A couple of days before our flight home I dreamed I was arrested at Banjul airport and thrown into the hotel, the infamous Mile 2 prison. My big mouth had got me into trouble: sounding off about the lunatic pronouncements of His paranoid Excellency Sheikh Professor Doctor blah blah, the ridiculous tourism master plan, FGM, The Gambia as an Islamic State, the collapsed economy, the cerebral palsied hidden in fear of bad juju and so on. I had been troubled by instructions to be careful over blogging and today can feel the constriction in my throat from unspoken feelings and observations.
I am feeling unbalanced and sad; the minute I crossed our home threshold, our 3 months volunteering seemed a dream: a busy, short dream. I have been trying to catch the tail of the dream since.
I have a different perspective to Chris, who seems angry, writing off the experience as an expensive waste of time and energy – I sense his powerful sense of justice has been disturbed. I have known for weeks that I was going to miss The Gambia: the night heat with its addictive red dust earth and lemon balm scent; warm, friendly smiles – white teeth in blue black ebony faces; colour; the constant chatter communicating nothing but ensuring loneliness is unknown; and being so very valued for our contribution even for things about which we knew nothing, like opening a restaurant!
We have worked hard and given much and I know this strange exotic dream will give more in return. We have learned much. I was depressed by some questionable business dealings I uncovered in preparing a strategic review for a not for profit organisation, but an evening with some highly educated white Gambians gave me a fresh perspective. Kamal and Mandy are second and third generation Lebanese immigrants, their forefathers settling at least 150 miles inland as required in this part of Africa. Over a family feast of tabouleh, roast cauliflower and tahini, hummus, Baba ganoush, grilled meats and fruit platters sprinkled with halva we discussed how Africa confronts, with the power of a full frontal assault, the sensitivities of our developed world view and values. Yet lift the veil and the UN (useless nits), IMF, major corporations and our own home grown non-doms play the same game of favour, self-preservation and lying by omission. It is easy to get aerated by recipients sweet shop mentality towards funding, lack of project sustainability, iniquitous distribution of wealth, illiteracy, food security, women’s empowerment and much more. For me, the question is what I am going to do about it?
I feel Kettlewell is too small right now, but maybe this is an over-reaction; I want to change the world, when I know the reality is we change ourselves first and our true impact is in being the change we want to see in the world.