Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another Update from Gambia

Hey Avid Readers

I have another bit of an update to share from Gambia.

As I have now been in Kombo for the past 10 days working on getting medical clearance for my extension to Jordan, the medical office has come across a few "snags" that are going to require me to see some specialists back in the States. It's nothing serious, but serious enough that the PC medical office wants it to be "resolved" before I begin my extension to Jordan. In order to not risk NOT going to Jordan, they prefer for me to come back to the States to get it resolved as soon as possible.

This means that after hanging out in Kombo for the past week and a half, I will FINALLY be going back to Chargel tomorrow, where I can spend my last few days hanging out with the village that has become my Gambian family, and Khiva.

Peace Corps will pick me up from Chargel in a few days and bring me back to Kombo where I will finish out some last-minute paper work and such. Then I will be on my way back!

This isn't exactly what one plans for or prepares for, but I'm glad to know that this will get taken care of sooner than later and not hold up my ability to extend. could say this has been a bit of a full week, with tests, more tests, and emotional ups and downs. But I'm glad to have some clarity of what is going to happen next. I guess, when it comes down to it, it would be a disservice to my time in Gambia to not use this time to appreciate some of the lessons I have learned here...such as taking each day as it is, one day at a time. And to appreciate how close I have become with my friends in Chargel. I guess, in the end, it's bitter sweet that it will be so hard to leave this place that has become my home.

You can be looking forward to one final blog entry from Gambia next week when I am back in town...and on my way out.

Until then, I wish you only the best!

Monday, July 27, 2009

And The Weeks Are Counting Down

Hey Everyone!

Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to get to host my aunt, uncle and cousin through what has become my life...this Gambian Peace Corps experience.

Call me lazy, but I've decided that instead of running you through a day-by-day of our adventures through Gambia, I will instead conveniently refer you to my aunt's blog...where she has already put together a day-by-day journal- with pictures!

Check it out at

Some of the main highlights for me include:

When we went sight-see along the river, including spotting various kinds of monkeys, baboon families, tons of birds and even a hippo!

Their reactions to the heat that has become normal to me, and the humidity levels that tend to reach beyond natural.

Their comfort level in Chargel was a great comfort to me. Even though Chargel has become home to me, it's still a totally different world from the one I left behind.

I enjoyed them getting to experience the food, transportation issues, some cultural anomalies and the beautiful scenery.

But most of all I'm very thankful they were able to meet my family here, Ceesay Kunda, and my dog, Khiva.

I am fortunate to have made such a close connection with my host family here in Gambia, and it was exciting for me to get to introduce them to some of my family from the States. They were more than thrilled and did all they could to try to keep my visiting family happy, comfortable, entertained, rested, and well fed. I can't speak for my family's experience, but I know they ate well...before the chicken foot or the fish head in the food bowl decreased their appetites.

But, as you have had more than a year of my opinions and outlooks on Gambia, I'm excited for you to check out Marcia's blog and see my life here through a new lens.

What is weird for me now is that having family come visit was the last big "event" to check off my list of things to do before my service here comes to an end. After dropping my family off in Dakar and getting back to Gambia, I began my medical clearance for "close of service" from Gambia, and I am now working on my "Description of Service," which is basically like a detailed resume specific to just my activities, trainings and projects I have done here. (as in a past-tense experience)

With little less than 6 weeks left, my daunting outlook on years of service have quickly turned into months, and the months into weeks. All-too-soon the weeks will be days, and I will soon be on my way back across the big pond. Until then I look forward to living it up as much as one can with my friends in Chargel, and cherishing every passing day to its fullest. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I don't intend to let it slip away.

That said, on a personal note I am also starting to experience a mini roller-coaster of emotions. Not wanting to say goodbye to my family and friends in Chargel, yet excited to see my family and friends in the States. Ending my service here a bit earlier than was planned, yet thrilled at the opportunity to extend to Jordan.

All in all, life really is an experience full of changes, challenges and opportunities, and I suppose it's how we take on those events that determines the next changes, challenges and opportunities we encounter. That said, I hope to finish out my service here on the highest note possible, and then continue to just take my post-Gambian life one day at a time.

I can't thank my family and friends enough for all of the support and encouragement I have received during my time here, and I'm excited to see you all again soon.

Until next time...I'm headed out to Chargel.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hey Everyone!

Wow… where to even begin…
It's been a while since my last updates, but my life and experiences here continue to go well, Khiva is fine, the weather remains hot, and... THE RAINS HAVE COME!!!

It's such a relief to enjoy the coming of the rainy season. As nice as it is to have the same, predictable weather every day for 8 months (HOT and dry), a little variety is nice. And watching the clouds roll in is nothing short of gorgeous. I must say I never really took the time in the States to see if storm clouds roll in like they do here, but I encourage you to check it out some time.

This past week we had our Annual Peace Corps All-Volunteer Conference for Gambia. We had a good 4 days of meetings, seminars and small group discussions, as well as an open-mic night to celebrate the 4th of July. It was a fun and productive time!

All the volunteers from my region of Gambia had matching overalls made. It was pretty rediculous. And you won't find any PICTURES of ME wearing them.

Celebrating the 4th of July outside the US is truly a unique experience, as the general atmosphere isn't quite as excited as those of us celebrating the holiday, but it's still great to be able to celebrate the freedoms and privelages we have (and often take for granted) in our country.

Back in Chargel life has been good. As the rains have come, its back to work in the fields. Millet, corn, rice, peanuts and gardens are all well under way.

The entire mood of the village changes the day of the first rains, as the whole "hurry up and wait" aspect of prepping for planting finally comes to an end. It's a nice change of pace!

But it's kind of weird to be a part of the planting knowing that I won't be a part of the harvesting, but it's still fun and exciting to be a part of the planting process.

When not in the fields I've been "busy" hanging out with friends, spending time with my host family and just enjoying being a part of the community of Chargel. As time continues to tick away I truly appreciate this experience and the relationships with my friends here exponentially more every day.

And with that, I'm more than excited that my aunt, uncle and cousin are coming to visit in less than 48 hours! I'm so excited to get to introduce them to the true way of life for the Fula and Mandinka people here in West Africa, as well as the many great friends who have made such an impact on my life and life-outlook.

I'm sure they will have great stories to share of the food, transportation, weather, and scenery. But more-so, I'm excited for them to get to share with you, from a different perspective, how incredibly hospitable, welcoming and comfortable the people of Chargel truly are. The amazing time they are about to have is truly a testament to how great of a village I live in.

So, with that, you can be looking forward to more blog posts and tons of more pictures at the end of the month.

Until then, I hope you are doing well and enjoyed a great 4th of July holiday with family and friends!