Monday, April 18, 2011

Thus Far

A few Things I have observed or experienced in the last month…
First off I have found the secret for weight loss, join the Peace Corps and tell them you want to go to Africa.  I have hit the 50lb mark and many of the clothes I brought with me don’t fit anymore.

I have eaten some interesting foods to say the least, I have eaten almost all the edible parts of goat, sheep and chicken from chicken skin to livers, stomachs and feet.  A couple days ago my host father brought out a large rat from the house; he found it in their house and killed it.  He went on to ask if I eat these and I said no those are rats in America and they are pests.  This large 18” rat is eaten and used for high blood pressure relief.  So with a little hot pepper tomato sauce we had lunch.  It has the texture of dark chicken meat. I also have eaten warm freshly roasted cashew, which is amazing.  I also have grown to love local peanut butter, You can buy it by the small bag locally or you can go to the large market and buy it from a man out of a 55gal garbage can and bring it home in a 3gal bucket for about 10$.

I have been doing more than just eating, I have been working.  I started a garden and realized in a sub-tropic climate you can grow just about anything very quickly if you water it and protect it from animals and small children.  I have planted or collected over 15 types of trees and planted cucumber, spaghetti and butternut squash, watermelon, three types of beans, 4 types of peppers, carrots, 2 types of onions, eggplant and peas.  I am helping my host brother clear his land to plant cashew trees.  This includes falling trees by hand with a traditional axe and then chopping it up for firewood with machetes and axes.  We then transported with donkey cart or we bundle the wood up and carry it on our heads.  I recently helped my host mother harvest 280L of tomatoes out of her garden.

My host aunt gave birth March 29th to a baby girl and named it after my mother, Susan.  I thought that was a great honor and was very excited about it.

On my final thoughts I have realized the value of writing.  Every morning I sit down and write; in my personal journal.  Writing in it helps me keep all the thoughts in my head in order and is a secondary option to talking to myself because in The Gambia they call you “crazy.”  I then write in my work journal, this is an account of what I did the day before in my garden or around the village related to work and projects.  Not only is this for me to look back on for how I planted what but the Peace Corps makes us.  The most enjoyable and final writing I do in the morning are letters to people back home. Writing letters I think is underappreciated, its relaxing and shows a person you care and when you are across the world and once a month when the white Peace Corps Land Cruiser pulls up in front of your house and you have no letters from anyone it’s a bummer.  I will guarantee if you write a letter I will write back.  From experience it might take a couple months for you to get the letter but it will show up. This isn’t a guilt trip, it is a request. 

Until next time.


  1. I agree on the letter writing, it is relaxing and takes time and does show great care to the person you are writing! Very cool about your mom and her name traveling across the ocean. And, you are working like crazy, wow, go garden guy go!

  2. Mike,
    GREAT post! My letter will be in the mail soon, I promise. I too think that letter writing in underappreciated. I promise to be your penpal and maybe Carter will write/scribble you something too :-) Sounds like your garden is wonderful. Your village/host family are very lucky to have you stationed with them. I've enjoyed your posts and pictures. Keep up the great work. Your are very missed here so I'm glad to hear you are happy living these experiences you're going through. Since you will be checking this soon let me know if there is anything particular I need to send your way, I would be happy to do so.
    Smiles from afar,