Blog Archive

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A village reunion, 13 new volunteers, and a van stuck in the mud

The education sector trainers, drivers, coordinators, and director.

The education sector!

Making a speech at the swear-in ceremony.

Taking the oath of service.

The Peace Corps/The Gambia director.

The new volunteers!

The new volunteers!

The new volunteers!

Some of the trainers.

The trainers ... looking very serious.

The new volunteers and the trainers.

Annie and Evelyn!

A compost pit I dug in my back yard.

I just got done with a week and a half of training with the new education group. There are 13 trainees (9 ICT computer people and 4 teacher trainers). They are an awesome group. They swore in as volunteers on September 4th. I went back to site for two weeks before returning to kombo for the ceremony. I had been away for almost a month and I really missed my host-family. During training I lead sessions on classroom management, professional conduct, making teaching aids, and running libraries and resource centers here in The Gambia. The trainees went through 5 days of model school, where they taught morning lessons in various topics to Gambian students. This program is used to introduce the trainees to what teaching is like in The Gambia and let them apply some of the technical skills they have been learning. They all did well, despite how nerve wracking of an experience it can be. This time I was observing and advising them. Only a year ago I was the one teaching at model school. In the evenings I went running into the mangrove forest that surrounds Tendaba Camp, where we were staying. I saw a big pack of Baboons in the distance once and found their tracks in a muddy part of the trail. Half way through model school we moved out to the training villages. Josh, a friend of mine, and I stayed for two nights at a Fula training village called Jiroff. This village is very close to our old training village, so Josh and I decided to walk over and pay a visit to Fula Kunda. After a 20 minute walk through beautifully green fields of coos and corn, we came to the village. Josh and I had not been there in a year, but the first group of children we ran into remembered us. We greeted our old families and brought them gifts (Attaya tea, sugar, and photos from training that we had printed). It was fun to see everyone again. Not much of the village had changed, though many of the younger children seemed a lot bigger. I spent two nights in Jiroff staying in a random family compound where I slept on a very smelly, but comfortable mattress. I returned to Kombo for two nights to do laundry and prepare for one last training session. I had no clean clothes, so I was glad to be able to do laundry (which meant I was able to fill two buckets and wash my clothes by hand, which is how you have to do it here, even in Kombo). I traveled back up to Tendaba camp for two final nights and helped with a few other training sessions. I went back to Kombo for a mid-term dental appointment (for two fillings). This appointment went surprisingly well and was basically painless. I want to Swedish dental clinic in Kombo that was quite nice. No more sugary Attaya for me! I traveled back to site right after that and got all the way from Kombo to my site in one day! Opening my hut after a month was an adventure. There were ant mounds and spider webs everywhere! It took a whole morning to clean out. I also came across a mouse, which I did not manage to catch but I think I scared him out of the hut. It was good to be at site with no school. I spent a lot of time with my family and did a lot of reading. I dug a compost pit in my back yard. I hope to use the compost in a few months when I start a garden. I climbed up the two trees in my back yard and used a machete to clear away branches that were taking over my yard. These were added to the compost heap. Josh Caswell came up to visit me from Basse and stayed for two nights. We did a lot of bird watching and cooking. This is the month of Ramadon, so everyone in my village is fasting. I tried fasting last year but decided not to do it this year. It’s hard! Josh and I cooked up lunch quietly in my hut, so that we wouldn’t drive my host-family nuts with the smell of cooking food. This last Wednesday I rode my bike back into Basse and stayed at the transit house. I met a few other volunteers there and we went out to eat at a chicken place in town that we often go to. A HUGE rain storm while we were eating and the owner of the “restaurant” was nice enough to offer us a ride back to the transit house in a his van. Unfortunately, after he dropped us off, his van promptly got stuck in the mud right in front of the house. The other volunteers and I set about helping him get out. I had gotten stuck in the snow plenty of times, so I figured it wouldn’t be that bad. After about 30 minutes I was starting to have doubts. I was exhausted from pushing and COVERED in mud from the spinning tire, which just seemed to be digging a deeper hole. We finally got a large piece of sheet metal under the tire and for the van free. I took a nice long shower after that. I traveled down to Kombo on Thursday. This time there were no hitches and no pick pockets. I left Basse at 6am and got into Kombo (after crossing on the ferry) at 3pm, which is pretty good. There I found all the trainees who were preparing to swear in. I went and played ultimate Frisbee at the MRC facility, which was a lot of fun. On Friday I attended the swear-in ceremony at the American Ambassadors house, which was very nice. The event went well and the new volunteers spent the rest of the sunny afternoon on the beach, which they deserved. We all cooked a big dinner for them last night here at the transit house and I had a wonderful time. Now it is back to work. The new volunteers are off to shop for supplies for their new sites. I will be spending the weekend here and they heading up to Central River Region on Monday, where I will be helping with a World Wildlife Fund project that is looking at a population of hippos along the river in that region. I’ll be heading back to site of Sept. 12th, at which point school will have started again.

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