Saturday, December 15, 2007

Nine to five

By rachel

This past week, I've been working a nine to five and I am beat! We had the planning meeting for the Face-to-Face teacher training program that will take place this holiday break. We had to plan for two weeks of class. I am in the English group with three other PCVs, one VSO (British version of PC, sort of), a Belgium whose been living here for three years working at the Gambia College, and four Gambian men. The dynamic was interesting, painstaking at times, but we have a scheme of work focusing on reading comprehension. Getting all of us on the same page while trying to understand each other's understandings of certain teaching methodologies was difficult. But alas, all of that is part of this intense learning experience we embarked on one year and a half ago.

Being in the thick of the city life for a week is also exhausting. I was a commuter! I took an hour to go 12 K through the neighborhoods of Kombo (the name the refers to all the fast growing towns that sprawls form the main drag in Kanifang). The streets and sidewalks are filled with people, produce, second hand clothes, Mercedes, exhaust, taxis, construction, shop after shop lined sidewalks, more exhaust, concrete, sewage, men slowly riding bikes, women sitting side by side on the edge of the road with their produce stacked into neat piles splayed in front of their overworked bodies, and professionals waiting for a taxi. It has the packed, congestive, dirty feel of "African cities." The growth is noticeable after just a year or so. The traffic never moves at a constant rhythm, its jarring and sporadic. I look down the single road through connecting these municipalities and the smog that rises to the scorching sun infuses every breath. People are everywhere, men are every where calling out to the white woman; you are surrounded by it all. It give us hope. Hope that here is a viable organic economy growing.

As we head back to site to today, I am so grateful that we don't live in the city. The harassment would be unbearable. That alone would want to make me leave this country. We have our compound, our family, our kids, our neighborhood. It all provides a sense of belonging, a sense of protection, however small in the scheme of life. But it's there. And as we look down these next six months to the ending our service, this sense of place will again change.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Brian. Food. One can never be without the other.

So here is Todd. Awesome Todd. Here he is at the 40th Anniversary ceremony wearing this lovely wax fabric featuring our dear eating utensils, spoons. (Do you see the army band way in the back?)

Rachel and Jim being ridiculous. But look at that sunset! That's what we got to watch as we pigged out. Jim is rad.

Carson and Rachel reveling in it all!

Happy Thanksgiving! Becca and I enjoying some quality grub. Look at that chicken and those green peas! Oh and the cranberry sauce! Happy times.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Mamud during Tobaski. I wanted to say he looks like Yoda, but I guess the similarity stops after the him being three feet tall in a robe. Either way, this kid is the Jedi Master of the 3 year olds.

Alieu and Mohamed ("M-ed"). The picture says it all... except that, yes, they bathed this morning.


Yes, this is exactly what it looks like. Rachel's teaching Lamin and Ibrima pilates. Don't worry, the novelty faded.

A Bonanza!

And that it was. Thanksgiving weekend was packed with events. The Deputy Ambassador hosted all Peace Corps and Embassy staff for T-day at the Ambassadors mansion. It is massive with a pool (that we swam in!), overlooking the beach. It was a big pot luck. So loads of chicken, some stuffing, peas(!), mashed potatoes (though not as good as mom's), and cranberry sauce. Oh and pie, lots and lots of pie! We were thrilled and stuffed.

The next day was the 40th anniversary commemoration ceremony of uninterrupted service (no civil unrest or war, bloody coups, or natural disasters. So good for The Gambia that they are a peaceful country, but not yet where it needs to be self sufficient. Sorry, I have been a little down on development, on massive amounts of international aid pouring into Africa, on leftovers being donated that flood the markets... But it's all complex and we are trying the best we can, little by little day by day. And I wouldn't trade any of this experience for anything. Whoo, ok. But, the ceremony was really special. Secretaries of state were there. We all got to speak about our work. The Director of all of Peace Corps sent in a video to us. So we felt appreciated.

The next day was a productive all volunteer meeting. The best part was catching up with fellow PCVs. One night, the local brewery, Jul Brew, threw us another party. More free beer! But it was all about lightening up, having fun, and chillin' with your pals. Probably the next time our education group will be all together is at our Close of Service (COS) conference in May and thereafter we will all be heading out one by one. We have loads of pics that will come soon soon.

This week is the last of classes. These terms are so short with all the holidays and staff meetings in the middle of classes. Tobaski, the big one of Muslim holidays, is Dec. 20, so the shopping season has begun. During break I will be working with the Face-to-Face program that trains unqualified teachers that are in the schools right now. The program takes place during the summer, Dec., and March breaks up country in Jonjonbure. I'll be there for a couple of weeks working with teachers on teaching reading and writing. And then... my parents come out for a visit in mid-January!

Happy holiday season! Happy Hanukkah, eat some chocolate covered matzoh and latkas! Our thoughts are with all our fam and friends. It never feels like the holidays here, so kick back an extra cup of spiked egg nog for us. Isn't it amazing how much we identify food with every event, person, holiday, routine, and past time? I love it!