It was the first time, in 28 years, that I was spending my Christmas holidays without my family, in a foreign country. I must say I really enjoyed the experience! Everyone should, at least once in their life, celebrate Christmas abroad, in another culture. Even if The Gambia is mostly Muslim, Christmas is still a public holiday. It is an opportunity for families and friends to gather and spend time together, exactly what I did. After a nice homemade déjeuner aux crêpes, my girlfriends and I went to the beach where we spent a lazy afternoon, swimming in the ocean and drinking sangria under the sun! I did not have a white Christmas this year but it was a very sunny and warm one! I surely did not complain! At night, we went to the Open Mic festival at the national football stadium. It’s an annual event held every Christmas night where dozen of Gambian, Senegalese and Liberian artists come to perform all night. We walked back home at 6am, admiring the first rays of sunshine. A moment I will never forget.
My big sister Renée then came to visit me for a week. I really enjoyed my role as a tour guide, showing her around (on bikes!), teaching her about the Gambian culture, presenting her to my friends. We even spent one night in Bwiam, where we visited Ndey’s family and village. We were warmly welcomed as always. For New Year Day, we went to Banjul for the festivities. The streets were filled with parades, musicians and street performers. It was a very colorful and musical day! And of course, Renée and I took the time to enjoy the beach, the nightlife and the Gambian gastronomy! It was a quick but very busy week where we really got the chance to experience the Gambian lifestyle! Merci pour cette merveilleuse visite! 🙂
My last week in The Gambia was filled with lots of love and yes (of course!), tears. I made sure to say goodbye to everyone that had an impact in my time here, friends, roommates, coworkers, training buddies etc. My last day at the NSGA was one to remember. They organized a small farewell ceremony for me. I received beautiful goodbye words from everyone, but also a very nice African blouse and even some cake! Gambians really know how to make you wanna stay!!
Reflecting on my time in The Gambia, I just can’t help myself but to smile! (I totally understand why they call it The Smiling Coast of Africa now!) I’ve only been here for three months, but those months have been beyond my expectations. I ran with all my heart across the country, I made many wonderful new friends, I’ve learned to live in a different culture, and I’ve just been simply happy! I’ve learned that happiness is a choice. It is found within ourselves and the people that surround us. The rest is just extra. Thank you to everyone that was part of my Gambian happy journey. It was a memorable one! Abaraca! Jerrejef!
The Gambia was my first country on my itinerary and it did set the bar pretty high! I’m so exited to continue my travels on this beautiful continent and to learn about other cultures and meet new people! Now let’s wipe those tears, an ending only means a new beginning. En route pour le Sénégal! 🙂