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Through the eyes of Mam Jarra 5/12

My Magazine 2022/11
6 min
Author: Elsemiek Franken
‘Through the eyes of Mam Jarra’ tells you more about living and working in The Gambia as a 23-years old Dutch girl. What do I experience, what is living in The Gambia like, The culture difference, funny inside facts and more.’

I have been writing for the magazine for the last couple of months. In the last edition, I couldn't write because of the infamous ‘Banjul belly’ disturbing me for a little too long. I feel so grateful to get messages from people in different parts of the world who asked me why my blog wasn't uploaded. I also really missed writing. Of course, I write to share my experience living in The Gambia, but it also helps me to evaluate, process and appreciate my life here in one of the smallest countries of Africa: The Smiling Coast of Africa!

Through my Facebook account Mam Jarra’s eyes, I got in contact with a lady. She had read my blogs and told me about all her experiences in The Gambia. After a couple of chats, she asked me whether I had experienced something bad or disappointing living closely with and around Gambians. She had faced many bad things and people who made her life miserable when she lived in The Gambia. She couldn't believe that I was living here without experiencing the same. I was a bit surprised by her question. I really had to think about this question for a long time, as I believe that she had the right to get a fair answer. Of course, life has its bad and good days. Also, in The Gambia! But rarely, I am disappointed, upset or hurt by others. I always write about the positive happenings in my life. Because I believe you become what you focus on. My mom has told me many times: ‘Darling, on every tree, there are rotten apples. Just watch carefully before picking, and take your time!'.

Everywhere in this world, you meet people who will teach you a lesson. People who want to use you to get better themselves, people who talk behind your back, people who will always make you feel that you are less than them or people who are just really rude. My mom calls these people the rotten apples of the tree. You and I both meet them. Maybe we are 6000 km or more apart from each other. We are still facing the same challenges living close to other human beings. I usually face difficulties with the police in The Gambia. While I think that I drive the same as the cars before and behind me, the police always have a reason to stop me. There is always something I apparently did wrong. The last time the police stopped me while driving behind another car, they told me that I had driven over the footpath. I had never recognized a footpath before in The Gambia. But they are here; otherwise, they wouldn't have stopped me, right? Anyway, it wasn't my lucky day. The police told me that I had violated the law and told me that they would escort me to court. At first, I thought they must be joking, but within 2 hours I was standing in front of a judge! I knew I had driven to the wrong location, on a date and time, to meet a policeman who didn't want to compromise. Yes, of course, that was a really bad day for me! Do I still smile while driving, passing a policeman? Yes, I think even more than before!

While talking with different people, it sometimes feels that some people deal far more with these toxic people, power and situations than others. They can always tell you about another disaster, disappointment or big fight. People always harm them in the most extreme ways. Bad things always ‘just’ happen to them. They write the internet full of their stories about what others did to them. I have been really curious for a long time now about why such people are facing all this in such heavy loads and others don't. Do they really face the above situation more than others, or do they react in a different way in certain situations?

Having lived in The Gambia now for some time, I do believe that such people take everything that happens in life too personally. As a young white lady walking on the street, children shout at me, "TUBAB minty". Just because that is what they have learned to say. Some ladies in the market try to sell me vegetables for 5 Dalasis more. Just because they try to survive, sometimes when I pass by people, I can certainly get the feeling that they are talking about me. Maybe they do, but who says they talk badly? And as soon as I have passed, they have another topic to talk about!

People who do bad things to you, hurt you or disappoint you are maybe not happy in their own lives/ They are trying to survive, are jealous, or have learned to behave the way they behave. When people do something bad to you, it has nothing to do with you; it is because of themselves and their beliefs. A couple of years ago, I read the following sentence in a book: All human beings are their own main character in their own movie. I read many books, but I have never forgotten this one sentence. It is so true! We are writing and performing every day in our own movie as the main character and at the same time performing in other people's movies as a supporting characters (mostly without knowing it). If we aren't alert, people will definitely hurt us, and mostly these people don't even know that they are hurting you; just because they are too busy playing their own main character.

Before getting upset, disappointed or angry because someone did something ‘bad’ to you: take a break. Is the person still around? Stop them. Tell them what they did that hurt you and why it hurt you. Mostly they will be so surprised and tell you they never realized that it would give you that bad feeling. Yes, to do this, you really need to have guts or maybe not? Don't confront them, don't scream or get angry with them, just tell them what you feel. After that, forgive the person! If it is not possible to talk to the person, forgive him. Just don't take it personally and move on. It will definitely relieve you! You will see that if you do so, the situation will not negatively influence your day or your life. Negativity is loudest within yourself: Mostly unconsciously, we let negative thoughts write our own movie. Remember: we are what we think. With our thoughts: we write the script of our own movie.

Let us help each other to write beautiful movie scripts where the main character lives her dreams and helps and empowers the supporting characters to live their dreams!


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 23-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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