"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, November 28, 2012

Guinea, Gardens & Babies!

Salaamaleekum!  Peace be upon you ALL.

Oh man it’s been too long since I’ve written one of these things. Sorry about that – it’s not easy DEH!  I guess I have some updates, so here goes.

1.      I went to Guinea (Conakry)!  It’s beautiful.  It’s really hard to do it justice through words, but I’ll write just a few and post some pictures.  I went with another Peace Corps Volunteer, my friend Travis.  We didn’t want to travel in a large pack, which made it a very smooth ride with breathtaking views – haven’t seen a place this beautiful since I first laid eyes on the Rocky Mountains.

So the place we went to is called “Doucki”, which is a mountain/valley-town in the Labe Region of the country.  Mountains, water-falls, cliffs, valleys – Jurassic Park looking place.  Every day we were there we hiked an average of 12-15 kilometers, some were smaller (like 5k) and some were past 20k!  Every hike had waterfalls and swimming pools, in which we tore off our clothes and bathed in the rich, West African falls.  We were even able to climb a HUGE waterfall using ladders made by the locals out of tree branches and vines.  Epic.

I was also able to score fabrics that were dyed with Indigo, made out of tree bark in the mountains villages near where we stayed.  I also gathered some coffee beans, learned to roast them and pounded them to a fine powder.  Our hiking guide’s niece helped us learn, so I could bring the trade back to my hut here in The Gambia.  Too bad we don’t grow coffee here L

2.      Gardens, gardens, gardens!  These past few months have been busy, for sure.  First of all, the farming season is over – the rainy season is “parena” (finished in wolof).  This means we are harvesting coos and peanuts now, pounding the coos off the stalk, cracking groundnuts and making fresh (THE FRESHEST) peanut butter for cooking and soaps.

So now, people have time to develop their villages and gardens.  We had a horrible flood a few months back, which made over 200-houses/structures collapse.  After all, our huts are made out of mud-bricks, and are lucky if we have any cement in there.  Both of my moms’ houses collapsed, so this year we will have to work on rebuilding the village.  It will take a lot of time and resources.

However, this is also the time of year to develop gardens, dig wells, and do things that you normally can’t do in the rainy-season.  So, for the rest of my service I am hoping to be able to work on developing gardens in my village and surrounding villages.  I have started working with a few motivated souls to start community gardens in their communities.  This entails writing grants, buying materials, building fences and digging wells.    Hopefully this will take up the next 6-months, which leaves another 8-months to work on holding trainings and teaching people about different garden-practices and techniques.  In the end, all of this gardening will tie into my previous work in the health-education field, but helping people to grow a variety of vegetables and produce more food for their families and villages.  I’m super stoked that my service has evolved.  This is where my passion lies.

3.      So, in case you didn’t do any math in the last paragraph, I said I have over 12-months of service left.  That’s right – I’m extending!  I made the decision about 2-months ago that I will stay another year to continue my Peace Corps experience.  I have had an AMAZING two-years, learned so much, and have seen more than most people will in a lifetime – I’m incredibly lucky.  I have meaningful work, a beautiful village and host family, learned a tribal West African language, and am healthy and happy.  Why not stay!?  I’ve always been good at making homes wherever I go – including adopting people as my family. 

This means I will need to come home and visit “state-side” sometime eh?  I plan on coming to visit early in 2013, probably around April/May – for my golden birthday (25 on the 25th of May).  I have folks I want to visit, which may involve flying all over the country, but fuccck it’s been a long time.  I want to drinking good beer, see live music, eat good food, surround myself with loved ones and soak up as much of the States as I can in 6-weeks.  I’ll let you guys know more when I myself know more.

4.      I finally got a super-“toma”!  This means a baby was named after me in the village.  I have been waiting my whole service for this moment.  My brother’s wife had a beautiful baby girl this past month.  When I got back from Guinea, we had the naming ceremony (a Muslim tradition), in which the village elders named her Mariama Sowe – my Gambian name.  Everyone in the village asks me how my namesake is doing, calls her ugly and small, and says their baby is better and more beautiful than my toma; this is because they have superstitions about speaking positively about a baby, in fear that it might take sick or die because of evil spirits.  Anyways, I spoil the shit out of this baby and take care of her all of the time when the mom is cooking or on the farm.  I love her already.  “Small Mariama”

So that’s pretty much it.  Who knows when I’ll write another one of these things.  Keep in mind I LOVE SNAIL MAIL and packages.  Packages are expensive sometimes, but even just a letter means a world of difference to me so keep them coming!  All is well here, I’m happy and surrounded by beautiful souls.

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