Saturday, December 23, 2006

Xmas in the tropics

We hope everyone liked the pictures. Please realize how hard it is to get those posted. Otherwise, we’d have many more. In fact, everything here is a test of patience, even/especially in the capital. Slowly, slowly to catch the monkey.
Anyhow, we are doing great. Between school terms we’re in Kombo for 4 days or so before we head back upcountry and we’re not the only white people around, either. It’s tourist season here for a reason. The air is cool, the sun is bright and the palm trees are swaying in the breeze. On the other hand, it's hard to wake up at 7 to go for a run on the beach! This place is bumpin’ with Europeans down on vacation and just as we thoroughly exhaust ourselves we get to go home just in time for Tabaski. Every family who can afford it has a Ram to be slaughtered on that day, so it should be quite the feast. I hope everyone has a great Xmas, Hanukah, Festivus and New Years. Maybe we’ll find some colored lights for the papaya tree behind the PC transit house.

Holidays and such

Posted by Rachel

So this is Christmas and happy new year.... We are back in the capital, hanging out, checking email, and spending some much desired times watching movies and tv series at the Peace Corps hostel. It is a huge place with showers and AC, a stove, a refridgerator, just craziness. I have been eating salads and ice cream!! Carson has been enjoying his couch time. I went out with some girls in my group last night. It was nice to have a ladies night!

It doesn't feel like Christmas, Hannukah, or the New Year, maybe July 4, but not christmas time. There are decorations up and Christmas music in the Christian run liquor stores. We are hoping to do a picnic on the beach for Christmas. So I guess it's not so bad. But Happy Holidays! Know that we are thinking of all of our friends and family alot right now!

So Kerewan is home sweet home these day. Our two room house is working out for us....everyday we are making it more comfortable. I am getting used to the slow paced life in village. When ever I have a busy work day or come to the capital...i can't handle the over stimulation. It is funny...there has been so much to do here in the city. I am so tired and I yearn for a quite day in the compound.

I love sitting around with Aja and kids in the afternoons when I come home from work and right before she goes to the gardens. Lamin is brewing attaya, some other women from the nearby compounds come by to chat. I am sitting with Alu. That baby, puts anything and everything into his mouth. I looked over one afternoon and he was licking the bottom of my sandals. So my sandals have walked throught dried chicken, horse, sheep, and goat shit on a daily basis, plus standing water, trash, and tar from the road construction in Kerewan. No one even thinks twice about it. These kids in this country they must have the strongest immunes systems.

A day in the life:

