Summer in West Africa

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“Are you okay Miss, would you like a cup of water or anything else?” The blonde headed Flight attendant asked me. “No, thanks. I’m fine. For real I’m okay.” I responded as crystal tears kept falling down my coca brown cheeks. The flight attendant quickly got up and scurried away to the back. I pushed back in my assigned seat and the tangy, sour smell of the airplane food made my tongue curl up. The flight attendant announced that in a couple of hours we will be reaching our destination New York. Just thinking about returning made me realize even more what I was leaving behind me- the people, the land and the food. I kept saying the name of this lovely country that I left behind me, “Gambia, Gambia, Gambia”, until it became a rhythmic rhyme. The story soon began to slowly replay in my mind of how this wonderful journey all began.

It all started when my parents told me I was to going to spend my whole entire summer in Gambia. Irate and furious I thought what a fun summer in NY of 2005 I will be leaving behind me with the on going barbecues, block parties, quarter ices and the opening of the neighborhood’s fire hydrant. But little did I know how much I will grow, change and discover myself through this one trip to West Africa. As always the battle ended with my parents wining and nothing left for me to do but to head off for Gambia. On the plane ride to Gambia worried and curious questions flowed through my head. Will my family back home like me? Will my skin turn any darker? How does this place called the Gambia look? Will they constantly call me the American? Even though I was constantly called the American and my skin got darker the trip to Gambia came out to be the complete opposite of what I thought.



When our airplane finally landed I remember stepping off the plane with the hot golden sun beaming down on my face. The moist sky was so blue and beautiful with bright colored birds soaring through the air. The golden yellow sand, the palm and mango trees filled up the land. The delicious smell of home cooked meals made my taste buds pop. The sound of the morning rush, the rusting of pots, different African dialects colored the sky. I rushed inside the airport and found my uncle, aunts and cousins who will drive us to my grandparent’s house. They were all so happy and pleased to see us some were hugging us while others were crying. On our ride to my grandparents house we passed by buildings, houses, mosques, markets and skyscrapers. Dark-skinned and light-skinned people were scattered all over the streets dressed in traditional African clothes and urban street wear. Everyone walked side by side and seem so friendly to one another because in Gambia everyone’s each others brother or sister. The common greeting “Assalamualkium” is heard so often that it became a common rhyme to my ears. The delicious, sweet smell of wongo, yasa, abea, tega hit my nostrils from my back window seat.

When the car pulled up to my grandparents house in Kanifing I was so surprised that I hoped off my seat. Evryone was outside waiting for us- grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. Some of my relatives were crying others hugging, squeezing and kissing us at the same time. I was astonished to see my grandfather’s house was a big white compound filled with my many bathrooms and rooms. It had a large veranda and an outside kitchen. There were plenty of flowers and plants all over and big mango, banana and kaba trees. My throat quenched for the taste of these delicious fruits. After all the hugging and kissing I was given my own room with my own bathroom and a king sized bed. Maids that worked in my grandfather’s house brought in a home cooked meal and fruits that were fresh and healthy compared to the American foods. The foods tasted so good that I kept eating more and people doubted if I came from America because of my ravenous appetite. At the end of the two months I gained so much weight.

My relatives were so kind to me that they made me feel at home and around them I wasn’t feeling judged or criticsed. Even relatives that our grandfathers were cousins considered me as a sister not as a long distanced relative. The more time I spent with my family the more I didn’t want to return to America and the more pride I had for being a Gambian. The more stories my grandmother and grandfather told me about my ancestors and my Sonike tie back to the Malian empire. My younger aunt and I became so close that I could tell her anything in the world. We will sit down and have our mother to daughter talks everyday where she’ll give me advice, lecture or just listen. We went to neighborhood parties together; African concerts and we went and braid our hairs together. We were practically like sisters.

In the streets of the Gambia there was always a friendly person to say hello or wave or even smile at you. There was no crime no hate just everyone going about their day because everyone in Gambia no matter your skin tone, status or looks you are a family. Fridays were beautiful in Gambia everyone was dressed in their colorful caftans ready to go the mosque for the daily prayer. Sundays were “Sunday Beach” were everyone lined up to go to Sene-Gambia to enjoy a wonderful day with Gambian music and foods. I became so attached to Gambia that it became extremely hard for me to leave it all behind. I had changed so much into being a respectful, strong Gambian young adult. I discovered more about myself as an American with Gambian anscteroy.
On the day it was to leave I cried so much thinking about all I have left behind me. I left the Gambians, the Gambian lifestyle, the Gambian foods and my real home- The Gambia. I had met so many relatives that cared for me whether I was in America or Gambia. I felt so much like a hypricte for not wanting to go to this trip since day one. I soon had this fear that I wouldn’t return back to the Gambia and see everyone especially that my grandfather was ill. I slowly began to sing to myself again “Gambia……..Gambia….. Gambia” while tears and snot filled my sun tanned face. “Gambia……Gambia…..Gambia” I kept sating to myself until I fell into a deep sleep. I dreamt I was in the Gambia again but in a much older age, the Gambia was still beautiful and calm. Everyone was there in good health including my grandfather we all were laughing and have a good time with one another.
I faded off until I felt a hand touch the back of my shoulder. I woke up and to my surprise it was the same blonde headed flight attendant. I jumped up and rubbed my eyes full of sleep. “Miss, we have reached JFK Airport we have just landed. It’s time to go”. She hesitantly said. I rubbed my eyes and thought of this dream I have just dreamt. I will return to Gambia one day and I have changed and grown so much just because of a trip to West Africa. I stood up slipped on my shoes and unwrinkled my eyes and stepped off the plane ready to share the joy of this wonderful trip.





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