The time has finally come and Love4Gambia 2013 will be starting at the border of Senegal and Gambia tomorrow morning to begin our 424 km trip across the country!
We arrived (me and my sister, Cielianna) in The Gambia on Wednesday afternoon after a long (long…) trip from Halifax to Montreal to Washington DC to Dakar (7 hour layover) and finally to BANJUL, The Gambia. I had such a feeling of elation when our plane finally touched down in The Gambia. A feeling of ‘wow, this is really going to happen now…we have arrived’. We were greeted with big hugs from the Love4Gambia team and taken directly to where we were staying in the area. They are used to Canadian volunteers arriving and knew we just needed to clean up and rest at that point, and, lucky for us, we were staying right on the beach in Fajara in a lovely apartment a Canadian ex-pat generously let us crash in. Phew – made it to the Gambia with all of the luggage, relatively few hiccups, and connected with the team – now it was time to get some rest. Ahhhhhhhhh.
The next day we slept in and felt refreshed and ready to get everything organized. The team picked us up
and we headed to the Gambian Nova Scotia Gambia Association Office. It was pretty neat to finally meet the “sister” office of the NSGA after only knowing the Nova Scotia side of the organization. We were generously greeted and welcomed by the entire staff who were all working hard in their various offices when we arrived. I like how a friend described it: “when you walk into most international nonprofit offices, you see a bunch of foreigners working on projects they designed, and a couple locals helping the foreigners. But when you walk into the NSGA office, you see all Gambians, all working hard for health education programs in The Gambia. This is an approach that makes sense.”
In the afternoon I had a skype interview about the Love4Gambia run with Heidi Petracek of CTV Morning Atlantic News. Luckily, the power was working. However, at the start the skype image was not coming in clearly. The tech guy ran to each room in the office and asked everyone to log off the wifi. Sure enough, skype started working clearer and we were able to get an interview in. (It should be airing in the Maritimes on Monday around 8:30am, which is when I will be approximately 75 km across the Gambia). I thought this eloquently summed up business in Africa – it’s not perfect, but you do what you have to do to make things work. The rest of the day was spent doing last minute errands – cell phone sim card, bank withdrawal, mango bartering, and so forth. Also got to sneak in a quick loosen-up run along the beaches of Fajara just before the sunset. A successful first day in the Gambia.
The next morning (today) was leaving and driving time. The team met us at the apartments and we packed up the car to go for a long journey across the country. We also had some window paint and made sure that everyone sees us pass knows that we are team Love4Gambia of the NSGA. And without further ado, we left on our long drive across the country.
We saw so many things, from markets to forests to livestock, even to the Gambian President. It was quite the daylong adventure. It was also a great time for the team to get acquainted – with Mama C (Cielianna) keeping Pa and Spyder in line, and Keba yelling “BARBEQUE!” every time we saw a goat, cow, mule, or person on the road. He’d start charging to hit the future barbeque (to be roasted on the melting hot dashboard), only to swerve away at the last minute saying “that ones too dirty, too small, too stupid,” and so forth. I feel like this may become a trend for the rest of the trip.
The main thing that kept popping into my mind as we drove east across the Gambia today was holy smokes, this is going to be one long run – am I really going to run this whole distance? It was really hard to believe when you put it all together and drive the entire distance all at once. Then, at the same time, I’m thinking holy smokes, this is a huge distance and area for the relatively small NSGA to implement its programs. A small staff of 22 in the Gambia is ensuring that youth across this country (that may seem small on a world map, but is quite large when you have to run across the entire thing) are educated about their health. If the modest NSGA can implement it’s life saving programs across this great distance, then surely I can run across it to raise awareness and money for them. I know I can do this, and I am more excited, pumped, and motivated to start running tomorrow. I can do the running to make a difference, and hopefully this will inspire others to support the NSGA by donating towards the Love4Gambia campaign. Tomorrow the run of a lifetime begins! You can follow my progress as I run 25 km per day with my team on this website.
BANJUL IS CALLING!