Through the eyes of Mam Jarra: A Dutch quote that says: ‘Verbeter de wereld, begin bij jezelf’

‘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.’
When I was a child, I spend many weekends at my grandparents’ house. They have a farm with a lot of cows and other animals. There was a lot of space to play with my brother and cousins. My grandparents were my example of real love and gave me faith to believe that marriage could be forever. I knew that they had their problems in life and as I now know we all have. My grand mom told us about the bumps on the road in her life, the sparkle moments and about the faith she carried with her while her life was ‘sometimes’ unbalanced. She tells her life stories with a lot of humour and laughter. She believes that even though life can be tough and unbalanced if you hold on to your humour, you will make it through the day.

I carry her wisdom and optimism with me while I spend my weekends differently and on a different place on earth. People who have read my earlier blogs know that I feel so happy that I can live in The Smiling Coast of Africa. The people are warm, friendly, and always reach out their hands to help you. These behaviours match my core beliefs. The world is getting more tough every day. I sometimes ask myself if it is because I am getting older and more aware or because the world and people are really getting more tough. I open my news app while I drink my morning coffee. I read about what happens in the world. Because of the online globalization we can all read about what happens thousands of kilometres away from us. That makes the impact on us (and the news issue) significant bigger. Think for example about the Black Lives Matter movement. The reaction on this terrible incident resulted in a worldwide movement where people from all over this beautiful world share their message, connect, reflect, and join the movement. Another example is what currently happening in Afghanistan. In a click, you can read, hear, and see how some take over the power and how others suffer. Afghanistan and your people, I pray for you <3.

While living in The Gambia with people who have a totally different background, upbringing, culture, religion and future I believe that our core beliefs are mostly identical or strongly comparable. While I grew up in a small village dominated by followers of the protestant church and a farmer community, my Gambian best friend learned on a young age the Koran and lived in the capital city of The Gambia. The contrast is large between me and my Gambian girl best friend. But in the end, we both want to be respected, appreciated, to be free, to love and to be heard. Without a doubt, I am sure you want the same. In a short: We want to live in peace and rest in peace!

I do know that even though me and my friend’s core beliefs are similar, we are (often) perceived very different in life. This has to do with our ancestors, backgrounds, religion, culture, family name, educational level, marriage status and overall status. Where in The Gambia, people stare at me because I look different while I walk together with my friend, this may occur different in the village I was raised. Where in The Gambia the police will be more likely stop me while driving than her, this may occur the opposite somewhere else in this world. Where I always ask a friend in The Gambia to go and buy something for me as I know I will be overcharged, this could also be different elsewhere. Living (on the other side of the planet) can sometimes feel like climbing mountains. Not the Mount Everest, but mountains of rejection, shame, incomprehension and forgiveness. While it sounds so simple ‘I want to be respected’ or ‘I respect you’’ it isn’t. I even catch myself sometimes treating someone without the respect we humans deserve. Why? Just because it wasn’t my day, just the wrong time, place and situation. Is this fair? No. Will it happen again? Most likely. But we all have to keep on trying, also during unbalanced tough days. And do you know what? Together if we use online globalisation correctly, we can reach many people to start this story of respect and peace. Because the creation of a peaceful respectful world starts with us! All of us!

I have promised myself that I will keep speaking up with all I have in me to remind the world that all of us are human beings that want to be respected, appreciated, to be free, to love and to be loved. I am sure that I have to continue speaking up till I die in peace for my and your (future) children to life in peace. The day I promised myself to speak up for the creation of a peaceful respectful world was when I read at a young age a quote on the door of my grandparents’ house. The quote that says: ‘Verbeter de wereld, begin bij jezelf’. Would you like to know what that means? Google Translate is always there to help you!

About Author

Elsemiek Franken

the 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 dreamlife 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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