Posted by Carson

It’s been quite a while since I’ve sat down and put pen to paper… or at least fingers to a keyboard. At many points in time, I remember telling myself, “this is totally worth writing down so you can remember it.” Well, I didn’t and I don’t. So here’s what comes to mind.
The school term is coming to an end. This means that the teachers and I are all busier than usual. More busy than the 8 to 6:30 plus weekends that we usually work. We have to put report cards together and update transcripts… by hand. All I have is a ridiculous callus and probably carpal tunnel to show for it. In addition to the physical damage, there’s the psychological and emotional damage of realizing that 23 of the 40 students in my “homeroom” are failing. And I’m talking GAMBIAN FAILING… as in less than 40%. Of course most of them received the same grades last year and still managed to be promoted. In fact, they’ve been promoted without merit ever since grade 1 which, upon further evaluation, might yield a clue as to why I spend most of my time reviewing the multiplication table and explaining what an atom is than actually teaching High School. Shit. And, in this case, at senior secondary school, the country wide policy of “mass promotion” doesn’t even technically apply. How the hell are these kids in Grade 11?!?!?
I should add that there are some fantastic students here. Maybe 4 in each class. They are diligent and intelligent, though maybe haven’t had the opportunity to develop any real critical thinking skills. And, of course, they’re falling way behind simply because of the slow pace of the class. Actual, home-grown, raw talent is completely being squandered by a broken system. And, while I’m venting about the broken system (really, I’m not usually this bitter) let me tell you all what I think the problem is and what the solution is not. The problem is simply a military government. That’s it. When you have an illiterate leader misallocating all the local and foreign resources and contributing to the ridiculous scale of corruption it leaves little hope for the country at large. Inflation is unofficially at over 6%. There’s limited and irregular electricity, poor roads and we even go for 3 days at a time without being able to get water!!! All this in a provincial “capital” in one of the few West African countries that hasn’t seen a war in 50 years. Even Senegal, with separatist actions right over the border is a marked improvement. They have electricity, paved roads and even water!
The teachers and administrators I work with are excellent. They understand the situation very well and are only passing up other opportunities for extenuating circumstances (family obligations, etc). But here’s the breakdown. The Gambia actively trains teachers, maybe not enough for the entire country, but quite a few none the less. That pool of graduates, representing a large portion of the literate and educated population is offered maybe $90 a month by the state to work a double shift in the provincial boondocks, ie Kerewan and upcountry. By contrast, private schools in the Kombos offer them as much as $200 + to start our teaching a single shift. Add to that a barely functioning State Dept of Education and it’s a wonder any qualified teachers are here at all. Bare in mind that, for a typical Gambian family, there is one “bread winner” providing for as many as 15 or 20 relatives, so that while $90 seems like an alright salary for the developing world, a bag of rice costs about $25. Most teachers work the groundnut fields on the weekends.
The typically proposed solution is to send more money and resources. Initially, upon asking what’s lacking, many Gambians will, in fact, site the lack of resources and funding. OK, so yeah, money’s is scarce and there are not enough textbooks, teaching aids and learning aids to go around, but I would not suggest that as the root problem to address. Rachel and I, as well as many other foreign workers and all of my coworkers have discussed the issue ad-nausium, and generally agree that there are large quantities of donated resources that are not going to good use. They can always use more, but of the stuff usually donated a large portion is outdated (computers), irrelevant (Texas history books) and lost in storage. It’s nice when we can directly hand out some supplies to a few of the teachers we work with but it does little to address the underlying problem of a broken system.
Even money, although the jury’s still out on this one, arguably contributes to a general attitude of dependency. Any truly inventive potential entrepreneur knows that the quickest way to some solid income isn’t through designing a successful, sustainable, business (because of the aforementioned issues) but rather to set up an NGO to solicit funds from Europe and America.
Alright, I might be going to far with this one. The people here are in desperate need of outside assistance, whether it comes from the donations of the developed world or their relatives working the “greener pastures” of Europe and America (usually the case). Either way, they have no means of providing enough food or income to sustain their growing families here. And, until the system is changed, that’s the only thing keeping them afloat. Also, these NGOs that I was so quick to criticize are actually doing amazing work. They’re often the only ones doing it. They are the only impetus pushing things forward. It’s just frustrating that there’s no real self derived momentum for improvement here. Ok, sorry about that, just had to vent a little.

ADWAC planning meeting 14/12-17/12

Posted by Rachel

So I just returned from a four day planning meeting with the Agency for Development of Women and Children (ADWAC). We stayed at the Kinteh Kunda Lodge in Albreda. It was beautiful, right on the mouth of the river. Palm trees and mangroves lined the coast and beaches. Oh and the sunrise, that fiery magenta sun rising over the water, forget about it!

I am really excited to begin work with ADWAC. Fort ten years now, they have been operating solely in the North Bank Division working in the areas of food security, education, women’s enterprise, micro-credit, and functional literacy. I am really impressed with their director and staff. They divided the division into four eco-zones; these are regions that have distinct watershed areas and ecology.

