"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

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

My last few months in The Gambia!!

As I have one, last month left here in my Peace Corps service, I’ve been trying to soak up these last few moments to make them as memorable as possible.  My work has slowed down, because now it is time to sit with the family, laugh, and do all t.he things I said I’d do before I left West Africa.  I have been painting a lot, attending weddings and baby-naming ceremonies, doing the “bucket-list” things like visiting Tourist-attractions (Baboon Island) and biking the country!

  1.  Painting.  I had some leftover paint from creating a sign for one of the gardens I have been working in.  The creative fire under my ass has been stoked, so I put on some bum clothes and painted the past month away.  I even had my family get in on the fun!

A quote my brother sent me in the first 6-months of my service

My namesake was AT FIRST excited about painting, then she got scared of it!  Her mother thought it was HILARIOUS!

My "daughter" helping out with the painting

2. Weddings. My dad got married this month, took his third-wife – my friend, Fana Ceesay.  Last year she became a widow and had the child of the man who passed.  My dad was a very good friend to this man, so he took Fana as his third-wife who is now happily living in our compound, enjoying her new family!  Her baby is crawling all over the place, and is currently learning to take her first steps.
Host dad and two of my moms (the one on the right is the newest one)
3. Biking. One of the things I said I’d do before I left West Africa was to bike the tiny country of The Gambia.  It is a little over 375-kilometers long, and about the size of Delaware.  It is the smallest country in continental Africa!  I started in Basse (Eastern most part) and ended in Brikama (Western).  It took 5-days and I stayed with Peace Corps Volunteers along the way.  They fed me so well, and most of them biked some of the way with me.  I had the wind and sun on my back, and a smile on my face the whole time.  Now I can say I biked a whole country!
Peace Corps pride - gotta stay bright, too!
Basse to Brikama - 374 Kilometers, about 46 Miles a day!
Half-way point
The Mandinka translation of "bicycle", a RUBBER HORSE!
4. Bucket ListI always avoided doing “Touristy” things during my service, mostly to avoid being looked like a walking wallet with money spilling out.  I know Peace Corps volunteers are held in higher regard, because we know the language, we look like Gambians (minus the blinding white skin), and we are living and working with our families and villages.  I see the way Gambians view tourists and I must say I NEVER want to be a tourist, but I think that’s inevitable.  Anyhow, I’ve been doing some touristy things, like going to this place called “Baboon Island”, a chimp restoration ‘eco-tourism’ camp just 20-kilometers from my site.  It is an untouchable island located on the Gambian River the houses over 100-chimps who are taken care of (food supplementation, immunizations, etc.) by this place, and people can come take boat-tours and go on hikes around the island to see Bonobo monkeys, Chimps and Baboons, as well as hippos, crocodiles and hundreds of different species of birds!
Baboon Island is a Chimp Restoration Project in The Gambia
5. Cultural Exchange.  A few other things I’ve been doing are going to Gambian wrestling matches with my best friend and counterpart Abdou.  This style of wrestling was started in Senegal and is accompanied by HOURS of dancing, JuJus (putting hexes on the opponent), and drumming. I’ve been going on adventures with friends (bike rides and hikes) and learning how to bake pizzas in a mud-brick oven!

This wrestler's name is "Rasta" and has JuJus all over his body to protect him from evil.


  1. Hi Shawn,

    Sorry to bother you.  My name is Ray Blakney and I am an RPCV from Mexico (2006-2008). I hope you have adjusted well to RPCV life. I am working on a 3rd goal project with the PC regional offices and the main office in DC to try to create an online archive to keep the language training material made all over the world from getting lost.  I have created a sub-section on the website my wife and I run Live Lingua with all the information I have been able to get to date (from over the web and sent to me directly by PC staff and PCV's).  I currently have close to 100 languages with ebooks, audios, and even some videos. 
    The next step for this project is that I am trying to get the word out about this resource so that it can not only be used by PCV's or those accepted into the Peace Corps, but also so that when people run across material that is not on the site they can send it to me and I can get it up for everybody to use.  I was hoping that you could help getting the word out by putting a link on this on your site here, so that people know it is there.  There should be something there for almost everybody.  It is all 100% free to use and share.  Here is the specific page to what we call the Live Lingua Project:


    Thanks for any help you can provide in making this 3rd goal project a success.   And if anybody in your group has some old material they can scan or already have in digital form, and want to add to the archive, please don't hesitate to pass them my email.  Thanks and have a great day.

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