Blog Archive

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Edu PST 2010; Janjanbury fieldtrip, model school, and marathon march

PICTURES: top to bottom
1 - 2. Janjanbury boat trip.
3 - 9. Trainees working hard during model school.
10 - 41. Marathon march.

What a crazy month is has been! Education sector pre-service training is almost over and the group is doing really well. It has been so much fun to work with all the new trainees. They spent the first weeks on August in their training villages, vigerously studying the local languages. A number of them had birthdays in August, therefore I found myself treking to the transit house, where there is an oven, to bake a few birthday cakes for them. Of course, once the cakes were baked I had to cram them into my back pack and travel with them back to my own village (through two police check-points), then mount up on my bike and ride them to the training villages. Needless to say, it was a sweet ride every time (oho!!).

We eventually gave the trainees a break from village and took them up-country to visit Janjanbury Island. I spent my birthday bouncing around in a PC car, though I did have some cake that the trainees had managed to bake for me. We visited a summer training program for teachers on the island and took a boat trip down the river, where we saw hippos, baboons, and lots of amazing birds!

Model school kicked off soon after the field trip. The trainees returned to their villages and began travelling to a small, local school to teach one week of lessons. We arranged for students and teachers to return to school for a week in order to give the trainees a taste of what teaching is like in The Gambia. The group did amazingly well! They created awesome teaching aids and backed each other up in the classroom. After five days of teaching we had a small "graduation" ceremony and celebrated with only a little food since it was the start of Ramadan.
With model school over, I had a few days off at site. I managed to get my hands on a pair of goggles, which has allowed me to run down to the small bay by my village to do some ocean swimming. After each swim I typically run down the beach and watch the sun set, then turn around and run back towards home, where I can take a bucket bath and eat a bowl full of rice and fish with my host family.

Right when I thought things might slow down, a new group of 9 volunteers arrived. We recently opened up our training to include Response Volunteers, which are people who have served in the Peace Corps in other countries and are returning to Peace Corps to do shorter (about 9 months) services with specific job descriptions. We were fortunate enough to receive 9 response volunteers, all of whom are women, four of whom are over 50 years old, and six of whom have served in Africa before. The amount of experience that each of these volunteers has is staggering. One spent two years teaching sign language in Kenya, another worked with autistic children in Romania, and all the others have equally amazing stories. In short, these people should probably be training me, not the other way around.

I was lucky enough to be included in the party that went to the air port to pick up the response volunteers. I had fallen behind on laundry that week but managed to find an old pair of dress-pants that I had probably not worn since I came to The Gambia. They rode a but low on my skinnier frame; so low that when I stepped off the gele that brought me to the office I heard an inexplicable ripping sound. I looked down to find that I had completely ripped open the crotch of the pants. I waddled my way into the office and out of desperation stole a stapler from someone's desk and retreated to the bathroom. I preceded to staple the rip back together and ended up emptying the stapler. Thankfully, I had the good sense to take off the pants before I began stapling them. Needless to say, I wasn't taking any wide steps on the way to the airport to meet the response volunteers.

We then brought all the response volunteers and trainees together for the supervisor workshop, where they had a chance to meet the local teachers or head teachers that each of them will be working with at their sites. Though it rained almost non-stop for the entirety of the two day workshop, they all seemed happy.

The most recent training event to take place was marathon march; a 15 mile hike through a mangrove forest. We drove the trainees to a spot near the coast of the river and hiked through the mangroves on a course that I had helped map out earlier in the summer. The rains had made all the plants and grass much taller and even more beautiful. We trudged through neck high grass, knee high mud, and waist deep water. We had lunch under a baobab tree but had to avoid some bees that we ran into. The hike ended with a canoe trip through bolongs of the mangrove, which eventually led to Mandina Lodges, a resort that the trainees got to stay in for one night. It was an amazing hike that took us to an even more amazing lodge, where everyone was able to rest their weary feet.

The trainees are now off visiting their sites while the response volunteers spend a little time in the training villages learning a little bit of language. Swear-in is fast approaching, so they'll all be real volunteers soon! I myself am looking forward to a little vacation time back in the US, but first I have to see training through to it's glorious end.

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