July 28 - 1994

July 28, 1994

Well, The military strike turned out to be a coup. Now we have a new President. But no worries.
On the personal front... Eric and I are just friends. however. His roommate Jason is the best looking guy here The guy I NEVER had a chance with. Well, the night after me and Erik got close and had a talk... I had sex with Jason. i couldn't believe it! I was freaking! About 40 yards from a part where everyone was partying and dancing. We were outside, standing up. He is a babe! Gotta go! Miss You! Write me!

Not much to add except it's finally raining, so food is finally growing. My legs are devoured by bug bites. My friend Mark almost had his finger amputated. He got an infection that crystallized and had to be dug out. We were worried that it had gotten inside the bone. Well, it looks gross. he has lots of pain plus fever and throwing up. But he is recovering. I am very happy!
Oh, did I tell you I have planned my next 5 years?
Jaraa Dibba

July 28, 1994

Well, the army strike turned out to be a coup. But it still doesn't affect me. I called Mom to tell her I was safe and she didn't even know about the coup. I know it was on CNN but I also know Mom doesn't watch CNN.

My health is good. I just have a stuffy nose. But others are not so lucky. I mentioned my awesome friend Mark. He got an infected finger. By the time he got to a clinic (German clinic about 45 minutes from here)(He waited 5 days) he almost lost the finger to gangrene. They had to cut it open. The infection had crystallized and it was bad. But he's recovering and he gets to keep his finger.

My hut mate, Jennifer, now has an infected ankle. She was sick all night. But no life threatening illnesses.

Anyway, send me word on how Steve is doing. I am interested in knowing about his mission and the outcome.

In general I am happy. I have developed a 5 year plan and I am working hard towards it. I know there will be hard days where I want to come home. But I finally developed goals (short and long term) and I plan on accomplishing them. And Dad, the plan does include applying to graduate school in the west. I am considering getting my master's and taking some health classes on the side. Then after graduation applying to a relief agency like "Save the Children", "Action Aid" or "USAID". I will keep you updated, but I am really working toward this goal.

On the weather front, the rain has finally come. When we got here the rain was late and the people were scared and hungry. But this week the rain has come. what this means for me is that I can never get my laundry dry. But what it means for Gambians is food.

I'm gonna end it here. Write me. Have anyone write. Mail day is a day of celebration. I am mailing a role of film. Please develop it for me and keep it there. I don't remember all the photos but there is a photo of out hotel room our first night. All the ones of us dressed up in Gambian clothes was the day of our naming ceremony. When we got out Gambian names. The girl next to me in purple with her arm around me is Jean. I took a photo of my hut with the door open. Oh.. and the photos outside that all look the same, some are low tide and some are high. The tide difference is like 70 yards! And I took one of my classroom which is right on the water. I don't remember what else.

Love wendy

July 31, 1994

Dear Peg,

keep this one, it is a good one and should be long.
Yesterday was Saturday the 30th? of July. We spent the day as "A day in the life of a Gambian Woman".

We awoke at 5:30 and were dropped off at different villages. I spent the day with one woman. We pulled water from the well, washed a lot of dishes, made a huge quantity of coos porridge (probably 1/12 times my body mass worth of porridge), poured it into 20 large bowls. I ate with the head of the compound. He is the Muslim leader for his village. Then we made lunch. We roasted peanuts, ground and boiled them into a sauce. Dried leaves pounded them and boiled them into a sauce. Pounded rice and coos. Cooked coos and I shifted it for an hour. It rained some, I took some photos and played some. Then I went with the women (who are also the farmers), a 40 minute walk to our rice patties where we planted and hoed an entire field of rice. The 40 minute walk back to the compound (we ate in the field) to make dinner. I got back to camp about 8pm. We had spaghetti! A total treat!

Now I sit under a little cabana surrounded by a moat of mud. I am watching the mud skippers fight. They are very cool, I think you would like hem. there is so much detail that I want to tell you. It's so tedious to write it all down. For instance, a village is a group of compounds (about 50).
A compound is a family. Every member. Father, Mother, all their sons get married and their wives move in and all their children. Plus each man has like 3 wives and about 8 children with each wife.

And when you want to pee you just go... the children walk around naked and pee... wherever. And even when they are dressed you just watch it run down their legs. The women in the field just hike up their skirt, squat and keep hoeing. If you gotta go #2. The have a kommo. A walled area with a hole in the ground with a cover. You move the cover and a swarm of flies come out. You squat, go and cover the hole back up.

And when you eat, it is out of a communal bowl. Everyone uses their right hand to reach in, ball up some rice and sauce and eat it. You only eat out of your section. The meat goes in the center. Men get the best portions. You use no silverware and you never use your left hand because that is the hand they wipe with in the bathroom. They don't use toilet paper. So you basically never use your left hand for anything else.

