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.
It’s groundnut season here in the Gambia (in the US and many other parts of the world, groundnuts are better known as peanuts). You can find them everywhere here… sold at the street corners, kids munching on them while walking around the village and town, farmers harvesting them, they’re even littered on the floor of my high school computer lab (Rule #1… No Food in the Computer Lab! Damn those disobeying students!)…
One day at home, I was sitting around in the evening and my host dad decides that he wanted some groundnuts to munch on. He had a bush of harvested nuts just sitting around from the farm, and he decided to roast them. I knew people sometimes roasted groundnuts by burning them over a fire, but I had never seen it done before. (I’ve been here for over a year, and my family never burned groundnuts last year… they just ate them raw all the time.) So my host dad just takes the bush of picked nuts, then lights them on fire with a match… and well… the result was some very yummy roasted groundnuts.
I’ve been eating lots of freshly roasted groundnuts ever since. Last week, I even went to the groundnut farm and helped with some of the harvesting. The groundnut plant was already pulled from the soil, and they were all piled up in the middle of the farm. The next step in the harvesting process is to separate the nuts from the roots. To do that, you have these 2 long sticks with a hook on one end. You take these sticks and you just hit the bundles of roots to separate the nuts. It’s easy to do at first, but when you add in the hot sun, dust, dirt, and the constant banging vibrations on your hands and wrists from hitting the groundnut plant, and it can get very tiring and make your hands very sore. Nonetheless, going to the farm with my host father and learning to thresh the nuts was a really nice bonding moment.
In the Pulaar language, the process of threshing the nuts is called baccugol (pronounced “baa-chu-gol”).
Check out the video and pictures roasting groundnuts over a flame:
Quite the travel day today: Jumped on a gelli gelli (a public transport van here in The Gambia, capable of holding up to about 30 passengers) with 2 other volunteers. Before it pulls out of the parking garage, the engine starts revving very hard and doesn’t stop. The noise gets louder and louder. Smoke starts coming from the engine, and the driver can’t turn it off. Everyone is told to get out fast, and people panic trying to get out of the gelli. Mothers toss their babies out the window to other passengers outside. I’m jumping over seats to get out. Thankfully, the gelli didn’t explode, but the chaos that it caused felt like that it just could have… OH, then we get back on the gelli and continue on our trip… then it dies and breaks down completely, and we have to hop on another gelli. Made it to the Peace Corps house safely… THANK GOD!!!
On a sad (and ironic) note, I found out recently that a Peace Corps volunteer died in Uganda due to an automobile accident (link below). Also, in Ghana, another volunteer died recently due to health issues… I think an unknown illness (link below). My heart and condolences goes out to the family and friends of these fellow PCVs!!!
I’ve decided that I want to start posting more pictures of the Gambia – images of the country, it’s people, daily life in the towns and villages – but I’m not trying to make this a photo blog… well, maybe I am, kinda, a little. Anyway, for now, here are pictures taken last Sept (or was it last Oct) of Janjanbureh, also known as Georgetown, also known as MacCarthy Island. People loved changing its name over the years.