Festive Travels 1

Trip Start Sep 08, 2006
Trip End ??? ??, 2007

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Flag of Gambia  ,
Friday, January 4, 2008

In trying to make the most of my time, I've tried to use my vacations to travel around a bit and see different places.
Over the Christmas break I went to a very bizarre country. They spoke the same language as I did but much faster and with a comic range of accents. Despite having lots of space, people had built houses up into the sky so they were living one on top of the other. Yet there were hardly any people in these houses - cultural traditions require grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles to all separate themselves rather than living in one big family unit. And although this was one of the richest countries I have ever seen, there were some people who didn't have any place to call home and slept on the street.
People are permanently in a hurry, rushing around as if time is something to be economised rather than enjoyed and that you can somehow make more of it by never being idle. They plan everything they do in advance, and when they tell you a time for something, they actually mean that particular time and get most annoyed if you mistake it for a vague starting-point. Even the huge metal tubes that people use to speed around at thousands-of-miles-an-hour both under and over the ground have to keep to a timetable, rather than waiting to depart when they are full and everybody is ready.
Once people get to their destinations, they get straight down to business, without so much as even basic enquiries about the morning, the family, the work or the health of their peers. Everyone has these invisible boundaries which they call "personal space" and if you fail to spot them you could get a slap or a lawsuit. Privacy is highly valued and two people could live or work side by side with each other and not be involved in each other's lives! This means that all the houses in the whole country have to be numbered because otherwise you might not be able to find someone when their neighbours don't know them.
People seemed to be afraid of eating the same foods more than once in the same week. And eating itself was inherently complicated - everybody wants their own meal on their own plate so you have to predict exactly how much they want rather than letting everybody dig into one communal bowl and take as much as they need. Also, everyone seemed to be obsessed with alcohol. Some people were very for it, and other people were very against it, but they all seemed to think about it a lot. And as for drinking tea - in this society they have invented machines where you can just press a button and tea comes out, completely missing the point of the drink which is the social ritual of brewing it together.
There were many newspapers but confusingly, most people I met seemed relatively content rather than permanently worried about all the death and doom and destruction that filled the daily pages. Stranger still, the media was highly and openly critical of the government that the people themselves had voted in! No wonder people didn't take much notice.
It was a great trip to England, and I would definitely go back, but it must be a very odd place to live.

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