Today was Easter… not a huge holiday here in The Gambia, but still a holiday observed by many in the country. I didn’t have any Easter Eggs or any real Easter-related decorations, so instead, I made colorful paper origami cranes and gave them out to kids in my village… along with some “minties” (aka candies). It was a hit! 🙂 Although, many kids were sad when I ran out of candy…
Today, I ate dinner with the US Ambassador, his wife, and a few other Embassy staff. I had eaten with the Ambassador a few times in the past, so meeting with him was not something new. Overall, it was a fun and interesting night.
At 6pm, the whole Embassy entourage arrived at my school. It turns out that the Ambassador’s wife was sponsoring one of the girls (a grade 10 girl) and she wanted to visit the girl at school. They arrived – I was teaching class at the time – they did their thing, then they called me to tell me that they were about to go. Class was just about to end, so I left my students a few minutes early and headed out with the Embassy folks.
I didn’t know where we were going. I knew dinner was at the hospital, but we were heading in the opposite direction. We drove off… slowly slowly… not sure why we were going so slow, but I assume it was for security reasons that they carefully drove at a crawl. And we were heading to the border!!! I was a bit concerned. Were we going into Senegal? I didn’t have my passport. Hell, I left my PC ID in my wallet at school in my backpack. Uh oh. Well, on the bright side, I was with the Ambassador, so if there were any illegal border crossing issues, I was with the right company to help me out of the bind. We finally reached the border, and it turns out that the Ambassador’s wife wanted to take pictures of the border crossing. Relief! Thank goodness. I stopped worrying and I enjoyed the rest of the little excursion. I hadn’t gone to the border myself, so it was interesting seeing it for the first time (from a slight distance).
Next off, the radio station (le sigh… still no dinner). The Ambassador was making an appearance at the local radio station in town. I was excited to be able to tag along. I had never been to the radio station. Come to think about it, I had never been to ANY radio station ever! Not even in the US. This was a treat. The talk show started and the Ambassador and his wife were answering questions from the DJ and from people who called into the station. It was short, just 30 minutes or so. Discussion topics ranged from education, to women’s/girls’ empowerment, to health and sanitation, to computers and technology. When the topic hit computers, automatically, I was worried that the mic would head my direction. And low and behold… it did! The Ambassador was discussing education and technology, and how Peace Corps has been involved in both. Then he pointed out the fact that the town had a Peace Corps volunteer (yours truly!) working at the high school and hospital doing computer education/teaching. So the mic comes to my face… I introduce myself, and I talk briefly about my work. I had my 1-2 minutes of fame in the Gambia! It came, and it went. Thank goodness it ended quickly. I’m not much of a person who likes that much attention, much less the spotlight. But it was fun being able to talk and know that my voice was being broadcast all over the area.
After the radio interview, we finally head over to the hospital and have dinner at their reception area. Chicken Yassa! So good! It was a very tasty treat, and it was worth the wait. The Ambassador and staff and I chatted the rest of the night about various things: travel, food, the US, home, etc. Thus ends my evening with the Ambassador. It’s always a pleasure being invited and spending time with the Embassy crowd. I hope I continue to have more positive encounters with the Ambassador and the Embassy in the future.
Over the weekend, I had some free time on my hands. I had learned about the Harlem Shake viral vid on YouTube just recently, and so I figured, “Hey, why don’t I make my own? It’s simple enough.” And so, I did. I rounded up a bunch of kids from my village and told them that I wanted to videotape them dancing. They already love being the subject of photographs (they always run up to me and say “Photo me, photo me!”), so being in a video was just as fun and entertaining. I got my friend/neighbor to help me and together, we got the kids to jump up and down to some Gambian pop music. I also filmed myself and a few kids doing the helmet-head-bobbing part. Afterwards, I just took the clips, stitched them together, and added the Harlem Shake music track to the background. And that, my friends, was my Sunday morning last weekend.
Hope you enjoy my video: