If Africa had a motto, it would be "Slowly, slowly." It's pretty much the answer for anything here in The Gambia. So in perfect spirits, here's a little more information you might be interested to know:
Since the last post I realized how few pictures I'm actually taking. I'll have to step that one up in the future. Part of it has to do with that I don't want to bust out all my electronics right away...you know, stay low profile and all.
Training isn't actually in Banjul. I'm living in a training village called Yuna (or Youna), which is about an hour and a half drive south of Banjul. I went to Banjul once to get a government ID card. Yup, I'm an official, legal alien here. Let's see. I will do my best to describe to you what's been going on since we've been here.
To learn the language, we all have Language & Culture Facilitators, or LCFs. We had class in the morning, break, lunch together, and more class most afternoons. They're teaching us language with some cultural things intermixed. It's the practical street vocabulary, like how to ask for help, how to get something made at the tailor, how to bargain, etc. We also have sessions as a whole team (where we ride our bikes to congregate to one village for the day or afternoon) about the actual job part of PC. And last week we had a big week where we preformed Model School. Basically PC asked the school in my village to pick the two 25 students from grades 5-8 to attend a week's worth of mornings of school. Each of the trainees were assigned classes to lesson plan for and teach. I taught 7th grade math 4 times and 8th grade PE once. It was a blast, and the point was to familiarize us with the Gambian school system. We had a few local teachers there to give feedback and portray a typical teacher, too. We all learned A LOT. But it felt good to be doing something purposeful. Up until now, it's been all about leaning the language and culture. No projects.
That's the 2nd biggest thing I've been struggling with. (The first being missing my family.) I have learned in this past week that sitting around doing nothing, or even reading a good book, brings zero satisfaction. What I've found to be much more effective is to sit and do things with the girls in my host family. I will just sit by them when they cook or do laundry. The everyday things to us take all day here: cooking over an open fire (kinda like cooking gourmet while camping) and doing laundry by hand in buckets. I think of my grandfather often and wonder if his life in pioneer AK was similar in any way, shape, or form.
Swear-in is still scheduled for September 2nd, though the actual plans have gone back and forth. Because it's the 50th year anniversary of PC, a lot of people at headquarters are making a big deal about the current programs. We get a special party just because we're the 50th anniversary swear-in group. And they've been doing a lot of video taping, which I'm hoping will be available for people at home to see. I'll let you know what I hear when I hear it.
Next week we go for site visit Monday through Thursday. We're being transported to our sites and left with our new host families for the 4 days. The point is to kinda give us a taste of site, to meet the new host family, and to take inventory of what might be there. There have been 4 volunteers in my new house previously, so my hopes are high that they've left some major stuff for me. All I know about my future host family is that there are 15 people in the compound: 10 kids, 1 grandma, 1 dad, and 3 wives. One of the previous volunteers was so close to the family that they've already been back to visit. I have high hopes for a good relationship with them. That's all I know so far.
My future site's area's capital city is called Soma, which is about 25k from my site. My computer friend, Kim, will be there, and the folks from my area bike there usually every Saturday to use the internet and drink a cold drink. It's hopeful that I'll have internet access about once every week or two. We'll see once we get there. Though I'm ready to cross that bridge, that bridge isn't ready for me.
I hurt my left shoulder while sleeping the first week in training village, coming up on 6 weeks now. Our post's medical doctor did some basic motor tests the other day and said that I'd have to see the specialist. It's definitely not the same that I had with my right shoulder in high school. The good news was that the specialist was going to be in the office the next day to see someone else. But the specialist didn't show. Typical. It hurts to move it in certain ways, but not debilitating. I just have to make sure to keep on the doctor to keep me posted on the specialist. It's the waiting game now.
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