is a bicycle repair shop in Banjul town.
This is the telephone center in Banjul town. To make a telephone call you need to travel to the town center (from Banjul village this takes about an hour and a half of walking). Then you can make a telephone call.
Pictured here is a ox cart carrying a load into Gunjur Village.
  GUNJUR FISHING VILLAGE : The Fishing Process
Gunjur village, is a fishing village situated right on the Atlantic Ocean.
STEP 1: The fish are caught. We had Omar, our private tour guide from the previous day arrange for us to get onto a commerical fishing canoe. (Notice I didn't use the word boat). This little canoe usually only holds 2. We wobbled our way out to the nets (identified by a floating blue ball). Then hauled in the nets and redeployed them again.
This 3 hour tour from the fishing expedition above resulted in about 15 fish.
STEP 2: The boats bring in the catch
This is one of the larger boats, coming back with about 60 fish.
The price of photography, wet trousers! Seejou a friendly local is holding my shoes.
STEP 3: Here the boats are being unloaded by ladies who carry the fish on top of their heads. Notice this lady isn't even stablizing the huge basket of fish on her head!
This picture was taken with a F-stop setting of 5.8 at 1/125 of a second. I had metered off to the distance, and then swung the camera into the sun to produce a nice backdrop silhoutte image of a fish-basket lady.
STEP 4: The ladies take the fish and put them onto a tarp. I'm told the typical worker here makes about 25 Dalasi a day (that's < $1.0 USD a day!). We met the "boss" later that day and gave a donation to the village of 300 Dalasi ($10.20 USD)
STEP 5: The fish are laid out to dry in the sun on large wooden racks. I ask them why birds don't come down and eat the fish, the locals tell me that humans are constantly watching over them.
STEP 6: Next the fish are taken to a smoke house. They are smoked using firewood and basically cooked. In fact one of the locals lets me try some of the fish, which is very good. These are what they call "Bunga" fish.
A close-up of the fish. This is Black and White film. Though inside the smoke house it is pretty dark (black) and the fish are white.
STEP 7: The last step, the fish are shipped to other villages and markets.
This amazingly modern airport, is actually a Spaceport. Why? Because NASA built this airport. It serves as an alternate landing site for the Space Shuttle. You have to walk out to the airplanes. The first thing that happens when you arrive to the Gambia is you have to give a -ahem- donation to the staff.