‘Shaken, not stirred’

101

With Aicha

For those of you who have seen James Bond films, this is a familiar line.
The character, James Bond, is a trouble solver. He is very popular among the women, and it seems that every time he gets involved with some new beauty he gets in trouble.
As James Bond is an intelligent man, he solves the issues quickly and in an elegant manner. James Bond has a favourite drink, and every time he asks for it he asks that it be shaken, not stirred.

If you are not in the drinking business this will mean nothing to you, but I have learned that it has something to do with the taste. Being what I am, I always turn words and expressions around and look at them from other angles. Follow me and you will see what I mean.

I have spent two weeks in The Gambia and I think my intestines have changed places.
As I lived outside Brikama and needed to go to Banjul several times, I was on the roads a lot. It is actually an insult to the Gambian people to call these donkey trails roads. It doesn’t matter if these so-called roads are covered with asphalt, or plain dirt roads, they are just as bad.

Is the reason why it seems impossible for people in charge to upgrade the road system that they have been hitting their heads on the car windows or ceilings too many times? Any way, they don’t seem to be thinking clearly, and they really don’t seem to care about the people who suffer on these roads every day.
The cars in The Gambia are mostly in bad conditions, but the lousy roads make the cars appear in an even lousier shape within a short period of time.

Trying to get from point A to point B means that you have to avoid potholes, broken tiles, piles of trash, goats, chicken, donkeys, children, dogs, pieces of tiles sticking up from the ground and these maniac taxi drivers, what is their problem? If they have side mirrors, they don’t seem to use them. They don’t care about traffic rules, instead they trust or pray that others are able to read their minds and understand their intentions.
Have they got their drivers licences in a box of cornflakes or what?
I have noticed other drivers who don’t follow traffic rules, but the taxi drivers are the worst.

Now I come to my favourite hate object – public transport!
Too few, too uncomfortable, too small vans, too little space, too much stress in and out and too many opportunities for pick pockets to get hold of someone’s valuables.
When the vehicle stops, people rush to get in and that is normal.
What they don’t seem to realise is that others need to get out of it first.
The last time I tried to force myself in to a public transport, I got pushed by someone.
I had to get a grip of the backside of a seat not to fall, and I cut myself on a finger on a loose and sharp piece of metal. Luckily I had handkerchiefs in my handbag so I stopped the bleeding after a while.

No wonder there are a lot of casualties when an accident happens in the traffic.
A normal van takes up to 16 passengers, double the amount they are built for.
I feel sorry for all who have no other option but to use public transport.
It must be awful to be a mother, with a baby on your back and maybe another child sitting next by. The vans are messy, dusty, hot and uncomfortable. Most of all – they are dangerous and it is a disgrace that the Gambian people are not valued higher than to be transported like cattle.

How can there be development in this country when the roads are in such awful state and also too few?
The distance between Brikama and Banjul is not longer than it should take about 30 minutes to drive. Because of the traffic it takes more than an hour in each direction! This means people have to leave their homes very early and pray that they will reach their jobs and schools on time. The working days are long, but they become even longer because of the roads and traffic. Should we accept that? Are Gambians not worth better than this? Is there any intention, any honest intention, to develop the country or has there been only beautiful but empty words?
There is a saying: ”Business as usual.”
It means that no matter what happens, business must go on as usual, it us the business, that so to say, “keeps the wheels rolling”.
Even if times are unfortunate, business keeps on as before, as it cannot and should not be stopped.

So – let us apply this expression to the development of The Gambia. The business is going on, almost as usual, that is, not said in a positive way.
No – everything is as usual, on a low level – as usual, unorganised – as usual, incompetent – as usual, low paid – as usual and corrupt – as usual.
Nothing seems to have changed!
Those who sing words of praise to the Chinese – be aware that they don’t invest in The Gambia of the goodness of their hearts. Historically the Chinese are known for their patience, even when it comes to business. They make long term plans and there is a hidden agenda behind their smiles. For those of you who follow the world news, you know that the Chinese government doesn’t even like – Muslims. Read about it and see for yourself how they are treating the Chinese Muslims. So why are they investing in a country that is seen as a predominantly Muslim country?
They make business in The Gambia and they pay low salaries to the Gambian workers. Why?
Are you not worth more because you are Africans? Is The Gambia to become a colony again, only with new masters?
#Neveragain – does it still mean anything for you, or have you relaxed?
Democracy is a vulnerable gift that needs to be taken care of, instead of neglected. You can’t afford to relax, always be on your toes, always be on guard or you will let the wolves in. If something appears to be too good to be true; it often is.
The Gambia was at the bottom when the oppressor left you with his pockets stuffed with money. Your money! I understand that it can be tempting to accept deals that sound good, offers that are almost impossible to resist – but please do!
As I am preaching all the time; take one step back and think before you make a decision. Just the fact that someone comes and offers you something irresistible must make you resist.

