Wednesday, January 11, 2012

You go where?

So as not to disturb our friends, family, and random blog readers – we wanted to let you know that it may be awhile before our next entry.   January 12, we are traveling to Dakar, Senegal for West Africa International Softball Tournament (WAIST) with Peace Corps volunteers from all over West Africa.  Afterwards we are meeting my parents in Tanzania, and then my parents will come back to Gambia with us for a week.  Right after my parents leave, Ben will be going to America for his ‘little’ brothers wedding (Congrats again Andrew and Sarah!). That said, the reason for the future blog hiatus will most likely not be due to illness, death, or natural disaster (Lord willing and the creek don’t rise), but because we will be traveling around Africa!

Christmas and New Years

We had a fun Christmas and New Years but definitely missed our family and friends!  On Christmas we had a breakfast at our Peace Corps transit house in the city and spent the morning watching Christmas movies, had a white elephant exchange, and spent the afternoon on the beach.  For New Years Eve, Luis invited us to spend the night at their home in the city where we had a traditional Spanish new years eating shrimp, lobster, soup, cheese, fried cheese, chorizo, homemade sangria, and Spanish wines!  We also partook in the Spanish ritual of trying to eat 12 grapes in one minute, a tradition where I failed miserably and Ben only kinda failed.

Winter in Village

We are now experiencing the ‘winter’ weather that was present upon our arrival to Gambia, and we are enjoying it for sure!  We have officially lived here for one year and are right at our mid-service point, which is also exciting. Right now in village our people are busy harvesting and drying their coos, and we are eating oranges off the tree.  In the past 2 weeks, we’ve had 3 football games against neighboring villages with discos following the games that last until about 3 am; which frankly, is too much.  Ben has resumed his career as Berefet goalkeeper, no worries.  We’ve also had a couple of naming ceremonies as well, one of which also had a disco – I guess winter time is also disco time here in the booming cosmopolitan of Berefet.

Sibou and Yaya's winter gear

Palm collecter

We’ve been kept busy with bee work as well as tie and dye making.  We’ve had a good amount of bees colonized recently which means come April we will have lots of honey to harvest! Bee keeping in Africa is different in the sense that you try to catch wild swarms rather than buy or divide existing hives like in America. You ‘catch’ the wild swarms by putting out boxes with wax or good smelling things that the bees will be attracted to and then want to remain in your box.  This past week we had 4 swarms on the sides of our boxes! Joerge, an industrial beekeeper from Spain who came this past week, was really impressed by this.  He came to teach Luis how to rear queens but told him that we have so many bees there is no need to rear queens.  Right now is the flow period for the bees, which means their building up their homes, foraging lots and starting to make honey.  It also means that this is the peak time to catch swarms and we are definitely seeing that now.
The tie and dye kafoo recently did another job and are making a decent profit with Ben’s guidance.  He’s been thinking and discussing with Solo the groups possibilities for spending the money and came up with a great idea to have the women open a shop.  This would be great because there is only one shop owner in our village, and our women owning their own shop would be so beneficial to them!  I’ve been looking at a couple different school gardens, as well as our women’s gardens and giving tips and making plans for when we return as well.
Tie & Dyein


Ben and Jeorge bee keeping

Finished fabric!

Musu Gitteh, head of tie & dye operation

Swarm of bees! Jeorge and Ben

On the road again

This past month of December we were both traveling a bit.  Ben went up north of the river to visit a COSing (close of service) volunteer with our counterpart Solo.  They went to see a duck/poultry/guinea fowl project that this volunteer had developed.  Solo and his brother are interested in starting a duck project so we thought it would be good to see a successful one across the river.  Solo also really appreciated the opportunity to travel north of the river to a Wolof village near Senegal.  Like most Gambians, he hasn’t had the opportunity to travel very far from our village.  Him and the Peace Corps volunteer’s counterpart exchanged numbers and became good friends.  Solo is planning to have ducks at his compound by next month and we are also buying a couple ducks for him to keep for us since our compound isn’t quite big enough for a duck project.
I went on a 5 day hiking trip with 5 girls to a region of southeastern Senegal called Kedegou.  It was a great trip but it was too bad Ben couldn’t come.  We hiked two days to two waterfalls, and also hiked up a hill to a bedik village of about 8 compounds.  The bedik village looks like picturesque Africa with mud, grass huts and no signs of western or arabic influence.  We stayed at a lodge one night and at the regional peace corps transit house the rest our time there.  We had a good time talking with Senegalese volunteers and making pizza in their mud-brick oven!  It was really fun to experience a completely different part of West Africa.  This area has tribes of fula, bedik, and bassari who seem to be more relaxed than the wolofs, mandinkas, and jolas in our area.  They also learn French in school so it was fun to hear French spoken everywhere.  And we were all impressed with how developed the remotest part of Senegal actually was.  Things like sidewalks, bridges, paved roads, restaurants, and shops were all new and fascinating to us Gambia volunteers.  We especially loved the hamburger made with delicious buttery homemade buns we ate in Kedegou – Oh, the differences between and French and British colonies! In terms of landscape, it was wonderful to see hills again.  We also got to see monkeys, baboons (smaller and different from the ones we have here), different bird species, and my favorite – warthogs!