As usual, it's been a while since I've posted anything. Today seems like a good day to break the silence because it's been a very good day. Rach and I are doing well as we cruise into our last few days of service. Among other things to look forward to, we're planning a few day lay over in Ireland before rushing home to see the families. I can't wait to wake up in a B&B, walk over to the cafe, drive, run, hike and walk around the small towns and countryside before settling into a pub for the evening. Until then we're busy preparing to leave. There are so many relationships and friendships that we'll be leaving behind and so many jobs and obligations to finish and a few things to pick up to remember our time here. It's been a hard month for me, not so much because of all that but because of the heat, so I don't think sentimentality's going to hold me back from pushing people out of the way to get on that plane... but I will miss the mangoes.
Today, however, was the perfect end to my service... and it was a surprise. I coerced some students to enter an essay contest sponsored by the American Embassy. Five of them hand-wrote the most substantial piece of writing of their lives: a three page essay on African American or Gambian history. I didn't do much, just read over them and typed final drafts for submission. It was a great exercise for the students and I encouraged the Embassy and Peace Corps to offer more of these national competitions. That was that.
Then one of my students, Binta, was selected as a finalist and invited to the Embassy in Banjul for a ceremony. I didn't feel comfortable chaperoning a female student alone (though she's married with a two year old son) so I made Rachel come down with us. As we were sitting under the pavilion in the Embassy with a table of beautiful American snacks nearby, they read the 3rd and 2nd place essays and then.... Binta WON!! A stack of books for the school, a stack of books for her and an envelope with some serious money inside. They interviewed her on national TV (it's a small country, but still!), we took her to buy a mobile phone, printed out some photos at the shop across the street and called it a day. Heck yeah.