Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Transportation and Clothing

Transportation in the Gambia is interesting. The most common form is a van/bus type of thing called a Gely. These come sporadically during the day and are big vans that try to fit as many people as possible inside them before departing for the destination. It is actually a really great example of the difference between our cultures.  We will be on the Gely, getting figidty, asking the driver 'when will the bus leave?'.  The african driver will say, when it is full of course!  Our views of time are Oh so different!
It is also common to see goats and chickens riding on top of the Gelys.  There are pick up spots and drop off spots around the frequently visited areas such as the big markets. Here is a description of how we get to the Peace Corps office on public transport from our training village: We take a gely from our village to the stop light (there are a total of 8 -9 stop lights in Gambia, so people know what stop light you are referring to), next we get a yellow cab that is going in the direction of the office.  You have to get cabs going in the same direction you are going or you pay 5 times the normal price. Then we get dropped off in front of the office.  To go back is trickier. You get a cab to ‘Westfield’ then you get another cab to ‘Tipa Garage’ and then you get on the Gely back to our village. Last time I was with another trainee and we saw Bah2 - a member of our peace corps staff who works with the environmental group.  He came over and helped us get to where we needed to be.  Later we saw a neighbor in the Gely who yelled for us to get in, so that was neat.  And when we tried to get out too early, she stopped us and made us get out at the right stop. Can’t say that Gambians don’t look out for us toubabs! The total cost of a trip from our training village to the Peace Corps office, about 50 dalaisi – less than 2 dollars.
People here don’t really go out and buy clothes.  There are places in the big cities where you can buy goodwill European clothes but they’re usually too expensive for villagers.  Villagers buy fabric and have clothes made by tailors.  It’s really great.  Ben is enjoying it a lot because he can get shirts that fit him well.  He also enjoys wearing pajama-like outfits all day. I really like it too, but women are expected to wear long skirts.  The tailors in the big cities are pretty good and they can make anything if you give them an example. And it’s pretty cheap too.  We both plan on taking full advantage of it once we settle into our site!  So if anybody has any old magazines with cute clothes – send them our way J.  Last night, on our way to meet up with some peace corps friends, a Gambian man starts talking to us and following us.  We are both confused and not sure what to think about this, more than sketchy situation, when the Gambian starts speaking English and says ‘Hello, it’s me, your tailor!’. He then says, “Sana (Ben), I need to talk to you about your tailoring needs”.  He had tracked us down to talk to ben about an outfit he’s getting made for our swear-in ceremony! We got it all straightened out but neither of us had ever in our lives had someone track us down for our 'tailoring needs'.

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