My Life in a Suitcase : The Gambia

The Gambia is a small country in West Africa nestled in the middle of Senegal with it's western border along the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. It is the smallest country on the mainland of Africa at nearly 4,200 square miles and a population close to 2 million people. 

I chose this place for my first article because of the pure enjoyment I had not only with the country but with the people as well. From the day that I flew in until the day that I flew back to the United States I was meeting new people and visiting new places. 

On the day we fly into a new country it is customary for our team to meet with the U.S. Ambassador or their representatives. This was no exception, on the day we arrived we met Ambassador Barry L. Wells. AMB Wells was finishing his term in 2010 and was hosting a country wide Golf Tournament. He invited my team to be his guest players in the US Ambassador's Cup at the Fajara Golf Club. At the time it was rated one of the top 100 hardest courses in the world. When I think about a golf course I picture luscious grass in the roughs, hard compact grass for the fairway, and at least a few trees to align the course. Boy was that image wrong of the Fajara Golf Club. Being ranked one of the toughest course in the world I should have known better. The fairways were sand, the roughs were sand, and the sand traps were sand! The greens were actually oiled slicked browns (dirt that has been compacted and topped with a light layer of oil to make them quicker). I couldn't have asked for a better experience playing golf with hundreds of business men and women from around the country. 

If we weren't working we were out exploring everything the country had to offer. One of our first stops was a monkey park. Thousands of monkeys were all over this place, they were coming from everywhere to get the peanuts we brought to feed them. These little suckers were feisty, they had no problem fighting each other to get to those peanuts. In fact, two of them climbed up on my buddies back while they proceeded to fight each other. Then another one climbed in his pocket to find the hidden peanuts. After such a great adventure we decided to go play a little night time Par 3 on a local gold course.

How could we possibly top our monkey adventure? Well we heard about this famous crocodile that was an actor in the U.K., his name was Charlie. Just where could we find Charlie, at the Kachikally Crocodile Pool located in the center of The Gambia. After driving as far as we could into the city, we had to jump on a little Tuk Tuk Taxi to get us to the front "gate", if you want to call it a gate. Walking into this park we followed a little trail where we saw ants an inch long and Komodo Dragons running around. Finally we hit the end of the trail that popped us out in the little pond that held literally thousands of crocodiles of all sizes. The fear I felt in my body was real, but I was there and I wasn't going to let it stop me from being crazy. After petting numerous crocs and walking around the pond for nearly an hour, it was time to call it a day.

All I wanted to do was visit a local market and pick up a few souvenirs. I got an awesome wooden drum that was made locally. It has animal skin stretched over the top to make the drum head. This thing sounds amazing.

That wasn't enough, I also picked up these 2 little wooden zebras for my wife. These things have amazing detail to be so small. And the finish on them is awesome.

Still, that wasn't good enough for me. I saw these chess sets that were to die for. But none of them caught my eye and screamed "take me home". So I asked the craftsman if he could personalize a set for me. He said of course, and a few days later I picked up my set with ivory inlayed into the heads of the pieces. These chess pieces have such great detail and you can tell that each piece was made with love and care. I was stoked to be able to take this home with me. 

To round out the trip, the U.S. Embassy took us out for a day of fishing where I caught manta rays, see urchins, and tons of red fish. I couldn't have asked for a better experience and I created memories that I will remember for the rest of my life.