Happy Birthday to My Niece and Nephew!!!

One of the hardships that I face living in Africa is being away from my family.  March is especially hard because it’s the birthday month for both my niece and nephew.  Every year, my sister and brother-in-law throw a large party with family and friends to celebrate both kids’ birthdays.  (I know when they get older, though, the kids will probably want their own birthdays celebrated separately, but for now since they’re still young, everyone comes together for a big combined Happy Birthday extravaganza.)  This year, I put together a little Happy Birthday video with the help of my Peace Corps The Gambia friends and some Gambian children.  Enjoy!

Happy Birthday Megan and Cameron!  Uncle Ryan misses you!

Gambian wedding ceremonies…

A little information about Gambian wedding ceremonies:

Gambian wedding ceremonies last 3 days. Tonight, there are 2 wedding ceremonies going on in my village, and it’s the 1st day of each of the ceremonies. During one wedding, it’s the groom that is getting married to a girl in another village. His ceremony tonight was quick because he had to be driven to the bride’s village to stay the night there. Tomorrow, he returns with his bride, and my village celebrates. In the other ceremony this evening, it’s the bride that is getting married. Her groom is going to be arriving from his village to spend the night here, and my village celebrates tonight. Tomorrow, she is taken to his village, and they celebrate there.

Next week, there is going to be another wedding ceremony, and the following week, another one again. So in total, 4 wedding ceremonies in 3 week’s time. March is gonna be a month of little sleep, since wedding ceremonies also include loud blaring music that lasts till 6am. At least this evening, I got to eat 4 dinners :)

Photo Contest…

I entered another photo contest by See.Me!  This one is called “Exposure: A Competition Celebrating the Power of the Image.”  I entered the same photo contest last year, and though I didn’t win anything (or even go far), 3 of my photos were later chosen to be part of a different photo exhibit in NYC.  I entered the photo contest again this year, and hopefully I get a little better results… maybe even win something (*crossing fingers*)…

Check out the website for my photos.  Please VOTE for me!  Voting is free!

https://xtremenergy.see.me/exposure2014

Please vote for me! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!

Oh… and also… please share this link on your FB, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc…

Goat on Roof…

I don’t know how the hell this happened, but when I woke up this morning and stepped out of my house, I saw a GOAT on the roof of my neighbor’s house.

Seriously, how does a goat get on a roof?  And it wasn’t a mountain goat we’re talking about here… just a regular, annoying, eating-every-plant-in-sight goat.

Needless to say, my host mother and I were just staring for several minutes.

Vagabond Eyes

I kinda took a break from writing in this blog during the last month.  I still intend to keep writing and updating friends, family, and the WordPress community about what’s been going on in my life, but in the meantime, I started up a new blog… a photo blog to post random pictures I’ve taken over the years.  They’re geared more at photos that I’ve taken while traveling.

The new blog is titled Vagabond Eyes, and you can find it here:  vagabondeyes.wordpress.com.

Come and visit, like it, follow it… I’m going to continue posting pictures there on a regular basis, and any feedback, comments, tips, and advice (either about photography or photoblogging) are greatly welcome!!!  I really want to improve my photography and be able to showcase them in a tasteful way online.

HIV/AIDS Bike Trek quick recap…

From Nov 17 to Nov 21, 30 Peace Corps volunteers biked to 4 villages in the North Bank and Central River Regions of the Gambia in a Peace Corps event known as the HIV/AIDS Bike Trek.  Partnering with the National AIDS Secretariat (NAS), the Agency for the Development of Women and Children (ADWAC), and local Gambian students, teachers, and village community members, PCVs taught grade 8 and 9 students about HIV and AIDS in Njawara (NBR), Njaba Kunda (NBR), Panchang (CRR), and Kaur (CRR).  Started in 2010, this annual event focuses on increasing students’ knowledge of HIV and AIDS and strengthening their public outreach skills so that they can have an impact on the fight against stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS.  By educating Gambian youths before they become sexually active, this project also hopes to reduce new infections rates and prevent HIV/AIDS from becoming a national epidemic.  Over the course of the trek, the project reached over 500 students, but by having many volunteers present and staying in these 4 villages for several days, entire communities and schools were sensitized about HIV/AIDS.

I was in charge of the NBR team, and another PCV was in charge of the CRR team.  Aside from just lecturing about HIV/AIDS, there were many games, skits/dramas, singing, and dancing during the trek.

There are hundreds of photos and videos to still sort through, but here’s a taste.  Below are photos from the NBR team.

For more information on the bike trek, check out the Facebook website:  https://www.facebook.com/HivBikeTrekPCTG