I was living in The Gambia serving as a volunteer, teaching introduction computer classes, they were part of a social-economic development project sponsored by the National Baha’i Community of The Gambia.
In 2003 I traveled to a village called Bwiam to visit a fellow Canadian Baha’i. The minibus that I rode in is locally known as gelli-gelli (Lonely Planet – ‘battered crammed minibusses’). We drove on mostly red dusty African roads with more potholes than road. We traveled about 3 hours crammed into the gelli-gelli with fellow travelers and some livestock on the top. There were times in the journey when it was so crowded the ‘apprentie’ (man who collected the fare) had to ride on the outside of the vehicle holding onto the ladder.
We reached the destination and I was dropped in front of the regional hospital. Soon after getting out, I realized that I left my fanny-pack with my digital camera and money in the gelli-gelli. I asked a couple of local men as to when the driver would return, and they said maybe tomorrow. I laughed, many say that GMT really meant ‘Gambian Maybe Time’. It is the equivalent of what Jamaicans would say ‘soon come’.
My Dutch Canadian friend Bakary Jatta told me that I would never see my digital camera and money again. I thought, oh well I get to practice detachment>]. I hoped whoever found it could make good use of money and camera in a country where the average wage of $2.00 per day. Nevertheless, I did not give up hope of it being returned, the next morning I walked back to the place on the main road where I was dropped off. I waited to see if I could recognize my driver from a series of gelli-gelli minibusses who looked very much the same.
After an hour passed a gelli-gelli slowed down and drove toward me with a smiling driver behind the wheel. I greeted him in my combination of broken Wolof; naka subasi and Arabic; As-salam alaykom. He handed me my fanny pack with all its contents, digital camera and money included. The camera if sold and the cash combined would have fed his family for about 6 months. I thanked him, and offered him a reward, I took some time to convince him to accept it.
This and one of many positive experiences in my 2 years in The Gambia and left me with deep gratitude to the people I met and I debt that I will never be able to repay Jerre Jeff Gambia.