Monday, February 20, 2012

Guess I am a city boy again

Well folks I live in the big city now. Life is a whole lot different now that I have internet, power, a shower (still cold), sidewalks to walk on, English speaking neighbors, a overhead fan, a job, and white people within a twenty second walk of me. At times it is almost surreal that the city and the bush village can be this different. They are two different worlds occupied by the same people. The other night I am sitting out with my new neighbors, it was similar to village in that they were chattering away in the local language and there were ten kids running around causing mayhem. Then my new ‘host sister’ came up and sat in my lap and started talking to herself. This to felt very normal as my host sister in village who was about the same age would often do the same thing. I would normally zone out as it was always in inaudible mandinkan. However it quickly became clear that things were not the same, Katty Jatou was talking to herself in English. She was talking about her fingers and what their roles were. I was blown out of the water once I started to listen to her. I started talking to her to get an idea of how good her English was. By the end of the night I concluded she could speak English better then about ninety five percent of my village. She is three years old!!
Work is going well; we recently finished installing four cashew processing facilities in various locations across the country. This is a pretty big step in getting the Gambian cashew industry on the world map. The key now is to get the people in charge of these facilities to be efficient and productive with the equipment so that investors will be willing to invest their cashews in them. For the next three months we will be training and monitoring them in hopes that they can get to a level that is considered competent. It has been interesting going back to a situation where I have to wake up in the morning and go to work. The weeks go by just as fast as they did in village the big difference now is that I appreciate weekends again. I had more or less forgotten that weekends used to mean something to me. Now I once again cherish and look forward to them. In village I would get a text reminding me I needed to head to the city soon and then think to myself “That time again eh? What day is it? Tuesday?” then I would look down at my phone and realize it was in fact Saturday (true story).

Seeing white people on a regular basis is also a new phenomenon. Not going to lie, I do enjoy being able to go and grab lunch with an American every other day. My fellow volunteers are good company and good people so I enjoy being able to see them once a day as opposed to once a month.  This last week I had a volunteer stay at my house for eleven straight days. It would appear my place has become a transit house, which I have to say I don’t mind. After living upcountry I see how convenient it is to have a friend with a house in Kombo. I also get to meet different people from all over the world here doing various forms of work and research and that has been an enjoyable experience as well. In addition I get an opportunity to be a lot more active here. I play Frisbee twice a week, basketball on Wednesday, salsa dance classes (which I start soon), as well as other random activities. There are also local gyms I can go to as well. I figured since I lost thirty five pounds now is the best time to start putting on muscles and get in shape again, which you know, I have not been in shape since high school.

I do miss the home people from Dobong Kunda however. They call to make sure I am fitting in ok and to make sure I have good neighbors. I am excited to head back up country and visit them; they are people I hope to never forget. Making new Gambian friends here in Kombo though as well, my neighbors are great people and I have started hanging out with other people I have come in contact with. It is important to me that I do not get too caught up in a twobob rush and only interact with them. I try to make time to spend with Gambians as often as possible, sharing my culture with them and hearing about theirs is still an important goal, one I would like to continue to pursue. In addition to the exchange of culture, I find it important not to lose my mandinkan skills. People really appreciate it when you can speak the language and more than once it has gotten me out of sticky situations. This last Sunday I went to the beach and found people to relax and speak Dink to. It was a great experience, they loved having a white person to speak a local language with and I was able to spruce up on my language. This also is one of my favorite things about this country, that I can go to the beach approach the first person who smiles and greets me (normally the first person I see) and sit down and have a genuine conversation with them. In America too often our first response is “What do you want from me?” as opposed to here where it tends to be “What can I do for you?” (Unless you are at a shop trying to buy groceries, there is no known word for customer service in Mandinka). This of course is not to say you don’t come across people who see your skin color and immediately treat you like a cash cow, those people are abundant and easy to identify. They are normally the ones who do the approaching. But the point is if you show them kindness and are genuine, they will return the favor.

Anyway thanks for reading, until next time.......... 

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