Suumoolu lee?

This means ‘How are the people of the compound?’ in Mandinka – the most widely spoken language in The Gambia.

I don’t know. I have yet to begin my journey so I don’t even really know what a compound is. How big is a compound? How many people in a compound? Will I be living in a compound? The word compound, in England at least, has military connotations and conjures an image of a cold fortified complex. I don’t want to live in this image.

Thankfully compound has a more genial meaning in The Gambia. It is a collection of accommodations around a centrally situated main residence, occupied by members of the same family. And me? We shall see. In answer to ‘Suumoolu lee?’ the Mandinka response is ‘I beebe jee’ meaning ‘They are all there.’ I’m going to be there soon and it’s just about sunk in.

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