ADWAC is launching a women’s rights and gender awareness unit. They want me to work with Binta Sey, a field worker for ADWAC that is being promoted to coordinator of the unit. At the planning meeting we assessed each sector using a women’s development framework. We found that most sector are meeting practical needs and rights of women, such as basic rights to food, income, and medical care. Also ensuring access to education, training in micro-credit and literacy, legal rights. We agreed that ADWAC has few programs challenging the status-quo of men and women. So the unit will be monitoring each sector to devise a project that empowers women in the decision-making roles, as well as control of their food production and income. We will conduct a baseline survey in two eco-zones, conduct gender sensitization workshops with community leaders, plan programmes for international women’s day, advocate for women’s land ownership rights, and implement a women’s empowerment framework to evaluate ADWAC on the organizational level and amongst their programmes.

I like working with Binta. She is a small fiery woman. She is married with no kids, which is rare for a Gambian couple. She is 26 and wants to get a master’s in gender and development, like me! I am excited to have her as counterpart, she is smart and funny. She will teach me a lot about field work and implement gender awareness programs in a non-western, Islamic, traditional, developing country.

I presented our women’s development criteria analyses of ADWAC’s programs at the planning meeting. I realized that even the men in ADWAC will have a hard time challenging gender roles. I could see their hair stand up. They fried me. At that moment I thought, “oh man what the hell have I gotten myself into?” I looked at Binta and she was laughing. She gave them a stern rebuttal. They reminded me about the religious and cultural context we are working in. I told them that do you see anything in my presentation that talked about changing this? It’s about a women’s right to control food production, to ensure the health of herself and her children. I did not say that a man has to do all the sweeping on the compound now. They thought I was bashing their programs because they do not challenge the status quo. But I talked about how we are working with some of the poorest women in the world and ADWAC is doing a great job of implementing programs to better women’s welfare. ADWAC is helping these women meet their basic needs for survival. They provide loans to women’s vegetable cooperative and construct labour saving mechanisms for women farmers. They all came around and the director said that Liisa and Binta are helping put our “gender lenses on.”

During work meetings, Gambians love to critize every little thing about your presentation, right down to the misuse of a word on your poster. They fry you. It was always a heated debate after each presentation. They are just so painfully honest. But when it comes to explaining how their programs are going, or at the REO how material distribution is going, or at school how people are using the resource center, it is sugar coated and most often times fabricated. They will tell you in a meeting that your report is sub par and your work in general is shitty, but when it comes to talking about it outside of the meeting forum it is sweet as pie. It is a weird dynamic that I am getting used to.

Also ADWAC builds and works closely with nursery schools. So I will work with the education coordinator, Lamin, who also lives right next door to me in Sameteh Kunda. All in all, I am so pleased to find work with this NGO.

Oh and the last day of the planning retreat, we had a bbq. They bought a ram and I witnessed its death. It was traumatizing. Just watching it flinch as the blood poured out of it. We then cut up the meat, separated its organs, and grilled it up all in one day. How’s that for fresh meat!

I am still working with girls club. When I see all the girls around town they yell my name. It is fun working with them. They are a hard group to teach, as Carson has experienced. We have done theatre games and some discussions about confidence and fears. It will take some time to get them to talk fluidly. Discussions are still like pulling teeth, but I am going to a couple of girl’s education NGOs when we go down for x-mas. Hopefully they will provide ideas and support.

A week ago or so, there was a huge football match in Kerewan. There had to be about 2000 people at the field. I saw all my girls and they swarmed around me, yelling Liisa!! They were dressed in their best western clothes, jeans, with their hair done up. Music was blasting, so we danced. They were screaming and laughing when I danced amongst them. It was so electric, such high energy. These girls are so loud, but so quite in the classroom. It feels so great to be accepted by these girls, I hope I can be a good role model for them.

Friday, December 22, 2006

This is one of our favorite pictures of Karamo, all around superstar, having a jumping competition with his brothers and friends in our compound.

Little Alu getting a much needed bath from Aja.

The Nursery School in opperation before Rachel and Bruama recieved funding to paint it.

The boys peeling potatoes for Thanksgiving at McDonal's... that's right, no "D" for fear of copyright infringement... the hostel in the making where we crashed. Thanks again, Modou!

