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Through the eyes of Mam Jarra 10/12

My Magazine 2023/05
5 min
Author: Elsemiek Franken
‘Through the eyes of Mam Jarra’ tells you more about living and working in The Gambia as a 24-years old Dutch girl. What do I experience, what is living in The Gambia like, the culture difference, funny inside facts and more.’

DKSJLFKJSL@$@#($#)**)* Do you know these kind of errors produced in your head? Some productions for my company also created a lot of KDFJK@*#$*#. I spent my last weekend in the recording studio. We were about to record a new project. Before we could start the project, one of the equipment’s parts didn’t work the way it should work. I counted in my head: 1,2,3, keep calm! But after a couple of times trying to fix it, I had to walk away before flipping out. The producer we run the studio with is one of the few people who can calm me down with his comments like: ‘Ah, just wait a bit, I will fix it!’

The word patience has never exist in my vocabulary. If others talk about their patience, it will sound like an unknown language to me. From a young age, I am at my best when there is a lot of pressure, if time is tight to achieve or while working in chaotic busy places. When things take too long without required action, my attention wonders easily to another thing, new project or I already found another way to do what I have to do. The biggest punishment for me is to wait in a queue, wait for someone before I can start my work or just doing nothing. It sounds like my biggest nightmare when my friend explains me how long she sometimes has to wait before a customer will enter the shop. I guess if I would have worked there, I would already redesign the whole shop a thousand times. Luckily, in The Gambia you never have to wait…

Your own weakness is mostly what you admire in another. If I observe people in The Gambia, with their tons of patience I feel like my personality is like a restless storm. Luckily, I have grown some little patience over the years living here. The life in The Gambia has taught me the language of understanding. Instead of getting angry while waiting, they have taught me to understand. There were a million times over the last years that: Things didn’t work, projects took too long or nobody showed up when they had to. Oh yeah, this makes me feel like giving up. Because I am at my best in the heat of the moment, not waiting for things that do not work or work that takes too long. Friends who know me really well (or they suppose they know me) always ask me how I live in The Gambia with my restless storm character.

It isn’t only the part where the producer shows me his patience that I admire. It’s the part second part of his comment ‘I will fix it’. He will think of different ways to fix the problem. Mostly, he actually makes it work. Gambians are inventive. They will reuse things for different purposes, make it again instead of buying it new or they will give it to a brother or sister who will make it into something else useful. There are plenty of things that they will reuse what people in the western world throw away without thinking if it can be useful in another way. I do not say that recycling or reusing the way Gambians do is always having a positive effect on the people, community and the earth as a whole. I just want to believe that we have be conscious about the fact that you do not have to throw away everything when it doesn’t work and buy a new one.

While I lost my patience and already worried about how to get new equipment to finish the recording. The producer was whistling while fixing it. It took him a while, but at the end of the day, we finished our recording just on time to walk to the beach and enjoy the sunset.


Elsemiek Franken
Owner of Three Little Birds Bar and Restaurant and Co-founder of Santo Gambia Foundation
I am Elsemiek Franken, also known as Mam Jarra, a 24-year-old girl building her dream life in The Gambia. You could call me a happy girl! You can wake me up for Benechin chicken, improving lives, learning new things and adventures. My friends call me spontaneous, loyal, brave, a goal-getter and a little too much of a talker. I always need to be busy, maybe you can call it restless. I used to think that The Gambia and its 40 degrees would slow me a bit down. Not yet, hopefully, I will learn to do nothing (at least sometimes;) and enjoy it. Do you have a tip? As a child, they always called me messy; I call it creative. The Gambia brings out the best of me, for example, my creative mind. I cannot describe how this happens. Come to The Gambia, stay a bit longer and experience it yourself! I enjoy making food for everybody who walks in. You’re welcome to join! Do you want to know something or ask me a question? Please contact me on

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