Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Happy 2008!

Family, Friends and Faithful Readers, Happy 2008!

It's been quite a while since I have been able to send out an update, so I will attempt to fill you all in with what I have been up to for the past month or so.

Following swearing-in as a volunteer, I headed to my village to finally begin serving and working in the community. The first few weeks in village I basically shadowed my host father around the compound and the fields with his work. During my first week there I helped bring in the ground-nut hay for the horses and donkeys (by hand), I helped herd the cows around a bit, and helped build a new fenced in area for the horses. Each day is basically working around from breakfast to lunch, and then after lunch it is too hot to work, so we sit around and chat, relax, (and I prefer to read.) That took me through the first few weeks in village.

That took me right into the Christmas holidays! I was able to get together with about 10 other Peace Corps volunteers for a few days where we decorated a Christmas tree, built a fire pit for cooking and for fun, and listened to Christmas music. We basically hung out for a few days just laughing and catching up on what other people's experiences had been like for the first few weeks. People seem to be doing well!

On Christmas day we made pancakes for breakfast, went out for lunch that day, and then made various kinds of pasta and sauces for dinner later that night. Needless to say, we did NOT go hungry, and had a great time spending those few days together trying to bring our American traditions to the Gambia!

These past few weeks since Christmas have been a bit more of the same. For example, I wake up around 5:30 when the call to prayer goes off at the mosque, have breakfast with the family around 8, work around the compound and various field work with my host father, and then spend the afternoon relaxing in the shade (usually reading.) Actually, I have already read 5 books in the time I have been at village...a bit more than a book a week. I'm pretty stoked about getting to finally read so many of the classics and novels I've never had time to read.

This is the dry season, so the work load is pretty low since the fields are finished and the animals are now just grazing. So instead of working in the fields, I helped my host father build a few fences out of coos stocks around some yards, we fixed up some cementing work that needed done, we built a new fence for the garden, and we built an area for the donkeys and horses to use for shade. All in all, we find stuff to do.

Honestly, some days the time feels like it is kind of crawling by, especially since it recently dawned on me that two years is, in fact, a significant length of time. But I also know the closer it gets to the rainy season the more the work will pick up, and the faster the days will fly by. So with that in mind, I enjoy each day to just keep working on my language, to sit and chat with my host family members, shell ground-nuts with my host grandmother, wander the village and answer questions about life as a "toubab," and to have full and free afternoons for reading and relaxing in gorgeous temperatures!

Now I am in Basse with a few of my friends to do banking and enjoy a few days break from the village. It's quite fascinating to see towns like Basse and Georgetown, towns that used to be fully-fledged British colonial posts with good running water, street lights and the brinks of electricity...and now there just isn't.

It is always fun to get away and spend a few days with friends, like at Christmas and again this weekend, but it is also always good to get back to site and see how excited my host family is when I return. I am truly blessed with a great host family that makes me feel very welcome, comfortable and safe. I couldn't ask for a better post for myself.

It's crazy that when I'm in village I always think of so much I would like to share and tell you about, but when I actually sit in front of a computer screen my mind goes blank and I struggle to know what to fill you in on.

And with that, I'm about to run out of time at the internet cafe computer, so thank you all for the Christmas wishes, packages and letters. They are all GREATLY appreciated!!

I pray you are doing well, and until next time, I wish you the best!