Friday, October 28, 2011

Its Been A Long Time Since I Left You, Left You, Left You.................

Hello old friends it has been a couple months hasn't it? I am sure you have all been semi kept in touch with my activities here. I mean you know I am still alive and have not come down with any major sicknesses. Which really is all you need to know. The last couple of months have just flown by. Rainy season came and went and now I have 100 healthy cashews waiting to become massive cash generating machines. I have also formed a close relationship with the Bansang Youth Development Association. Its a group of about twenty highly motivated people around my age running around doing various projects for the community. Like malaria sensitization, AIDS/HIV work and tree planting projects. They are a highly intelligent group of people and I have really enjoyed working with them.

So one really cool thing that happened over the last couple of months was the 2nd annual HIV/AIDS Bike Trek. This was a project started by volunteers last year where about 30-40 volunteers bike from school to school in these rural villages teaching young students about HIV/AIDS. Last year they went through North Bank. This year they chose to start in Bansang and then continue on up country. Being the only volunteer within spitting distance of Bansang I was responsible for developing the school in that area and getting everything ready for about 12 volunteers to come and stay for four days. It was a lot of work and a lot of stress, but it paid off in the most rewarding way. I worked with a Gambian teacher Mr. Modou S. Bah. This man was amazing to work with and Him and I as well as two other volunteers Meg and Kim taught a class of about 45 for two days about HIV/AIDS. As sight developer and team leader I was expected to do most of the teaching in the class. I have never taught before, coaching is the closest thing but even then I was not standing up in front of 45 kids who speak poor English trying to convey the finer details of HIV/AIDS. There were some bumps in the road. I spoke too fast at times, I lost patience with the kids in back falling asleep, and during an awkward conversation about sexual fluids and how they can be transferred I started babbling on about sweat pores (yaaa don't ask). But I feel like overall with the help of my counterparts we nailed the lesson and the vast majority of the class left with more knowledge. I must say it was highly rewarding work, planting trees is fun and all but there is something great about watching a kid finally understand what your talking about and know that after today he/she is better informed for the rest of his/her life. Good stuff guys....

So from there we all headed from the bush that is Basse to city that is Kombo. We the peace corp had a date with his excellency President Sheikh Professor Alahajie Dr. Yaya A.J.J Jammeh. It was one of the more bizarre, surreal nights of my life.It started out with us heading to his home village Kanilai where he has a huge farm and hotel and other really nice first world buildings. We were escorted in by a parade of dancing people, there were drums and music and people in funny costumes. We got the whole works. We eventually made are way into the hotel and had lunch there, which was awesome, and then from there headed into this small stadium like enclosure. When I say stadium I mean more like a high school football field. We all sat down and awaited for his excellency to arrive so the program could begin. He took a while, like the program was supposed to be over by eight so we could start the grand dinner but in true Gambian fashion he showed up at 7:30. He did however show up in style, he screamed into the stadium in a nice, black SUV. He came to a violent stop and then proceeded to accidentally kill the car. It was awesome, everyone started singing and dancing in the stadium and then he came over and sat down on a couch that was literally about ten feet away from me. He was joined by the ambassador for the U.S. and our country director. He allowed all of us to come and shake his hand, which was cool.

The program began with a couple speeches and then some speeches by some volunteers in each one of the local languages. You can the prez was digging the local language speeches it was the only time I did not see him looking bored. Then some more people spoke about how awesome the Peace Corp is and how valuable we were to the country. It was kinda cool to hear all the praise we were getting from Gambians. Nice to know your appreciated you know? A bunch of the volunteers put on a skit that they preformed at a girls camp the previous month. It was about environmental awareness and the president also really loved that as there were a lot of jokes in there that only people living in Gambia would understand. Good stuff so far, so after all this happens the president gives his speech. It was a good one I guess, his accent is kind of thick at times but it was funny. He talked about getting Gambians to volunteer there time and going over to do work in Somalia. He also showered us with praise. Then he said he had a surprise for us all. Turns out he bought every single one of us dresses or full Gambian caftans (traditional male dress). Mine that he gave me was in one word: AWESOME. You just have to look at the pictures to know, its the difference between a button up shirt and a full out suit. Most people got the button up and I got the suit. Jammeh loved it so much on me and the two others who got it that we got to go up and take a picture with him. It was exciting, I was kind of like a little giddy school girl during that little episode.

After all this we all boogie over to the dining area for dinner and a documentary one of our volunteers put together. We had an epic dinner that was full of all kinds of delicious meats and other things we never get in village. Dinner got over at 2 a.m. at which point people started dancing. Jammeh got out there and shook a jig and then proceeded to point at people. If he pointed at you it meant he wanted you to dance and if the president wants you to dance you really have no choice but to dance. It was really hilarious watching him point to people and then watching them break out in dance while he calmly enjoys the whole scene. A lot of the volunteers got to dance with him and the whole scene was really crazy when you thought "this guy is the president of the Gambia" at one point he pointed at the cooks and the all came storming over in their full chef garb and chef hats. They then proceeded to all swarm on him and dance. His body guards got upset and told them to dance at a respectable distance. Side not I tried to put my arm around the president during one of our pics together and I got my hand swatted away by his body guards "NO TOUCHING!" it stunk we could have totally looked like BFFs. Anyways the night ended and we all went to bed and then awoke to fresh bacon. Good times folks, good times....

So next up I got my training clinic for refs and in January I will be headed to Dakar, Senegal for a international softball tournament. I will post a new post then...anyways hope all is well in Merica....till next time!

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