Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Kanali Festivities

The Gambian President, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Jammeh, threw the Peace Corps a party for its 50th anniversary in the president’s village of Kanali.  One thing is for certain about the night, that party will be a party we won’t forget for awhile.  H.E. Yaya Jammeh has built a nice hotel, safari park, and venue out near his village of origin, about an hour and half drive (if you are in military escort going 100 mph) away from the city. Per somewhat usual Gambian protocol, the event was re-scheduled once and no one had a clue as to the specific details of the party.  The specific details being things like time, accommodations, vehicles, food…you know, minor details like that.  The day of the party all the volunteers, staff, and US Embassy staff met at the Peace Corps office and were picked up by nice government owned buses and escorted by military entourage out to Kanali.  We were received by the villagers with drumming and dancing and sat in a long line of cars to enter the hotel.  Once inside, we were served a very good lunch and were walked over to the large venue where the actual program itself took place.  The villagers were invited to attend the program and there was a band playing Gambian music.  The actual venue reminded me a lot of something you would see at the Renaissance festival or Medieval times because the bleachers were all color coded, there was a huge open field of grass, and there was a section for VIPs – which we sat in – that was directly behind where the president sat on his large sofa.  The program consisted of speeches given by the Ambassador, Country Director, volunteers in local languages, and a skit performed by us volunteers who went to Camp GAGA.  I had a small part in the skit but I did manage to make the president laugh fairly hard with my impersonation of an old village woman.  My line was ‘Toubabo, Sumolu lee?’ which directly translates to ‘White person, how are the home people?’.
Later in the program, Surprise! - The president whipped out some large suitcases and gave all the volunteers and staff gifts.  The ladies received some stewardess-like pastel business suits while the guys received West African fashioned garments.  The program was concluded with H.E. Jammeh giving a speech and the band playing.  By this time it was around midnight and we walked over to the hotel area and watched a short film a volunteer had made in the Gambia and ate a delicious dinner around 1 am!  Definitely one of the best meals so far in the Gambia, even if it was at 1 am.  Then we were bussed over to our lodging for the night, which was a nice open style tiled hotel that included a mattress on the floor with no sheets, towels, mats or soap.  We got about 3 ½ hours of sleep and then woke up for breakfast.  After breakfast we piled into our Peace Corps transport and began the entourage home.  We had the entourage drop us off on the junction to our village, which as you can imagine was quite a scene for the village of Bessi located on the road.  To see 2 busses and about 10 Peace Corps cars all stop at the junction, let us off and watch us wave good-bye to the 70 or so toubabs! And then, we walked the 7-8k back to our village, ending the weekend’s festivities for us. 
Another note about the party, I decided I did not own anything appropriate enough to meet H.E. Jammeh so I asked Sibou if I could borrow a complet from her and she happily lent me a very nice hot pink outfit.  The end result being that I looked like a cross between a gypsy and a giant pink flamingo all day and night.  Luckily, I was not alone in my ridiculousness – Asoebe J !!

Kanali is not too shabby

Ya we look good!


Skit performing

Ben meeting H.E. Yaya Jammeh

Brian, Mike, and Ben with their gifts of huge African robes!

Abby, me, Shawn, and Alex!

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