Thursday, July 15, 2010

Coming to you live from West Africa!

This Camp Africa media caravanserai just keeps on truckin’ and it is definitely going to my head.

The Gambia Tourism Authority has its own weekly radio show called ‘Tourist’ on West Coast Radio  (streaming live on 92.1FM in case you’re interested) and my colleague Ndimbalan and I were invited on as guests to talk about the Camp Africa initiative.

I’d forgotten what fun radio broadcasting is, and it briefly made me nostalgic for my days co-hosting and producing Saturday Xtra on Dubai’s talk radio station 103.8FM. I remember the frustrations we had with technical problems on the weekends and the dated studio set-up but we were positively spoiled in comparison.

While West Coast Radio doesn’t have the chi-chi carpeted, receptionist-staffed environs of its Middle Eastern counterparts, it does have bucketloads of enthusiasm, hip-swaying African music (Jalibab Kuyateh is the Cheb Mami of The Gambia and is top of my playlist this month) and a phone-in line that rings off the hook as Gambians are certainly not shy in expressing their opinions.

We were also joined by the colonel chap from the Tourism Security Unit down near the Senegambia tourist strip, who was on our eco village launch bus ride last week, and who is the regular ‘go to’ guy for complaints from both tourists and Gambians re local security issues.

Today he was talking about the Sunday Beach – an off-season initiative for Gambians which opens up the local beaches for picnics, football and general fun-making on the weekend. Unfortunately it has also seen an increase in harassment of younger women by groups of men due, allegedly, in part to inappropriate dress by the women. The thighs are a particularly salacious part of the body here in The Gambia and as such tight jeans or short skirts are frowned upon and the colonel and his team are now enforcing a stricter beach dress code.

It was an eye-opener, and the listeners – of which there are reportedly 250,000 across The Gambia as well as overseas expats – were all for the enforcement of the new dress code as sexual assault is not an accepted fact of life here in a country where virginity is still highly prized.

Our chat with the host Kebbeh on Camp Africa also elicited several calls and text messages, mostly of support, and I even managed to sneak in a couple of words of badly-pronounced Wolof as we wrapped up.

I felt a little dizzy when it was all over, not due to having reached the heights of stardom, but of the dehydration kind. My friend Gemma has gone down with malaria and is on a heavy dose of quinine (not the most pleasant drug) to get her back on track. This induced a mild level of panic as I’ve been sniffling away with a head cold for a couple of days and have been using it as an excuse to sink an extra JulBrew with lime every night as an added anti-malarial precaution. So today I’m back on the water, and feeling altogether more grounded and definitely less starry-eyed.


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