We made it to site visit! In January, we weren’t sure if we’d ever see the day but it finally arrived. Currently, I am typing this inside our tent in our hut. We set up our tent because our site visit is that survivor style trip I was talking about earlier where you don’t have a bed or any cooking utensils yet so to keep bugs off us while we sleep, we set up our tent inside J. (Yes, there are bugs in the bush in Africa – big surprise there).
We had a great arrival to our site. When we were driving up, the women started dancing and singing all around the car! It was great; they wouldn’t let the driver drive any faster so that they could dance in front of the vehicle. Then we got out and they kept dancing and singing and made us dance and we greeted everyone. Luckily, our site mate that was with us got some great pictures for us! We like our site, very much. The people are nice, seem very hard working, and we are out in the bush but only an hour gely ride from a bigger city with internet and a large market. The villages put in request for volunteers, and the Peace Corps reads them and accepts requests based on needs and skills of the volunteers. It’s pretty neat, some volunteers had great stories of their village meetings thanking them so much for being there because they’d asked for an agriculture or health volunteer for so long and they were finally there.
The women dancing in front of our car
We went down by the river, and it is nice, big, and you can swim here because its close enough to the sea that it’s still salty (so no hippos, crocodiles, or freshwater parasites like you would find upriver). Our host dad is a nice man who is a fisherman and speaks English! One of our host moms speaks English as well. Yes we have two host moms. Our host dad had his first wife and then took a second one when his brother died so our 2nd host mom is new to our village as well. We have a great mango tree in our yard that shades a nice big area of the compound. Our house is similar to our training house, but a little bit bigger.
We met the manager of the eco-lodge that is a 2 minute walk from our house on the river. The eco-lodge is neat, has 17 huts with toilets and showers in it. Our village owns the lodge, and it looks like there are a lot of opportunities for work there. They told us that a class from the University of Maryland came last year and is supposed to come again in May to do archeological digs. The class found a human skull, old pottery, and other things that were left behind in the area. The area by the river is an old slave trading spot. It was featured in that movie Roots that we watched in High School (9th grade geography?). They also told us that university classes in Norway, Sweden, and England have all come to the lodge as well for courses on music. There is also a big women’s garden that a Spanish NGO has installed a solar pump in. The solar pump is still being worked on, but it looks like it will be ready by the end of the dry season in June. They are also putting in pipes throughout the garden so women can easily access the water. It is great! Now we are back in the city area for our final language test, more classes, and swear-in ceremony (which will be televised on Gambia’s only tv channel!).
We leave for our site again on March 15 and are going to be doing a 3 month challenge. That is a PC Gambia term for staying at our site for 3 months straight, and not totally involving ourselves in any major projects but getting to know our community and language sufficent enough so that after our 3 month challenge we can begin working on projects we feel would be a good fit.