Day 169

Thursday. The founders of Sandele, Geri and Maurice, who supported us in coming here, finally arrived in The Gambia a few weeks ago. Their initial plan was to come at a similar time as us, but with all the corona related issues it took a little longer. Over the past months Dan has been working closely with Maurice, first via zoom and later in person. He is full of ideas and, even after many years in The Gambia with various successful projects and many setbacks, is still very active and out and about keeping balls in the air. Geri is active in their permaculture garden, that they haven’t been able to visit in some time, preparing for the rains to come and getting things in order. She is always happy to share her valuable thoughts, knowledge, experiences and advice whenever we visit and we have enjoyed hearing all of it. Leaving the compound on the other hand has been less easy, partly because of their Sandele experience and all that went with it but also the reality of the district from deforestation to waste to the diminishing beaches. They could never have achieved what they had achieved without ruffling some feathers, but they know it is still not enough and behaviours of the majority haven’t really changed.

Over the past months we have spoken to many people in the area and in far flung places who know and love Sandele, and still consider it as a very special place. Locally, people acknowledge and are appreciative of the work the couple have for so long done (and keep doing) to support them, and others who are simply grateful because they would not be doing what they do with out the couple’s influence. After our first and quite brief meetings we questioned if they actually knew how many of the seeds they sowed have blossomed and whether the negative side of things had overcast all the extremely positive outcomes of their Sandele project.

Lamin, the owner of my favourite beach bar Santosha (who to his own admission used to be a poacher), is one of the individuals who says that he owes them his livelihood (he’s now also a yoga teacher and masseur) and there seems to be a mutual appreciation of one another. When Geri suggested to have dinner together at theirs, I thought it might be nice for everyone to do this at Lamin’s. The place is very close to their house plus the chances of bumping into people are slim, and we could meet there for drinks, a dive in the sea, have dinner at sunset and join a little drumming around the fire later on.

When I proposed this to Lamin he was very much up for it and, after some consideration and much to everyone’s delight, Geri agreed to it. We were nervous but really looking forward to it.

I met Lamin at the bar in the morning to help him with the preparation of the bar and the food. We opted for the traditional dish Yassa in both veggie and fish version, a rice dish with a simple onion and lemon sauce.
He knows how much I like a stroll along the beach and so we walked all the way up to the fishing village to get butterfish and some last ingredients and back again. It was a long, brisk walk and a good chat, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending the whole day there, preparing everything in Gambian pace and in good company. He has become a friend to me over the past months who I will dearly miss!

Alpha, the butterfish king of Gunjur
butterfish with their incredible (donkey-like, as Lamin says) faces

Maurice and Geri arrived with our boys in the car and Dan on his bike late afternoon and they all tuned into the place’s chilled atmosphere quickly. We had lots to talk about and, much to our surprise, Maurice even joined me and the boys for a swim in the sea – his first in many years despite living so close to it – and he noticeably loved it. We all had dinner together as the sun was setting and Geri brought her laptop to show us photos of the beginnings at Sandele, which together with their memories were great to see.

happy Santosha family

The best part of an evening here is usually the fire and the drumming. I get the impression that men grow up here with djembés in their hands as a lot of them are enviably gifted drummers…

Geri even had a dance with Lamin!

Lamin and his team have been wonderful hosts and the evening was a great success in many ways. I guess it was our last evening at Santosha’s for a long while and I miss it already.

full moon at the beach is magical

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