Saalaamalekum…

Saalaamalekum.  I’m in the Gambia.  I arrived in the country last Thursday, June 28th.  It was quite a trip: Los Angeles to San Francisco to Philadelphia to New York to Brussels (Belgium) to Freetown (Sierra Leone) to Banjul (The Gambia).  I was in Philly for 2 days for Staging (aka Orientation).  It was great finally meeting the rest of the Peace Corps The Gambia invitees.  After we turned in our registration paperwork in Philly, we officially became Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs).  Yay!

I love being in the Gambia with such a great group of people!  The fellow trainees are so nice and friendly.  We’re a small group… only 17 total, but everyone is very welcoming and open, and a few just crack me up with their jokes and sarcasm.  I think I found a great family here.  I mean, I’ve only known them for a couple days, but everyone’s already watching everyone else’s back.

I don’t really know where to begin in trying to describe the Peace Corps The Gambia experience. The first thing you notice about the country when you step off the plane is the heat.  It’s just damn hot here.  And humid!  You feel sticky all the time, but it’s something that you just get used to.  The Peace Corps host country nationals are very nice.  They smile a lot and joke a lot, and are very encouraging.  They do their best to make us all feel comfortable and at home. Depending on where I’m at, either at the Peace Corps house or the village resort where we do some of our training, electricity can be constant or very sporadic.  Same goes for running faucet water.  Internet is only available at the Peace Corps office and house, but none at the resort.  The food is excellent in The Gambia.  I’ve enjoyed every meal so far, and there hasn’t been anything that I didn’t want to eat.  The Peace Corps also provides us with lots of food, so we don’t go hungry at all.  Gambian food tastes very much like Filipino food.

For the past several days, we were learning greetings and leave taking phrases in 3 of the main Gambian languages: Mandinka, Wolof, and Pulaar.  Yesterday, we finally got assigned our language, as well as our training village.  I was assigned Pulaar.  I’m quite happy with the language I was assigned, but I wish there were more people in our cohort that was learning the same language.  Only 3 of us are learning Pulaar, and the majority are learning Mandinka and Wolof.

Tomorrow, we head out to visit schools to shadow.  We will be talking to the headteacher and looking at the facilities.  I’m a bit nervous, but we’ll see how things go.  We were informed about the Gambia school system, but I still don’t really know what to expect.  I hope I don’t get overwhelmed.

Haa yeeso!  (“Till later” in Pulaar)

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