Sunday, January 10, 2010

nity grity dirt band

So I guess I should start with an introduction. I'm Brian Bartley. I work for the U.S. Government as a Peace Corps Volunteer in The Gambia, West Africa. I am also new to my job, only being an official volunteer for a little over a month now. That means two things; one ive still got to learn about West Africa and two that im going to be keeping up this blog for a wile so you’ve got plenty more listenin' to do.
First things first. It’s really hard to get to West Africa. I was sitting in a plane for more than 24 hour's and traveling for 48. If you can’t handle that I would suggest that you not plan on joining the Peace Corps. If you are going to vacation I think you can get away with a shorter more direct route but the us government flies with only we carriers and they don’t go directly to where you want to go, so to Brussels’s then Senegal then the Gambia you will go.
Second. Training. You train for a really long time. You train in country. You train in a small village. You eat the local food and only the local food during training. I was in an area that spoke exclusively the local language. For us it was a bit of a baptism by fire. Full emersion into a community forces you to learn the language and to get used to your new living environment. All of the local languages use sounds that I have never herd or made before (for example you, or this sort of false m and n sound leading in the your hard g) and that takes a long time to understand/hear/and a lot off trial and error to get your pronunciation correct enough for people to understand what you are saying. The good news is Peace Corps really does hire the best teacher's in the host country and your LCF's (language and cultural facilitator's aka teachers) really make training worth it. Tech training also prepares you for just about anything you could come up with. They also keep training you every couple of months during your service. All and all training gives you tones of support, tones of opportunities to learn and a great foundation to start your service. In my training group not one of 35 people decided to go home before service.
Third village. I live in a small town, of about 1000, in the smallest country in all of Africa. Their are 9ish main ethnic groups in The Gambia and countless non main ethnic groups. Each ethnic group speaks its own unique language. My village is predominantly Wolof so I was train in Wolof. We also have our fair share of Fulas. Fulas came from Egypt and the Middle East and they are single handedly responsible for bringing cows to Africa, all of Africa. I think that is quite the accomplishment. The Wolofs are quite a bit younger than the Fulas, they originated in Senegal and are responsible for being so cool they have all but taken over Senegal, the developed part of the Gambia and all of the transportation business in the area (continent for me because if I have to go somewhere in my region I know the language that the drivers and garage operators speak). we also have a hand full of Bamburas, they are the only ethnic group other than the Catholics that seem to be naturally with out much motivation all about planting tree’s/having orchards and other good stuff. turns out the Catholics love trees because you cant grow grapes around here and you need to have you sacramental wine so you ferment fruit be it mango, cashew (more than just a nut it is a fruit as well) or palm. Turns out I think the bamburas are Catholics but never you mind that, also they came from Guinea. My island of wolof/fula/bambara is surrounded by a sea of mandinca, the most prominent ethnic group of the Gambia. They are cool too. My town has a few triads, farming, farming, ax making, farm tool making, farming, gardening, driver's, and oh yeah farming. Most people supplement their farming by having secondary, or are it primary I still have a lot to learn, jobs in the developed area. We have lots of construction workers, maintenance men for small industry aka welders, teachers, fire men bakers and a few no extensions.
Lastly My Job. I am an environmental volunteer witch means I encourage people to use sustainable land practices, facilitate villagers with agroforesty projects, help out in schools, help connect the village connect with ngo's that can offer aid, plant lots of tree’s, and adult education particularly nonformula environmental education. Lots of other stuff too. I also will be doing some work helping out the governments National Environment Agency. my day's so far start at a little after call to pair, im in the Muslim world out here which means very little liquor and a early wake up call everyday, and go seed collecting wile the sunrise's. That’s usually the highlight of my day. The sunrises are beautiful. I get back in time for breakfast typically a delicious rice and peanut portage, read, drink coffee on my parch and great all the nabors I see. Dig a compost pit or build a local bea hive (feels suspiciously like basket weaving because it’s a big grass cylinder roughly the size and shape of a laundry basket) help out in the garden and other such things.
Out if time got to go turns out I ran out of time at the internet café and have got to go

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the content of this website is mine alone. it is composed of my opinions and they are in no way reflective of the views or policies of the U.S. Peace Corps or the U.S. Government