Friday, April 13, 2012

Hello Banjul!

We (18 trainees and various Peace Corps volunteers and staff) began the drive from Thies, Senegal to Banjul, The Gambia on Wednesday morning at 6 AM (I don't know how this miracle of punctuality occured- It was actually 5:57 when we left). Our embarassingly large convoy consisted of 2 buses, a trucks full of baggage and a Land Cruiser. We all arrived in Banjul at around 5pm. The trip was OK (except for fellow trainees who felt ill the whole day) and we even had enough CFA left (Senegalese currency) to buy a few snacks along the way and share them amongst ourselves. Including some excellent egg sandwiches with hot pepper sauce.

Many people in our group will agree, that although we really miss the trainees from Senegal who we've lived and learned with for the past month and a half, we are really excited to be in The Gambia! It is excellent so far - the beach is very nice, the Banjul transit house is deluxe (there's a fridge and a shower!), there are about 7 bookcases filled with books for volunteers and most signs here are in English as opposed to French. This last point is significant considering that we spent the previous month guessing what things said along the street (and what people said). Community members here keep greeting us in English and we find ourselves surprised and confused, like it's all a dream.

Last evening we were invited by a Peace Corps employee to a cultural event with drumming and dancing. Here are a couple of photos from the event:

Mystical Dancers

Samantha and Colette with dancers

Tomorrow morning we head to our training village to stay with host families and continue practicing the Mandinka language. We'll only be with them for about 2 weeks, but hopefully we can learn a lot and enjoy our time there. Everyone keeps emphasizing that training villages are different here than what we experienced in Senegal  - they are smaller, more rural and do not have electricity. They also involve having our own pit latrine, whereas in Senegal it was very much the norm for Peace Corps trainees to share one pit latrine and one bathing area with upwards of at least 25 people. We also get our own bicycles to visit other trainees when we have free time. We are going to feel very spoiled in this respect!

Until next time...

~ Colette & Darrin  (Maamaa & Kawsu) ~

The road through our eventual home of Bwiam

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Got our permanent site assignment today and will be headed to The Gambia for more training at 6 AM tomorrow! Our permanent site is in the southwestern part of the country, the village of Bwiam:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

We are here only.

We left Mbour yesterday morning and are back at the Peace Corps Training Center in Thies with mixed emotions. On one hand, it was very sad to say goodbye to our Senegalese host family, whom we were just beginning to feel very close to. On the other hand, we Gambian volunteers are excited to move to the Gambia next week and begin the second phase of our training.

Not long after arriving back at the center we did our first language proficiency interviews in Mandinka. I am both exited about how much we have learned in the past month and intimidated by the amount of things we don't know. However, Darrin and I were both able to greet the interviewer somewhat extensively and answer personal questions that she asked, which is far more than we could do before our time in Mbour.

For those readers who are not familiar with the greetings and common expressions used in many West African languages (Mandinka included), I will translate some of my favorites:
"I hope there is no trouble."/"There is no trouble."
"Are you at peace?"/"Peace only."
"How is your family?"/"They are there."
"How is your mother?"/"She is there."
"How are your children?"/"They are all there."
"How is the work?"/"The work is there only."  OR "I am on it, slowly slowly."
"How is the morning?"/"The morning is here only."
"You are sitting."/"Yes, I am sitting."

Mbour family!

Us girls and some girl who was getting her hair braided by my sister

Caoussou and Caoussou

Our room in Mbour