While I was in Senegal, a couple of changes occurred for us in village. First, our host mom, Mariama-Sibou, moved back to the city taking Yaya, her baby, and Al San, our favorite kid in the compound. Her sister moved to Spain and asked Sibou to take care of the compound in her absence (which could be for the rest of her life). Sibou told me before I left for Senegal but I was hoping to be back before she officially left. Although strange for American culture, this is a fairly normal thing here. While this is very sad for us, Sibou is much happier living there as she is not expected to work the farm, garden, fetch water, and cook three meals a day at the same time. Her tasks now include cooking meals and cleaning. She also is selling a local tea called Wonjo. We visited her new compound last weekend and found her very happy and quite well off by Gambian standards. She made us a delicious chicken benechin lunch and we drank cold wonjo afterwards! That type of lunch was impossible for her to provide in village, so it was really nice for us to be able to do that with her. The worst part was when we were leaving, she and the children walked us to the road and I carried Al San on my back. When they had to stop, I put Al San down and he started bawling. Although there are still lots of children in our village and compound, we will miss the little guy too.
The other change is similar. Our counterpart who helped us with anything in the village, Ebrima-Solo, also moved out of the village while I was in Senegal. He too had been planning to move to the city to find a job, but a large village fight set him off and he decided to move quicker than he had planned. This is what happened: Ebrima and I had been working on a food security grant for a village tree nursery and to cap the open well adjacent to the future nursery spot. The tree nursery was going to be on the compound designated as the Youth Association building that we cleaned up last October. However, while I was in Senegal, the Imam who lives in the neighboring compound built a 7 foot cement wall around the area, taking the Youth building and land as his own and cutting down the trees there (that did not belong to him either). Ben saw this and told Ebrima that if the Imam owns this land then our grant will be canceled. There was a village meeting in which everyone yelled at each other and blamed Ebrima for not telling the village our plans. Ebrima had asked the village leader (the Alkalo) twice about the nursery plans and gotten the OK both times. Likewise, the whole village saw the Youth Association working on the compound last October and previous months and were acutely aware of the nice lock Ben and I had donated to lock the door of the Youth building. Never less, the fight caused Ebrima to move sooner than later before I came back from Senegal. We also visited him, and it was evident that he was still quite stressed about the fight. He told us that the forestry department had come to our village and reprimanded the Imam for cutting the trees and said the Imam does not own this land that it is in fact the governments land, but Ebrima did not know if any actions would be taken against the Imam. Now, Ebrima is focusing his efforts to get a job in order to pay for his schooling. Another friend we are sad to see leave the village, but happy he is trying hard to go back to school. As Gambians say “It’s not easy, man” but “we are managing, you know” J.