Blog Archive

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In Conclusion ...

The Adventure Continues

While my service as a Peace Corps volunteer has ended, I know that I will never forget the experiences that I had or the people I met in The Gambia. My three years in West Africa have greatly shaped me as a person and I hope to return to live and work in Africa again. Indeed, the adventures continue! The only way that I can properly conclude this blog is with expressions of thanks to everyone who cared for and influenced me during my time in The Gambia.


YOU – thank you, reader, for listening to my endless ranting and raving.

MOM, DAD, and CHRIS – for calling every Sunday and sending care packages regularly, for sending school supplies and mailing pen-pal letters, for visiting me and helping with several of my projects, for always giving the best advice and constantly being there to listen.

UNCLE TIM – For sending me magazines, anti-biotics, and other random medical supplies!

SUNNY U. – for sending me well over 1,000 text messages, for visiting me and helping with several projects, for being so patient with me, for cooking amazing dinners and joining me on bird-watching trips, for always being there to cheer me up.

AUNTIE J. SABETTA - For picking me up in Philly and treating me to an amazing dinner with friends and family before I shipped off to The Gambia, for telling me stories from when she was in the Peace Corps, for always staying in contact, for sending me books to read, and for looking at all my photos when I got back!

MRS. HOGAN AND THE 5TH GRADE AT AOSR - For agreeing to start up a Pen-Pal Exchange with my students at Suduwol Basic Cycle School, for sending fantastic letters and drawings and postcards, for replying in a second round, and for showing my Gambian students what a large and amazing world is out there!

ASHLEY ROCK - For contacting me after reading my blog with a brilliant project idea, for gathering together 5-barrels' worth of clothing and teaching supplies, for shipping them over to The Gambia and allowing me to distribute them to volunteers, for visiting the volunteers at the transit house. The supplies you provided gave many volunteers the chance to offer rewards to students at their schools, to make teaching aids, to promote creative projects, and to paint new black-boards! Thank you, thank you, thank you!


BECCA L. – for regularly sending mail and packages.

GINA A. – for constantly sending mail, creative postcards, and packages.

ERICA P. – for constantly sending letters and CDs with new music, to keep me updated on the times, and stickers for my students.

BRUCE B. – for sending a great package with school supplies.

JOHN AND SARA M. – for sending a great care-package and for inviting me to a great wedding.

RYAN H. – For sending many postcards and letters.

M. AND M. USNICK - For contacting me to see what books my library needed and sending me several packages filled with excellent children's books and science books. My students were amazed and inspired by the images and stories in the books and it made the Suduwol Basic Cycle School Library one of the best in Upper River Region!

R., L., J., AND J. CLARKE - For sending my regular updates and great letters throughout my service, for telling me about your times in Africa and the challenges you faced and offering great advice on how to deal with the challenges I was facing.

MRS. PFANNL - For sending me my first teacher planner, which I made excellent use of, and for always encouraging me to do my best.


IDA KIETA – for teaching me how to speak Fula and how to behave like a polite Gambian, for literally serving as my first Gambian mother.

BABUKAR SALLAH – for teaching me about Gambian customs and introducing me to Gambian humor and Gambian music.

MUHAMADOU M.M.S. BAH – for teaching me how to brew Attaya and Mew, for being a great trainer, and for being a great guide when I began working as a PCVL.

SARJO DUMBUYA – for being an awesome lead trainer and delivering our mail when I was a trainee, for being a rock in an otherwise unstable environment, for your constant calmness and great sense of humor, for being an amazing Training Program Manager, for inviting me to your home to watch the world cup and to play with your rabbits.

LINDA M. – For convincing me to stay another year and work as PCVL, for listening to all my stories from my first nine months of service, and for having a pure love of education in Africa.

M. McCONNELL – For always taking the time to listen to his PCVs and for staying involved with The Gambia well after leaving.

CORNISH – For having a great sense of humor and re-igniting the drive and energy of the post and it’s volunteers.

FATOU SOWE – For caring for all us hapless PCVs and for always smiling, even when she was lecturing us!

JOHN, SAM, PETER, and ALIEU – For driving us all over the country, delivering mail, making training happen, and fixing almost anything that broke!

