Saturday, August 14, 2010

Aunt Julie (aka Julde Jallow) visits The Gambia!

Last month I hosted my first visitor, Aunt Julie! I was so excited for someone from my world back home to actually experience my world here and, of course, it was amazing!

I met her at the airport in Banjul and we had a lovely dinner and time to relax, however we pretty quickly went to my village.

After a long travel day upcountry we arrived down by the river where you cross to get to my village. My host father stod at the river waiting to greet us. Julie was so excited and thought Baba was quite stunning in his long light blue robe :). As we crossed the river we marvelled at the birds and vegetation looking for monkeys and other wildlife. Although it is INSANELY hot, the rainy season is a gorgeous time to visit. Everything is so green and overflowing with life and vibrance. Juma (host bro) was waiting for us with Rose the family donkey and a cart.

We rode through the jungle and as we approached my village we heard the banging of drums (or empty plastic jugs) and people shouting and clapping. As we got closer we saw the whole village waiting for us in the road singing and dancing. A welcoming that still gives Julie the goosebumps and almost moved me to tears. Everyone was so happy to have a "stranger" come to the village. Julie, besides me, was the first white person to stay in the village.

We danced, at chicken, drank attaya, chatted with women, Julie sang and played endlessly with the children and danced around in the rain. We went on a long hike with Baba, went to the market where we found some gorgeous fabric, at some local foods, and spent time at each compound in the village. We also watched the Ghana v America world cup game outside during a storm, the village went NUTS when Ghana scored, although they looked at me nervously but I was clapping too :)

For two days we had a getaway at Baboon Island, a national park reserve about 4 k from my site. We biked in the afternoon heat (sorry julie poor planning) and arrived at the camp. The rooms there are gorgeous and they have a really nice waterhouse on the river with hammocks. Its the only "building" in the area so you are surrounded entirely by jungle. Monkeys, baboons, snakes, crocodiles, endleess birds, insects, flowers, trees just to name a few. Around the clock you can hear chimpanzees howling from the islands. They park protects and rehabilitates the few remaining chimps in the Gambia, there is even a chimp recovering from alcoholism and smoking! (he was rescued from some shady european circus) We took a boat tour around the islands and saw SO many chimps, HIPPOS, and baboons as well as smaller monkey speces. It was truly unforgettable.

For her last few days we headed to the coast and stayed in treehouses on the white sandy beaches of Kartong, right near the southern Sengeal border. Devin came and met us and we swam and read and ate and just relaxed-it was wonderful and much needed. Then Julie took Devin and I out for what will go down in history as "the best dinner we ever had in the peace corps" at a resturaunt called La Romantica. Julie took pity on our malnurished souls and you name it we ate it...i still day dream about that night julie!! :)

So needless to say her visit was wonderful and she is very missed by the whole village and then some!! The village near mine had a baby while she was here and they named it after her! ( i dint realize this and they scolded me for not visiting my aunts name sake..whoops!)

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