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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summer 2010: Tanjeh, training, and treking

Pictures (from top to bottom)
1. A dance off I accidently got into. I was thoroghly beaten.
2. - 12. My new home in Tanjeh.
13. - 16. Attending graduation at The Gambia College with Mr. Ceesay, a volunteer teaching at the College, Mr. Sangyang, and Mr. Dukuray.
17. - 19. Welcoming the new trainees to The Gambia.
20. and 21. Attending a traditional dance. Babucarr is hiding so that he won't have to dance with the performers.
22. A really big snake.
23. A trainee, ready for anything.
24. The Mandinka group.
25. Mandinkas are crazy.
26. The Wolof group.
27. Wolofs are crazy.
28. The view I enjoyed for five straight days while we were on trek, traveling across the country.
29. A view of the river from the newly built bridge at Janjanbury.
30. Loading up the car at Janjanbury.
31. Alpha and I. Alpha's always on his phone.
32. Muhammed Touray and I.
33. This is what happens when you park a muddy car in a school and leave it unattended; graffiti.
34. Muhammed Touray at the end of our trek. We were exhausted.

What a busy start to a summer! I’m now pretty well settled at my new site, Tanjeh, though I honestly have not been able to spend much time there so far. Shortly after I moved in I began making daily trips up to Kombo to prepare for the arrival of the new trainees. Getting to Kombo from Tanjeh first requires me to walk to the road, which is not easy because the rains have turned the village roads into small lakes and rivers full of frogs and fallen, fermenting mangos. Once on the road, if I’m lucky, I can flag down a Gelegele into town. If I’m not lucky, I have to walk one kilometer to the car park by the fish market, which wouldn’t be so bad if this didn’t require breathing in air that smells overpoweringly of rotting fish, dried fish, and smoked fish. Of course, I can never escape the smell of fish here because, once I’m on a Gelegele, I almost always have to sit next to a woman carrying a bucket of fish to sell in town. After wedging myself in with the women and the fish, we all bounce along the road until I can get out again and catch one more taxi into town. Needless to say, I carry the smell of fish with me right into the office.

During the last week in June I was invited to attend a graduation ceremony at The Gambia College. Four of the teachers that I had worked with up country were graduating, now that they had acquired all their classroom hours. It was a beautiful, sunny day, though I felt sorry for all the graduates wearing their big, black robes under the merciless Gambian sun.

On July 1st a group of new education trainees arrived, which was very exciting. We met them at the airport and took them to the training site, where I stayed with them for the first few days before they went to their training villages. They were full of questions and my conversation with them really made me realize how long I’ve been here now. July 4th marked two years in The Gambia for me. It’s been two years since I’ve been to America, driven a car or seen any of my extended family. However, I will be traveling to California in September, which I am very exited about.

Once the trainees were settled in their villages and learning their various languages, I set off on two treks. The first one lasted two days and we went up to Janjanbury. The second trek lasted five days and we went all the way to Basse. It had been a month since I had left Basse and I was amazed to discover that a new, very nice restaurant had opened in the town and that a back up power supply now gives the transit house 24 hour power. Of course, all these things start happening the minute I move out of the area. We spent one night at Tendaba, where I went running through a mangrove forest. The arrival of the rains has brought everything back to life! While running I crossed paths with a troop of baboons, who barked at me but otherwise kept their distance. I also scared a big monitor lizard out of a clump of tall grass and watched as he climbed up a tree; moving faster then I thought anything that big could move.

I returned from the trek a few days ago. We visited 20 different sites to look at schools and housing. It was fun but I was glad to get home and unpack the two backpacks I had been living out of for well over a week. The mango tree in my back yard is dropping mangos faster than I can eat them. Luckily there’s no shortage of children around who love to get their hands on mangos. I’ll be back at the training villages soon to run more sessions, but now that the treks are over things should slow down a little.

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