There we are, having a good time at Turkey Day (err, fried chicken day in our case).

The river crossing to Jangjangbure-Georgetown-McCarthy island...
where we had Thanksgiving.

Fatoumata (or just Fatou). 3 years old and given a lot of attention by the previous volunteer (shout out to Nema, though we never met you), this girl is a diva in the making.

School Assembly. Sometimes Carson administers the national anthem, prayers, announcements, a motovational word or two of wisdom, and the anthem again. Not today, though! Oustas(Islamic Teacher) Papa Jassey is large and in charge.

Soccer with the boys. Headballing is Masey next to Karamo, Lamin and Fatou.

School Assembly. Some mornings I direct the national anthem, prayers, and announcements followed by the national anthem again. Not today. That's Oustass Papa Jassey large and in charge.

The lovely shower and toilet area. Actually, this is our entire back yard.

One of Rachel's first and most successful community projects so far. Renovating the Nursury School and renewing interest from the community. The little girl is a student reciting the alphabet and numbers.

Rachel and counterparts at the meeting for, by and in the new and improved nursury school.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Represent.

Carson at school Kinteh (standing) and Samusa.

Soccer practice with from left Masi, Karamo, Lamin, and Fatou

Jim from Montana doing the damage.

Only the most attractive couple ever.

Yipes! You can hear these guys howling at night. Good things these ones are behind bars.

Here's the dudes at swearing in. Lookin' good fellas.
I think that mustache is illegal in most of West Africa... but Rachel's outfit makes up for it.

Rachel's new haircut!

Ok, we're trying to post a picture that makes the point, "this kid is adorable"

Rachel and Alu. Hey mom, look what we're bringing home... just kidding.

Kids performing a drum circle for kicks

Alu and Carson chilling on the front porch

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Just a Quickie

It's been a while since I've posted, not for lack of something to talk about but more for lack of time and access. Work's been brutal. Not to brag, just to explain... I'm double shifting at Kerewan Senior Secondary School, working 8-6. Also, we have mandatory weekend classes on both saturday and sunday and I'm trying to set up a computer lab and science lab. Don't worry I'll tell all about it in about 2 weeks. The terms coming to and end and once I finish putting all of my grading sheets together... BY HAND... Rachel and I are going to Kombo for Xmas break.
In the mean time, I've found a wonderful computer to mooch off of here at the local Independent Elections Commission. Finally starting to make some connections around here. Hope everyone's doing well. Rach and I are happy and healthy and looking forward to sun and palm trees for Xmas/Hannukah/Tabaski. Happy Festivus for the Rest of Us!! Now let the feats of strength begin!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Rams in the ocean

Posted by Rachel
I came in to the capital for the day to check email and go the bank. On the ferry from Barra to Banjul I saw the darnest thing. Fifty rams in a small wooden boat going to Banjul. At the port, the rams were jumping into the water and swimming to the shore. Against their will of course. Mind you it is chilly in the morning. They were huddling together on the beach, probably in shock. The best part was the man trying to get the stray rams to swim towards the shore and not towards the ferry. Have you ever seen sheep swim? Not me! I was laughing out loud. Toabski is coming soon. Everyone buys a ram and kills it. We get to eat sheep's meet for four days straight! Hmm....
Anyways hope all is well! We are happy and healthy! Sending love and hugs from the Gambia!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Girls Club, Nursery School Open House and Stepping on Toads in Your Bare Feet.

Girl's Club and Women in the Gardens
Posted by Rachel
Dec. 1
I really like doing community work, especially with women. If only I can speak the language better, I can work with these women. I started two girls clubs, one at the middle school and one at the high school. I have about 12 girls in the middle school club and 60 in the high school club. They like to do drama as a means of community activism or sensitisation as the Gambians call it. Issues that they want to talk about are girl's education, teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and women's health. This past week we did some theater games, like charades and improve. They were great and funny. This could help with their public speaking skills. Girls in the classroom are so quiet. In this traditional and Islamic society, girls are subtlety taught not to speak in front of large groups or men. I want to them to feel comfortable to talk about relationships, sex, and body issues. We will give that time.