SHERIFF – For coordinating the drivers and always being helpful about finding keys and keeping things scheduled.

Dr. NJIE – For always caring for us PCVs in the medical unit, despite whatever ridiculous thing was wrong with us.

BARBARA – For giving me all of my shots as a Trainee and immunizing me to basically everything!

MIKE TOPPE – For being a great PCMO, for taking care of us PCVs, and for hosting social events at your home!

ALIEU – For taking such good care of the Basse house and always asking about my site and work, even after not seeing me for a long time.

YAHYA – For always being the go-to person in the office and for being the most dedicated RAEL MADRID fan I have ever met!


BLAIR C. – for being an awesome PCVL and friend, for introducing me to many other friends in Kombo, for staying in contact and meeting to catch up in Boston.

KRISTY C. – for being the best site mate I could ever imagine and really helping me through my first three months of teaching, for always being positive, for cooking some amazing meals, for using a solar oven, for raising ducks, for cooking pankatoes in the Basse car-park, and for introducing me to the magic of blue-grass music.

DHARMA – for introducing me to running in The Gambia, even when it’s dark and raining.

M. TALBOT – For first showing me the beautiful view from the Bakau Guest House, for cooking some amazing Italian meals in Kombo, and for playing some great Ultimate Frisbee.

ELLIE A. – For having the best laugh in the world and for always being positive, for working so hard with her Gambian counterparts and being a great, unofficial PCVL.

KATIE C. – For being one of the longest serving Gambia PCVs, for having a fantastic sense of humor, and for keeping me updated on all the office gossip!


J. CASWELL – for being a great training buddy and look-alike, for always being around to get an icy and hang out in Basse during my first year, for visiting me and helping me get my garden started.

TRAVIS R. – for being a great training buddy, for your constant positivity and love of anything medically related.

ANNE AND JOSH L. – Anne for being a great PCVL and being super helpful in showing me the ropes as I tried to follow in her footsteps. Josh, for being a fantastic scientist and creative lab instructor.

NATHAN A. – For going on biking adventures out of training village and introducing professional theater to The Gambia, for always having a good laugh.

CHRIS C. - For his amazing computer knowledge and willingness to fix my computer whenever it broke.

JENNY F. – For taking the time to visit me at my site and for always having a positive attitude, and for always having a compliment to give.

EMILY – For many great dinners in Kombo, and for always being game to go on a walk, hike, or bike ride.

MARCUS – For once saying that I looked like “Frankenstein” and for always being willing to talk about Italian Vespa Scooters.

RYAN – For being the first fellow PCV I met as a roommate in Philly, for always having a hilarious story to tell about having diarrhea or dealing with “small boys.”


BETHANY H. (now D.) – For introducing me to Basse, for going camping along The Gambia River, and for always planning big dinners at the Basse House. I hope Minty is doing well!

LIZA – For always having an open door in Basse and thinking of so many good dinner recipes, for a great dinner night with Cashew wine and vegetable curry. Newton misses you!

SCOTT AND LIZ – For a great Christmas in Basse and for many adventures in URR. Scott for showing me how to farm a field and for being a great, short-time site-mate. Liz for always having positive things to say and for your awesome mother.

BRENDAN – For cooking some amazing meals, playing guitar in Fatoto and Kombo, and teaching me about West African music, for a fantastic overland trip to Mali.

ZACH R. – For teaching me how to integrate into Gambian culture and for always being laid back, for showing off your awesome Mandinkha, for showing me around your site, for being a great travel buddy as we went through Mali, and for taking great pictures.

KANE M. – For being a chill and hilarious person, for being a genius with computers and always recommending good books to me, for letting Sunny and I stay over at your place in Kombo, and for a great hike through the bush as we tried to map out a new trail for marathon march.

M. CLERVY – For all your advice on solar power setups, for having a great laugh and always facing each day as an adventure, for leading us along a new Marathon March trail and showing us a beautiful resort afterwards.

KATIE A. – For always texting and brainstorming about ways to deal with corporal punishment, and for always being willing to hang out in Kombo.

EVELYN D. – For being a great Fula-buddy and travel buddy, even when she was clipping her toenails in the car seat next to me.

