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

Monday, October 31, 2011

TV, Radio, and Meeting the President

Me meeting the President of The Gambia Yahya Jammeh and receiving a brand new blue Kaftan... to compliment the green one I am wearing. Next to him stands Ambassador White and Peace Corps Country Director Cornish

This seems to have been a particularly eventful month... in the course of the last three weeks… I have

1.  Danced on the most popular TV show in the Gambia, the Fatu show… it is like the Gambian equivalent of Opra. (I am trying to upload the video try the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpFQZaLGmzQ&feature=related … I come on at about minute 7) From this one performance, I have now ran into no less than 10 people who recognized me on the street. This is not really a good thing as I am now tired of being the token white person. I can now hear them say in the local language: “oh the white man can dance.” Along with other local phrases that sometimes come up “The white man has too much money” “Give me your bicycle” (popular among kids) “Buy me a football” Much of this is said without knowing I can hear, other times it is a joke but really… it isn't. In the city, continually being thought of as a tourist and having to prove yourself not is very tiring. This is where the primary advantage to the village stands out, in the village everyone knows you and kids screaming “toubob (white man) give me minty” subsides.

2. Been on a local radio station where I described my work as an environmental volunteer in The Gambia.  I talked about my business training and how important it is to understand business. I explained how I taught depreciation by talking about how a pair of cheap sandals may cost 30 dalasi and break in a month. Every day you will have to save 1 dalasi to be ready for the day that the sandals break. Everything in your life is no different, if you want to be prepared for the day it breaks you must save. I also explained how planting cashew to modify your normal groundnut (Peanut) field will lead to food security in more diverse crops and different harvest times will benefit your farm for longer!
Peanuts kind of look weird to when you first pull them out of the ground

The President's Village of Kanilai
3. All of us Peace Corps volunteers got to visit the president at his village/incredible resort.  His official name and title is His Excellency Sheikh President Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen Commander In Chief of The Armed Forces and Chief Custodian of the Sacred Constitution of The Gambia. His Excellency gave us two incredible meals, outfits, and a night of entertainment. This was all to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps. In his speech, the President Professor Dr. Jammeh mentioned that he was taught by a Peace Corps volunteer in his youth.  I believe that the Gambia is very unique in that we volunteers make up most of the US’s presence in the country, and being such a small country, we interact with the government probably more than almost any other country. All in all it was an unforgettable night.

Peace Corps Director Cornish waving before his speech
Other speeches were given by the US Ambassador, the Peace Corps Country Director, some ministers of the government and speeches by volunteers of the 5 languages that Peace Corps now trains in. It was very inspiring to hear the passion that being in a country 45 years will get you.

We happened to all dress up in traditional Kaftans though I no longer rock the pink… the bright green does me some justice.
Me and my friend Alex had a group picture in matching outfits. Complete accident.
Waiting for lunch in the heat of tightly sown outifts

The site in Birkama where the Jawneh sons already have a small cashew business that we are helping to expand
My program manager Moise and my co-worker Ccott on site at Fass. In the background is the building we hope will store cashew and be a cutting center for the women of the village.
I have now begun a mix of bees and cashew construction projects. The cashew work, being in line with my assigned work at IRD in are ever illusive quest to place cashew processing equipment in a village setting.  Our quest for the equipment has taken us to hire construction companies to build foundations  in the buildings where steamers, dryers, and cutters will soon be placed. IRD is not running at the highest efficiency these days or any… but we have hope that this month fancy Indian equipment will be set down in the port of Banjul and allow us to take the next step on something that has never been done in West Africa!
The site in Fass of our hopeful processors

Me and some volunteers just back form bee keeping at Bee-Cause
The Bees well… I have a childhood fear of bees, which I figure I should conquer. So I have begun part time work at a local NGO Bee Cause dedicated to helping promote sustainable bee keeping in the Gambia. I am embracing this opportunity because after working in an office doing research, contract writing, and bid justification getting stung by the aggressive African honey bee (same as “killer bees”) makes me feel alive, in Africa, and in the Peace Corps. I hope that my work here will increase dramatically, and you will soon have posts on all different things about BEES and honey and wax and hives. I can’t wait.

Happy Halloween
So in keeping with Halloween I stumbled upon the scariest spider I have ever seen!  With a web the size of my body and discarded fly carcasses I approached for a photo shoot 

1 comment:

  1. Great update Xander! That last one with the spider should be your Halloween profile picture.