Girl's education is a new thing here. So these girls are the first generation to complete their education. Almost all of their mothers are uneducated. None of these girls have a female role model in their families or in the community. The mentors in my life were and are so important me. I wouldn't be here without them. I never realized that having mentors is yet something else that is a privilege to have.

I hope to find funding for a trip to the capital during international women's week to meet with working women. The Gambia also has a "Bring your daughter to work day," so maybe we can do something with that. I am working with a female teacher at the middle school. Mariama is my age and teaches home economics. We thought it would be a good idea to have a craft project for the girls, this could help not only raise funds for our trip, but teach them about marketing, economics, and managing their own money. Oh I hope these clubs work out…. This is what I truly want to focus on for my life's work.

I went to the community gardens with Aja yesterday evening. It was huge. Aja had two 20 by 20 meter plots. She is growing cabbage, bitter tomatoes, onions, and bananas. There are open wells about 4-6 feet deep scattered every 10 feet around the gardens. Now that the harvesting of the rice is about finished, the women are planting their gardens. This means more veggies at the market soon!

Aja had Alu on her back and I got to carry the bucket for fetching water from the wells. There were a lot of women there, watering their gardens, weeding, burning brush. I felt the sense of camaraderie among these women. They all know how hard each other work to keep their families and themselves alive. There is a greeting that here, I nim barra, it means you and work. When these women say it to each other, its almost asking how are you surviving today. When the men say it, it more out of respect than anything else.

I felt humbled in these gardens. I felt safe. I felt the power of women. I came to watch, but I also wanted to participate. So I went to fetch water from the open well, with a bucket with a rope tied to it. I couldn't submerge the bucket enough to fill it. Fetching water is really difficult. I felt so silly. These women were doing it with their eyes closed and I'm standing there for 10 minutes fiddling with this bucket. Aja was laughing at me and of course I was not helping her situation. She let me try a couple more times. I got it one time, but I couldn't seem to repeat the magic. Aja worked quickly fetching water and carrying it her plot to pour over her seedlings. I thought about our garden hoses at home, our sprinkler systems. Something about the open wells and the garden plots in the midst of papaya and banana trees felt so organic, so tropical.

We walked to the community garden further down the road. The first garden is about 2 Kilometers from the compound. This second garden is another 1.5 K from there. Aja gave me Alu while she tended to her garden. Oh Alu is just so adorable. He is so responsive and loves to cuddle. I think I might have to take him home. But I digress. I saw women walking back from the rice fields with huge buckets filled with harvested rice on their heads. The sounds of their heavy feet, the women in the gardens pattering in between their plots, the sound of buckets splashing in the wells, the gripping of the rope in their hands, all surrounded by the quiet of the bush and the pink glow from the sun set. Another humbling and intense moment here the Gambia. I hope to go to the garden more often. Next time I will bring my own bucket and practice fetching water in my attempt to show I can do some of the work African women do.

Community Meeting at the Nursery School
Dec. 1
Working with the nursery school here in Kerewan is fun and rewarding. We had a community meeting yesterday, like an open house. We invited all the parents, the PTA members, the councilman of Kerewan, the community radio station, the deputy headmaster of the lower basic school. The goal of the meeting was to inform the community about the proposed poultry farm and skills center project, to have parents encourage other parents to send their children to school, and to show off the newly painted walls. We got chairs from the education office and brought in ice blocks to make juice (like kool aid) for the attendants of the meeting. We planned a great program.

It was supposed to start at 10 am. We didn't get started until 11:30, only an hour and a half late, that's pretty much on time by Gambian standards! A third of the parents showed up, some PTA members (but not the chairman), and the deputy headmaster.
So not the best showing of people, but I'll take it! Mostly the mothers came, a couple fathers were there. Two of the mothers showed up in their police uniforms. They looked pretty bad-ass!

