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City of Banjul
Sunday, September 25, 2022

What’s on the menu?

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With Aisha Jallow

There is this silly joke which I found very amusing when I was a child. The guest at a French restaurant was studying the menu, and then asking the waitor:

”Do you have frog legs?”

”Yes, we do,” replied the waitor.

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”Good, said the guest, then hop out and bring me my lunch.”

Jokes are never fun if they need to be explained, but this one might need some clarification. Frog legs are considered as a delicazy at French restaurants, as well as snails. They are cooked, somehow, but just the thought of eating frogs or snails is enough for me to make my stomach twist. I would never try to eat these so-called delicacies, no matter what.

We have different eating habits all over the world. In Sweden many people like a certain kind of small fish called sill. When these small fish are gutted, they are cut in smaller pieces and placed in glass jars. A mixture of vinegar, salt, sugar, black pepper and chopped onion is added. The fish is raw, but when it has been in this mixture for some days, it is delicious! Does it sound good to you? Well, I enjoy eating sill a lot, and it is actually not more strange to eat sill, than for Asians to eat sushi. What is that, you might ask. It is a dish where very thin slices of raw fish are rolled together with boiled rice and chopped veggies. I have tried sushi, but I didn’t like it. How can the Asians eat raw fish, just like that? Eh…..hrmm…. I just remembered the sill.

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Did you know that in Greenland it is considered a delicacy to eat raw eye balls from a seal? They eat it like candy! (Seals are animals that live in the sea.) You can’t grow anything on Greenland, because it is covered with snow and ice all year around. For some reason it is called Greenland, but it should actually change its name with Iceland because Iceland is green and Greenland is covered with ice! Where is the logic in this? I have no idea. Why did I suddenly begin to speak about different kinds of food? It was because I heard the frogs singing night after night. When the night was still and quiet, the song of the frogs was very loud.

I stayed at my adopted daughter’s house in Tallinding, and because of the rain the grounds were more or less covered with water. Frogs need the shallow puddles for their eggs, and the frogs sing when they are mating.

Isn’t it amazing that everywhere in the nature we do what we can to attract the opposite sex? Birds polish their feathers and sing to attract their future partner. Male lions fight to show the females who is the strongest in an attempt to attract her. No one really knows what it is that attracts the other party, but there seems to be someone for us all if we keep on searching for the right one.

This story doesn’t really have what is called a ”red thread”. That is, at least in Swedish, an expression for something that is keeping a story together. You see, when I begin to write my essays, I never know where and how they will end. They have a life of their own and I can’t control it. I can decide how many words I will use, because there is a limit, but the rest is a mystery. Whenever I do some research for an article, or when I am planning my lectures and so on, I always find new and interesting things to explore. It is like life is a journey where I don’t have a road map. I just follow the road, or the path, I find interesting and allow my curiosity to lead the way. This way life will always be interesting and a journey of learning new things. I will never be bored, as there are so many new things to learn about.

Let us hop back to the frogs (no pun intended). These last days I spent in The Gambia, it would certainly have been easier to live as a frog than a human. The rains were so heavy that the roads were flooded, and many houses collapsed. I saw photos and videos on social media of people standing inside their houses with rain water up to their waist lines. They had tried to stack their furniture on the top of each other, but it was impossible to save them from the damage. Every year it is the same in The Gambia, and every year we ask why the Government is doing nothing to help people out.

You must be a Gambian citizen to be able to run for office. You are born and bred in the country, but it seems like the other main qualification is that you are blind and deaf. Before you are elected, you promise wide but when you have won your position you forget everything about your former life. You don’t see the problems in the country anymore, because they don’t concern you. You have a good salary, enough to allow you to eat three meals every day, travel to work in a car with AC. You get extra here and there to keep up your living standard, and life is fine. You are deaf to the complaints from people who can’t afford to buy even the most basic food anymore, because the prices are too high.

Sure, the war in Ukraine has caused a lot of trouble and it has increased the costs of so many things, but that is not the whole answer. The saying goes: ”If there is a will, there is a way.” Is there a political will of moving The Gambia from the bottom of the African circumstances to a higher level? It certainly doesn’t look that way; and especially when so many gain from the current and corrupt system. Please don’t bullshit us with your sweet words about transparency, because they don’t mean anything. They are just hot air, and disappears in the humidity of the current raining season. Your actions, as leaders of The Gambia, are what matters.

As long as your actions show us that you don’t care about anything else but filling your pockets and bank accounts with money that should have been there for the benefit of the people, you can preach whatever you like because no one will believe you. My story began with speaking about food and animals. Animals, who live in a flock, hunt to make sure that the whole flock will benefit from the prey. A lioness doesn’t only feed her own cubs, she is sharing the food with the whole flock. Animals protect each other in the flock, they share and they are honest. Animals can’t lie or cheat, it is not in their nature, but somehow us humans like to tell that we are above the animals. How?

We lie and we cheat and we kill someone just because we feel like it. We are selfish and dishonest, trying to feed ourselves first and perhaps leave some small scraps for those we have decided being below us.

I am ashamed of how we treat each other. Instead of trying to convince ourselves that we are better than animals, we should try to learn something from them. They are innocent creatures, acting in a way God has decided them to do. Are we?

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