This past month we have been going up and down again. We joined our site mate Jessica on a bike ride from our sites in Foni to the coast as south as you can go to Kartong. Kartong is a really pretty little beach town where we met up with other volunteers and spent a couple nights at a lodge on the beach. The bike ride took us 7 hours and was not easy, but fun. We made some stops along the way, one involved getting ice from a random compound and another involved someone using a local toilet which is a story you’d rather not hear about. As usual we had fun hanging out with friends and eating delicious (non rice based) food. The lodge we stayed at is known as a ‘tree house’ lodge. This name is misleading as the ‘tree houses’ are really just huts on stilts consisting of concrete blocks so I wouldn’t necessarily think of them as tree houses per say, but you are not sleeping directly on the ground which is more like a tree, and also a lot scarier. And the real clench is that it only costs 10 USD a night to stay in a tree house, which does not make it any less scary but does fall within our Peace Corps budget.
Our Tree House
A couple weeks back, we went to another volunteer’s site up country to help her paint a health mural on her women’s clinic building. Her village is a wolof village and very different from our mandinka/jola village. To us, they seem much more relaxed, have horses, grass roofs, and most importantly they eat coos more than rice. And coos is good! It is hotter there but while we were there we had a fluke rain which made it awesome.
Walking through Shawn's village
Painting the health mural with an audience
Shawn painted herself in the mural
Road to Shawn's village
However, rain in March is a strange phenomenon that hasn’t happened for at least 7 years we were told. Inshallah, this means we will have a strong rainy season this year. Last year’s rain was not enough causing harvest yields across the country to be down about 50 percent from the year before. Department of Agriculture is asking the international community for food aid this year because of last year’s poor harvest.
I also volunteered to help lead sessions for new trainees who arrived in March. This year they merged our Gambia training with Senegal’s training so I went up to Thies, Senegal to help teach sessions on advanced gardening, vegetative propagation, and cultural sessions. Thies is a really nice city (as far as West African cities go) and I enjoyed being there and helping out with training. Peace Corps Senegal has a really nice training center that we Gambian volunteers are jealous of. The food was delicious and they have amenities like wireless internet, bathrooms, and showers. Completely different from our training experience.
New volunteers finding out their sites
Entrance to the training center