Meetings here in the Gambia are always official. We start with prayer, then comes a welcome remark, then the introduction of the high table, then we go into speeches. The master of ceremonies keeps the program going, but also summarizes each speech. Meetings are long and inefficient, but it is just another cultural aspect different from my own. After the welcome remark, Bruama spoke about the history of the school and the poultry project. It is neat to watch Bruama come into his role as a community leader. Then 10 of the nursery school students presented, reciting numbers, the alphabet, days of the week, and readings from the Koran. A PTA member spoke about educating our youth so they can one day be leaders of this country. Then it was my turn to speak. I read my speech in English first, then in Mandinka. Bruama helped me translate the speech the day before. Since this is a community meeting with mostly the mothers of the community, the meeting was mostly in Mandinka. Any English that was spoken was for my benefit only. Oh the beauty of being an outsider. Anyways, I talked about the importance of early childhood education and how the school needs the support of the community to function and sustain. After I finished reading in Mandinka, I got a round of applause and laughter. I think they appreciated my effort. We wanted to have a discussion about different ways the community can be involved, but no one spoke up. So we ended just in time for lunch. Oh and a guy from the radio station came to record the meeting. The station will broadcast the meeting on Saturday, so all of the North Bank Division will hear it. A good day had by all!

Death and Destruction to Anything Smaller than Us
Posted by Carson


A couple nights ago, I stepped on a toad in my bare feet. I squealed and Rachel laughed. Then we realized it’s innards were hanging out of its mouth as it continued to hop around. EEEEUUUUUUWWWWW. On the topic of death and destruction, mice keep eating our peanuts, bread, and tomatoes, not to mention keeping Rachel up at night with their rummaging. After only “catching” one by hand we purchased a gruesome black metal rat trap (probably a little larger than necessary) and have dealt destruction to 6 more. Nothing quite so satisfying as the THWAP of a rat trap in the middle of the night.

M Baa Kang / I am on it (Gambian way of saying work is busy)
Posted by Rachel

It has been a busy weekend. The workshop at Kerr Pateh was a success! I did a session on classroom management. The Gambia banned corporal punishment about five years ago. Schools have been struggling to find and implement alternative discipline measures. Teachers are split down the middle about this issue. Some still advocate that it is the only means of disciplining students, others understand the need for change. So I got up there and talked about preventive measures to help minimize misbehaviors. I talked about rules and classroom procedures. I talked about how to make rules effective. I offered some alternative means of discipline. I also talked about positive versus negative reinforcement. The whole idea of positive reinforcement is fairly new to the Gambia. Teachers are not afraid to humiliate students. I went on about creating a safe space for students to take risks. I felt like such a hippie! But I stood my ground against the several male teachers, one very loud Nigerian, who claimed that negative reinforcement works better than positive.

It was definitely a learning experience. We had good discussion. It truly was a venue for us teachers to exchange ideas. It was exciting to be a part of. One teacher presented the importance of group activities. We did one in the workshop and it was a blast. Another teacher presented learning games in the classroom. It will take time for the Gambian teachers to move totally away from chalk and talk. It will also take time for alternative discipline measures to talk hold. Teachers need more support from the administration as well as the community.

The next day, I went to the Nursery School here in Kerewan for another workshop. We spent the entire day making teaching and learning aids. I explained to the two teachers the importance of positively stated rules, as well as classroom procedures. I also made a fantastic daily chart that includes the day, date, and weather! Bruama, the head teacher, was able to organize the admistrative end of the school, while Sherifo, a 5th grade teacher who came to help out, wrote out nursery rhymes with beautiful drawings. We had fun. It is great to work with such motivated teachers.

