Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Last Hurahh

It has been a while since the last time I have updated my blog.  I have gone to America, returned started thinking and preparing for the future after Peace Corps and now I am counting the days when I will leave The Gambia; my home for the past 40 months. 

I went on my final food security trek this past week, It was bittersweet I got to see many of the projects that other volunteers have been working on finally come to fruition and be successful after all of their hard work.  On that same token I have see projects that volunteers have put equally the same amount of work into if not more, not be as much of a success. 

As with all of the treks I have been on there is a lot of window time.  I tried to really observe as much of The Gambia as I could, paying attention to details and trying to see things that I might not have seen before and appreciate the things I have see many time over again. 

The first morning we arrived at the ferry.  We had to wait in the line of cars for over two hours.  During this time we got to observe the individual pictured below.  He was a ‘Marabou’ from Mali.  A Marabou, is a religious healer often peddling medicines and other remedies for every imaginable sickness, ache and problem.  He had a traditional Malian shirt and a Dallas Mavericks jersey underneath, I never discovered if he was a Mavs fan or not.  He had two large Royal Pythons, one about four feet and the other probably about 10 feet.  As ferries would arrive he would take these snakes out of a box on the front of his bicycle and lay them on the ground, lay them around his neck or let them hang from his umbrella.  From a  distance it looked like the man was kissing them. To me this was interesting but then I noticed he would grabbing them and kissing them.  I thought this was interesting so I took the camera and kind of hid behind the car and zoomed way in and snapped some pictures.  It wasn’t until I looked at the picture I discovered that he was actually putting the snakes head into his mouth.  I freaked out!  This guy is crazy, I showed the picture to Bah2 our Gambian program assistant and he just laughed and said he probably is selling medicine for snake bites, which is ironic.  People were rushing over and buying little sacks of medicine. 

Later that night we reached another volunteers garden project and below are some pictures of her vegetable nursery that is very very large. 

The next day we went to Keith’s garden.  His garden is looking real good.  The rows of vegetable look like they were put in with a ruler.


One project that we visited was refurbishing a old garden.  One of the problems that we were looking at was a cement lined well that was tilted because of water erosion.

Small boy with a dirty face

As we were driving through a landscape that is now brown and some shade of green because it is dry season and the rains are still month’s away color is something that catches your eye.  This apple blossom pink tree was beautiful, it was almost seem to sparkle.  In all of my treks and traveling all over The Gambia I have never see this tree.

 We were traveling through a volunteer’s village and noticed as we were approaching it there was a lot of smoke and a bush fire was approaching.  As we arrived in the village there community garden had already been burned and was continuing to destroy everything that was in its way. 

We stopped by to check on a tree that the volunteer had planted a year ago to pick some fruit to plant.  This tree is a Ziziphus mauritiana, of Indian jujube, or Pumelo de Sahel.  It tastes like an apple.  It is a marvelous tree, it has thorns so it can be planted as a live fence and goats and other animals love eating the leaves.  It also produces this sweet fruit that can be sold or eaten.  The variety that grows all over The Gambia produces fruit that is the size of a marble and these fruit are the size of ping pong balls. 
Just like every trek some stops involve long village meetings, trying to resolve misunderstandings or explain expectations of both the volunteer and community.
Cashew blossoms
 After the meeting this small child’s mother told me to hold her child so she could carry the chairs,  I would have much rather carried the chairs as I am not a huge fan of small children but I took one for the team and carried this child to her house.  As one person said when I explained this picture to them they asked, “why didn’t you just let her walk?”  well, the answer is I didn’t think of that and she didn’t say “put me down”  It also didn’t matter that we didn’t speak the same language…

The next project is a volunteer helping a hospital with gardening and grafting mangos.  When we arrived another volunteer was there with him.  I was lucky enough to capture her smile, probably the best in The Gambia.
I also capture probably the best Peace Corps staff smile; Bah2, the guy loves grafting so as you can see he is all smiles.

 Bah2 also admired some murals that Jessica painted at the hospital.

 This is a gourd tree these large fruit are picked and dried and bowls are made from them.

Sarah painted this nice mural on the side of her hut.  In her village the people make beds, chairs and other things out of bamboo. 

We went out to the village apiary and looked at some of the hives that the village maintains. 

 This is Bah2 and Sarah working on some paperwork in her house.

This is a beehive they made. 

Another village meeting

 Below are a couple batik shirt I purchased.


  1. Did you get my envelope full of fun stickers yet? Hope it made it there and your able to spread the love before you come back to the states. -Munson

  2. I will miss your Gambia posts...praying for your next chapter, whatever it is.

  3. Hi Mike,

    Sorry to bother you.  My name is Ray Blakney and I am an RPCV from Mexico (2006-2008). 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.