MELISSA M. – For tagging along as we explored a new trail for marathon march and for always having a fantastic smile.

LEAH S. – For her boundless energy and positivity and willingness to try anything, and for tagging along when Josh and I made a return trip to Fula Kunda.

STEVE – For offering an open door in Farafeni and being willing to go on a run, and for playing some great ultimate Frisbee.

ALBIEN – For showing me what true faith looks like and for playing some great music at the various “Talent Show” nights.

JENNA K. – For always being willing to hang out in Basse and for many a good meal at “Aminata’s.”

JULIA H. – For visiting me at my site, for helping me plant banana trees in my garden, for cooking up great dinners in Fatoto, and for visiting me in Boston.

JIM M. – For doing awesome work in Tujereng, for showing me the biggest Christian festival in The Gambia, and for always working so hard!

KRIS P. – For organizing the first Gambia triathalon and for teaching the best architecture class in The Gambia!


ERIN D. – For building a library, for being an awesome Wollof speaker, and for always finding an excuse to dance!

LILY N. – For always being positive and for tackling work at one of the most remote sites in The Gambia.

DYLAN F. – For taking fantastic photographs, for learning two languages at once, and for always having ICT advice!

SAMANTHA J. – For doing great work at the university and for introducing me to Bon Ivor.

JEN D. – For being a fellow Mainer, for taking over for me as PCVL, and for accompanying me on a particularly long trip up country one time.

JOSH K. – For always having an open door in Kombo, for becoming such a great Frisbee and Game Night player, and for pushing through a really tough month of training!

CATHERINE H. – For putting together a great resource center, for showing a true love of gardening, and for serving, literally, in two schools at once!

ABBY A. – For her constantly positive attitude and love of all things sports, for making great teaching aids, and for coaching basketball in Basse.

CAROLINE S. – For being a total champ during training and for taking the Peer Tutoring Program to whole new levels.

TRISH – For bringing advanced science to Gambian classrooms, for working with my old counterpart, and for creating some very creative science laboratories.

KIM – For pushing through a tough first few weeks at site, for putting together a great library, and for becoming a great Fula speaker!

NATHAN O. – For his great and unique sense of humor, for integrating into Gambian consulate politics very quickly, and for always being ready to have a good time!

SONJA – For learning Fula so well, for taking on the challenge of living 200 miles up-country in Fatoto, and for having an epic amount of patience and subtle humor.

JAY – For giving me great advice about graduate schools, for pouring himself fully into whatever he is doing, and for facing several challenges in his first months of service!

JESSICA M. – For having a fantastic laugh, for applying her literary skills to the education newsletter, and for building up a great library/computer laboratory.

JULIE D. – For having a great sense of humor and adventure, for taking over and far surpassing me as a PCV in Tanjeh, and for staying in contact after I left.

EILEEN M. – For dedicating a ton of energy into setting up a library at her school and for showing a ton of love for her host-family’s children.

GLORIA – For revolutionizing a rural school and setting up the best library in The Gambia, for biking back and forth to Basse on a regular basis, and for bringing strong dedication to everything she does!

HEATHER S. – For being constantly positive about everything and for always having a solution to whatever challenge is presented to her.

SHIELA – For being the bravest woman I’ve ever met and for working hard to set up a library at her site.


IDA – For always coming to my hut in Sarre Alpha to study English, for bringing me delicious food as repayment, for putting up with my horrible tutoring skills, and for always calling to practice her English greetings.

DAVE M. – For always offering an open door in Kombo, for running Saturday game nights and ultimate Frisbee meets, for visiting me in Tanjeh and helping me move a car battery, and for being an awesome musician!

L.C. – For being an awesome ultimate Frisbee player and showing infinite levels of calm.

ALL THE BRITS, TOSTAN VOLUNTEERS, AND MRC WORKERS – Such amazing and diverse people!

BROTHER DISMISS – For making me a rosary, for telling me about The Gambia in the old days, and for caring for all the children in Tanjeh.


MAMASAMBA CHAM – For being a loving and caring father, for never once asking me for money, for being infinitely patient, for taking me to the farm fields, for showing me the stars and how to pray and how to eat like a true Gambian, and for always greeting me with a smile.