Communication is difficult at times. During both workshops, teachers could not understand my accent. I try to alter it, but it presents a challenge. I am grateful that English is the official language, but it is still 10 times harder to communicate my ideas. My phrasing is different, I pronounce my “r”s, I don’t speak in the verbose Gambian English. Eventually we get on the same page, but barely. Not only is my accent foreign, but my ideas are as well. Hopefully I will learn Gambian English. Even the word “rules” gets lost in translation. So we do a lot of back and forth. “Roll?”, no “rules like classroom rules,” “yes the roll, it is here, we have 70 students.” So I give an example, like “no fighting or keep your hands to yourself.” Eventually a third party comes in or I figure out the word in Mandinka. It can wear me down at times. But we are all trying.

Another funny example of lost in translation was with Bruama. He wants to start a poultry farm in order to generate income for the Nursery School. Schools fees are not enough for staff salary, let alone maintenance, school materials, and other costs. Since the school is community managed, it needs a sustainable form of income, aside from outside donations. So we are applying to the Self-Help program at the American Embassy for money to implement this project. We decided to get the application done before Christmas. So I say “we will work this next month to complete the application.” Bruama says, “No, can we start on it now so we can get it done by Christmas time?” “Yes, this coming month until Christmas we will work on it.” “No, I think we need to get it done before the Christmas time.” So, realizing that our ways of thinking about time were different, I tried to explain that I meant this month before Christmas. We then just agreed we will start working on it now and in shallah in will be completed by Christmas.

I am still thinking small scale successes. I can’t expect this nursery school to operate to the standards of its American counterpart. Bruama is still an unqualified teacher; he hopes to attend the early childhood education course held at the Gambia College. Slowly, slowly the school will improve. We are having an Open House for parents to come in two weeks. Bruama also expressed interest in a sister school back in the states!

Everyday seems to be getting easier. But everyday also brings new challenges. Working eight hour days here takes everything out of you. It is humbling to try to live here. Yesterday I was pounding coos with Danke, she’s 6 and could pound much better that me. The women at the water pump could see me. I looked over to see 10 of them laughing, almost rolling on the ground. In Mandinka, they were saying look at Liisanding, she is trying to pound! I am always glad that I am good

One chilly morning…. Welcome to the cold season!
Posted by Rachel
13/11/06: When Carson and I awoke to the prayer call at five this morning, we were fishing for our sheet! The morning was cool and we had to cuddle for warmth. We crawled out of bed for our morning run. I put on a long sleeve shirt! We didn’t start sweating until halfway into our run! The breeze was crisp, the air felt clean and refreshed. As we rounded the corner to our road returning home, three men sat huddled around a fire wearing winter hats. We estimated that the temperature was a brisk 70-75 degrees. We are hoping that the cool season is here to stay…. For the next two months or so.

16/11/06: Oh these past couple of days have been delightful. This morning we were legitimately cold. I was chilled while running. We boiled our bath water and we were still cold taking an outside shower. This morning, I was cold on my walk to work. I am sitting in my office without the air conditioner on. I could get used to this! It is cool and dry. Granted it still heats up during the day. The sun is hot as hell. But the morning and night, things cool off. The humidity just switched off. My heels are cracked and my lips are chapped. I had to fish out my chapstick and lotion this morning!

This fabulous change in weather makes the day easier to get through. We are not walking around in a puddle of sweat. The heat and humidity is so oppressive. Just walking around town took so much energy. It was difficult to get comfortable at night. We were just uncomfortable all day. But now, the Harmatan wind blows throughout the day, our sweat evaporates, and we sleep with a sheet at night. Yes, enjoyable indeed.

Life is rolling along…
Post from Rachel

The days are beginning to go by fast. Work is back in full swing from the Koriteh holiday. Baby Alu is getting big; he is clapping his hands, standing up and making sounds. I watch him sometimes in the evening when Aja fetches water. We sit outside the compound and watch the people and motorcycles go by. Some women come by with large buckets of water on their heads. Some men are coming home from work. Some elder men are out for their nightly walk counting their prayer beads. One night this woman walked to and from the water tap eight times. It takes a lot of water to wash, cook, and bath an entire compound. By the sixth time she passed, we were already joking about how women work all day.