Hello friends, we have internet connection….for a day at least! We are in the city area for a workshop tomorrow and a long hike (20 km), known as Marathon March.
We are still busy with training, and over the past few weeks our training has consisted of interesting things like tree nurseries, orchards, integrated pest management, bee keeping, and mud stove building. One day we got to visit a random Gambians house who had a pretty nice orchard consisting of a variety of citrus (lime, grapefruit, oranges, and sweet lemons), mangos, bananas, and cashews. This is very unique for the Gambia, most people have a few mangos and oranges but don’t maintain them much. This guy lived in France for awhile and brought back practices he saw there. He had different varieties of citrus that have different harvest times than the rest of the citrus trees here so he makes a pretty penny. And, of course, the fruit was amazing! He also raised pigs, chickens, and had a small garden started. It was great to see this type of small scale, polycluture type of agriculture being used here. I don’t think any of us wanted to leave; the free oranges were too delicious!
Last week, our training group split up into environmental and health sections and went on separate field trips. The environmental group took a trip east, up the river to an island called Georgetown. We stayed in a nice lodging with toilets and a shower – after you live in a small village in Africa for a while your definition of what is nice is altered a bit. All of us trainees are starting to feel our definition of nice and ‘good food’ being completely changed! On our field trip, we visited an aquaculture facility and a horse & donkey trust run by some nice British folks. The aquaculture facility was very large and offers free tilapia fingerlings to pc volunteers. This is good and it may be something our community will want to pursue since we are right on the river. The horse & donkey trust takes in injured animals and nurses them back to health; they also teach locals how to properly treat their animals. Now Ben wants to purchase a horse, but I’m not convinced. Too expensive – even in Africa!
The landscape of the ‘central river region’ of Gambia looked a whole lot like parts of central Texas – semiarid grassland. The climate was drier and hotter than our training village which is in the western region (the same region our permanent site will be). This was the part of the country where lions used to roam, but not anymore. We saw some beautiful birds, more lizards, and probably everyone’s favorite part of the trip….monkeys. The first monkey we saw was by himself walking along the road, and that was cool but then a few hours later we saw a ‘herd’ of baboons (there had to be about 50) being chased by an African with a machete and a dog! The whole bus erupted with monkey sounds too, it was pretty great. I even got a picture! Apparently this region has a baboon problem. They eat their crops and are mean monkeys! They beat up dogs and such. Gambians have a proverb for that (and a whole lot of other things) – The monkey and the dog will never get along.