Life in a training village… done…

It’s 11:30pm.  It’s my last night in training village as a trainee.  I just got bitten by a mutumutu (aka sandflies, aka no-see-um)… damn those bloodthirsty bugs.  Tonight, I had Attaya with my host father for the last time.  It was bittersweet.  My dad brewing the Attaya… adding the cup of sugar… watching the kettle boil… pouring the tea in to the glass from up high so it can make some foam.  The funny thing is, at one point, he took out his phone and played music.  Some Gambian Wolof songs, but then, all of a sudden, Justin Beiber!  “Baby Baby Baby Oohhhh!”  And my dad says, “It is nice” to describe the song.  Hilarious moment.  Attaya, my host dad, and the Beiber!  Can it get any stranger?  Welcome to the Gambia.  I’m too lazy to recap everything that has happened these past few weeks in detail, so let me just note some bullet highlights:

  • After Model School Week (aka Diarrhea week), people were still very sick the following weekend, so our scheduled trip to Janjanbureh and the River Boat cruise and trip to the Gambian College was cancelled.  (Quick recap… during Model School week when we were teaching at a Gambian school as part of our training, about half of the trainees, including myself, had fevers and bouts of diarrhea.  I was diagnosed with amoebic dysentery and had to take several antibiotics for several days.)  Instead, we had a day at the transit house to chill and relax.  Most of us ended up going to a restaurant right next to the beach, and we had a nice beach afternoon.  It was nice, very chill.

  • Oh, and I did some shopping at Walmart in the afternoon as well.  Turns out this random small hole-in-the-wall store sells food and other items from Walmart.  Maybe they have some random partnership or something, but the store doesn’t have a Walmart sign or logo.  Although, they use Walmart Shopping/Grocery bags.
  • Ramadan ended recently, but a few days prior to it’s end, the village slaughtered a cow to mark the 26th day of Ramadan.  I had never seen a cow get slaughtered before, and they killed it right outside my teaching instructor’s compound.  It was gruesome to see, and very graphic.  I was intrigued at the whole thing, but also a bit speechless.  Watching it die, it was a weird feeling; it was as if I could feel its soul leaving its body.  I felt a little sad.  (Warning: graphic photos of the cow slaughtering below.)

  • Last Friday, August 17th, was Marathon March, a 20km hike through the Gambian bush.  We hiked through mangrove forests/swamps, walked through rice patties and salt flats, waded through knee-high and also waist-high levels of water, and I got my legs stuck in gross mud multiple times.  I was a very long day.  We started at approximately 8am, and we didn’t end until about 7pm.  It was also raining on and off throughout the day, so aside from water at our legs, water was coming at us from above as well.  We smelled!  We smelled really bad!  I wish I was wearing clothes from the free pile, but nope, I was stupid and wearing my own clothes.  I washed my clothes and shoes this week, soaking them for hours.  They still stink.  All-in-all, though, Marathon March was an experience.  Not something I would want to do again, but I’m glad I did it, and I’m glad it is over.  We survived.  And I got some really good pictures too!

  • Also during the weekend of Marathon March, it was raining very badly at the training villages.  It turns out that at one of the villages, several trainees had their host family houses destroyed.  It was very sad and unfortunate.  My heart goes out to all the families.  But they’re strong and the village has been helping the families out.  Gambians are resilient people, and they know how to lend a helping hand.  These people amaze me!
  • I’ve been listening to my iPod a lot lately, especially to David Guetta songs, and songs in my “Fun” playlist (e.g. M83, Katy Perry, LMFAO, One Republic, Nikki Minaj, etc etc).  Listening to those songs made me miss LA, miss home, miss my friends and family, miss all that there is in California.  And I’ve been craving Mexican food lately.  I was describing to my language instructor what guacamole was and how to make it.  Damn I miss Mexican food a lot!  I also realized I need some new music.
  • I’m also extremely excited for this Sunday.  Several of us are going to go to a resort and spa to treat ourselves to a little spa and pool day.  I signed up for a facial and body scrub.  I want to feel clean and refreshed before swear-in next week!  Super excited!
  • Today, we had to do our Gender and Development TDA.  We had to shadow a Gambian of the opposite sex and help with their chores and duties.  I shadowed my aunt, my mom, and my little sisters.  I tried to help sweep the compound with my aunt, but she wouldn’t let me.  She said it wasn’t a man’s role to sweep the compound.  That took me by surprise, but I respected her wishes and I just swept my own room and my own porch.  I then went to fetch water with my host mother and sisters.  My host mother went to the farm to do some weeding, but she didn’t want me to go with her because I never farmed before (and I think she didn’t want to take time to teach me).  Instead, I hung around the compound, went to the market with my sister to buy vegetables and food, and I helped my aunt and sisters cook lunch.  I got some firewood, helped start the fire, helped wash some plates and bowls, pounded some of the veggies with a mortar and pestle, etc etc.
  • Last, but not least, I said goodbye to my first host family this afternoon (I had moved houses, so I technically had 2 host families during this training period).  I bought them some Attaya and sugar when I came to say goodbye.  I told them I wanted to take pictures, and a funny thing happened.  They all went inside to change into their Sunday best outfits.  It was hilarious.  I took several photos of them and with them, and they enjoyed it a lot.  It was another bittersweet moment today.  I’m gonna miss them, but hopefully, I’ll be able to come visit.  Or they can visit me at my new site.  Tomorrow, I’m going to say goodbye to my 2nd host family.  I bought them Attaya as well, but I also have some stickers to give out to the kids.  I hope they like it.