MAIMUNA JAW – For cooking up some great meals, for showing me how to crack groundnuts, for making me dance when she made Hako, for letting me buy one of her knitted quilts, for always showing true love and devotion to her children.

BABY – For boiling water for me in the first week when I was sick, for always laughing at how crazy I was, and for bringing me breakfast when I did not have school.

AMY-BABY, KADIJATOU, JENABA, and AMIE – For teaching me how to make Mew tea, for always playing on the tire swing I made, for coming to my hut to “study a.k.a. draw,” and for always bringing laughter to the compound.

MAMADOU-HAWA, ALHAGIE-MAWDO, and OMAR – For helping me learn Fula, for teaching me how to weed a field and how to find certain plants in the bush, and for always helping me to fix my back-yard fence.


ALMAMI JAMMEH – For always having great ideas about how to improve his community, for being so curious about America, for understanding sarcasm, and for always (and I mean ALWAYS) listening to the radio.

BINTOU JAMMEH – For always laughing, for inviting me to help in her garden, for cooking spicy fish every night, for introducing me to Tanjeh, for many a long night of conversation, for cooking me a large farewell dinner, and for riding with me to the airport when I left.

FATOU FATTY – For always being a laughing companion to Bintou, for always being modest about her beauty, and for bringing me dinner in my first few weeks in Tanjeh when Bintou was not around.


PATEH JALLOW – For being one of the best head-teachers in The Gambia, for always being completely honest, for displaying a genuine drive to improve education in The Gambia, for holding a firm line, for helping me with the library and teaching, and for generally making my first two years of service meaningful by being the best counterpart I could have asked for.

ENSA “MAN” GIBBA – For being a fantastic Deputy-Head Teacher, for showing a great interest in bird-watching, for taking me out to many of the surrounding villages to visit students in their homes, for getting involved with the library, for listening to my advice, and for showing a true passion for teaching young children in The Gambia.

MAMADOU BADJIE – For being a great Deputy-Head Teacher and then Head Teacher at Suduwol, for continuing work with the library, for bringing his family along to the school, for always being willing to work with me, and for being a hard working teacher!

MR. JOBE – For being a fantastic counterpart at Sarre Alpha Lower Basic School, for helping me set up another library, for coming over to study math, for staying in contact, and for inviting me out to visit him at his new school shortly before I left.

MR. SANNEH – For taking over the Sarre Alpha library after I left and keeping the program going.

MR. JALLOW – For taking a great interest in science teaching and trying out activities in his classroom!

MR. GIBBA – For being a great Deputy-Head Teacher at Tanjeh Lower Basic School, for helping me get a library started, for taking the time to introduce me to the staff and school, and for always doing eight things at once!

ALL THE TEACHERS AT SUDUWOL BASIC CYCLE SCHOOL, SARRE ALPHA LOWER BASIC SCHOOL, and TANJEH LOWER BASIC SCHOOL – For listening to whatever crazy advice I had, for supporting me when I was getting started, and for working hard under some of the toughest and thankless conditions imaginable.


MARIAMA JAWO – For being a genuinely hard working and intelligent girl, for loving theater and acting, for acing every test I gave her, and for taking the lead with the library club!

MARIAMA SANNEH – For always being quiet and studious, for showing a propensity for reading and discussing, and for always wanting to visit the library.

YAHYA BALDEH – For being an all-star biology student and excellent reader, for always having excellent questions, and for always wanting to do the right thing.

MUHAMMED G. SISSOKO – For loving theater in all it’s forms, for being able to put a smile on anyone’s face at any time, for always having a great answer to a question, and for frequently paying me greetings in the evenings.

ALL MY STUDENTS AT SUDUWOL BASIC CYCLE SCHOOL – For trying their hardest to listen to my quickly spoken English, for always laughing at my antics, for coming to school every day, even if they were hungry or it was 112F or it was raining, for showing me how easy it can be to find happiness, and for always making me feel welcome in a place that sometimes seemed very strange.

If I forget anyone, I am sorry, but thank you for everything!

Ultimate frisbee at MRC.

Muhammed Touray and Linda M.

In Mali with Zach and Brendan.

Peace Corps/The Gambia Education groups.
Mamasamba Cham

Students and teachers.

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