"The body is the harp of the soul. It is yours to bring forth from it sweet music or confused sounds" Kahlil Gibran

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rain, Mud Wrestling, and Hard Labor In the Bush

Roughly 10 hours of navigating a ferry crossings, riding on vans with 10 sheep tied on the rough, and wandering through the streets of Basse.  I arrived upcountry in the midst of a drought and heat wave that is causing mass panic.  The only coincidence is that 30 minutes after I arrive we have the biggest downpour of the season, and me and some the other upcountry volunteers celebrate. 

Remy and I were soon engaged an intense Mud Wrestling match...
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 In the end... I was victorious. (not really we both pinned each other a few times but I posed on top of him while Abby kicked mud on him)

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Most fun experience in Gambia thus far!

Planting Cashew

This is Alagie
Alagie has one shirt.  It is a bright purple Colorado Rockies shirt; he bought it on the street for perhaps 75 cents.  I have told him the personal significance that this holds for me and my home team far away.  I tried to explain baseball to him: what “pitching” is, why they do it… the concept of hitting a ball with a stick… the concept of getting “out”. I think I failed royally, but Alagie encouragingly says to me “No, no.  I understand, I think I have seen this before.  Except, except, I think they called it something different. I think they called it 'tennis'."

Regardless of explaining abstract sports with him, Remy and I spent the last week upcountry trying to help Alagie cultivate his new land in the middle of the African bush.  This means that we are going to try and give him a sustainable orchard complete with cashew trees, Molina trees, and Moringa trees.  All this can be sold, used as food, and improve nutrition.  So the three of us embark out into the bush with planted baby cashew trees on our head, tools, and some rough marks on where to plant them.  For three days straight we work digging holes, chopping roots with machetes, and planting cashew. For a period we enhance our work by doing ten pushups for every cashew planted.  This lasts for a period until exhaustion sets in with Remy doing 230 pushups and myself only willing to do 130.  

Alagie probably the hardest working of us all did none, he also had no food, or water during the three days we planted as he was fasting for Ramadan, the things these people can endure amazes me.  

Alagie wants this land to support his only child, he speaks of wanting to send his kid through school and have a better life than him.  Alagie is very poor and malnourished but has the hardest working spirit I have ever seen. Sadly he is one of the only ones who is happy with the knowledge he is receiving from Peace Corps, most of the people sit under the bantaba (gathering place in the middle of the village with a roof for shade) and say “not today the sun is hot” whenever they are asked by my friend Remy if they want to learn and work on ways to improve their lives through beekeeping, sustainable tree harvesting, and gardening. Mostly they wonder why the white person isn't just giving them money.

In the end we mark, dig, and plant 70 cashew trees, and after office work, trainings in the village, and months near the ocean, it is invigorating to do hard labor in the African bush. What I had planned as a vacation up into the bush turned out to be a wonderful experience as to the differences among Peace Corps volunteers’ experiences.

Other things we did up there... 

1) Pounded Moringa leaves into a nutritious vitamin powder

Called the Miracle Tree, Moringa is full of vitamins and is a fast growing tree that people can harvest to improve their livelihoods
In his hut Remy encourages  his propane tanks to think positively
2) Cut wood to make into bee hives

In the future Remy hopes to have many bees hives on Alagie's land in hopes to demonstrate to others what can be done with a wood box

3) Went up to the only mountain around, read, and meditated on life

Sometimes a cave of reflection, Remy has written poetry all along the walls of his hut

4) Participated in making neem cream

Remy's closest volunteer Alex comes over to show the villagers how to boil down Neem leaves from the invasive tree to make a cream which acts as an insect replant to mosquitoes in the wet season. A very effective weapon against Malaria 

5) Saw a football tournament.

Gambia loves football. I just wish my camera's shutter was fast enough to catch the whole ball

Often with little money, Gambians place with plastic shoes, or sometimes just socks, as shoes are the most expensive part of a football outfit.

The Gambia Primarily a giant river delta means all the fields are made of river sand 

The winning town celebrates winning the tournament

 As part of a Peace Corps sponsored event in Farifenni, I went to watch the HIV/AIDS know your status tournament final between two North Bank teams.  It was a massive success and the culmination of the hard work of many volunteers

So I will now head off for a week vacation in the Cape Verde Islands, I hope to get some elevation and hike some volcanoes.  Until then thank you for reading and

 Spend the day in peace

1 comment:

  1. Xander- you are amazing. I know I tell you that each time I comment. We all miss you and are very very proud of you, your spirit, humor and manly strength.xo AMY PS we will toast you at Aaron's graduation lunch!!!