"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

Friday, December 13, 2013

Top ten things I'll miss about West Africa

1. Eating out of a communal food-bowl (with hand!).  There is something so beautiful in the social aspect of eating - it's emotional, intimate & brings people together.  Everyday I sit down to eat with my host family, no T.V. or distractions; pure company.  Each handful a piece of this heaping bowl of rice or coos, a part and parcel of the family.  Love it!

Breakfast with the family - I love coos!!

Benechin - Rice and veges/meat.  A Ceremonial dish that everyone eats out of

2.  Pooping in a hole & using water to wipe.  There are 3-things that always come up during Peace Corps Volunteer conversations - food (because we miss it), poop (because it's funny), and sex (because we miss it).  Some people may not agree, but I LOVE squatting over a hole to relieve myself.  It feels natural, everything flows & I now have amazing quads and squatting abilities.  Also, no T.P= environmentally friendly solutions. I'd never would have guessed it is more pleasant, but the trees and my bottom are all singing for joy.
A little peace corps humor.  My bathroom in village.

3.  Going to the garden to get veggies for my meal.  One good thing in working to build community gardens is my intimate connection to my food-source.  I go to the garden & see fresh, organic, home-grown vegetables ready for me to pick and eat.  Women hand me eggplant, lettuce, squash, okra & corn to cook my lunch everyday.
Eggplant and Okra, fresh from the garden!

4.  Sense of security.  I have never felt safer in my life, despite what people may think about living in Africa.  I can walk in the bush without fear of anything - wild animals, mass murderers, getting lost, etc.  If I'm traveling and it gets to be late, I know I can literally walk up to any village and will be housed, fed, and tended to without any expectations.  It's the Gambian way of hospitality.  I live in one of the most peaceful countries in the world - even safer than most cities in America - personal opinion, of course.  "Peace Only" is the answer to most greetings and blessings in The Gambia.

My newborn child, "Hawa Malick" (my sisters baby is also my baby)

5.  Babies, Babies, Everywhere!  Statistically speaking, I believe there are between 5-7  living babies/children to every-one Gambian woman.  Needless to say, I am handed a baby in every direction I turn.  "Take my baby to the place where white-people are!" "Let me give you it, you can have it!"  African babies are by far the cutest kids I've ever seen, and it has helped me to be comfortable holding them while they learn to walk, talk, work & play.  I feel like I never saw or payed attention to under 5-year olds in America.  Now, I hope to always be surrounded by their light and naivety.

6.  Living in a mud-brick hut.  My previous blog described the characteristics of how I am currently living.  Simply, my hut is my sanctuary and realm of peace.  I wish I could build one to live in while State-side.

7.  Hand-washing my laundry.  Taking a few hours each week, choosing a day to rid my clothes of Gambian elements, such as dirt, poop, boogers & other particles, is meditative and helps me to sow my life down.  It's too easy to throw our clothes in a robot-machine that does my laundry for me.  When I scrub my dirt out of my clothes, it is physically and mentally beneficial.  I could go as far to say it is a spiritual-cleansing.
Taking a morning to do my laundry

8.  Slow mornings and time for myself.  I have never spent this much time for personal reflection and growth as I have here.  I wake up slow, salute the sun, warm coffee on a charcoal burner, write in my dream journal and take time to read and write everyday.  If I'm not busy, I'll stroll to the vegetable market and slow-roast a stew while listening to music.  Our fast-paced lifestyles in America rarely cater this time for ourselves, always busy with work, others, etc. etc. etc.
My reading spot in my mom's cassava garden

9.  Lying under the stars with my family at the end of every single day.  No electricity, electronics, lights or anything except genuine conversation, greetings from the neighbors, village gossip and even a beautiful silence.  The children fall asleep under the stars.  Babies stare at the moon in wonder.  Adults brew a sugary green tea and stay up late chatting.  I can not think of a more pure, familial engagement as peaceful as this.  Oh how I wish this for a family of my own.
We lie on these stone "bantabas" every night under the stars

10.  Gambian fashion.  I have never looked as colorful and ridiculous as I have here.  African sin can pull off any color and fashion and look amazing!  Naturally beautiful people.  Me, on the other hand, have been the ass-end of Gambian fashion since I arrived.  Google 'West African clothing/fashion', and then imagine me dressed like that - it's funny I tell you!  However, the more crazy I think I look, the more compliments and praises I get.  The more designs, patterns and colors I can fit into one outfit, the better.  Not to mention, I never have to shave, wear make-up, put on deodorant or match!  I would never survive socially in America, although I still may not shave my legs and armpits.  Rawr, baby!