The book I wrote about The Gambia as a result of our adventures is called “For The Gambia, Our Homeland`, after the first line of the National Anthem of The Gambia, which is also its official name. I worked on the book for five years and I tried to describe our experiences with the local population and the peculiarities of a totally different culture from ours in a way that everyone can understand.
The book is mainly intended for holiday makers travelling to this country for the first time, so that they have a guideline to make the most of their stay. Should you turn out to become one of my readers, then I wish you a lot of reading fun in advance…!
I am working on the English translation of my book and I hope it will be released in the spring/summer of 2012. The book will be published under the same title as the Dutch version, but with a different cover picture and ‘English Version’ added as a subtitle.
How on earth…!?
My wife and I had gradually grown so accustomed to helping our Gambian friends as private people (i.e. without a foundation or charity), that we did not consider it special at all. It goes without saying that you get compliments, stimulation and help from your direct social circles, but that complete strangers listen attentively to your stories about The Gambia ….?? We did not become aware of this until we could not spend our Christmas holidays in 2003 in The Gambia, because all flights came back on Tuesday morning. I am a teacher and although we do have a lot of holidays, we can never take a day off and that was also true for that particular Monday. Therefore, we decided – as an alternative – to spend our Christmas holidays in Bali.
While we were taking shelter from another (short) rain shower in Bali, we started talking to a Dutch couple. We complained that this wet misery would never have happened to us in The Gambia, where we would normally have spent our holiday and where it never rains in December. From that moment on, we began telling them about our experiences with and help to the Gambian people and they simply loved it!
The lady suggested I should write a book about our experiences, but that was not an option for me at the time. I thought that what my wife and I were doing in our ‘second homeland’ was so natural and self-evident, that I had never ever even considered that possibility…!
The seed for the idea of writing a book on The Gambia was sown for the first time then, but it did not germinate…!
The immediate cause
The seed did not grow until – during one of our stays in The Gambia – we were confronted with a new book, written by a Dutch twitcher. This book exactly contained the perception, the emotions and the misconceptions that someone experiences who travels to this country for the first time unprepared and he had expressed everything in a very recognizable manner. It was like going back in time and it made you realize how you were struggling with the very same problems as depicted in his book when we were there for the first time. However, his book definitely was the breakthrough for me: if somebody manages to write a book on The Gambia after merely one visit, then surely – after more than 15 visits – so could I…!?
Short outline of the contents of the book
“For The Gambia, Our Homeland” is the first line of the Gambian National Anthem and also its official name. The book is divided into six chapters, with some subsections in the longer chapters, it has a preface and an epilogue and covers 262 pages (Dutch version).
- Chapter 1 = (one page) – our first acquaintance with the country. Before August 1995 we had never even heard of The Gambia!
- Chapter 2 = (29 pages) – a description of our experiences and especially annoyances during the first three days of our first visit.
- Chapter 3 = (8 pages) – a story about the fictitious emirate ‘Toobabistan’, in order to clarify the material difference between European tourists and the average Gambian.
- Chapter 4 = (55 pages) – a number of interesting facts, Gambian peculiarities and tourist tips in order to enjoy their stay to the max.
- Chapter 5 = (115 pages) – our personal experiences with each of our Gambian friends, recorded in a separate subsection. All persons mentioned may be encountered in the flesh in the neighbourhood of Badala Park Hotel and Palm Beach Hotel.
- Chapter 6 = (12 pages) – a survey of the clinic and the primary schools which we – in the case of Busura with the help of the FioKids Foundation – started up, built, added to or a combination of these!
When I typed the first words of my book in September 2005, I resolved to write the book for four categories of readers:
- Holiday makers who want to travel to The Gambia for the first time; the book offers a good guideline to avoid all kinds of problems during (especially the first days of) their holiday there.
- Holiday makers who have visited the country before and recognize themselves in the events depicted; possibly, they were not prepared sufficiently for this part of Africa and might want to give it another try after reading this book.
- Holiday makers who have visited the country more frequently; after having read my book, they may come to the conclusion that they can do more with their stay than just enjoying the sun and making routine, run-of-the-mill excursions.
- People who stay at home and find it interesting to read something about a culture completely different from ours, without any fiction being used (that is to say with the exception of chapter 3). If, by means of my book, I can change these readers into doers, who want to contribute something for their underprivileged fellow-men, then that would be the icing on the cake! We think it is of the utmost significance to make people see how much you can accomplish in a country like The Gambia with just a few tenners. It is our experience that there are plenty of benvolent donors in Europe, but they all have one thing in common: they would really love to see their donations being used for the full 100% for the explicit purpose they intended!!
When a Dutch female television celebrity – who presented the first Dutch fund raiser on TV in 1962 – was interviewed a couple of years ago about the recent massive television fund raisers, she thought it was a great pity that most of the time you do not get any information on what happens with the money that was raised. She emphasized that people who donate for a good cause are eager to know how their gifts are spent and are – in fact – fully entitled to this knowledge. She said that the amount of money donated does not matter in itself, but that it is all about the lasting, good feeling that you get when helping somebody else!!
We – being development-aid workers – are convinced that she is completely right in saying so and therefore we would like to ask you to have a deep look inside your heart to see if there is a warm spot for your underprivileged fellow-men. Experience and enjoy the great feeling you will be granted to make the world a little bit better than it was …………….
On behalf of all our Gambian friends and the entire nation we cordially thank you from this site!! Gambians would say: “abaraka baake”!
And,… in order to set the right example: all the royalties I receive from writing this book will be used entirely for the benefit of our friends in The Gambia!
Thank you very much for visiting our site and, please, tell your friends!