I was so excited to once again be among black people in the busy south London streets. I was right at home among my high-volume sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers. Inspired by the splendour of smells, colours and accents, I was transported to a happy childhood, playing and walking barefoot with not a care in the world. It was this nostalgia that influenced my decision to return to Africa in 2013.
South Africa was not a safe option for a single gal, so picked at random, Gambia became my destination. I did nominal research about laws and customs to ensure that I could cope with the system, and it being a former British colony with English as the official language was a big sell because it meant you could understand the laws; the formal stuff anyway.
I chose a guest house in Cape Point because I grew up in a place called Sea Point so this was surely a sign. I am sure you can understand why my big sister was convinced I was having a nervous breakdown.
September 2013, armed with ‘sign’, I landed in The Gambia at 10 p.m. The heat was as shocking as the cold had been some 20 years earlier when I had landed at Heathrow airport from Africa.
I was driven to my guest house in Cape point. Just to say, the signs were not so bright then. It was pitch black with not a single star in the sky. I checked into the guest house, deposited the luggage in the dark and immediately went out, looking for wine. All that could be found was a bottle of nearly boiling red wine as the bar man informed me there had been no ‘light’ all day.
The bottle of wine and a single straw by candlelight was my welcome gift. I remember thinking that it will all be okay. I went to my bed at the guesthouse some time after midnight. I woke up at 4 a.m. with the glorious cold of air conditioning.
At 9 a.m. I cheerfully went downstairs and asked for directions to the beach. I walked into the sea and as soon as my feet touched the sand I knew it was all going to be fine.
Now, 6 years later and many adventures later, I am still here. Was it everything I hoped it would be? Well it has been different, some aspects remind me of my own Africa where I was born. I enjoy living in flip flops, I enjoy chatting to strangers at the corner shop, I enjoy hearing the mosques call to prayer, I enjoy the outdoor life, I enjoy the volume. I enjoy the colours, the kindness, the stories and the way time slows down here.
The climate is great, the beaches are great and the power cuts and the water shortages all form part of the adventure. My son was born here in The Gambia and it was a very positive experience. We are living a good life, a happy blessed life and I am glad I had a moment of madness and landed in The Gambia all those years ago.
Follow your dreams even when the whole world thinks you are crazy. Live courageously and fully. It will be a spectacular adventure. There will be lessons to learn along the way but at least no regrets.