Monday, March 14, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Last week for the first time I got to visit the village I'll be living in for the next two years! I will be in a village near JanJanBury (a village on an island in the middle of the river) on the north bank in the Central River Region (upriver). Its a pretty small place with about 40 compounds, 1 small shop, and lots of donkeys. Almost everyone farms for a living. The women have a beautiful community garden. My village is in a cluster of villages but I have yet to make it to any other village.
My village made me feel welcome from the second I stepped out of the jeep. My compound was full of people and there were women drumming and singing. I got a hug from one lady (which is a big deal in Gambia where no one hugs). My house is very cute. I have one small room with a thatched room and a fenced off backyard. My new host family is very nice. Its a small family for the Gambia with only five kids. My host father has two wives who are very kind and get along great. There are four small houses (1 room), including mine, and a cook house. Behind the compound there are two large baobab trees. At night there are so many stars I can hardly believe it.
I spent three days trying to get oriented to my village and I met a lot of people. Everyone was very friendly and mentioned how happy they were to have me there. I was disappointed to find out the Fula they speak is a different dialect then what I learned so it will take me awhile to adapt. There are very few English speakers in my village and none in my family. It was hard to understand a lot of what was said to me, language is going to be a continuous challenge.
In my village there was a community garden, primary school, clinic, and a skill center. At the skill center the hold workshops where the community can learn to make soap and other things. The women’s group makes jewelry to sell and they have some solar powered sewing machines that the tailors use. It’s a great place. It seems like there are quite a few places that I could find work opportunities. In a day I’ll be going back to my village for three month challenge. Three month challenge is the first three months at site where we are asked to try and get to know our communities. My goals is to know at least all the adults by name and be able to speak to them (language is a huge focus in this time). We are asked to try and not come into the cities on these days either so I probably won’t be able to write on this blog again for a while!
On Friday my fellow trainees and I took the Peace Corps Oath and became true volunteers. We have all passed our language tests and finished our 'training directed assignments' so we've been allowed to graduate. The ceremony felt a bit like a graduation. We all wore the traditional Gambian fashion of a Sobe- meaning we all had matching fabric outfits. I gave a short speech along with the American Ambassador (an RPCV herself), our PC country director, and the Gambian Minister of the Environment. It was filmed for Gambian TV (which is watched by people with TVs). It was a fun morning with lots of inspirational words. I hope we can live up to them.