Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On an Island in the Sun

We left the Gambia for the first time since January last week! To the islands off the West African coast called Cape Verde.  It was really beautiful, with good food, beaches, and mountains.  We went with two other volunteers and had a great time.  We traveled to Dakar, Senegal by car, spent the night at the Peace Corps transit house in Dakar, woke up the next morning and flew out of Senegal to Cape Verde.  Dakar was very similar to Gambia’s city area, except Dakar is huge and has things like over passes, a downtown, and a mall. We met some Senegal volunteers staying at the transit house and our experiences sound very similar. 
We also met a Cape Verde volunteer at the Dakar airport and figured out we were all on the same flight.  So when we got off the plane, he helped us get a taxi to the Peace Corps office and took us around town for awhile. Later he helped us find a ride to the village where we met up with another volunteer who we stayed with that first night. It was great, the village was right on the beach where people were swimming and there was a restaurant that over looked the water. 

It was fun to talk about our Peace Corps service with volunteers from Cape Verde.  They all have electricity, running water, refrigerators, flush toilets, nobody lives with a host family, etc.  Totally different experiences! The next day we flew to Sao Vicente where we went to a music festival called Bahia Das Gatas. We hung out with some Cape Verde volunteers there, went to the beach, attended the music festival, and walked around the cute little Europea- like town.  We were all impressed with Cape Verde, it’s much more like Europe than like Africa. 

Next we took a ferry to Santo Antao which is a mountainous island.  We stayed with married volunteers on top of the mountain and then made our way around the island to a small village where another volunteer lives. There, we stayed in hotels that cost roughly 20 USD per night (and they were nice too!). 

Season Over

The village football team is done for the season.  They lost in the quarter finals; the last game was close with Berefet United losing 1 -0.  Sana Crubelly rocked the bench for this game, as the backup goalie.  Our counterpart, Solo, was timing the game and when the ref blew the whistle 3 minutes too early, he dropkicked the ref’s table. Not his finest moment. We're telling ya, things get heated at these games.  That little act led to his suspension from the semi-finals and finals. Solo O Solo!

We also got to attend a national football game which was really fun, and Gambia won.  

Team picture

Team Roster

Sana and Algi, the Imam

Usual drama on the field
At the game

Bush Meat Reviews

Peace Corps Gambia has a bimonthly newsletter and last month they did hamburger reviews which included volunteer reviews of delicious hamburgers on their trips home to America, Morocco, or anywhere that has delicious hamburgers. I read these reviews and said NO, this is not right; I am not eating a hamburger right now…I am eating bread and peanut butter and will not eat a hamburger from Black Sheep Lodge (blue cheese buffalo burger) for another 2 years, Inshallah! So, in order to read about items I could eat in the not-so-far away future, I helped out with this month’s newsletter and compiled a list of ‘bush meat’ reviews.  And I figured I would share it with America because you civilized people are most likely not eating lizards.  Here are some various volunteer reviews of bush meats they have eaten thus far:
Dr. Bakary’s Baboon Blunder
Just like Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” Baboon ain’t a bush meat for everyone. I have heard past references to it being the root of all diseases. It’s a tough tough meat that was still tough after hours of cooking, but it has protein… and in the end that’s what really matters. I recommend making Baboon Stew with some random veggies and noodles. Hits the {emaciated} spot! You can even make the small boys happy with the leftovers. Seriously, they friggin’ loved it!
Yaya Drammeh’s Hot Meat Injections
Hyena – quite gamey, again worth a revisit. I would definitely request a paw from it for your animal foot collection. B +
Tamba J. Talks Bush Meat
Hyena with grilled onions – Tasty as all hell. Not too gamey, has a beef texture to it. Highly recommend it.
Bush Pig РFantastic. Best if butchered yourself (less bone fragments). Try to get the hindquarters. There will be a lot of meat so extra should be boiled and set aside. The meat is best cubed and saut̩ed with garlic and hot peppers. Use in sandwich or add to any pasta or rice dish.
Mortimer Baye’s Bush Meat Zagat Knock-Off
Pelican – Very tasty, kinda fishy. The bones are hollow and have lots of marrow. A ++
Otter – meat is tender and its kinda gamey. When a hunter brings them to you skinned, they kinda look like cats. A +
Monitor Lizard – Very slimey, kinda tastes like chicken. When my family serves it, the skin and claws are still attached. C
Sana Talks Stingray
Sting Ray – When compared to challo, it’s an A+, but what isn’t? While still fishy, it has decent flavor with some actual meat on the bone, and it peels like string cheese. A note of caution: Sharpen your cutlass and have a small boy chop it apart. It’s like hacking at a turtle shell. B –
Weird Meats that Kaddy Is Not Fond of (At All)
Cows Foot – terrible. It may have had something to do with the fact that it was covered in a nicely pounded green slime. I swallowed part of the foot under the impression it was a vegetable, and later found out it was actually a foot. Thanks for the good times Yuna. F

