Quite remarkable how often the word ‘usual’ pops up during conversations. A signal that causes lots of misunderstandings.
Upon reminiscing within a limited group on our experiences in Gambia, it came out once more how unusual this ‘usual’ is and how we take a lot for granted.
After our first arrival at Banjul in the middle of the night, friends of our daughter awaited us by vehicle. Gloomy faces showing a row of pearly white teeth. They smiled ‘Happy New Year’ at us. The coming of New Year hadn’t crossed our minds for one minute. Only much later, we learned to identify the different faces. They were ‘blacks’ just as we were ‘whites’. Nevertheless, some of them had different shapes of head, their jaw was located elsewhere and their hair was more curly. Pretty soon, we discovered that the population was made up of tribes with a considerable historic past and a language of their own - originating in other regions.
No wonder we couldn’t find out the meaning of the word ‘usual’ in every one of these languages.
The Gamrupa foundation aims at development collaboration. A spun out plot containing theories in every possible area may be developed. Our main interest consists to collaborate with (groups of) the population, mutual instruction and the starting up of common projects.
By seeking out purposes and possibilities, we enter our respective universes of thoughts and meet our ‘usual’.
Example building a school, the wish of many a village. But trying to discover their conception, capital differences arise.
A listing of the Gambian and the European handling should be made up. Most certainly, all means are welcome, as long as real wishes are concerned. A bare room without furniture or teaching materials, or, even worse, without pupils or teachers, is meaningless.
To our standards, normal or evident demands. But what about the opinion of the Gambian?
Being invited to the (daily) meal, it is customary that the men and guests sit around a large tub of food, on a low table or on the floor. This tub shaped like a circular kitchen sink, is filled with i.e. chicken yassa or chicken with hachee. The meal is ‘garnished’ with pieces of chicken, fish, green cabbage leaf or any other garden produce. The host should pass on to the guest a small package, all should then pick small bits following their needs.
Eating is performed using a cleanly washed right hand. When required, a spoon is introduced, but once the habit of rolling small rice balls by hand is acquired, it becomes superfluous.
Women, children and young people use separate bowls. When the quantities are sufficient, they too obtain bites of vegetable, fish and chicken, the main food source remaining rice, cassava and onion- or peanut sauce.
A festive meal, such as name giving (christening feast, one week after birth), is treated quite differently. A slaughter, preferably a ram, is performed. Only men may take part and strict rules are maintained. Every household within the tribe obtains its part. Women take up cooking and frying and the most delicious meals are prepared.
Within the less fortunate families, not a ram, sheep or cow is slaughtered, but a goat and even a chicken are sacrificed and shared. This festive event refers to the old Jewish tradition, when Abraham had to sacrifice his son, whereupon God replaced him with a lamb.