The Gambia and my 19 year old self

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The Gambia has been in the news a bit recently thanks to the elections late last year which saw Yahya Jammeh lose his Presidency, a position that he had held since coming into power in 1994 following a bloodless military coup.  I didn’t appreciate the detail at the time but I was there then, with my sister.

My sister was 17 and had recently left school and taken on a job at a local travel agency. One of the perks of the job was the opportunity for cheap travel, an opportunity we both embraced by booking a week in this small East African Country, I was 19 at the time and stranded at home in the long Uni holidays thanks to an illness that had meant I couldn’t take part in a trip I’d planned to Indonesia.  Needless to say I was desperate for adventure and this looked like being it.

We were booked into a resort during our stay but quickly became bored (as teenagers tend to do) with the walled enclosure and opted instead to get out as often as we could!  One tour was with a local lad who had set himself up as a taxi driver, he was a great guide and even joined us on a tour of the local wildlife park where we saw a lion (while in Africa),  some gigantic spiders and a heap of monkeys (not sure what type, I was a bit lax on the details).   What I did focus on though was  the feeling of joy that filled my heart when I found Cadbury’s chocolate in the local store (which had precious little else inside oddly enough), I cringe now looking back – I should have embraced this wild and beautiful land more fully and left the stuffing of face with chocolate until later.

Anyway….

The other vivid memories I have of that trip are a visit to the local Gambian Witch Doctor at a Gambian banquet and dance night.  He read my palm and told me my fortune was that I’d become a journalist or some kind of writer – the thought never crossed my mind at that time, especially as I happened to be in the middle of a science degree (Chemistry to be precise) and had a terrible phobia of writing due to my appalling spelling and grammar skills but look at me now (kind of sort of….).  We can’t remember what he told my sister – something to do with children and that she’d have trouble with childbirth I think- she’s got four kids now, I saw two of them being born and narrowly missed out on being there for the fourth (for the third I was in Australialand) as far as I remember all births went swimmingly with minimal intervention!  Make of that what you will.

But the biggest memory was of the missile launcher incident!

We were on the road out to Senegal for a day trip and had to clear the way for the military to come on barging through with their gigantic missile launchers and pack of soldiers.  I don’t remember caring for the details at that time and neither do I remember my parents back home being particularly bothered by this sudden turn in fortunes for this small African country, a country whose history we were now part of.   Anyway, after that things did get a little bit more tense with a nightly curfew restricting our movement to just the hotel disco (very funky) and making daytime maneuvering a little more tricky (although I still managed a day trip into the capital without too much drama).  We’d been coup’ed!

If only I’d have known then that the guy who ordered this activity would spend the next 22 years in power I may have taken more notice but I guess I was only 19 and had my own things going on and after all, this was a holiday not a piece for the BBC’s foreign correspondent!

the-gambia

So we continued on with our holidaying, got tipped out of our tour bus a bit further up the road on the way to Senegal thanks to too much mud, made friends with the local children, one of whom I continued to write to for several years afterwards – and did our best to soak in the African sun without getting burned – that didn’t exactly happen!

The main thing I took from that trip was my love of travel, my fearlessness and ability to feel at home in any environment and my ability to track down and secure chocolate rations when everything else looks to be out of stock. Those skills have stayed with me to this very day and left me very much still in love with Africa and its huge heart and spirit.  One day I’ll go back and re-trace my 19-year-old steps….

There is a bit more background into the political history of the Gambia here which is interesting to read now as I look back on my short but sweet experience in the country and the experience of witnessing history in the making – OK so I was a bit oblivious but it all makes sense now….

Life sure is interesting.

Amanda x

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There is more to growing a garden than just planting seeds

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Our daughter leaves home today, she’s 15.

Hopefully she will come back many, many times during the rest of her lifetime both to live and to visit but things will never be the same again.  She’s off on her big adventure, the first (I hope) of many.

Our daughter is off on exchange to Finland for a year with Rotary and she will live and go to school in a small community on the west side of the country about 4 hours from Helsinki.  As an aside, my first bout of morning sickness when I was pregnant with Meg was in Helsinki.  Aub and I went there to mark our first wedding anniversary – one year around the sun as husband and wife. The circle of life continues….

Meg (our daughter) is a keen gardener, her passion fruit flowered today and that brought with it much excitement of treats to come!  I’ll have to tend to it now that she’s leaving and I’m a terrible gardener – terrible because I tend to forget that plants need feeding – a reality not unlike that of having children really!

Anyway, while having that conversation with Meg this morning a thought came into my head:

There is more to growing a garden than just planting seeds.

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So we part ways with Meg today knowing that while we have nurtured, fed, protected and (hopefully) inspired Meg to the best of our ability and all of our good will and love now it is her turn!  She now has a big opportunity to grow her own garden (so to speak) and to enjoy all of the fruits of her labour safe in the knowledge that she did this, she made this happen, this was and is her choice.  Just like in the garden there is no guarantee that what she plants will blossom and there’s always a chance that the hours invested  will appear to come to nothing at times. Finally there’s the frustrating reality that the juiciest of fruits sometimes grow just out of reach OR get munched upon by something else.

I know that you will take all of this in your stride Meg.

So today I’m not sad, I’m excited as this moment is everything I’ve ever wanted for my child. To be strong, bold, courageous and motivated enough to take her own chances and undertake her own adventures. To somewhat outgrow me and what I can offer here in the safety of our home.

Go for it Meg, I’ll be willing you on and supporting you all the way and (hopefully) keeping your actual garden here alive and well.

Love

Your mum.

Amanda x