27 September 2006

Lux Et Veritas

"We all sit under the same stars, what difference does it make by which means I find peace?"

Going to church in The Gambia, I was once again reminded of the powerful ability of religion to inspire people to find their own peace here on Earth. To make a mental and physical space in which one can find comfort.

A lone voie filled the room to what I figured would be a standard church hymn. Moments later two large djembe drums kicked in along with a full chorus in perfect harmony. Nature itself could not have produced something with such a diverse yet unifying blend. As I sat listening it became clear someone had taken time to make this idea work here. It was a mix of local languages, english versions of hymns, African beats, and Christian messages. I was awe struck. The last time something like this happened to me I was looking at the giant south tower of St. Stephen's slice into the Viennese sky, only to be further taken aback as I entered and was greeted by a procession of priests chanting in the smoky interior.

I am starting to do some A/V work acting as an instructor at the local YMCA. They have a really good set up, and it looks promising. Hopefully we will be ready for full classes by December. Merry Christmas to me...

Bananas are in season so I have been enjoying some awesome PB & banana sandwiches. The local PB has less sugar than Jiff or Skippy, but it is freak'n superb.

In other news, children still cry here for no apparent reason. Imagine the lifestyle that most parents of newborns experience during the night, and then multiply that by all day long...

If anyone has it in their hearts to send me a Rugby ball and pump needle I would love you forever.

16 September 2006

Immigration and Elections

Language here is a funny thing. In the big cities (where I will be spending the next two years) you never know what language you are supposed to use when greeting and trying to negotiate the markets. I'm never sure whether the person speaks Wolof, Mandinka, Pulaar, Jola, French, or English. Usually everyone knows at least three out of those six, but that also means that you have to be competent in at least three... Right now I'm trying to figure out how to best use my time to try and pick up a third language at a basic level. Many of the shop keepers here are either Senegalese or Mauritanian immigrants and when they see a white person they immediately go into French mode, then when they realize you are a PCV, they go into Wolof mode as it is probably the most common tribal language in Senegal. Fun.

The elections for the president of The Gambia are coming up this friday, and every day we see a lot of cars drive by supporting the current president Yaya Jammeh. He is expected to win in a landslide victory. I would suggest doing a Google News search or something of that sort to get more on the details of the democratic process here.

Swearing in was yesterday and we all had a blast. The desert was possibly the best part as there were cakes, brownies, and fruit with chocolate... mmmmmm. The speech that Rachel and I gave went over really well despite both of us being very nervous right before going up.

Tomorrow morning we all move out to site for 3 month challenge. This will be an interesting test for our group, best wishes to all of us.

I have a phone now, if you want to call the number is 001 220-783-4922. Keep me posted on what is going on back home!

08 September 2006


so quick post of me and my namesake the young yaya demba...

More photos from Neil, my training village mate should be posted by following this link:
> Photos

05 September 2006

And we're live from site...

These are the words of two months without electricity, running water, or modern communication. Sorry I haven't updated much (or as steevo put it, "as often as Goku beats a villain"), but I think you all will understand. We are in the bottom 1/3 of all Peace Corps countries that is classified as having no running water or reliable power in most of the country.

So the good news is that my permanent site place has been given and I am in the Western edge of the country, about 40km from the capital and 20 minute taxi ride to the beach. Those looking to see the Peace Corps life and an African adventure best come visit me, cause the trip is feasible. I will also have more regular access to internet now, so I hope to catch up on a ton of e-mails...

Thank you a ton for those of you who sent letters. It means a lot, and kept us sane during training. Jess and Rudi I got your letters but no current return address, where do you all live now? E-mail me the info.

Seeing in the dark You have to retrain your eyes here. On a moonless night the dark is indescribably restrictive. You have to learn comfort in using your hands to feel in the dark giving you a new set of eyes. Then there are the moonlit nights wher everything is lit up as if we had street lamps. It makes me wonder why we waste so much power back home with street lamps every 10 feet.

Boredom... We learned new ways to pass the time given that most of us were at least use to some access to call a friend, watch TV, read the news, or go to a park. When my dad sent me a package (thanks for that!) me and my fellow 3 village mates went crazy when we found intact the Sunday comics used as stuffing paper. Certifiably crazy by the end of training, I think we have accomplished our mission... Other things we do: chat in Mandinka, go on walks on the gambian highway (meaning 2 cars every 15 minutes), drink Attaya (sugar tea), read any books we can get our hands on, eat mangoes under a tree, watch the local kids play football, or simply taking it all in realizing we are in west africa.

Language My language skills have gotten progressively better. Nothing much to report here.

Model School As educators part of our training was to teach Gambians for two weks in a Gambian middle school. This was extremely challenging. Classroom management, language barriers, knowledge of their background, and confidence in ourselves were all big issues to overcome. The girls here are overall, very reluctant to talk.

Swearing in Speech Me and my fellow PC trainee Rachael were selected out of our group of 21 to write and deliver our swearing in speech that will be put on Gambian national television. A really nice honor, and we are excited to present it.

The Future... By mid-september we will be at our permanent sites for 3 months challenge. That is the time period when you survey your town and try to figure out how to best be of service to the community. Volunteers are not supposed to leave their sites and go to the capital during this period. It is common for early terminations during this time.

West Africa Things I have found in my house so far: ants, spiders, lizards, termites, leaking roofs, live rats on the ceiling rafters, 3 dead rats on the floor, and a lot of weird flying bugs.

Mustaches We all decided to grow mustaches for our swearing in ceremony. I look ridiculous right now...

Our motto Since philly when you are having a bad day it is common to hear, "sometimes there are snakes on a plane..."

Food bowls The food works out ok. We eat out of a communal food bowl...

Michigan?? In an odd twist of fate (for those who know my family) one of my best friends, Neil, happens to be a Michigan grad of '04. We often joke about going to the game in columbus or ann arbor when this is all over.