Blog Archive

Saturday, June 19, 2010

last trek, getting sick, leaving Sarre Alfa, and my new home in Tanji

Pictures (from top to bottom);
1. All my stuff packed up.
2. Other designs.
3. A mural on my hut wall describing the first year of my service.
4. Grade 7S and I.
5. Grade 8 and I.
6. Grade 7C and I.
7. The Suduwol staff for my second year at the school.
8. The Suduwol staff for my second year at the school.
9. Mangos planted at Suduwol Basic Cycle School.
10. Mangos planted at Suduwol Basic Cycle School.
11. Suduwol Science Laboratory.
12. to 17. Sarre Alfa Lower Basic School Library, right before I left.
18. My bed and net set up outside. This is where I slept all throughout hot season.
19. Peer Tutoring Workshop in Basse.
20. Peer Tutoring Workshop in Basse.
21. to 25. Suduwol Basic Cycle School Library, right before I left.
26. Suduwol Basic Cycle School Peer Tutors, crazy.
27. Suduwol Basic Cycle School Peer Tutors.
28. Suduwol Basic Cycle School Peer Tutors, crazy.
29. Suduwol Basic Cycle School Peer Tutors.
30. Burning trash in my back yard.
31. Anne and Josh Larson.
32. A school workshop.
33. A school workshop.
34. A HUGE thorn in my bike tire. This thing punctured both sides of the tube.
35. Some mortars and pestels.
36. Our trek driver, hard at work.
37. Nearly completed bridge at Janjanbury. It's done now!
38. The ultimate frisbee pick-up team. A mix or Peace Corps, VSO, and MRC people. Lots of fun!

May and June have been two exciting months. After a wonderful Completion of Service (COS) conference, I returned to site and resumed teaching while simultaneuosly continuing to conclude my projects and pack up my things. Despite all this craziness, I managed to find time to go on a few evening bike rides into the wilderness to do some bird watching. One or two rain storms had hit and things were starting to come back to life; green trees and lots of insects, which were attracting birds and lizards. I got some close looks at Abyssinian Rollers and all kinds of falcons and hornbills. A large male lizard with blue shoulders and a yellow head began hanging out in my back yard. He got so accostomed to me that he would run righ out and do pushups to impress the lady lizards while I was sitting and reading a few feet away. I can do more push ups though. With only two weeks to go before my move-out date, I returned to Kombo for a final two days of education site development treking. It went well and we saw some good schools around Kombo.
After two days in Kombo I came down with a fever and migrane headaches. I tried resting it off but the fevers and headaches kept returning. I finally lost patience, knowing I was using up my final days at site, and travelled back to Basse. However, I felt so awful when I got there that there was no way I was going to bike the last 30km to my village. The next day I didn't feel any better so I called in to the med unit. They had me go to a medical clinic in Basse to be tested for Malaria, but all tests came back negative (I'm on a very strong malaria prophilaxis and I always take it). They finally concluded that it was heat exhaustion and that I just needed to rest, which I hadn't been able to do. I wanted to be a site but I spent a day in Basse relaxing, eating, and watching movies while the power was on. I felt better the net morning and managed to bike back to site. During my last 6 days at site I concluded my classes and handed notes to teachers to give to the students for their final weeks of school, I wrote final exams for my classes, and made sure that students were maintaining the school libraries, even while I was not arround. I went to Basse for a day to help with a peer tutoring school workshop, but then returned to site. While in village I went over to a small bitik (shop) that had a generator and a small TV and crammed myself into a small, dark room with 20 other villagers to watch the USA vs England world cup foot ball game, which was fun.
On June 13th I had a big lunch at my school in Suduwol with many of the teachers that I have worked with over the last year. It was really good and afterwards we all went over to another small bitik with a TV to watch Ghana win the first world cup match for Africa. Pretty exciting. On June 14th I woke early and finished packing. I took down my curtains, put everything into crates, and spent the day with my host family, the Chams. I gave them money and went shopping with them. They cooked up a big benechin lunch and I bought sodas for everyone. Many people came, including Isatou, the woman I had been tutoring in English for a year. The Peace Corps car arrived in the afternoon and an army of village children helped load all my things into the car, therefore a process that I thought would take a half hour actually took only ten minutes. I decided I wanted to bike the 30 km from my site to Basse one last time, so the car drove off and I mounted my bicycle. My hut was completely empty, except for the two car batteries, solar panel, and inverter that I left behind so the Chams can have power to charge cell phones and run other things. I didn't lock it up or anything. I said my goodbyes and Maimuna cried a little. I rode off down the road and relfected on all the amazing experiences I've had over the last two years. The road actually had puddles on it, a sign that the rains have arrived.
I met the car in Basse and stayed there for the night. I got dinner at Aminatas and ran into 14 American students visiting The Gambia on a 9 week trip as part of a university program. It was great to talk to them. I had just been thinking a lot about what my expereince had been like, and now here was a group a people all asking me; "so, what has it been like here?" On June 15th we drove from Basse to my new site, Tanji, on the coast (South of Kombo). The driver was a Christian Gambian so he blared Gospel music on the car stereo the whole way while he did 120 km/hr on really bad raods. I'm so used to this that I slept most of the way.
We arrived in Tanji at around 5pm, unpacked my things, and the driver left. That was it. I stood on my new, two room house (which is located on the end of a long concrete block of houses with a large corrogate roof) and wondered what I should do first. I managed to organize my things and unpack. I have lots of space now. I fetched water, which involved walking about 15 steps outside my door to the tap that is right outside the compound. If the tap's not on, I go to an open well that is equally close. This is a lot easier than what I had to do in Sarre Alfa. My new host family is very nice. They are Mandinka, but speak a little Fula and my new host father and his first wife both speak very good English. I'm still just getting to know them. There are two other women in the compound, who I think are also his wives. One has two toddler twins, which are fat and adorable but also cry in unison. I've visited the Lower Basic School a few times and been introduced to the students at an assemble. There are over 1000 students at the school. Very different from Suduwol. I stood infront of them all and looked out over a sea of faces, all of which were staring right at me. The teachers (36 strong) are nice, though they like using their sticks, hoses, and rubber whips in the classroom, so alternative discipline is one thing I might be able to run a workshop on. Beatng is not abused, from what I've seen, and the students generally seem happy. Maybe I'm just desensitized. I'm working on my Maindinka and have already made a "day trip" to Kombo. It took 40 minutes to get here, compared to the 12 hours it took back when I loved in Sarre Alfa. I'm also very close to the beach. I've gone running out on the sand, where it is wide, flat, and empty. I came across the skeleton of what had to be a dolphin on one of my runs. However, I miss Sarre Alfa in many ways. People are still surprised to see me when I walk around in Tanji and they have yet to figure out that I am not a tourist. Time will put this to an end, and hopefully my language skills.

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