Pa Ousman Joof’s New Year Resolution: Teaching my kids about our culture and religion

Written by Pa Ousman Joof

Pa Ous

My wife and I are both Gambians and we have a 5- year- old daughter and two boys. My first two kids were born in Atlanta and the last boy in Alaska where there are only a handful of Gambians.

At Alaska, we barely have any religious or cultural activities. All major holidays celebrated in The Gambia don't feel different than any other day. I try to take my kids to religious events, but because they see the same faces with similar outfits all the time (during diara, magal, gamo, ngenteh, house or hall parties) my daughter thinks they are all parties.

When taking them to school or other outings, we spend so much time to get them bundled up for the weather. IT IS SO DARK, COLD AND DEPRESSING HERE 6 to 8 months out of the year. 18 hours or more of darkness daily and zero degrees or below most of the time. My daughter told me two weeks ago that she does not want to live here because it's so cold. She wants to go back to Atlanta. We try our best to speak wollof to the kids but seriously, it is so hard.

During this last Tobaski, we just went to pray and came home. That was it. We went to ziyar a family friend and had a couple of co-workers and business partners over for dinner. I made sure the kids did not go to school, even though it was not observed as a holiday in America.

As I write this, they are out of School for the Christmas and New Year’s. My kids come home every day for the past three weeks with Christmas projects, decorations, singing Xmas songs etc. Last week, they told them about Santa and how to look for their presents under the tree. It took me a while to break it down for my daughter as to why we did not have a tree. She compared herself with her classmates who will come back and explain their Xmas stories and she won’t have any story to tell. I was saddened by that. But again, we are not CHRISTIANS and I will not buy a tree just for that. The same thing went for the Thanksgiving. We try to explain to them every relevant day in our culture and religion and even show them videos and pictures but that was not enough.

Seriously, there is no place like Jollof for raising kids. Merryi, Pa yi, bajenyi, nijaiyi, makyi, rakayi and even dekan dorryi sakh all help out in raising the kids but here, yaye, papa akdomrek la. No wonder they taught us the story in Primary School

Father, mother, sister, brother
 live in one house near each other,
 father mother work whole day,
 sister brother like to play,
 see them standing near each other,
 father mother sister brother. Lol

Pa Ousman Joof

This is why I wrote a poem six years ago when I got frustrated about America and what it has to offer. Su ham donenjake, rechu du mujeh. 

My wife does not work because we have no family here to help us with the kids. Thus I am the bread winner of the family. Trying to put a roof over their heads and feed them in addition to the family responsibilities back home. It’s impossible for me to spend the maximum time needed to teach them our culture and religion or even spend time with them on the things they want. I drive them back and forward to places; doctor’s appointments, daycare, shopping etc. I have a passion for a lot of things but cannot do them at this time. The bottom line is, the bills got to be paid for and that takes precedence over anything else.

I am going to school attending Prince William Sounds Community College, I have a full time job working 40 hours a week, I run my own business, Alaska International Center (www.alaskaint.com), African Pride International and Gambian Talents Promotions (www.gambiantalents.com).  Sounds like a lot but AIC and API are just a difference in the names.  Alaskans’ love their own and operating AIC gave me more business than API. When I go to the other states, I operate as African Pride International. Gambian Talents Promotion of course is exclusively Gambian.

I am also an active member of the community. In fact, I was the first president of the African Association of Alaska and I resigned from the position because I cannot carry out the job duties in addition to the above.

My New Year’s resolution is to try to focus more on teaching the kids about our culture and religion. I am still weighing the options and what to do but aada bi akdina bi lu am solola. Olof njie muneh, kuyarrsakui, baladan ken danla the man bugumasumadom yid an ma. Suma kelifayideng ma yarrsiaadaakdina the bugumategitanka.KondokeAlhamdulilah. Bundukh patasbeh the pehku.