Week 1  - Rita

In the last week, I have done what seems like a million things for the first time. From the moment we stepped off the plane in Banjul, our group has been dealing with a new world. I was pleased to see the Gambia river from the plane window, lined with the green, healthy land I had hoped for, a relief after the barren urban landscape seen on our landing in Dakar. Almost immediately, we were introduced to the near aggressive, needy friendliness that characterizes many tourist areas. Children in the airport asked for pens, money, men our age wanted to exchange addresses, money-changers offered "dee best exchange een town". Through the windows on a bumpy bus ride down a dusty red road, we quietly observed the brightly dressed women, heads heavy with baskets of fish and mango, and children strapped to their backs, limbs akimbo. Green and yellow painted Mercedes cabs blared their horns at every opportunity. This ride, to some of us, was our first real glimpse of poverty, color, and simple lack of familiarity. Our bellies full of airplane food were quickly redeemed by the ever-gracious Mr. Sowe, who fed us delectable platefuls of African cuisine Ė with plenty of European touches, such as silverware. I was particularly caught off guard by our accommodations. We have a backyard with a pool, tennis courts, and a bar. Our rooms have air conditioning and newly installed television sets. I look forward to the trip upriver, which I expect will expose to an even more foreign lifestyle, although I donít doubt that we will remain as comfortable and well-taken care of as we have been this week. I think I speak for the whole group when I say that I am learning faster than ever, enjoying this trip to its fullest, and look forward to what the next five weeks have in store for us. ( Hi Mom!)


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Updated 06/18/00.