The Gambia Experience - No. Not The Airline.

The story begins February 24th 2013 in Fajara, The Gambia.
I, university film graduate, was in the country for 3 months self-shooting some documentaries for a few medical institutions.

For a week, it was agreed that my friends, a lab technician and I would take a work trip from Fajara to ‘Up Country’: Keneba, which they said was a 6 hour trip from where we were. I’d heard a lot of stories about how hot Keneba was but I ignored them. I was from Nigeria. As far as I was concerned, Gambia felt like the inside of an Iceland store.

The day started off pretty badly. The bus was late causing us to cancel breakfast in case the driver arrived and we had to shoot off. At 3:30pm, I decided to go and find something to eat. The store I went to was closed and then the driver showed up.

I was starving.

He was angry.

He was angry because he had to load the bus himself with supplies the lab-tech was supposed to. I was curious at the amount of supplies. I was told it would be 5 of us taking the trip: the driver, lab-tech, my two friends and I. The argument got heated to the point where I was sweating by just watching.

In about an hour, we were off. But not before stopping 5 times to pick up 6 other members of staff who had just decided to join us.

The driver got even madder because it seemed that he wasn’t told he was going to take so many people and he was already running late. Needless to say, the bus was pretty packed with equipment and we were pretty much squashed up with me in the back seat.

About 2 hours in, I suddenly felt very dizzy. We had stopped to get some bread to eat earlier so I knew it wasn’t from hunger.

Now would be a great opportunity to mention that in my 22 years of living, I always had a serious history of car sickness. I was the one who suggested the trip completely FORGETTING that I had this sickness.

I kept quiet. I think knowing that I had signed my own ‘fail’ warrant was enough to shut me up and forcefully resign myself to my fate.

People thought I was taking in the sights. They didn't realize that I was trying so hard to keep the sick down by sticking my face out the window for air. 4 hours in we took a turn off the main road, after entertaining street sellers and military checkpoints, and went onto a bumpy road.

I was doing well up until this point and then the lab-tech mentions that this ‘patch’ of road took 2 hours to get through.

Let me mention: it was a straight road, in the middle of nowhere, dusty and prone to bush fires because of the intense heat. Two hours of hell, my insides sounded like the pit where the Titans were caged. Did I forget to mention that the driver was angry?

I got thrown in every direction possible literally living on a prayer. At this point, my friend turns back, sees my face and ‘death-like’ eyes and realises what’s up. He tells the driver who thinks increasing speed will make things better. He was wrong.

The minute we pull into the Keneba base, I jump out and so do the contents of my stomach. Then I black out.
Sometime later, I wake up in a bed with a patch on my arm. I had been giving some drugs and sedated. Then I got hungry.

And dinner was baguettes stuffed with spaghetti. Yes. Gambian’s love bread.

I’m allergic to gluten.

And wheat.

So two Baguetti’s (patent pending) later, I’m either face down in a toilet or ass down on one. Needless to say, I couldn’t eat for another 36 hours because the mention of the word ‘food’ reminded of my carbicide (patent pending no. 2) and made me puke. I stayed in bed with no food from Sunday to Wednesday and after some intense pleading or begging, I was sent back to Fajara without having filmed a thing or seen a glimpse of Keneba.

Did I mention that the only to leave Keneba was to go the same way we came in and that we had a new driver who decided to stop at every village on the 2 hour long road and buy fire-wood?

J Olusanya

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