It’s been a long time since I wrote my last blog post. Now, it’s COS (Close-of-Service) time. I have my COS Conference this week, and will be leaving The Gambia in August. I was sorting through old pictures and videos from the past 2 years, and I started feeling nostalgic. To commemorate COS Conference week, I made this little video. The beginning are clips of my cohort from when we first arrived in country, but later videos include all the other PCVs in The Gambia. Enjoy!
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!
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 🙂
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!
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.
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.
Tonight… Christmas Eve… PCV friends and I made spaghetti, veggies, fruit salad, and more… and had some cookies, peppermint white chocolate, candy canes, and hot chocolate while watching Love Actually… Merry Christmas from The Gambia!!!
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
I’ve been showing my host family episodes of Human Planet on my laptop… to teach them a little about geography and expose them to other cultures and peoples of the world. Tonight, we watched an episode on Deserts. The episode showed people from both Mali and Niger, and it turns out that the people they were highlighting were Fula people… and I was able to understand some what they were saying despite being a different dialect of the Fula language that I know. My host family understood them perfectly! It was so cool being able to listen and understand an African language on a TV show 🙂 Totally something that I wasn’t expecting.
Sunday, December 1st. I was in Kombo after a week of meetings and also celebrating Thanksgiving with other Peace Corps volunteers. I took the 8am express bus heading east to Soma (that bus, by the way, fills up by 7:15am and its like a Black Friday Sale every time you try to board it). My counterpart for the HIV/AIDS Bike Trek was in Soma for the World AIDS Day celebration. He works for the National AIDS Secretariat, and he invited me to check out the event. After 3 hours on the bus, I arrived in Soma just as the World AIDS Day parade was about to get started. Not only did I find my counterpart at the event, several other Peace Corps volunteers and trainees were on hand. One volunteer was part of the parade. She lives near Soma and works with many health organizations nearby. The other volunteers and trainees just so happened to be in Soma that day, not realizing there was an event going on. It was a lot of fun getting to hang out with the PCVs/PCTs at this event, and also listening to the HIV/AIDS talks at the event. My project, the HIV/AIDS Bike Trek, wrapped up just 2 weeks ago. In the project 30 PCVs biked to 4 villages teaching grade 7-11 students about HIV/AIDS and ways to speak out against stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS. Overall, these last few weeks have been a good 2 weeks in terms of HIV/AIDS awareness and learning.
Note: More info on the HIV/AIDS Bike Trek in a later post.