31 March 2008


I think a unique aspect of recent Americana has been the dissolution of the American home as a fixed physical place. In The Gambia families can live in a single home,a family compound as it is commonly referred to, for an indefinite amount of time. While the practice of moving between homes is common, especially amongst children, it is usually from one place of permanence to another. For example, over the course of their youth a Gambian might move between compounds owned by their biological parents, uncles and aunts, and grandparents.

It seems that home in American has transformed over the past few decades from a permanent state into a fluid state, shifting the majority of Americans at least once during their youth. Not only are we, like Gambians, moving between homes but we are also lacking the permanence that comes with generations residing in one home. There is a disconnect between the reality of home and home that gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling when you think it.

This phenomenon is particularly pronounced with people in their 20s as they move out of the bubble of collegiate life and try to start their own lives. At the same time, parents are often transitioning to a life with an empty nest and are moving out of the homes that the children were brought up in. Our permanent homes existing merely as a memory of time past.

Having said that, I am currently planning my own future which involves a move to Chicago in about 3.5 months. Most of my immediate family have moved to new locations since I have been in The Gambia, and it is an odd feeling to know that all of the homes I will return to I have never lived in. I imagine as a returning Peace Corps volunteer I will live in a quiet world of contrasts, emotions that won’t have appropriate outlets. One of the big contrasts will be trying to understand the shifting idea of home. During most of my stay here I have lived in the Jammeh family compound, a place where my host family has lived for 11 years. If I were to travel to visit Daboe or Kaddy’s parents home we would be traveling to a place that has generations of family history.

This will be a positive experience. I think all the change we put ourselves through is part of the enduring American spirit. We put ourselves intentionally in new and different situations in order to keep ourselves innovating. I hope as a nation we are able to keep adapting to new environments as we move into an age that has been labeled “uncertain and weakening.”

15 March 2008

Lacking the words and therefore a title

I’ve got about 4 months left in country and I’m in a strange place mentally. It’s a mix between finding my place here and becoming increasingly anxious about returning home. Still, I lack the right words, inspiration, or style to express what has been happening, but here is a try.

Recently work has been showing success, I feel like I’ve made some solid progress with my counterparts and students and now it’s just a refinement point. I can look back with some satisfaction on that aspect of service.

In the household I’ve been spending a lot more time with my host family, enjoying the bond we’ve formed over the past months. We’ve been trading cooking ideas, watching a number of cartoons, and I have been making more of an effort to do basic tutoring for the school going children.

A few days ago I asked Amee a question that I in my youth, I never thought carried any true weight or meaning, “What did you learn in school today?” He looked at me funny with inquisitive eyes as if to ask, “My what a strange question you’ve asked,” then he perked up and recited a prayer passage that he had learned. When he was done there was a smile on his face that glowed of pride and a successful completion. When I was younger, “What did you learn in school today,” seemed to carry little weight because it seemed like the thing that a parent does out of repetition of a social norm. Now, I see it carrying weight because it is a thing that a parent should say. Showing interest in what the child is doing and showing an interest in what they are putting energy into is a way of showing caring.

On the other side of the strange mental world I’ve entered is the closeness of home. I increasingly fear it, while at the same time can’t wait to get back. All the common fears of returning after a long journey are there, amplified in conjunction with the acceleration towards July. I fear silence from a lack of common discussion points, emptiness, feeling unfit to handle the speed and pace of home, inability to reconnect with old friends, and what to do with my future.


In late February we added a new family member in our compound, Paa Malik Jammeh. Kaddy gave birth at the RVH hospital in Banjul. He is healthy and doing well. The following is a picture of myself, Kaddy, and the baby.