Merry Christmas from The Gambia…

Merry Christmas everyone! Tonight was a nice evening. Na welli no beta! At 7pm, a number of us went to the US Ambassador’s residence and had dinner in their backyard. Turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, tomatoes… add in some desserts and coffee. It was almost like another Thanksgiving dinner!

Afterwards, Adelle, Kelsey, Hannah, and I decided to venture off to Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Bakau to listen to some Christmas carols and attend midnight Mass. It’s a small church right by the car park in Bakau, and very close to the fish markets. You can literally smell the fish lingering in the air. And it’s right by the water.

The carols were interesting. The choir sang songs in English as well as Wolof. When Mass started, the Irish priest (who knew how to speak Wolof by the way) did the regular Mass prayers… the standing and sitting and so forth. What made the service interesting, however, was the Wolof songs and music. (Now if they were English Christmas songs just translated into Wolof, I don’t know.) Throw in drum beats and other traditional instruments into the mix, and you have a recipe for a very unique African Christmas experience. They were definitely very cool to listen too. If you’ve ever watched the movie Power of One (it was originally a book by Bryce Courtenay) and listened to some of the songs in the movie and soundtrack, then you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

Tonight’s songs were just powerful. Plus, throw in the fact that it’s Christmas, it made me feel very good and happy inside.

Merry Christmas y’all…

Christmas Polvoron…

Tonight, I made Filipino polvoron for the first time. What is polvoron, you ask? The word polvoron is a Spanish word meaning powder or dust. In the Philippines, polvoron is soft and crumbly shortbread candy made of flour, sugar, milk powder, and butter. It was pretty easy to make. I just found a recipe online, and all the ingredients are easily accessible here in The Gambia.

Ingredients:
– 2 cups all purpose flour (sifted)
– 1 cup milk powder
– 1 cup granulated sugar
– 1 cup softened butter

Procedures:
– Put the flour into a pan or wok, and toast the flour over medium heat.
– Stir until slightly golden.
– Transfer the toasted flour into a mixing bowl and let the flour cool for 15-20 minutes.
– Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and mix well. Using hands works best.
– Either using a polvoron mold or cookie cutter, or your bare hands, shape the buttery flour mixture into cookies.
– Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Since it’s Christmas, I also added in some red and green food coloring to make it a little more festive.

It was fun to make, and when I shared it with the rest of the Peace Corps peeps, they loved it. I’m probably gonna make more tomorrow or on Christmas Eve (since half of it has already been eaten).

Cheers!

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Ardo and Mexican food…

I’ve been very lazy to write a long blog post about what’s been happening during my first 3 months at site… also known as our “3-Month Challenge.” I’ll try my best to detail all the things that have been going on… but NOT today 🙂 For now, I’m going to indulge and talk about Ardo and Mexican food!

So what is Ardo?

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When my friend back in the US looked it up on Google, one of the first things that came up was about breastfeeding. No! Ardo is not something related to breastfeeding. Ardo is a yogurt made in Senegal. Its found mainly in West Africa – in Senegal, The Gambia, and I think Guinea and Guinea Bissau. It is DELICIOUS! I highly recommend grabbing some if you go to any of these countries. You won’t regret it.

So anyway, today, my friend knew the Ardo owner and she introduced several of us (PCVs) to him. He’s a nice old Lebanese man from Senegal, but he currently lives in the United States with his family. He’s been back in the Gambia to look over the business, and we got a chance to check out the Ardo warehouse in Kombo. He gave us bags of Ardo… LOTS of it! Vanilla Ardo… Ardo with Millet (aka chakary)… Ardo with fruit… small bags of Ardo… large tubs of Ardo… Ardo GALORE!

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Then he took us out to eat dinner at a Mexican Restaurant called “El Sol” in the Village. Tonight, I ate something with CHEESE! I was so happy. Cheese dishes are hard to come by here in the Gambia, and they are usually very expensive. We had appetizers (nachos, bbq chicken, and some potato dish), then I shared 2 entrees with a friend (shrimp and beef enchiladas and chicken quesadillas). Everyone was stuffed, but I still had room to eat, so I ended up finishing off my friend’s plate as well as the Ardo owner’s plate. On to dessert! We had ice cream, nutella crepes, and chocolate cake. It was DELISH! Good lord, I hadn’t eaten like that in ages! It felt like I was back in the US! I am stuffed!

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Twas a good night!

Thank you Mr. Ardo! You are one awesome person!

Random Moment of the Day #5

RANDOM MOMENT OF THE DAY:  I was coming back from the water pump with my 20L container of water (which I end up having to fetch every day or so) and all of a sudden, a herd of cattle appeared in front of my path.  One bull, kinda confused as to which direction I was walking, came up to me, and it’s horns was as close as a foot from my face.  Any closer and I’d have horns on MY head.  A very close call!