Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Saamma (Good morning)!!

Well, we’ve been in country about a month now and although we haven’t had internet access during this time we were able to charge our laptop so I was able to journal about our training thus far. I’ll post them in separate blogs so it’s easier to read. We hope ya’ll are doing well and LOVE hearing from you.  Thanks for the comments and emails!! If ya’ll have any questions for us, feel free to post a comment or shoot us some emails.  For the next month we still won't have internet access but after our swear in March 12 we will actually have free time again. We are all so ready!
09 Jan 2011
We have been in our training villages about a week and a half now and things are going well. We are still very busy with training so we don’t have much free time. We have learned so much in the last week that our heads are spinning but I will try to give a good summary of our time so far.
Daily routine: We wake up at  to open our door and greet our host family – greeting is extremely important to Gambians and it normally consists of several questions: Salaamalamalkeum (peace be with you) Malekumsalam (Peace be with you, Kori sinnota (did you sleep in peace) Ha, I sinnota (yes, I slept in peace), etc. Then I try to sweep our hut as is custom, but I can’t say I do that every morning.  Then we get to our trainers house at 8 and have language sessions until lunch at 2. After lunch we will continue language class or work on our ‘technical directed activities’ – which includes anything from gardening, composting, answering cultural questions, or reading cultural books.  We normally arrive back at our home by 6, hang out with our family, take a bucket bath, study, read, and eat dinner at .  Normally by we call it a day and announce – n Ka ta laa lee (I am going to bed).
Host family: As expected, families in the Gambia are different from ours in America. Our host family consists of: Faa (father) Musa, his two wives: Kaddy Gitteh and My Camera, and an assortment of children that we’re not entirely sure who belongs to who. There are about 7 of them, and they are very fun but can be a bit overwhelming at times.  Last night, we tried to hang out with our family and about 20 kids ran over to play with the ‘toubabs’ (white people).  Our family is very sweet, and we like them very much.  
House:  We live in a large house and occupy one room of the house, while our family occupies the other 2 rooms.  Our ‘room’ is divided by a wall, and is about 150 sq feet. We also have an outdoor bathing/pit latrine area. What is a pit latrine, you ask? J Well, it is a 20 foot hole in the ground covered by cement. Rumors have circulated that on more than one occasion a volunteer’s cement broke and they fell into the latrine – one was naked! (think Slum dog millionaire) Yikes. I am going to attempt to have a compost toilet at our permanent site – If anyone would want to send us some information on how to build one, that would be much appreciated! We have screens on all the windows and doors and the house looks to be made out of a mixture of cement and mud with a tin roof.  We will post pictures when we have time – so that may not be until March when we are winding down our training. Sorry!  In our house we have one table, a double bed, two chairs, and two trunks. We have no electricity or running water, but it’s not bad.  We have some great headlamps and a lantern that they sell here. There are several pumps around the village. We collect water about every 1-2 days. Children are very eager to help you collect water so that is nice.
Food: For breakfast, we are normally given tea and 2 french baguettes each from our host family. Sometimes we will get boiled eggs and potatoes, and on occasion we have received cokes and fanta J. We get breakfast at about 8, but I think most Gambians eat breakfast around 9 or . For lunch, we eat with our peace corps group (ben and me, Lina, Sharon, and our trainer Ibramaba) a meal that Lina’s host mom prepared. It is normally rice, meat, and vegetables. We eat out of a big bowl together – as is Gambia standard. However, we eat with spoons, while Gambians eat with their hands.  We did eat with our hands the first time as training, but ben and I prefer to use spoons. Eating rice with your hands is not easy! Lunch is served around 2 and is the biggest meal Gambians eat. For dinner, we have received a variety of things including: cooked spam, rice porridge, corn mush, and potatoes/eggs/bread.  Luckily, we are so full from lunch we don’t eat much for dinner ever. I will admit I struggle with meals sometimes, and find it funny when Ben can so readily put back some corn mush. I am extremely ready to have a gas stove to cook things on! We are served in our room alone so we don’t eat with our family.
Cross cultural:  Gambia is 85% muslim and our village is big so it can afford to have prayer call blasted on speakers 5 times a day. We live far away from the missiroo so we don’t hear it, but other volunteers are woken up at daily. Men drink a tea called Attaya, which is boiled in a very specific way and is made up of mostly sugar. It is good but I can’t drink it after 5 or I wouldn’t be able to sleep. It is really great to watch them make it though, the process can take hours and men like to hang out and boil it throughout the day. The best thing I have seen so far in Gambia has been the womens’ garden. It is huge, and it is beautiful. It has to be 10-20 acres filled with greens called sorrel right now, and African women with colorful skirts and ticos (head wraps) working away together.  I will take a picture before we leave, but I know it won’t do it justice! I went, one evening, with a neighbor girl to help water her plot. The old ladies working their fields had me come help till; they laughed so hard at my attempt!! I didn’t care, I loved it anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! Great to hear everything is going well. I understand about the call to prayer. In Libya we lived across the street from a mosque. That bought a new sound system. If we forgot to close the bathroom door at night, forget about it. No sleeping in:) Your like/dislike list is awesome. I kept a "Things I Never Knew" list and then a "Things I'll Miss" list once I was about six months from COS. They're still my favorite things to reread.

    Take care!