Shortly after our arrival in the Gambia was President Jammeh’s birthday. He likes to celebrate with a tour of the country, lasting several weeks, and ending with a big celebration in the capital city of Banjul. This doesn’t include the other celebrations held in villages in his home area where he often stops by for the party.

I, on the other hand, prefer something a bit less flashy. This past Thursday was my 21st birthday, and rather than tour the country, I decided that a bit more mango processing was in order. We are now in full production mode, spending our mornings peeling/slicing and our afternoons over the fire cooking jams/chutney. Many hands make light work, however, and with all of the trainees and students around, there are plenty of people to help move things along and provide good conversation.

Thursday was also the start of Ramadan. The majority of the workers on the farm are Muslim, and as such, will be fasting for the next month. Energy tends to be pretty low by mid afternoon, and many of them still must go home to cook for when the fast breaks at sundown, so all of the labor intensive work (watering the crops, organizing the solar ovens, preparing the mangoes, etc.) needs to be done in the morning. That leaves tasks like labeling and packaging the processed goods for later in the day. Its a nice break from standing over the heat of the fire making jam.

I did manage to spare a few moments on Thursday to properly celebrate my birthday without mangoes. My boss, Kelly, and her two sons sang me Happy Birthday, and I shared a bottle of wine with her and Martin, another volunteer on the farm. Maybe I didn’t celebrate as intensely as President Jammeh does, but I’ll take a simple evening with new friends over a several week long party any day.


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