Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Adoring Fans,

This is what is commonly known across the United States as a “Ben Blog”.  Kate has diligently been keeping everyone updated on whats been going on with us here in The Gambia.  I will just give you an update on a few various things.  First of all, things here are HOT! I know you people in Texas have been dealing with some heat yourself.  Now imagine that for weeks at a time you had no available Air Conditioned room to retreat to and no cold beverages.  Kate handles it a little better than me.  The result for me has been some weird skin things and a complete lack of energy throughout the day.  We are right at the end of hot season so hopefully things will be cooling off very soon.  Many people told us that October was the worst month for the heat and, at least in my opinion, that has proven true.  The last few months have been quite hot but rain storms would help to cool things off a bit.  The rain trails off in October so we went for almost two weeks with no rain.  The result was hot and humid.  We’re now in the city for a few days, where we can find air conditioned refuge in some places and I am hoping when we head back out to village we’ll start to experience some of that cool air that people say is on the way.
Work wise, things are going slow in some areas and picking up in others.  We have a youth association forming in our village that we are working with and that’s going well.  The head of the organization is our friend Ebrima.  The group is quite motivated and we are starting various village development and income generating projects.  My work with our village lodge seems to be stalled by the universal staller of politics!  Nope, its not just an American problem.  The detail isn’t important but the project isn’t really moving forward.  With tourist season coming on very soon I don’t know what will happen.  I’ve made a number of people aware that it is not my job to push a project people aren’t going to do so I guess they will either get things together (and I will help them) or they wont (and I will find other stuff to do).  Right now, my biggest success has been…you guessed it…a women’s tie- dye group, however they call it tie and dye.  We now have 32 women.  We collect money from the group and I went shopping with the head of the group this morning for the necessary materials to dye a bunch of fabric, which we will hope to sell very quickly so we can repeat the process.  The project pretty much started when I helped two women who already know how to do tie and dye sit down and figure out exactly how much profit they made from the last job they did.  They don’t generally do any profit analysis, mostly because they can’t.  They just do it, get some money and go on their way.  We were pretty easily able to say, hey you made x amount of Delasi from this job.  After that they talked to me about wanting to start a group (groups here are known as “Kafoos”).  So now we have our tie and dye Kafoo of a little over 30 women, we pooled our money, we have the materials and they are going to dye them in a few days and we will work to sell them.  I think with some focus, only limited input from me on the record keeping and a little marketing we can get some cash coming in.  Not to mention I get to fulfill my life dream of making tie-dye products.  You’ll find our stuff on a street corner in Austin soon enough!
I have something else to share with you all - something that some might find disturbing, something that some might find interesting, something that some might not care about at all.  You might assume that something bad has happened. Depending on whose point of view you take you might say this event was bad.  For instance, from the point of view of the monkey it was bad.  It was bad to be shot and then eaten.  From the point of view of those of us who ate the lil’ guy it wasn’t bad.  It tasted like eating goat, which is good.  If you haven’t figured it out yet – we ate monkey.  It wasn’t a monkey head sliced open so we could eat the brains, Indiana Jones style, or anything crazy.  It was prepared regular Gambia style and had a pretty normal flavor.  Kate went out to the fields with some women and learned when a monkey head was shown to her that they killed a monkey attacking the crops that day and cooked it.  She called me and I quickly made my way out where we had a few bites.  As one person told us, monkeys love to eat the crops but they don’t actually do any farming themselves.  These days, many people spend their days in the field chasing of monkeys, baboons and birds.  A lot of people have dogs to help and I guess this particular monkey decided to stay and fight with a dog so the owner of the farm proceeded to shoot it.  So don’t think of it as eating a cute little monkey at the zoo that knows how to wave at everyone or Marcel from Friends, think of it as killing and then eating a wild hog that was attacking your farm in America.  Point is, we ate a monkey.
Well,  I guess that’s enough for this Ben Blog.  Women’s work and monkey eating.  That’s whats up here in Africa. Fo naato, Ben

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