Friday, September 30, 2011

Questions from Texas

We are blessed to have 7 very cute nieces and nephews. Two of our nephews wrote us some questions that I thought I would answer publicly so that others could read and enjoy as well. 
Bryce wants to know all about the kids in our village. He asked:

  • What do the kids play? The kids in our village have all kinds of games, although most of the games we don’t understand very well.  There is a type of game where they use cashews; they throw the cashews against the wall and try to get their cashews as close as possible without actually hitting the wall.  The boys go hunting and searching for things in the bush a lot.  The girls help their mothers with cooking, cleaning, and washing; they have less time to get into trouble like the boys.  Our littlest kids in the compound like to go out in the village and find friends to play with a lot.  That made us laugh at first when we arrived.  Our conversation would go: Al San lee? response - A taata satewo kono.  Translation: Where is Al San? He went inside the village. The little ones make up their own games using tin cans, bags, mangos, really anything they can find. They do have a fun song they sing when a plane goes over our village – ‘Plano taata Senegal, Mama Jola kontong’ (Plane went to Senegal, Greet Mama Jola).  We don’t know where or how they learned that song!
  • Where do they go to school? Our village has an elementary school with about 80 students that attend.  It’s called a Lower Basic School here and it goes up until 6th grade.  After 6th grade the kids have to bike or walk 8 kilometer (about 5 miles) to another village to attend secondary school.  The kids here really like learning and going to school. Often, kids will leave their families in our village to go to school in the city because they want to learn so much.
  • Do they wear shoes (He apparently noted that if the kids don’t have to wear shoes, he wants to come live here)?  Yes, most kids wear shoes.  Sometimes if a kid isn’t wearing shoes, a parent will punish them.  It’s important to wear shoes here because there are goats, sheep, dogs, and chickens around.  Those animals may poop on the ground and if you aren’t wearing shoes and step in the poop, you could get sick from the invisible germs – and also, it’s not fun to have poop on your foot!  When the women and girls go to the garden or the rice fields, they take off their shoes to work because there are no animals in the garden.
Logan asked the following:

  • Have you seen any rare animals that you cannot see in North America?  Yes, we have seen a lot monkeys, baboons, mongoose, snakes, and lizards!  Those are just in our village.  When we go to a national park in a different part of the country, we expect to see Chimpanzees, hippos and crocodiles too!
  • What is the Peace Corps?  The Peace Corps was established by the American President John F Kennedy to promote peace and friendship abroad. Peace Corps has 3 goals: To help interested countries to meet their need of trained men and women, To help promote a better understanding of Americans abroad, To help promote a better understanding of host countries to Americans back home.
  • What does the Gambia look like? Gambia looks different depending on the season and where you are at in the country, just like Texas.  Right now it’s the rainy season and everything is very green and beautiful.  By January, things will be browner except the trees.  In our area, there are lots of nice big trees and we are working with our community to make sure our villagers don’t cut them all down.  If you go further east in Gambia, it gets browner and more like a desert.  Our friends up there say it’s really really hot too.
  • How are the people in the Gambia doing?  The people are doing well.  Gambians are generally very nice, happy, peaceful people who enjoy their lives.   Gambians are very giving. If you walk through our village around meal time people will insist you come in and share their food with you.  We have received gifts from people just for being their friend: eggs, bread, mangos, cashews, peanuts, tea, vegetables, a knitted pot holder, and one woman even made me a tie dye shirt! 
  • Is there enough food and water?  There are currently plenty of both. We get our water from pumps that are 800 meters away from our hut and have to bring it back to drink, bath, and wash!  Because our village is very close to the river, we will most likely never run out of water.  We grow and import food.  Rice and coos, which is a grain crop, is grown in our village and are the main staple foods.  Our village also grows vegetables during the dry season (okra, peppers, tomatoes, bitter tomatoes, egg plant, and cucumbers), watermelon, avocados, mangos, cashews (you can eat the seed and the fruit – delicious!), and peanuts are all grown in our village.  There are also a lot of native fruits that grow wild in our forests.  Right now everything is growing with the rains so nothing is in season in our village which means we eat a lot of imported rice.  But we’re looking forward to November when the watermelon will be ready!
  • Have you heard about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan?  We did hear about that and were very sad.  A lot of Gambians have radios that they can listen to for news and programs.
  • What do you and the people do for fun?  Men and boys like to watch and play football (which is soccer in America), women like to chat, brew tea, and braid each others hair.  Everybody likes to listen to the radio and if a village has electricity or generators, people like to watch TV.  Many times there are parties for different occasions where people get together to eat and chat.  And everyone also likes to play games such as card games or board games.  We do all these things with our villagers for fun but we also like to listen to our American music, read books, and meet up with other Peace Corps Volunteers for fun.

I hope we answered your questions and thanks for the care package and writing to us!

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