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Saturday, December 12, 2009

A school play, slaughtering a ram for Tobaski, and growing zucchini

I returned to my site and school after the early Thanksgiving Break in Kombo. I taught only one week of classes and then school closed for the Muslim Holiday of Tobaski. This holiday relates to the story of Abraham (who the Muslims call Ibrehim) showing his devotion to God (or in this case Allah) by obeying His orders to sacrifice his own son. Right when Abraham is about to perform the act, God supplies him with a ram instead. Therefore, on Tobaski, everyone in the village dresses in their best and goes out into the fields for a big morning prayer. After the prayer, everyone races back to their respective compounds and kills a ram. It’s total carnage. There was suddenly so much meat in the village that no one knew what do with it all. My host family borrowed one of my sharp knives and slaughtered the animal quickly. They gave me a lot of meat, which I cooked up into a pasta and shared. I bought sodas and candy for the kids and it was a really good time.

I spent the rest of the break making a garden in my family’s compound. I used chicken wire to build a small fence and dug four garden beds and a compost pit. It was a lot of work, but it kept me busy. The land was apparently an old garbage site because I dug up, among other things, about 15 batteries, old chicken bones, fossilized sandal bottoms, and a radio antenna. I had to go on a manure hunt around the village. Of course, I soon had a small crowd of children following me around. They watched me shovel shit for a half hour like it was fascinating (they find anything that the “toubab” (white man) does interesting). I sowed in tomato, onion, carrot, cucumber, beat, zucchini, squash, and pumpkin seeds. The tomato, carrot, zucchini, cucumber, and a few squash have taken off. I also planted saplings of a cashew tree, mango tree, and moringa trees. Watering has been the hardest part of it all. I fetch about 10 buckets a day now from a well on the other side of the compound. However, watering in the morning and evenings has allowed me to watch the sun rise and set every day, so I can’t complain. I have my host family helping with the watering now, so hopefully things will continue to grow.

School is also going well. My Library Club continues to be my favorite part of the week. Two weeks ago I had my students cut up old magazines to make collage faces, which turned out to be hilarious. One student combined the faces of McCain and Palin, not that they understood who they were. I hung them up all over the library. I have also resumed my tutoring after school. I tutor several students, who come to my hut every evening, as well as one teacher who wants to study math, and a local woman who is trying to learn English. Now that I have a light bulb hooked up to the battery in my hut I can actually turn on a light so that I can teach in my hut. Everyone who comes likes to stick around afterwards and look at the glow-in-the-dark stars that I have put on my hut wall, which glow brightly after I turn the light off. They all think its magic, like I have literally taken stars and put them in my hut.
Most recently, we had some exciting visitors to my school. Pateh Jallow, the school headmaster and my counterpart, does a very good job with the WFP food distribution and keeps very careful records of it all, which not a lot of headmasters do. WFP decided to award Pateh by offering to build a small kitchen at the school, to help with proper cooking and distribution. First a Gambian representative came and we decided on a place to build the kitchen. The project is funded in part by the Italian TV station T N T (not the American one). Therefore, a few days later, two car loads of white Italians came to the school with WFP to see the site of the kitchen and meet Pateh, along with the other school teachers. They were all Italian but spoke good English. They were very interested in talking to me and became even more interested when I said I had lived in Rome. I remembered embarrassingly little Italian and every time I tried saying something, Fula just came out. We spoke in English and I answered about one million questions, first about the Suduwol school and then about my life in Italy. They were all very nice and ended up giving the school a box of books, candy, shirts, pencils, pens, and calculators. Not only that, but they had a small film crew with them, complete with big cameras and microphones of sticks. They interviewed some teachers, some students, and me. I stood there, unshaven, covered in chalk dust, wearing dirty formal clothes, and answered questions about the school as best I could. It was a crazy afternoon. They headed out and I continued teaching my classes. I concluded my classes for term 1 last week, though there is still one week left in the term. My grade 9 students did well but my grade 8 students could have done better. I am now in Kombo to help with the IST (In Service Training) of the Education group that I helped train this last summer. I had a smooth trip down and I have been enjoying being close to the ocean again, taking warm showers, and using the internet.




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