End of school party

The school year ended mid-july with a party.  The president of Gambia gave 10,000 dalasi (about 400 USD) to schools that came out to greet him in a neighboring village. This money could not be used for any other purpose except to have a party for the school. So our village women cooked up a great meal of chicken, pasta, potatoes, and the VIPs (heck yes we were VIPs) at the party got some grape sodas. We were also asked to help present awards to the students.  It was a nice party and our principal designed the ceremony and party so that the kids parents could come and watch students get awards.  He said he was trying to promote positive affirmations, which is very progressive for Gambia.  Everyone had a good time and later on in the night the party provided a disco too.

Other VIPs

Headmaster giving instructions

Sana giving instructions to small boys



This August we participated in our first Ramadan.  We’re not Muslim so we fully expected to be irritated by everything that is Ramadan; that also sounds bad.  I say that because older volunteers have told us how during Ramadan everyone is angry, nobody sells anything, and you get asked about fasting every 5 minutes.  Our Ramadan experience only lasted about 7 days in village because we went on holiday, but that week was really not terrible.  It was actually a neat experience.  The whole village is doing the same thing together: fasting, working, praying.  The 9 o’clock prayer is the big prayer time and the whole village gets dressed up and attends.  It’s nice actually to see the village going through a hard time together, but knowing that it will end soon with Koriteh, a big feast.  And breaking the fast at night was great! They eat real good when the sun goes down – chicken, pasta, bread, tea!  We were pretty happy with the food situation during Ramadan.  Solo told us that people spend a lot more money on food during Ramadan because you’re supposed to eat well at night.   In the city area you will see people outside bakeries all day long waiting to buy discounted bread to break the fast.

Our family ‘breaking fast’

It’s raining cocks and bulls

Solo said this phrase to us one rainy day, Ben laughed and explained that in America we use the expression ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ but that he liked solo’s version better.  Solo smiled and said O yes, that’s what I meant ‘Its raining cats and dogs’. 
We are now at the halfway mark of our rainy season and it’s raining every day or almost every day. The rains are not so great because of sicknesses.  We are weathering the storms fairly well so far, neither of us has been seriously sick.  We’ve just had strange things grow on us – that sounds worse than it actually is, let me explain.  Ben has had a form of heat rash grow all over his legs for awhile, but as soon as he gets an antibiotic and sleeps in air conditioning it heals up within a couple days.  I had a blister that was about the size of half a pinky fingernail become infected and took a month to heal, and now I have a larvae growing on my foot.  This little bug lays an egg and it hatches in your skin and itches.  You know that it is this little larvae guy because he makes a squiggle line in your skin.  The Peace Corps doctor thought it was so neat he took a picture for his records, always a good sign.  It’s not a big deal though, they give you a cream and it leaves your skin in a few days.   I considered posting a picture of the squiggle guy, but decided that would be gross.  However, if you are actually interested in seeing a picture of the African larvae growing in my foot skin, that can be arranged.
Malaria increases during the rains too, Sibou and our host brother Lamboy have both had it this rainy season.  Both are doing fine, but malaria is a big problem here.  I think every Gambian we’ve met has had malaria more than once. 
 But with all the bad things the rainy season brings, the rains are a necessity here because of growing rice and coos, both for consumption and to sell. And it is nice because it cools things off and everything turns from brown to green and our village is very pretty!

Bless the rains down in Africa

Road to our camp

Baobob forest

Who's not going to the pumpo today?  Sibou

Turns out, small boys like rain and the 'road' in front of our house doubles as a slip-n-slide

We have been out to the rice fields a few times, and I’m sure many times to come. It's hard work!


Youth Association group shot