What is the hardest thing for travelers to get used to when coming to The Gambia?
Do you know? Is it food, hot sun, local transport, work in the school or the clinic, bargaining, dust, getting to know new people and places, high sea waves…? NO!
The hardest to be accustomed to is that the time is not the master of The Gambians. In this small English speaking country, which is like a small cut in the big French speaking country of Senegal, by the Atlantic Ocean, it seems like time stands still. Everything runs with a slower pace, without stress and panic. What does not happen today will happen tomorrow or never. Their lives are not placed in time tables, schedules or notebooks. The only time-defined thing across the country is the time for lunch, which is at 14.00 every day. Illiterate people still orient themselves by the sun.
The Gambia has a sub-tropical climate and the daily light through the whole year differentiates only for two hours. The agreements for the time of a meeting, the start of a ceremony or the end of a school party are only indicative. If you are invited to a wedding at 16.00 and do not have the patience to wait a few hours for things to take place, while sitting under the mango tree, you can respond to the invitation by coming around 19.00. If there is a shortage of electricity and people search for the aggregate throughout the whole village, and then for the fuel, you can also come around 20.00 and we guarantee you will not miss anything.
Another thing for visitors to get accustomed to is that people in The Gambia greet everybody they meet. They smile a lot and chat a bit with everyone who wishes to do so. Good will and positive energy of the locals are very contagious and usually after about three days everyone gets used to this.
Their joy, a warm hug and a humble gift make every person rethink what really matters in our lives. While surrounded by material goods, we forget about the essence of living – happiness and the fact that it can never be bought.
Travelling with a purpose to West Africa can and will change the way you see others and will most certainly change your perspective on life.