We are officially Peace Corps Volunteers as of March 11. We both passed our language tests and are no longer in training. We spent 10 days in the city area, which Gambians call ‘Kombo’ where we stayed with 28 other trainees in the Peace Corps transit house in the tourist area called Senegambia for 10 days and had a good time. We attended Peace Corps sessions, relaxed at the beach, went out to eat, had a swearing ceremony, met other volunteers, and enjoyed other Americans company. The transit house is a 5 minute walk to a nice beach, close to several restaurants, and a cab ride away from a huge market that sells everything! It was nice to be in a city for awhile after living in a small village for 2 months. We tried to take full advantage of things like meat, pizza, electricity, showers, and going to the beach. However, we also had to prepare for our 3 month challenge at our site. 3 month challenge means that we try not to spend the night away from our site for 3 months – we may have to break this but not for more than a couple nights. So we were busy in Kombo going shopping for things like a bed, plastic chairs, mats, food, and other materials that aren’t readily available in our village. Peace Corps provided us with transportation to the market 2 days in a row and we still didn’t get everything that we needed, but we got enough to hold us over until we could return to the city again.
Our swear-in ceremony was held at the U.S. ambassador’s house, right on the beach. It was a nice ceremony that all of the trainees dressed up for. We wore the Gambian traditional ‘Asoebe’. This is a style where people of the same compound (or family) wear the same fabric. It is comparable in the U.S. to wedding ceremonies, where the bridesmaids and groomsmen wear the same fabric but different styles. Gambians wear asoebes on important events and holidays. All of our trainers also wore asoebes too, and they all looked fabulous! The ambassador, the Gambian Minister of Forestry, the Country Director of Peace Corps in the Gambia, and several volunteers gave speeches. Then we enjoyed a brunch, and some of us jumped in the ocean with our Asoebes on. Later in the day, the volunteers prepared a party for us at a bar called The Scottish Embassy. The party was nice, relaxing, and we received some great food prepared by the other volunteers. We had hamburgers, thai food, Indian food, and plenty of desserts as well as Gambia’s only microbrew called Julbrew. After the party we went out to the beach and enjoyed the night.
Us with our first language teacher and the other members of our training group - Sharon and Lina