Africa’s Smallest Country By MIRANDA PAUL, Children’s Author • The Gambia
Where is The Gambia? • In WEST Africa, surrounded by Senegal except for one side that touches the Atlantic Ocean • It’s nickname is the “Smiling Coast” because it looks like the river is smiling where it touches the sea.
What is the weather like? • HOT and SUNNY • Sometimes, it can get very windy. It is just below the Sahara Desert. • There are only two seasons: WET and DRY. It rains in summer (June-Sept), but doesn’t rain much or at all during the other months of the year. • It does not snow in the Gambia. This tree may look dead. It is not. The baobab tree loses its leaves to conserve energy.
What do people eat and drink? • Domoda - peanut butter sauce over rice • Benachin - spicy red rice with fish or chicken • Tapalapa - long, fresh-baked bread - like a baguette • Wonjo juice - a red drink that looks like Kool-Aid, made from hibiscus plants. Sometimes, when a freezer is available, they make plastic-bag popsicles.
What do kids do for fun? • Soccer (called football) is one of the favorite sports. • Boys sometimes get more time to play than girls. Unfortunately, most girls are given more chores than boys. But I know women who are working to change that!
What is school like? • Most schools have tables, not desks. There are often no windows, just openings in the walls for light and air. • Many schools are crowded, so children go for half days. • Everyone wears a uniform. • They have recess, too. • Long walk to school or take a public van. • Very few books, sometimes not allowed to check out books. • All-school assemblies are outside - and kids have to stand in the sun.
What is their money like? • Dalasis • $1 = about 30 GMD • Has Charley the Crocodile on it • Very colorful • What we call “cents” are called “bututs”
Who is Charley? • Gambia is home to many crocodiles. Charley is a legendary one that lives in a crocodile pit called Kachikaly. • I once wrote a poem and read it while sitting in Charley’s pit! Watch me read it! http://youtu.be/TKZ8aCU-clI
What is the language? • English is the language of school and business. • Wolof and Mandinka are two of many languages spoken at home, in the market, and sometimes on TV or in churches. • Everyone also greets in Arabic, and many people pray in Arabic. • Many Gambian children and teens speak 3, 4, 5 or more languages! English = Hello / How are you? Wolof = Nanga Def? Mandinka = A ben yaadi? Arabic: Salaam Alekium
Other cool facts: • Most Gambian parents don’t reveal their new babies’ names until the babies are 7 days old. Then, they throw a BIG party called a Naming Ceremony. • More than 500 bird species have been sighted in The Gambia. Many migrate to the river during the wet season. • Other animals in Gambia include monkeys, hippos, and monitor lizards.
Other Gambian things: • Djembe drums & dancing! • Wooden carvings and masks • Jujus - like good luck charms • Silver/mixed metals • Beads • Bright fabrics and clothing
Ways you can help: • Read more books about other countries, especially African countries • Raise money for Books for Africa or other charities • Learn another language • Host an exchange student • Reduce the amount of plastic you use and food you waste
The Book! One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia Available Feb. 1, 2015 in all major bookstores and online sites Student recycling idea contest coming this spring! Watch oneplasticbag.com for updates.