– 8am to 11 language school with a break a half hour brain break 9:30
– 11am go home and spend time with my host family or nap. I usually nap…
– 1pm lunch time or kontong wattoo in Mandinka
– 2pm lunch is over and we can go hang out or if there are any culture or language questions we ask our LCF Bakari
– 2 to whenever is personal and study time. Sometimes I study or go to another volunteer s compound and study or just relax but I’m usually home by 5 to sit and practice language at my compound.
Before i describe my daily life I have to give a cultural introduction to The Gambia.
The Gambia is a predominantly Muslim country (approx 95%) withe the remaining 5% being mainly Catholic Christian’s, and less than 1% of the traditional animist religions and others. That being said The Gambia is a very tolerant country and there are no divisions in the practice of Islam here, i.e. no Sunnis or Shi’ites. Seriously, life is peaceful here. During Christmas you would think the whole country was Christian and during Ramadan you’d think everyone was Muslim because of the respect people give each other s beliefs.
In Islam it is permissible for a man to have up to four wives but only if – he can provide for them and the children that will come and he can treat them fairly and some other guidelines that o can’t remember right now- whether or not men keep that in mind when they marry is something to be asked but those are the guidelines under the religion.
I don’t know about anywhere else but the Gambia families live in compounds with each wife (if their are multiple) lives in a room with her children and the husband has his own room. These compunds aren’t limited to immediate family members either. In my family my dad Yaya Sanneh and his only wife Nyako Manjing live in a room but his brothers and their wives live in the compound as well.
Don’t freak out because my host parents are old so their seven children are grown and have moved away to the Kombo Metro area. Most of them are teachers from what I hear. My uncles Dimbaa (4wives) and Sainey (3 wives) have around 13 children each and most of them are adults as well. That leaves only around 10 children in the compund.
To sum this up because my family is waaaay larger than because of extended relations (I’m someone’s mom btw because of the way family systems work here and I’ll explain below), this I’ll say that there are around 20 people currently living in my compund
*How family is structured*
-Mother’s sisters are your mothers as well
This makes their children your siblings
-Your mother’s brothers are your uncles.
This makes their children your cousins
-Your father’s brothers are your fathers too.
Their children are your siblings
-Your father’s sisters are your aunts.
Their children are your cousins.
And to add to the confusion
-your mom/dad s age-mates are your parents as well
-the same goes for your grandparents.
There s so much that I probably forgot so feel free to ask questions
This post will be brief because I’m typing this on my phone and I plan on expanding this post at a later date.
After leaving the metro district call Kimbo we were sent to our training villages to learn language and culture. The main languages are Mandinka, Wolof, Pullar, and Sarahule. I was sent to a Mandinka village.
After 7 days in village we had a traditional naming ceremony ( I’ll elaborate on that in another post) forz the 11 volunteers in my village.
I was given the name Mbassi Sanneh. Sanneh is the surname of my host family in training village and Mbassi is the name of my oldest host sister (age 30).
Since then I’ve been slowly acquiring the language with the help of my Language &Cultural Facilitator (LCF) Bakari Camara.
We also have frequent trips to a Peace Corps training site called Massembeh where we conduct trainings such as
-intro to Agro-Forestry
-intro to bee keeping
-intro to soil conservation
Since I’m an agriculture volunteer all of trainings are agriculture based while the Health volunteers have trainings for the sector.
That’s all for now and I’ll hopefully be able to add pics in the coming weeks
I am currently at an internet cafe in Soma and I only have 25 min to type this and maybe another post so here I go
The first week we stayed in Kombo (not a city but a metro district kind of like the boroughs of NYC ) There were 36 of us , two have left for personal reasons, divided into 19 health volunteers and 16 agriculture volunteers. Agro volunteers stayed at the transit house in Kombo near the beach. We stayed there for a week while we were oriented and reoriented about Gambian languages and culture.
On 10/10 we left for our training villages where I met my new host family who will help train me to learn Mandinka (that’s Kunta Kinte’s language). I have a large family which I will elaborate on later. Lests jut say that kids are kids (annoying but sweet dirt magnets), big sisters are still bossy, and little brothers will always find a way to drive you crazy.
I go to my permanent site after Dec 9 and I’ll talk more about that later.