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

Sunday, February 12, 2012

One Day at a Time

This is my host sister in villag Fatu.
She is in the middle of pounding dinner which will be rice and peanuts with sugar

There is a saying here that goes “slowly slowly is the one who catches the monkey by the tail.” And after a year of being here with that I realize Gambia is a chinese finger trap, the more you struggle, the more it seems like you are in an endless prison of sunny days under trees where few things ever get done. Lately though, I have been letting go and realizing that I only get to take it a day at time.  With this view, I occasionally have a tendency to forget about America and forget about my life back there waiting for me a year in the future.  This has meant that I have been neglecting my blog in favor of more wholesome pursuits like enduring  two weeks of intestinal parasites and starting my new job as a trainer of aspiring village bee keepers.  But before I get into what has been happening lately I would like to catch you up with my month of January…

I have now stayed at Leybatos with both my Mom and Sam. It is a wonderful and innexpensive beach hotel on the ocean. It has some beautiful sunsets!

First I had Samantha visit me for New Years.  We kicked off our new years by watching fireworks on the beach, particularly dangerous when the fireworks are shot over the ocean with a strong off shore breeze raining sparks down on us. This was fine for our hotel, but the one about 5 minutes walk down the beach promptly has sparks go into its roof and caught fire at roughly 10 minutes into the new year. This meant that our real New Year’s show was watching the beach front of the Kombo Beach Hotel burn to the ground. I did not have a camera on me at the time of the conflagration, but came by the next day to survey the destruction.

Other exciting adventures we undertook, was visiting the local craft market, where we purchased many paintings… and one drum.

Shek the local painter from whom I have purchased about 10 paintings off of

I took this picture for Aaron... meet Lamin Sonko the maker of your drum.
This is him with your drum right after he carved it

We also made a mermaid from Jeremy on the beach

After that we visited my village family, who as always were overjoyed to see us, and we spent the day entertaining the village kids, drinking the local green tea brew that everyone is fond of, and eating the local fair.  The family I have in the village is amazing! This is the place where I learned Wolof and ate for the first time from a communal food bowl. Other than that, they do not have many of the characteristics of other village families, mainly the kids are well behaved and quite, yet engaging in a way that is more than just curiosity. I feel like I have a real connection with each and every one of them. And it has been awesome to have my mom and Sam see what an incredible family they are and have a real cultural experience.

One of the children in village always has a snotty nose and what I would describe as "Ancient looking eyes"
Domada a traditional Mandinka dish. Peanut sauce rice and veggies.
I always thing the veggatable sellers at the market are so pretty. They wear all these colors and have piles of veggies that are so beautiful
We also toured my new work as a trainer of rural bee keepers. The NGO BEECause Gambia has many value added products they derive from their use of honey and wax. Sam helped label bars of freshly made beeswax soap and pour honey into small glass jars...


Locally sourced turtle...

Bob the cat... the chillest cat I have met since Larry the cat at the Metge family house.

Threw this one in, we ran into a conkoran on the streets. Traditionally used to scare off evil spirits that want to posses freshly circumcised young boys, they are also have a part time job dancing and assisting the protection of the village at ceremonies

We also had a night of watching dancing and wrestling at a local compound. The national television station was there, and for the third time in my service I danced on national TV... Apparently it has been made into a commercial for furture wrestling matches at that compound. If I can find the commercial I will post it, but I now get daily texts from Gambian friends who say they say me on the TV dancing for a commercial. I am speechless as to how far this has gone...

Very poorly lit, but basically two people come lock up in a sand pit, and whoever can throw the other to the ground the wins. The end. Then the process repeats until the 20 or so wrestlers have all been in a match together.

There was crazy fast dancing before the match... as I said earlier I danced here, but was probably the worst. Compared with these girateing balls of energy... I am just the dancing Toubab.

Ok... so my mom was here, then I did some traveling well, when I finally got back to my house there were some mice.  We were sitting down when one walked right up to the door and began drinking water from a small pool of water from tea I had just spilled. After scaring it back into the corner behand my stored camping backpack and old camping matress we discovered 5-7 adults (who scattered) and an adorable nest of baby mice INSIDE the old camping mattress. My love of creatures put me in conflict as to what to do. Just then the trash man knocks on our door. While after doing mouse impressions and figuring out the word for mouse is "jena" he comes in and begins stomping on them with little or no consoltation while I run around scooping up the mice in a cereal bowl and a broom and placing them in a rice bag. Eventually most ever mouse was rounded up in a bag that was sent to the dump or stomped on by my trash man.

can you spot the mouse by the bike... yep there he is

As an asside the mice later returned and made a nest in the insulation of my fridge where they lived inside it eating my toothpaste and dried fruit... I then had a seperate more dark intervention I call the "jenacide" where I locked the door to my kitchen fumigated the fridge and inflicted blunt force trama to the escapees because I am tired of them returning... sorry guys I value my toothpaste and a mouse turd free house more than your lives. Also you ruined my fridge...  

Baboon Island/River Gambia National Park

To my great excitement Sam and I did get to travel to probably the most wild and seneic place in the Gambia. The River Gambia National Park was a place I had traveled to with my mom but was not able to get any photos because my camera died... this time however I was able to get a few once in a lifetime shots. Along with the enjoyment of nature it was fully worth returning.

The Termite mounds are enourmous there...

So our the Baobob trees!

at the departing dock I snapped a nice little photo of the Kuntaur Rice Mill with added small children

On our way in we saw a number of fisherment

This is the clearest shot I got of the hippos we saw. We only saw their heads above water.

Here is our guide.

and here is one of the many chimps that the park protects on the islands

My best crocodile photo... we saw a bunch of these guys. It was amazing!

Dakar Softball!

After another overland sufferfest (one coming one going) to Dakar, Senegal I had to say good bye to Sam. I had timed the trip so that I could then play in the West African Invitational Softball Tournament that is hosted ever year in Dakar. We practiced, we prepared, and we grew out our intimidating facial hair! None better than Mike's, that's why all my best pictures centered around him.

and in the end, after some incredible hard fought games and ties and tie breakers and finals... we got 2nd place out of 16 teams... not bad for only 3 practices and a bunch of us being hung over from previous nights of drinking!
Notice the red mark on my friend Brain's chest... he took a softball to the gut for the team, sliding into second or third I believe

That's all I have in me for now! I am dedicated to posting on my blog more. Sickness, travel, visitors, and new work asside, I am out of excuses and will bring you more of my African adventures soon. Next will be what has happened lately, but I am all tired out as it takes forever to organize a blog in the Gambia!


  1. GREAT pictures Xander!! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great to hear from you. Awesome post. Cheers.

  3. These are great - - Nice to see what trouble you may (or may not) be getting into while I am gone - Beth