Sunday, May 22, 2011

3 Month Challenge complete

So, the three month challenge that actually turns out to be 10weeks is officially over.  Here are my goals from the beginning of my 3 month challenge.
1.       The first thing Is to get a good garden going and planted
2.       Get a tree nursery started and start propagating various types of citrus trees.
3.       Build a dugout canoe from a tree
4.       Increase my local language capacity
5.       Carve from local wood a giant spoon, Salad fork and Bread Knife.
6.       Dig at least two garden wells
My garden is growing well; I have had some problems and have learned a lot.  I have realized that you can grow plants and trees very quickly in a sub-tropic climate.  I have more eggplant growing then I know what to do with.  I also wasn’t paying attention and planted what I thought was green sweet peppers but turned out to be more eggplant.  I currently have a bunch of 2-3” cucumbers growing.  My mustard is growing well and if I can keep the bugs away from it ill hopefully have home made mustard soon.  I have planted over 850 tree seeds in the ground; I know over 25% of the seeds have germinated.  I have over 40 papaya seedlings growing that are about 8-12” tall.  My host father came to my garden the other night and informed me that my papaya is not as sweet as the papaya he is growing and I can’t plant it in the compound.  So now I have to figure out something to do with them.  The tree nursery and garden are in the same place and I also have a small citrus nursery that includes grapefruit, orange, lemon and mandarin.  
I did not build a dugout canoe from a tree as I realized not being anywhere near water that a canoe would be completely useless.
My language skills have increased but it is coming slowly.  I can understand more than I can speak.  The volunteers that live farther upcountry have fewer English speakers in their village so they are forced to speak the local language.  In my situation I have many English speakers in my village so I am not forced to speak the local language as much, thus my language isn’t as strong as other volunteers.  
I have carved two spoons from African Mahogany wood and I carved a bread knife out of Melina. I have not used the spoons, but the bread knife is used and functional.
The goal of digging of garden wells was not accomplished.  
What I have been doing with my time…..I have build a large book shelf to hold all the crap I brought with me that I am quickly realizing is too much, I think I could be on a Gambian version of the show “Hoarders.”  I also have been spending my time on a project for my village that would bring more accessibility of water for the villagers.  This would bring a 10K liter water tank, a 5k/hr water pump and a Generator to an existing well.  This would replace an existing hand pump.  The project has opened my eyes to the way much of The Gambia private sector operates.  Last Friday we picked up the final paperwork for the project.
Some of my time goes into working with an NGO that works with villages that have community forests. My village has a large community forest that they use as a source of income for the village, thru bee keeping and non forest products and other income sources from it.  The NGO helps mediate prices and facilitate buyers of wood when the village wants to sell trees.  I also go on patrols with the villagers in the forests.  These patrols are meant to keep other people out of the forest and more so keep them from stealing firewood and seeds, and fruit from the forest.  This is one of the biggest problems they face.  This NGO is one of the main reasons why I was placed in this particular village, to help with their forest.       
I also have built a solar fruit dryer. This has been a long project coming I learned a lot and was very happy that it actually works.  The first batch of mangos I dried where not ripe enough so the dried mangoes were a little tart but I think it will be a good thing.
              I had a friend come by for a few days before we both came in for our week long training.  Here there is a huge ceremony when boys get circumcised. The boys stay in the bush for a few weeks while they heal from their surgery and learn about being a man. There is a mythical creature that keeps evil spirits away from the boys as they heal in the bush.  I have yet to figure out all the detail and am learning slowly about it.  He runs around with machetes slapping them together scaring people, all the kids run when he comes out.  So I wanted a picture and so my host brother facilitated it.  As you can see my sweet new mustache obviously calmed his machete wielding skills.

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