Ibrama, or Solo as our village calls him, is the guy in our village who has been the biggest help to us so far. He is 25 and has finished high school and in computer school but taking a break this semester to help out in the village. He is very hard working and seems to genuinely care about the village and his people. He attends meetings with us, relays information, translates, helps ben build things, etc. So we are getting to know him better and are starting to have more in depth conversations with him. A couple nights ago, he was over chatting with us and told us how he’s been observing how we act towards each other – how ben helps to fetch water, goes to the garden, and how we both consult each other on matters. He went on to say that when he gets married he also wants to help his wife do these things.
Part of our job as married volunteers - by default - is to show what a western marriage is like. Until Ibrama told us that, I think we had both completely forgot about this aspect of our work here. Apparently people really are watching what we do.
Another time, our western habits were verbally noticed by Gambians was during the village football game. When Ben was playing post on the side of the field all the women and I were watching from, the little kids started dancing to the music and made for a quite a surreal village-life African moment. We made eye contact and smiled at each other and waved, probably both thinking of how crazy our lives were at the very moment. A woman in front of me noticed, and a few minutes later she was telling all the women how we looked at each other and waved – mocking our actions in mandinka and laughing at us, but not in a mean way. I guess it’s weird for a couple to do something like that here, but it was encouraging to me because I could actually understand her making fun of us in mandinka, and also because she made note and brought to everyone’s attention to the fact that we actually like each other and I haven’t just ‘gotten used’ to one another.
Marriages here are very different. It is very hard for us to tell who is married to whom because the men and women are never together. The women and men work separately all day and there isn’t too much mixing. Solo told us that the elders tell the youth that “your wife can get used to you, but can never really love you”. They teach the youth not to trust their wives because if she knows too much, she could use it against you. But Solo said he doesn’t believe this and wants to tell his wife everything like ‘Kaddy and Sana do’. Nuha, another educated man in the village, also has voiced to us how he thinks marriage is a partnership not a one way street. It seems that the educated youth around here are starting to change some old traditional thinking, and that is very encouraging.
Ben and Solo working on the chicken coup with Mama Kewo (grandpa) managing their work.