"The future lay in our hands, uncertain yet promising.”
From Goodbye Lenin
Small victories are important to mental health. They keep the future far from known but bright none the less.
This past Sunday I had a few minor commitments. It had been an arduous week of work and late nights and I was tired. The limit had been hit and it was time for a personal day off. You all have had those days, and it might not sound significant enough to write about, but when you are this far from home it makes a big difference. I spent it in my house doing what I have come to love most, reading. I rejected all phone calls, cancelled my commitments, and often spent hours drowning out the world with headphones on. It was good to catch my breath and get ready for the next day.
We have nerd allies here in Africa. Of note is the increasingly news worthy Ubuntu project out of South Africa. In particular the Edubuntu project for schools has grabbed my attention in a high school plagued with pirated Microsoft software. I received my free and shipped install CDs the other day and have been toying with Edubuntu since.
So what is Edubuntu? A Linux based operating system with a selection of some quality Open Source Educational learning software. Reading, chemistry, math, and geography software is all there in addition to the OpenOffice suite of applications. Has it been the saving grace that I hoped it would be? In a word, no. Edubuntu still has odd errors that pop up, incompatibilities, amateur software or manuals, and students are still puzzled by the modern GUI in any form Windows or Linux. I do believe it is a step in the right direction, and freedom of choice is always a plus.
Amee is starting Islamic school meaning he is mostly learning the Koran. There is a little English taught. I gave him some ABC stickers my sister sent me to which in a roar he started to sing his ABCS. They went, “A B C D E F G H U B T Y Zed.” Hey it’s a start.
With the younger boy Buba my relationship is funnelled through his inability to talk Mandinka or English. We have to communicate with by only saying each other’s names, sort of like a real life version of Pokémon. (Steevo and Molly I’m lookin at you.) Sitting in my evening slump of exhaustion he ran up to me on night laughing and yelling “Yaya!” We proceeded to play the –pick up the baby high in the air and fly him around- game for about 15 minutes and it was quite possibly the highlight of my day.
Kaddy came home from a wedding the other night, exquisitely dressed and with a glowing smile on her face. Life is much richer when those around you have so much to give.
Adaptation to daily chores is a nice feeling. I no longer feel my neck muscles pop when I carry my 20 litre water jug home. What this tasks consists of is walking about 100 metres (easy) to my school’s water tap, filling the jug, and then walking back with the jug on my head (the difficult part). It use to be it was a nervous teeter totter game, but not its just bam there and bam back.
I work with some great people at the YMCA. Amongst them is one of the most literate Gambians I have met, a young man named Sherife. He introduced my to Edubuntu, shares a love of Calvin and Hobbes, and learned to read and write so well “just because he likes to spend time alone reading literature.”
Sherife is interested in Macromedia Flash ActionScript (the programming language built into Flash) and I am interested in animation. Where do we meet? There are African folk tales about a spider named Anansi who is told to be the master of all stories. Sherife and I want to animate these stories in Flash and get them out to the public. Cartoons are not common here. Is this a great chance to reach out to the under stimulated Gambian children and teach them a thing or two. Simple language, easy graphics, fun characters. We need to find a delivery medium.
Finally, more than a small victory, it’s almost like Christmas when mail run comes. Thanks a million to Jacob (with help from Mary and Patrick) for everything including the so far wonderful book The Chosen, dad, mom, molly, Valerie, Aunt Judy, and others who sent some wonderful things in the mail.
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This is still the most stressful experience I have ever been in, and daily I struggle. It all goes back to the relentless nature of it all which carpet bombs you every day with the fact that you have to adapt and compromise. But, as the quote at the beginning of this entry says, it is ultimately in our hands to find a way to at the least take small pleasures in life, building a promising base for the future.
O|-| 4n|) M0||y 4n|) W1||. 14 y0u c4n |234|) 7h15, y0u 4|23 n0w 1337.
573v30 y0u 4|23 4 – 3v3|2 1338.
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Harper’s Index – Food in The Gambia
Current value of the Dalasi against the U.S. Dollar: 28
Price of 5 ripe bananas from the local market: 20 Dalasis
Price of 1 ripe apple from the local market: 15 Dalasis
Ratio of banana bundles to apples: 15 to 1
Average price of an egg sandwich and chocolate milk: 25 Dalasis
Average price of a similar meal at McDonald’s: US $4.29
Number of McDonald’s Restaurants in The Gambia: 0
Number of Peace Corps Volunteers who live in the greater Banjul area: 19
Number of those whose diet mainly consists of family food bowls: 10
Number of meals per day with rice or coos base: 3
Average number of days before a volunteer goes crazy from rice or coos: 16
Percentage of those who do not have alternatives once they go crazy: 42%
Average amount of whole fish eaten every day by Todd: 1
Percentage that Todd still hates fish: 100
Todd’s acceptance of PC Life to fish eaten ratio: 1
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Hope you all had a wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving. Much love to the friends and family back home from the West Coast of Africa.