Monday, January 10, 2011

Salamalekum (Peace be with you)

That is a Mandinka greeting that is required when you pass by a host national.
We have arrived safe and sound in The Gambia.  Our flight in Brussels was delayed 6 hours turning our 16 hour trip into a 22 hour trip. So because of that, Ben caught a cold and I got double ear infections from the long flights. As you can imagine, our first days in country were tiresome and overwhelming but we got some medicine and are recovering slowly, slowly.
We have been extremely busy since arriving in country. On our first day we received more vaccinations, and introductions to the Peace Corps Gambia. Our second day we started training, and yesterday we did more training and took a field trip to a Reptile Farm – which is owned by an interesting Frenchman.  Our training has consisted of: basic language, basic ecology, geography, survival in the village, Gambian norms and values vs American norms and values, ethnic groups, ceremonies and religions, gardening, and bike maintenance.  We wake up at 7 and aren’t done with activities usually until 9!  Tomorrow we go to our training villages and will find out what languages we will be learning so we are excited and a little nervous. Going from the eco-lodge to the village will be a big change.  We will be in groups of 4-6 with a ‘Language and Culture Facilitator’ living in the village with us for 2 months. Our days will be very busy, and we will not have internet so we probably will not have time to update the blog.
Besides our illness, we are having a good time learning about the culture and the country as well as talking to other volunteers from different parts of the country.  Apparently, in other parts of the country they don’t have the amount of snow cone stands as we do in Texas and people were fascinating by how many stands and flavors we have. I thought that was funny because I know that when it gets really hot here, I will be craving snow cones. The weather is very nice right now, it is the dry season. In the morning and at night it is cool, probably high 60s, and during the day it feels like it heats up to the lower 80s. And the humidity feels low too.  In the shade during the day it still feels very nice, I would compare it to Austin in October.  The hottest months here are supposed to be May and April, but October is said to be the worst because it is extremely humid and still hot.
Our food at the eco-lodge consisted of bread, jam, fried eggs, tea, and a delicious purple drink that I have no idea what the name of it is. For lunch, we eat rice with meat and vegetables and fruit, and for dinner, we always start with soup and bread followed with salad, meat, potatoes, and rice.  We receive cokes in glass bottles for lunch and dinner too.  It is good food, and so far has been easy on our digestive systems. We may not have the same luck at the village.
So tomorrow, we are off for our intensive training and will not be available via internet. However, I have placed our cell phone numbers on the contact information to the side. I believe it is cheap for you to text, and you can use skype for cheap as well. We would love to hear from you!


  1. Kate & Ben- It is so exciting to hear about your trip. I hope you all start feeling better. Good luck with the language training!

  2. Oh my gosh, double ear infection...horrible! I'm so sorry yall are sick, praying for you! I can't wait to hear more about your adventures! Yay for good food, is purple drink anything like your famous "pink drink"?? :) That would be amazing!

  3. April O'ConnellJanuary 19, 2011 at 4:05 AM

    Kate and Ben! I am so glad everything is going so well (minus the ear infection and a cold). Be careful of those "purple drinks..." I think they made a song about that. I look forward to reading more!

  4. mmm bechan deman deman (slowly slowly right?). It is so good to hear about your adventures in the Gambia with the peace corps. Will be looking forward to future posts. So sorry you are both sick, will be praying for you. Daniel and I miss you guys in Austin already.

  5. I want some of this magical purple drink! We miss ya'll so much already! Oh and p.s. I'm ENGAGED!!!! And Kendi gave me the sweet card you guys left before ya'll actually left! You little stinkers! I just about cried when she gave it to me. It made that day just that much more special! Can't wait to tell you all about it.(That or you can look on my facebook page at the video!) Praying for you guys daily! Love ya'll! Annie