Sunday, July 29, 2012


I had the opportunity to weigh myself the other day and realized I had lost 20 pounds since coming here! And it's not because I am starving myself or because I've been sick (I haven't been sick at all except for one time during training - and, for the record, I eat and drink pretty much anything that's offered to me). I think it's the general lack of appealing snack foods and alcoholic beverages, more than anything else. I think this is a good thing!

A lot of people warned me before we left the U.S. that women tend to gain weight in places like West Africa because they eat so many carbs here. I have been thinking that those people are the type who ate nothing but salad in the U.S. Because I probably ate far more carbs in the form of drinks, tortilla chips, dessert foods and other things than I do now - and I eat plenty of rice here, I can assure you!

We have discovered some good things to make with our available food resources here. This is a recipe I made up:

Stuffed Peppers - Peace Corps Gambia

Green peppers (if they make a miraculous appearance at the market or you grow them)
Broken rice (from the bittik)
Beans or lentils
Adja (the red one)
Hot pepper
Shelf-stable cheesefood wedges (have to go to Kombo for these)

Cook rice and beans, mix with sauteed onions and Adja and some hot pepper
half and clean out peppers, stuff with rice mixture
put them in a frying pan with some water in the bottom, put a lid on it and cook until they are wrinkly on the outside and the filling is hot
put cheese wedges on top!


Friday, July 27, 2012


     This past week has been our first experience with Ramadan. Kawsu has committed to fasting on Fridays and I tried to fast most days this past week, but cheated a few times. I am noticing a whole different rhythym of life here when people are going without food and water for all 14 daylight hours. About mid-afternoon (or early afternoon, for me!) most people become very tired, rather quiet and, in my case, rather irritable. It's impressive that many continue to do farmwork and other hard labor all day long - especially when the sun is hot!
     When the time comes to break fast (about 7:30 PM) it is very exciting. Not just because you are extremely hungry and thirsty, but also because the foods our family has been making for this small meal are delicious! Instead of the usual rice and fish based fare, we've had things like chicken (hard to find around here unless you slaughter your own), potatoes (also rare to get at the market), pasta and shrimp.
     On a reflective note, I think it's a very good thing that we're having the experience of living in a country that's over 90% Muslim. The Muslim faith is misunderstood by so many people in the U.S. and it will be a valuable thing to address when we're sharing our stories with people stateside. When I have told people here that a small proportion of people in the U.S. are actually very prejudiced about and afraid of Muslims, they were shocked. And I had a very hard time explaining that although Americans are generally well-educated and nice people, some of them are closed minded.
Some photos from the past few weeks:

We spotted this taxi while stopped at a police checkpoint near Bwiam - overloaded vehicles are the norm here, but this one goes above and beyond!

Ceesay Mamie (our hen) trying to steal Takaa's food.

WFP food distribution

Dung beetles are HUGE!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The work is here only

So, this week Kawsu (Darrin) and I spent 5 days helping distribute rice and oil rations to farmers in 3 different districts which experienced crop failures and have been deemed food insecure. The World Food Program basically hired local NGOs to staff these distributions, which is great, but the learning curve is a little steep. How hard can it be? I initially thought, not realizing that managing all the data by hand (no electricity or computers in the field) would be insanely time consuming! Not to mention managing large crowds of people, many of whom have the same name (one small village had at least 6 guys with the exact same name - good thing we had ID numbers to compare and the village's alkalo to help sort them out (the alkalo is like the mayor - but here they usually know everyone). Not to mention the rations involved measuring fractions of kilograms of oil (which begs the question: who on earth would choose to measure oil in kilograms?). Both Kawsu and I were applauded for our superior math skills in being able to portion food and also to calculate stock losses at the end of the day. I don't think we have awesome skills though - it's just that we were working with many people who quite possibly hadn't done math since 6th grade or so. Or maybe they were never taught fractions? At any rate, after several 10 to 12 hour days, we were exhausted and glad to be done. The fun will start all over again next month, when more rations are distributed, but our teams will be more seasoned and ready to jump right in, so maybe it will feel less exhausting!

link to WFP's Gambia page, if anyone is curious:

Incidentally, one day when Kawsu's food distribution team was travelling to their distribution site in the back of a pick-up truck, the truck ran over a guinea fowl that had wandered into the road. They stopped and picked it up, then gave it to the alkalo's wife when they got to the village and then she cooked it for their lunch! Kawsu was particularly excited, because he is sick of fish, which is what's for lunch 99.9% of the time...

obligatory cute kitten picture