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 🙂
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.