Hello hello! Greetings from the beautiful city of Banjul in the Gambia, West Africa. I will attempt to fill you in on what's been going on for the past few months, which is not an easy task given all that we have been doing. Here are some highlights: (I wrote this a while back and emailed it out, but it is a good starting place to explain everything else)
Starting with our group - there are 35 of us. avg age around 25, I am on the younger side. There are 3 married couples (a lot for this number of people) but the Gambia is very welcoming to couples. There is another Devin, which has led to She Devin and He Devin. There is also a Hokie! who transferred from Guinea, and she is awesome. We also have a grandma, and a max of 2 people from each state, so we are from all over the country....cali, nashville, chicago, and they all seemed to have waited just as long if not longer to get here ( and have been transferred many times like I was between countries and programs). They say we are a very happy, mature group and are adjusting very well (or maybe they just tell that to everyone! ahha) Everyone is really cool and great.
We are staying at the Peace Corps lodge...down the street from the medical office, the PC office, the training house in Kombo (city area,outside of Bajul, which is the main gov't city) we bunk about 10 to a room with malaria nets. There are compounds here (haven't gotten to see the villages yet, so this is all city info), which consist of several small houses or 1 giant house and other small houses surrounded by concrete gates and ours is guarded 24/7 by 2 guards.
Right now are in week 0 and 1, so preliminary stuff, like shots, language and culture intro, group activities, walks around (the beach is nearby) and an intro to the food (rice, peanut sauce, chicken,fish, juice, and since we're in training the cook has been making us American stuff like mac and cheese and spaghetti.
We are focusing on 3 languages, mandinka, pulaar, and wolof, and have to learn the greeting in all , because greetings are very improtant here (if you want to ask a question, you have to greet someonefirst...like, peace be with you, peace be with you too, how is your family? my family is great how is your work? my work is here, slowly slowly. salaamalekuum /malekuumsalaam is the standard to say to everyone as a greeting.
We have excellent, highly educated trainers who are gambian natives who speak all languages but will focus on one. On friday we will be going to training villages with them to stay with host families, in order to really get the language down and learn about the culture. (I will tell you all about that when it comes)
It is winter here and the beginning of tourist season (the city is def. a popular tourist attraction) so it is sunny,74 - 80 degrees, with minimal bugs. The humidity will come with the rainy season later, but right now we are being spoiled with springlike days. (still hot around 3 30 through)...we are 5 hrs ahead, so I am writing this at 5:30 pm after a day of training (they interviewed us to see which training villages we will be in, which language we will focus on)
In the city, there are a couple of paved roads surrounded by dark sand.The architecture is very european, cement, concrete, balconies,tile compounds surrounded by concrete walls, (atleast in the city)...palm trees, donkeys, goats, lots of cars...