My first impressions of Gunjur? Where do I start? I suppose you have to start with how different it is. The culture shock. But actually, it’s been really quite easy to fit in. And it’s the scenery, the whole culture, everything.
That’s what we found out today. Seeing how the local people live their lives, how they get on with their days. It’s like: this is how they live, and it’s how we’re going to live for the next two weeks. That’s exciting, and it makes me nervous too. Intrigued.
There’s the lack of electricity, lack of flushing toilets. To see the flies swarming around the market was incredible, and quite unnerving.
And the struggle with food. We’re here being cooked up some lovely dishes, but my Gambian partner, Emil’s main meal is rice. It’s the lack of choice. He told me, “We have no choice here. What I’m given, I eat.” In the UK we’re so used to having endless choice. It’s different here.
And it’s how they interact with other people, how they’re so friendly and always smiling, never failing to give you a wave. One of the Gambians told my friend Rhys: “You should smile at everyone you meet because, even if you’re in a bad mood, the person you’re smiling at didn’t cause your bad mood. So, it’s always worth smiling.” I like that.
Perhaps what struck me most of all, though, was how they immediately give us a place in this community. The kids were amazing, running up and trying to give you a high five and shouting “toobabs!” which means white man.
The glee they had. It put a smile on my face, just seeing them. I mean, this is a poor area, but they’re so happy, playing with flat footballs and hand-me-down bikes. And they’re fine. No, they’re more than fine. They’re living life to the full. Everyone I see, I’m shaking hands with them.
It’s so easy to fall in love with this place. It takes charge of you. I feel like a different person here, a new sort of life. Literally, whoever you are, you’ll fit in. These people are so inviting. There’s no judgement.
This is a great place. There are some daunting aspects too, for people like us who are spoiled, who have been given everything we need, and more. But that just fades away because the Gambians were so friendly and treated us just like we were part of their community.
George Amos - aged 17
St John’s Academy, Marlborough
Thriving Through Venture 2019