"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

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Salaamaleekum! I hope all is well, and each and every one of you rang in the New Year surrounded by positive energy, friends and family.  I missed celebrating the holidays with everyone back home, but this year was still spent in good company.Updates:
1. GEOFF IS COMING IN LIKE 20-SOMETHING DAYS!  I’m in “prepare” mode, cleaning everything, buying stuff, etc.  I’m so excited he is making this trip.  He also will visit my family in SC before he flies East to West Africa!  I will pick him up from the airport, here in Banjul, on February 3rd.  I’ve been waiting for this moment since I got here.  It will be here before I know it.  It will be over before I can say “Hey, babe, I’ve missed you...”  It’s the way of the world.

Demba handing out health cards to the women! The whole village came out!
2.  The Bati Njol Health School for Women is in full swing!!  The opening ceremony was at the end of December.  The women danced, did some health dramas, ate plenty of food, drank attaya, milk & juice, and ate watermelon.  I just sat in a corner most of the time, trying to take it all in.  This was planned by the women of Bati, and I was witnessing a “Peace Corps Project” in full view.  As I blended into the wall, the women were laughing, joking, dancing, with not a negative vibe in the world.  For one afternoon they could forget about fetching water, cooking all day, wiping snotty noses, etc. etc. etc.  This day was a day to celebrate.  These women were elected by their families to spend the next 6-months learning about essential health topics.  We even took a class photo and the women were given their health cards with a huge self-portrait on each one.  
Enjoying Attaya at the party with the ladies!

Our class photo (I'm there, just taking the picture)..
I cannot even explain how beautiful it was!  At the end of the day, I was full of love & compassion for these women, and I couldn’t wait for the first class...
Grubbin on some local Wolof dish, called "benechin" meaning "one dish"
Dancing the day away.. CRAZY wolof women!
3.  We had our first class!  Of course I was a worry-wart before hand thinking “nobody will show up,” blah blah blah, spiraling pessimism.  I had reason to believe that nobody would come because all the men were telling me so.  On this day, a huge naming ceremony was going on – one of my family members had a baby the week before.  So, naturally, as I am setting up for class, everyone says, “Mariama, today is Ami’s naming ceremony, and it is sweet/nice.”  Some were saying “this ceremony is more important than learning/class.”  My blood was boiling!  This goes back to one of my first blogs about balancing culture and progress... it’s not easy DEH!
So after I say “yes, well, the women know class is today, and they can go to both the ceremony and class.”  Still, I got the ::psh, yeah right, toubab... we’ll see about that:: looks  Not to mention, I was working my butt off to set up so the first class would be ballin!  I told myself, “I’ve done ALL I possibly can, now I wait and see...”
2:30pm rolls around and I ring the village gong.  BONG. BONG. BONG. The men lazed around the Bantaba (meeting place) – their looks said ::we’ll see NOW how many women come::  I kept myself busy sweeping, hanging things up, pacing.

Demba teaching about preventing illnesses!

One woman shows, then a group of three, then ten more.  I collected their health cards, anxiously saying “THANK YOU for coming,” and I really, truly meant it.  I wanted to stick my tongue out to everyone who doubted me or these women!  39 out of 40 women came, and the 1 woman had a legit excuse; she was delivering a baby... wow.

The students learning about hand washing!

Jay Sowe receiving her kettle and soap!

Donated by Sally Reader of FR.O.G.S (google it)

The class went so well.  The teacher (Community Health Nurse), was so easy to follow and kept the enthusiasm high.  Once again, I sat, like one of the women in class, in awe of what was happening in that moment.  They were asking questions, engaging.  They were so excited to be there.  They’ve never been to school and now they were students in health school!  They also had activities and group works like learning how to hand wash, setting up hand washing stations, and making an oral rehydration drink for “runny tummies.”  At the end of class, each women (who represents each compound) was able to take home a brand new kettle and soap to set up a hand washing station.  You can imagine the smiles stretched wide across their faces.
This morning I was on my way to the next village on my bike.  A woman says to me, “Mariama!  Ah sa ligeey bi rafet na.”  This means “your work is beautiful.”  Then, she told me that this morning, her family all washed their hands before breakfast, and she put her hands together in a sign of appreciation and happiness.   I’d like to think I have a check on my ego, but I could feel it swelling up as I strolled away on my bike, a huge smile stretched across my face, saying “thank you... thank you Jainaba!”
THIS IS WHY I AM HERE. Aum. Peace. Amin.

1 comment:

  1. That is so amazing and inspiring!! Keep the good spirits, I am relly proud of you!!