Week 4 - Rita

My project has taken me out of Bakau twice in the past week. I am researching ecotourism in the Gambia, so my interviews are at various camps and lodges along the river. The first trip I took was all the way back to Basse, where I stayed with Dana Mitchell, a Peace Corps Volunteer who is finishing her first year in a village called Mansajang. With help from Dana and Bubacarr, I traveled from the village to interview the owner of Traditions, a restaurant and craft market settled right on the riverside. Anne Slind, the owner of the place, gave a pleasant interview and let me leave Dana’s bike there while I caught a boat to cross the river. Directly across from Traditions is Fuladu Camp, a German-Gambian owned and operated tourist camp. With two very informative interviews recorded in my notebook, I headed back to Mansajang, where Dana’s Gambian family gave me a big lunch and dinner, and I fell asleep again to the sounds of the village (never quiet). The next day Bubacarr drove me out to the bus stop on his motorbike and I began to long ride back to the hostel.

No sooner had I gotten settled at the hotel than it was time for another trip. This one was to Tumani Tenda, a village owned and operated tourist camp. Celia went with me, neither of us sure of what to expect, where exactly the camp was, or what kind of “camp” it would be. We arrived at a very rustic camp, after a long drive through the village on a washed out dirt road. Every person we met was the owner, or the manager, or his brother, and I was a little worried about how to proceed with my interviews. Of course, it turned out to be for the best. Instead of an “interview” – at least the kind I expected- I got an entire committee. The village alkalo, several elders and the people most directly involved with the project comprised a group of about eight voices to be included in this interview. Fortunately, one of the men who had greeted us earlier spoke good English and was able to translate. Listening to what these people had to say – about the initiation and establishment of the camp and their goals and obstacles – was the best thing that could have happened to my project. This interview combined with a clumsy fishing trip and a lot of laying in the shade, and a trip to the village for photos and smiles – I’d say I’ve had another amazing week here. (hi mom!)

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Updated 07/04/00.