We have arrived at 177km along our run to Banjul. Still hot, but we are all still running and keeping our spirits up as a team. I will start with the events of yesterday and try to get through to today’s run.
Yesterday seems like so much further away than it actually is. We had spent the night in Janjaburah. Janjaburah (Georgetown) is like northern Cape Breton – during the tourist season there are plenty of restaurants and tourist places to go. However, during the down season, all of the restaurants close and most of the accommodations shut down for maintenance. On account of the hot hot weather, it is currently the off-season for tourisis in Janjaburah. We were able to find accommodations, but lunch was a different story. We are all tired and hungry after running all day, and we stoped to eat at the only place (restaurant?) in town. We don’t order, because we will all just be served the one dish that they are making for all of us.
Being a vegatarian in rural Gambia has not been the easiest endeavor. Most plates contain meat, so I have had to pick around and eat the rice and the vegetables I can scrape out. So far, this has been not too much of a problem, and I think the team is happy to clean off the chunks of meat left on my plate. However, lunch in Janjaburah brought this to a whole new level…
When the plates came out it was…
Wait for it…
With chunks of spam
And gravy to top it all off.
This may be a vegetarians nightmare. Evaryone digs in. Me and my sister stare at each other and have no idea what to do. Slowly, we start picking away at the rice, scraping away the gravy and spam to at least fill up on some carbs. Alright, so we are at least full, but I am praying that we do not have the same meal for supper or tomorrow is going to be a long run.
Luckily, the team pulled together, which brings me to a humorous story:
Earlier that day, during the run, Spider was set on running the 25km so he would have bragging rights and be king for the day. However, something he ate (“the chicken and spagetti”) from last night was not agreeing with him and he was unable to complete the full distance. The whole day during the run, he kept saying, “when I get to town I’m going to buy a frying pan and I will cook for myself so I can trust it”. Spider takes his food very seriously…
So later that afternoon, after the lunch fiascal, Cielianna and Pa were driving and checking in at every restaurant or potential restaurant in town to see if we could get anyone to cook for us in the evening. They search everywhere, even taking a ferry to the other side of the river to see if they can find anything. They even go to grocery stores to see if they can find some foods that we can put together to call supper, but have no luck. Then, by chance, in one store, they stumble across Spider. His hands are full of groceries – potatoes, spaghetti, onions, cans of vegetables. I’m not too sure how he schrounged up everything, but it was generally agreed that Spider would be cooking supper for us.
And, to top off the story, it was a wonderful meal that he cooked up for us. Since then, Spider has taken it upon himself to be the camp cook, in addition to running, driving, and supporting the team – so a big shout out to him and thank you for keeping all of us fueled and running!
Back to running. Day six passed without a glitch. We were even joined by a 12th grader (Omar Kamera) from Janjaburah that had participated in the peer health education programs, not for one kilometer, but for the entire distance. He was so excited to run with all of us and really sparked some energy among the team running yesterday. We also ran by another school (Jakhaly Upper School), which greeted us with a warm welcome of high-fives and thank-yous. They then ran with us for about 500meters, before returning to class.
Soon enough the 25km was over and another day of love4gambia 2013 was complete. We finished at kilometer marker 275 (150 km’s done), just at the top of “Gambia’s highest hill”. Feeling great☺
Later that evening, the same school that had welcomed us to Jakhaly during the run came to our compound to perform a few peer-health education skits for us. I was really excited to see the actual skits put on by the peer-health educators themselves.
After many introductions and thank-yous, the plays begin. I was once again, blown away by the NSGA and how it implements it’s peer health education programs on important health topics. I will go into detail about one skit in particular.
The first skit was about teenage pregnancy. There was no skirting around the issue, and the kids acted out a scenario in which many teenage girls become pregnant. A short synopsis of the drama: A girl and her boyfriend are in love, and the boyfriend keeps asking his girlfriend to have sex. “Sex!” says the girl, “What is that?”. She is confused and does not know what to do. She goes to her mother and asks her “Mom, what is sex?” Her mother is disgusted that her daughter would ask her that question and shoos her away (In Gambian culture, parents do not talk to their children about sex or safe sex practices). So, the girl goes to her friends. Her friends tell her that they are having sex and encourage her to try it, especially if she wants to keep her boyfriend. They also tell her that you can have sex and not get pregnant because they are having sex and they are not pregnant. Under pressure from her friends and boyfriend, and uninformed about the consequences of sex, the girl decides that she wants to have sex with her boyfriend. Later, feeling sick to the stomach, she goes with her mother to the doctor, where the doctor informs her that she is, in fact, pregnant.
Although this may seem like a basic scenario, I was impressed by the ability of the young teenages to talk and share information about sex and safe sex in a mature way through drama. Most Gambian youth cannot talk to their parents about how to make healthy and informed decisions around sex, and most also do not have the internet at their disposal to ask such questions. Most Gambian youth rely on information and rumors from their peers for any information for such taboo topics, such as sex. The NSGA peer-health education programs are therefore ensuring that the information that youth receive from their peers about various health topics is correct. This method is also backed up by the numbers: in may villages where the NSGA implements it’s peer-health education programs addressing safe sex, teenage pregnancy drops dramatically. The dramas may seem small, but the effects are significant.
More motivation for running!
Today, day 7, was another great day. There was a headwind/breeze which helped to keep us cool (relative term) in the morning. Kebba and I ran strong throughout the 25km, joined by Spider and Cielianna at the start and Pa at the end. Unfortunately Pa ate too many yogurts in an attempt to calm an upset stomach right before running, and by the end of the 5km he was hurting. But, I have to give him props and pushing through to complete the final push with us. Nothing like a runner feeling like crap right beside you to make you feel like you are feeling good (sorry Pa!).
So now, we are done for the day, resting up, and trying to stay cool in order to be prepared for tomorrow’s run. It is hard to believe that this time tomorrow we will have ran over 200km!
Jennifer and the love4gambia 2013 team
Photos to be added later – internet is not letting me upload them right now:(