GRIP, Internships Abroad The Gambian Meal Tradition

August 27, 2019
By Fatima Al Rashed, CAS '22

Power Up Gambia Hospital - Bwiam, Gambia

The Gambia is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited in my life. It is a place that I now call home. Everything is beautiful about The Gambia, but mostly its people. Gambians have a very special place in my heart because they are the most kind and welcoming people ever. When I first came to The Gambia, almost two months ago, I was nervous, and everything was new to me. However, it took me only a week to truly feel at home and with my own family. I can not describe how attached I am to everyone at Bwiam Hospital. Knowing that, personally, it is very difficult for me to get attached to someone and then have to leave within a short period of time, I tried my best not to get so attached to my colleagues and friends in The Gambia, however, I could not. People here open their doors for everyone, care so much about their guests, and share everything they have even if they do not have much to give.

As a Middle Eastern Muslim Female who immigrated from Iraq to the United States almost four years ago, I miss so many of our traditions, such as our large family gatherings during Islamic holidays. Knowing that The Gambia is an Islamic country, I was very excited to spend my summer here with the hope that The Gambia would remind me of home, which I can not visit at the moment, and it did. In the picture above, Suleiman (a record-keeper at Bwiam Hospital), Brianna (a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania of Veterinary Medicine), two interns from Penn, my fellow interns, and I are sharing a meal at Fatou’s house, the chief of the hospital kitchen. We were having Benechin, which is a very famous Gambian dish that I absolutely love. In fact, it is my favorite Gambian dish. In The Gambia, when people share a meal, they eat from the same dish. This tradition resembles peace and unity. When people eat from the same dish, they are supposed to love each other, care about each other, and never hold anything against each other. This tradition is extremely valued at my family’s house. We always eat together from the same dish. In Iraq, I lived with my extended family, and I always shared meals with my grandparents, uncles, aunts, parents, cousins, and siblings, especially during Ramadan, the holy month of fasting in Islam. This year, Eid al-Adha, the second of two Islamic holidays celebrated worldwide each year, is meeting me in The Gambia, and I am very excited to perform the Sunday morning prayer with my friend’s family along with a large crowd of people at the praying ground.

I have fallen in love with everything in The Gambia. I love the people, the traditions, the languages spoken, the food, etc… Leaving this Wednesday is very difficult. I can not put in words what I am feeling, but it feels like leaving family behind. It is so hard to say goodbye to a family I lived and shared so many beautiful and challenging moments with for two months. But what gives me hope and makes these days a little easier for me is that I know for sure that I will be coming back, and this is only the first of many future visits because my goal after this internship is to start a charity to support and transform Bwiam General Hospital.

GRIP Logo

The Global Research and Internship Program (GRIP) provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to intern or conduct research abroad for 8 to 12 weeks over the summer. Participants gain career-enhancing experience and global exposure that is essential in a global workforce. Placements and funding awards are available.