Take your time, be wise, know your value, don’t sell yourself for a cheap price.
Begin by asking yourself why!
Why am I offered this?
Why should I accept the offer?
Why do I feel tempted?
Why should I accept a price I haven’t been able to compare with others?
Because I am an African?
If that is why – ask the one who is trying to fool you to go to H*** !
Know your value!
Speaking about prices and your value.
Does it come as a surprise that groundnuts are harvested this time of year? It seems like that, at least for the government, but I suppose they have never been in the farming business.

Farming is hard work, I know because I have been living on a farm almost my entire life. You are always on duty, worried about the crops, knowing that your whole existence depends on it.
The government knows that too so why don’t they plan for the payments in time? Can it really be that hard to check a calendar or speak to professionals who have some basic knowledge about finances?
Or why not do something really pioneering like speaking to the farmers directly ? Wouldn’t that be something to write home about?
The farmers could inform you directly of their whereabouts. They could tell when it is time to plant, how long it will take before they will begin harvesting and during which time of the year they will harvest.

They could also tell you about their hard work, their worries, their suffering, their aching backs and broken shoes. They could tell you about the sleepless nights when they worry if they will be paid on time. They could tell you about the anxious mothers who listen to their children crying of hunger. They could tell you about the anger they feel when the groundnuts must be delivered in time but the payments are always too late. They could tell you where to stuff the paper they have been given, with a promise that they will get paid – eventually.

Obviously you don’t want to hear all that, so that is why you avoid to speak with the farmers.
Groundnuts and tourism are the largest sources for the Gambian GDP, but you don’t need to bother because you get paid every month anyway.
Oh dear ! Did I sound sarcastic? Sorry for that…or not!
”Shaken, but not stirred.”
When James Bond said that line he spoke about how to mix his drink.
A drink shaker looks like a metal bottle with a lid, you pour the liquid ingredients in it, close the lid and shake the bottle to mix the contains. Other kind of drinks will have the liquids poured directly in the glass and it will be stirred by a spoon.

Enough of this drinking business, as good Muslims we don’t use alcohol (or?)
I just wanted to explain to you how it was done, but now I change direction again.
I wrote at the beginning of this article that I had been shaken on the roads, no matter if it was in a private car, a taxi or a public transport. The word stirred can mean that the contents in a glass or a cup have been mixed by the help of a spoon, but there are more synonyms. Stirred can, for example, mean that you get upset for some reason.
One day during my stay in The Gambia, I went for a trip. The ferry took me and my wonderful friend and tour operator Lams Ceesay of Lamstours to Barra. In Barra we took a 4-wheeler to Juffureh because I wanted to visit Kunta Kinteh Island. Lams has a good car, but it wasn’t possible to take it to Juffureh. If you haven’t been there, you might not know the reason, but I will tell you.

The road was so bumpy after a while I was afraid to speak so I wouldn’t bite my tongue off! We were actually not driving on the road, because that was even in worse shape than the side of the road where we drove. How is this possible? You have a great tourist attraction in The Gambia but you need a helicopter instead to get there comfortably. Hey, minister of tourism, are you sleeping? Haven’t you noticed that there is a tourist season going on? This might come as a surprise for you, but not all tourists stay at the all-inclusive hotels. There is not much to do at a hotel like that, people get bored after some days at the beach or the pool. You can’t take a fancy tourist bus to Juffureh, and still this place is known all over the world thanks to the author Alex Haley and his book Roots about Kunta Kinteh.

Dear reader, we need to both shake and stir those who are in charge of The Gambia. If they don’t understand your value we must keep on reminding them of it. You pay taxes but what do you get for the money? Shake and stir the golden pedestals, don’t let anyone look down on you. Know your value!