Thursday, May 29, 2008

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.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Here's Fanding, our favorite bitick (shop) owner in Kerewan! Look at all the the fabulous buys. The blue tub in front is mayonaise and the one next to it is butter...

Rachel carrying little lisa while waiting for water at the tap. The next day my back was killing me. I don't know how Gambian women carry their children on their back while at the gardens or rice fields. Absolutely humbling. I got some pats on the back from the neighborhood women, which felt good.

Rachel carrying little lisa, who is not so little, on her back while fetching water. Yes, it is not easy, deh!

Here we are at Bamutar's naming ceremony. He's almost three months now! Time goes!
January 2008

Dan, Rachel, Blair, and Carson walking in bush on Jonjonbureh.... I think we were trying to look cool, but it just ended up being a bunch of goofy dorks!

Almost ready to exhale...

posted by rachel

So here we are, a little more than a month to go. We just had our Close of Service conference. It was great, talking about resumes, evaluating Peace Corps, and hanging with the group. As I traveled down to the city, I kept thinking how surreal it will feel, being at that conference. But the minute we got started, it felt deserved. Our group of 18 are all ready to go home, move on, get a job, go to school. We are not extending, or trying to hold out one more year as a PCV in another country. We are ready. I don't know why our group is so focused. Maybe its the 9 to 5 work week being a teacher, maybe its our determination, maybe its our resilience.

While eating fabulous meals, some of us realized how drained we felt. How we feel as though we are running on low. Two years living in Africa will do that, I suppose. The weekend leading up to the conference most of us went to Kartong, a beautiful beach south of the city. We slept in tree houses, grilled some burgers, and just partied without a care. I loved the beach because there was not one bumster on the beach, there was no one in fact, just your stray cow or two. The peace was refreshing and empowering.

Tomorrow Carson and I will head back to Kerewan for a mere four weeks and then its homeward bound. It is going to be hard to say goodbye to the family and the people who truly love and take care of us. But, it feels natural to being going... to be going back to our families. I know I will be able to call, but I also know that sometime down the road we will lose touch.

I worry about leaving just as the food crisis hits. A bag of rice rose 25 percent in a month. It will double not too far down the road and then only the very rich can afford it. Who knows how Gambia will handle this. Perhaps they will go back to growing their own rice, instead of relying on cheap imported rice, because now its not so cheap anymore.

I thought I would be asking myself questions like: "how do I say goodbye to all this." But I feel a sense of calm and readiness. I am not wondering how I will react or how I am supposed to feel. I remember before coming to Gambia, I was all kinds of flustered, not knowing how I should feel or what should I expect. It is quite the opposite right now. We have to pack up the house, finish up work, right a bunch of reports for Peace Corps, and say goodbye to our loved ones. There will be feelings of loss and sadness, but I know once we are on that plane home, we can exhale. It sounds so narrow and cold, but perhaps this is how I have learned to deal with such transitions.