I was going to add some personal stuff. But I'd like you to share this letter with people (i.e. my family or yours or anyone) so when you go home let my family read it, OK?

To give you a health update, no major illnesses. Just little ones. My upper lip is swollen and itches, infected hair follicle, sunburn nose. I am sick of eating fish and rice. I have a constant cramping pain in my right side and I am covered with mosquito bites. Other wise no complaints! Oh, I spent an afternoon planting African Mahogany trees. that was fun! Gotta go! write me!

Jarra Diba
P.S. Picking you nose and belching are no big deal here either. It's weird to see adults cramming fingers up their noses! Look up Mudskippers in an encyclopedia unless you know what they are. They're very fun.
So far, no cool present for you... still looking

August 4

Dear Dad, Robb

What's up? Me... Well I am totally tired of fish and rice for sure! Saturday we spent the entire day with a Gambian woman. We got up at 5:30 and were dropped off, alone, in a village where we were to spent the entire day working as a typical woman. (The guys had to, too)
So I spent the day in a closed room cooking over a fire (oh, my eyes!) washing dishes, drawing water from the well, watching children, sifting koos and spending the entire afternoon walking about 1-2 kilometers to the family rice plot, hoeing and planting rice and walking home. It was not fun. The husband laid on his back all day, just lounging. He is the head of the Muslim religion in the village. He has money and a car (and 3 wives and 18 kids). I watched other women do laundry, pound rice, grind peanuts into peanut butter and plant in gardens closer to home. All the women work together.

That night, back at camp, we ate spaghetti. It was great. But the next day I was sick and throw up. But the good news is, sick people get fans, so now Amy and I have a fan!

My friend Ted (from Hawaii) got sick, 104 temperature. He got a fan too. We are both better. Sickness is a constant here.

I am going to be taking my GRE here in a couple of months so I can apply for a Peace Corps Fellowship.

Oh, the stamps are for you and Dad. I hope they didn't get ruined or stick to the envelope. I wanted to include Madonna stamps for me but I can't find them.. so..

That is the news for now, stay healthy and thanks for the letter. It really made my week.

How are the Indians doing? There is a guy named Jason from here, also from Ohio (more south though) and one guy's been here a year and he is from Chagrin Falls!

Talk to you later! (ya right!)
(I miss being cold, sleeping in a clean bed and good food) oh yeah, and you guys!


August 4 (1 month!)

(I will try to write Grandpa / ma soon)

Dear Mom,
Today I got mail from you/Robb, Dad and Peg. I'm writing you 1st because yours is the easiest. I am happy to see so many questions. Some may be repeating letters I've already written but I don't remember what I've written so.... bare with me.

Do I get to see Jean? We live in the same hut we are just separated by 1 wall. But we talk through it frequently. We are bosom buddies and I know she will be a lifelong friend. We are inseparable. (Although we will be separated in 6 weeks.) We hang on each other all the time and eat most meals together. But I don't see her for about half the day because I am education and she is agro/forestry. (The only 2 programs here). We had 1 park specialist but he went home.

Amy Lynn is still awesome, and perfect. Very quiet. I don't see her much. I go to bed early, she goes late. My stuff is everywhere, she doesn't care. Most people here are like me. Very laid back and unconcerned. She is a feminist (like most of my girlfriends). She has lots of "female" literature & authors. She will be my roommate until training is over. We train for 10 weeks. We are at the end of our 4th week. But our work week has been extended to 6 days a week plus an optional Sunday project. Which, you feel like a wuss if you don't do. So on my Sunday off I am going on the "Death March". It is a canoe trip into the wilds & hiking 24 kilometers back to camp. No paths. just wilderness. Monday morning is gonna be pain!

I have Ben's newsletter... somewhere... I may send it. But it is my only copy and I don't want it lost in unreliable mail systems. I doubt he will do more but actually there is a Peace Corps Newsletter we write & put out whenever we can. Just our stories & things we want to share. I'll see if I can grab a copy and mail it. And next time we will be in it & I'll mail it to ya.

You ask what we eat in Africa. I think I've already mentioned but I'll tell you again. Breakfast is either a hard boiled egg or rice porridge (peanut sauce optional). & just this week peanut butter has been made available along with the regular marmalade & bread. (Great Bread!)

Lunch is usually fish & rice with a veggie. No bread.

Dinner = usually fish & rice & bread. To break up the monotony is sometimes plain pasta, warthog, shrimp, soup, fishballs (don't ask! it's like fish ground up & fried in balls!) chicken or duck. We had spaghetti once & shrimp twice. (But I missed shrimp once because I was sick).

Thatís what I eat. In the village their is koos koos (disgusting) and families eat out of communal bowls with their hands. (There is an etiquette to it!)

