"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open." - Jawaharlal Nehru

Monday, September 12, 2011

Doin' Work!

Salaamaleekum! Peace be upon you ALL.

I hope you all are enjoying the end of summer and embracing the coming of a beautiful season, FALL!  It was always my mom's favorite season and now that I don't have seasons, I'm starting to see why she always appreciated the seasons so much.  It's always summer in The Gambia....

I made "Peanut butter balls" for my family!!

Well, I'm never really sure what you guys want to read about.  Do you all enjoy hearing about what projects I am involved with or about Gambian culture?  I've tried to alternate my entries to keep in interesting, but I guess I just treat my blogs like I do my journal; I attempt to blend frustrations with excitement, business (work and projects) with pleasure (my personal journey).  Anyhow, shoot me a quick line if you want to hear more of one thing than the other.  I'm up for suggestions and/or criticism (there's an anonymous option) ;)

At this state in my service, I am continuing to dip my hands in multiple, small projects, trying to feel out where I belong and what makes me happy.  I had a sort of.. realization, recently.  It hit me that I signed up as a health volunteer, no matter how much I wish I had the same training as the environment volunteers.  So.. for a few days, I just sat in my huge.. maybe took a stroll through the bush.. thinking hard about what I want to pu tin/get out of my time here in Africa.

The cous and corn are now taller than me!
Conclusion: I am a teacher at heart.  Many people have told me that I'd make a killer teacher, and when I think about when I taught yoga and swimming in the past, I was so happy!  Knowledge is sustainable, and since one of the main goals of the Peace Corps is sustainability, maybe I should take what I'm good at and enjoy and turn that energy into WORK.  So I've come to the conclusion that I want to focus my energy in health education - which incluces environmental education (WIN WIN)!

Neem cream cooking demonstration at the clinic!

Recently, I taught my village about "Neem Cream".  Neem is a tree here in The Gambia that is known for deterring termites and - get this - MOSQUITOS!  Mix some neem leaves with soap, oil and boil it all together, and BAM you have mosquito repellant.  We've decided to call it "Diwi Yow", which translates to mosquito oil.  It really works, too!  My counterpart and I held a cooking demonstration to teach people how to cook up some malaria repellant.  Surprisingly, men attended the session as much as women did (very rare here in Bati Njol), and they were so very thankful - SO WAS I!

Cutest. Kid. Ever. On way to Koriteh Prayer!
Also, I've been helping out with the National Nutrition Surveillance in my village and 4 of the surrounding villages.  Using the height and weight measurements of kids under 5-years old, we could gauge their level of nutrition.  Later, we will sit down with the mothers of the "severely malnourished" kids to council them and give them nutritional supplements for their kids.  My goal, if my counterpart has a little extra energy, is to try and push the use of Moringa leaves in the food bowl.  Gram for gram, Moringa has:
  • 2 times the protein and 4 times the calcium as in milk
  • 4 times the Vitamin A as in carrots
  • 7  times the Vitamin C in oranges
  • 3 times the potassium as in bananas
Once again... MIRACLE TREE!  It's nickname is also "never-die" because it grows in the harshest of climates and conditions (aka Africa).

Lastly of the small projects is CAMP GAGA; this is different from the other camp I wrote about.  At the end of this month, me and about 15-20 other PCV's will meet in Basse (eastern most part of The Gambia), to guide young women to speak up about environmental issues.  We will blend environmental education with lifeskills (confidence, healthy decision making, etc) for girls aged 14-16, in grade 8 & 9.  STOKED. I'm teaching a reuse/recycle activity, getting the girls to think about how they can creatively reuse materials before we "throw them to the dogs"; we will attempt to make picture frames from old scraps of fabric and twigs, which is tooootally do-able.  I even made a dream catcher from trash... go figure!

Well, I will let you all go FOR NOW ::evil laugh::.  The next entry will be energy packed, for I have BIG plans for the women in Bati Njol!  I guess I'm really doing what I'd hoped and knew I would be doing all along.  Mom was right... "projects will come, don't stress."  Mom always knows best! 
I let the kids get creative with my hair - MOHAWK!
Thank you all for following my blog and sending snail mail/packages.  Aum, Peace, Love!

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