Tears of a Clown
On one level all looks unchanged. It’s still peaceful in the countryside and chaotic in the towns. They are preparing for presidential elections and yesterday we drove past a major rally for the UDP who stand for ‘Change is Coming’. The major town of Brikama was thronged by horn blowing Gambians uniformed in yellow T shirts. No one wore a mask.
They certainly wanted change because on another level there’s a deep problem. Whilst many Gambians still believe that the virus is a hoax- they all recognise the economic damage wrought by the devastation of their tourist industry.
I am the first client my bird guide has had in two years. The entire state support that my lodge received during lockdown amounted to £84.50 at current exchange rates. And this for a staff of 11. So far the AOT has had to rescue three financially devastated nurseries and has had to make special appeals for feeding programmes and to cover exceptional repair work due to severe storm damage.
It just makes me realise how blessed we in the UK have been. For sure there has been a variance in the way that people have fared during lockdown, but nothing like the deprivations of The Gambia.
And yet the people continue to smile and help and ask for little in return. Only today our car battery failed when we were way out in the bush and yet within 10 minutes a gang of young men gathered -all very willing to help us bump start our 4×4 down a steepish bush track.
It is true then that The Gambia is still the smiling face of West Africa on one level but I suspect that their smiles are like those of clowns – they hide so many tears.
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