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The largest ethnic group in The Gambia was the tribe Mandinka - or the ruling aristocracy - which the first president (Jawara) belonged to. But now the new president was from the tribe Jolla, who in many ways still practice animistic beliefs mixed with a kind of Islam. Though comical as all this now sounds, it was of considerable impact to the country and a blemish to US international diplomacy.
The first time I returned after President Jammeh took over, I noticed immediately a different attitude. I was hired by the managing director of the telephone company to straighten out the problems within the Gambian Television station. My contract was to train station personnel and to make Gambia Television a money making venture. It was a major drain to the country and the director believed, as did I, that all stations can be profitable. My official title was Trainer and Consultant and I only answered to the General Manager and Managing Director. It was around this time that I was introduced to the 45 Gambian station personnel and began my 2 year stay.
I began gathering information - who was the program director, the marketing director? What did their paperwork look like and what was the chain of command? They had a sophisticated set up using a broadcast Beta cam Sp format, but that was where the professionalism ended and my job began. The station had just been in operation for less than a year and in that time many mistakes were in practice as well as much corruption. I had a crash course in their culture and explained to everyone in advance that my American demeanor could seem abrupt, direct and not to take my way as a personal affront. In the Gambia there is a certain etiquette they go through, a cordiality of greeting that goes like this - Hello, how are you? How is your family, your Mother, your Father, your brother & sister, you cousin, your uncle and on and on and on. - Then the reverse is in order and this small talk is just their custom. Since the country is so small and most everyone is from an extended family of over a few hundred, they know almost every one's family and therefore this holds more significance. For me, though, working in the USA, I am accustomed to asking something even before any greeting and that is one way I got things done. In this culture very little ever gets accomplished, which is all right with them. There is a favorite saying "Gambia no problem". I was told that I would get used to this way of things never getting done.
Life, Scenery and Customs in Sierra Leone and the Gambia, Volume I by (Google Affiliate Ad)