We don't walk anywhere. Well, agro/forestry has to walk to the Nakko (garden every day, but not too far) we've only gone twice. We pretty much stay at camp. There is no where to walk to.

Eric & I are friends. I'm over that crush. I saw his roommate Jason for a little bit. No big deal. Mark... well he gets to keep his finger. His left pinkie was sooo infected they were worried about amputation. Even after the last letter I wrote saying he was fine, he got worse. But finally after 2 1/2 weeks of pain and boredom he is back in the ranks! Thank goodness! (of course his family has no idea!)

What I'm being trained to do. There are 4 elementary teachers. Me, Hans (29), Leslie (23), and Lynda (who took a 2 year sabbatical from teaching in California. She is in her mid 40's). We are the resource teachers. Sometimes we train with the "teachers" (who majored in math/science & are learning to teach), sometimes by ourselves with out trainer Mr. Jang.

We are learning to physically build a resource center at our site, fundraise, fill the center & get teachers to use the center. There is a big push for us to teach teachers how to make visual aids. (Creativity in art! Just my field! NOT!!!) I am 80% sure I will be starting the countries 1st environmental education resource center. So anything (info) you want to send on the subject is welcome. I am lucky there will be a man in my village to settle me in. His name is Bill (The call him Billy-2-Buckets because he is stocky/muscular and walks like he is carrying 2 buckets full of water! He is very lonely & very excited to be getting another PCV in his village. He has already picked me out a house. And a friend of his was medically separated. So, he bought all the guys stuff (stove, bed, etc...) And he has set up lots of stuff for me. Now I just have to get place there~ But I'm requesting it, Bill's requesting it, and 2nd in charge of education Jenari says he has already considered me for that spot, before I even requested it so... looks good!

I just got my worst shot last week. (Gamma Globulin in the butt) one shot to go & then all I get is a Gamma every 4 months! The doctor is here today & tomorrow. He works in the hospital in Dakar, Senegal. So we only see him in emergencies. But he's a nice guy. A doctor in Vermont for 15 years. He brought his wife & 4 kids for the Peace Corps experience (age 9-15). They go to Senegalese school, not the embassy school. It is very cool!

So, I've answered all your questions! Who else should I mention to you.

Scott Dickie is mad because you didn't ask about him which means he wasn't important enough to mention to you! So I am mentioning him so he is not left out next time.

Out of 36 of us, 2 couples have developed Tamara & Scott Rose fell in love the first day in Phili and they are planning their wedding. They plan to return to the states married. They are both from California & both early 20's. But they are apparently soul mates, so, more power to them. They are trying to get a site together in the same hut! (Good luck!)

Robb is the 1st Peace Corps Person I met. (on the airport tram in Phili) and he is dating Jeans roommate Jennifer (a crazy radical feminist). Speaking of which I have stopped shaving.
Well I gotta go. If you think of mailing a package batteries(AA), American food, cloth hankies, magazines, are all good ideas. And tell me about the USA. We heard Michael Jackson is married!

Write soon & often!
Share this letter with Grandparents & Dad
Love Jaraa Diba

Same night, almost midnight

Robb, It is so good to hear from you but I am bummin about a couple things. 1st off, lot's of times during the day something funny happens you would totally appreciate but I'll never remember them all to get them in this letter.

I'm also weirded out on the fact that you are going to physically grow & mature while I'm gone. You're going to look like a man when you pick me up from the airport. Just make sure you do not greet me with any facial hair. I don't think I could take it!

And could you do me a favor. Top drawer of my tall dresser, in my wallet is my credit card. Please check the expiration date & see if you can get my credit limit upped. If need be, call & give them my new address & have them give me the forms. Also, send me my #without mentioning the name (I know it's Visa). I will need to use it in 2 years. (Actually you will need to use it for me so put it somewhere safe where you will remember.) I'll explain later when you send me the address.

Oh yeah! Another thing I wanted to say. I was nice to hear you got my letters but it was also weird to realize I have been here long enough to send a letter & get a reply. Wow!

So, I can't remember any of the things that make me think of you except many people here watch too many movies and sit around doing scenes from Breakfast Club & Coming to America. That makes me think of you. And let me share with you a slang word from Hawaii (curtsey of my friend Ted). "Fully" instead of "totally". As in "I fully understand your predicament." So use it in good health (as you may learn in Dad's letter, I hope it is better health than Ted's!)

Gotta go, write me. (Do I sound pathetic & desperate. Eric tells me not to be so pathetic! :) Glad you & Mike bonded. I am getting a kitten here. Forrest Gump the book really really sucked! Whatever you do, don't read it! Good luck with Kristen. Keep me updated!
I love you Binsky!

August 1994 Journals

Beginning of July 1994

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