October 3, 1994
Hi, me again (Duh! :) ) I hope you get this letter with this little present. It is a toe ring. Over here, we all wear sandals. (Actually most Gambians wear rubber/plastic flip-flops!) Point being - All of our toes are showing and all the women wear mostly the exact same toe ring. (The one presented here.) I wear one on the "pointer" toe of my right foot although I know winter is approaching and your feet will be all bundled up, I still think of you when I look at mine and maybe, come summer, you can wear yours (It bends to size).
It is hard to buy any gifts here because everything is tacky, nothing "genuine". But more Chicago Bulls and Malcolm X paraphernalia then I ever dreamed existed!
I am happy right now because I have decided to go to Kombo for almost a week for some pizza and a video. I was not planning to go until Oct 20, but after the night animal incident I need a break. It is pretty lame of me to run to Kombo so fast, but I know I am not the 1st. About 1/3 or more have already gone. Technically we are only allowed 3 days a month in Kombo but, ah well. I leave tomorrow, I'll spend the night in the next village over with Tita (she visited me today). She is sick :( Then I will stop and visit Robb and other friends until I get to Kombo. I will spend one day to go past Kombo to visit my closets friend, Jean. I will return to Illiasa on Sunday.
The next weekend is Mail Run. The following weekend - back to Kombo! :) I am supposed to meet Bill on the 20th plus I already told my friends I would be there! The last weekend is a Halloween party in Georgetown, when I get to see Eric!
Man! That's Bad! Check a map. However, a map is misleading when it comes to traveling. For instance, it takes me longer to get to Kombo then for Eric although he is "farther:. For the South Bank has paved roads. The North Bank
has primitive transport system. Plus an average of 2 hours to wait and ride the ferry. Plus another 45 minutes to wait for a small ferry over a branch on the North Side. But I like traveling North Bank better. The ferry's break up the trip, trying to find a new taxi every time! On south Bank you catch a bus, 5 hours, you're there! Me? I leave Illiasa at 8 am and get to Kombo at 4pm. Yet I am "closer".
I will write again soon, but I will mail this off at Kombo! Oh man, just in time, one candle burned out!
October 8, 1994
Dear Mom and Family,
Hey! How's it? I've gotten 2 packages from you and no letters! I guess youíre still alive or there would be no packages, right? Guess what? I'm not going to ask for anything this letter. I am finally getting settled.
I am in Sarakunda right now, staying un my Down Country House. It is so expensive here! Tomorrow I go back to site. I had thought I was having a hard time so I came down for a little R&R.
Some of my friends have electricity and beautiful houses, but some are having a harder time then me! Scott Rose (the one who is getting married to Tamara) has been sick.
He's lost weight so he looks like a skeleton, got food poisoning and then got a boil on his back the size of a fist! He has been in the clinic, away from Tamara for a long time.
Jean and her boyfriend Ted got lost in the Bush and spent the night with hyenas and mosquitoes. No water. Jean developed an allergy and became covered in hives, restricted breathing and threw up all night. They made it back the next morning (Jean was dehydrated
and covered in hives). I guess if the survived I can survive too.
Hi. I am back at site, a day late though. Seems I've developed allergies! My eyes were all swollen and itchy and my sinuses were full.
I kept arguing with the nurse that I don't have allergies. Oh well, I spent my Sarakunda weekend eating pizza and I saw Schindler's List
and House of Spirits. I visited Jean and her house is great! It inspired me to work on mine. SO yesterday we shoveled the construction debris out of the house, scrubbed the floors, dusted the walls and I had the floors painted black. Today
I am going to Farafini for a bed. Then I can buy nothing else until payday. I'm broke:)
still no work from Robb. no address. Did he get my B-day gift?
Larry's sister is coming to visit tomorrow for 2 weeks. I'm so jealous! She wants to join the Peace Corps so this should give her a good taste. And are you and dad sharing letters? How is Grandpa and Grandma? I wrote a lot to Peggy and asked her to share it with you. I'm sorry if
I don't write so much. Time moves fast I guess.
This was included, written on the back of a newspaper article with a picture showing us getting sworn in as official PC Volunteers:
Hi, um, this is my Phone # in case of an emergency: 725000. I don't know the country code though. When you call ask for "Jara Deeba". I live in "Jer a ma koon da" (that is one word). If you call during the school day (I am 4 hours ahead of you) I am at the
"Karen boon go" (one word). It is best to ask for me and when they go get me hang up and call again in 5 minutes. It gives me time to get to the phone.
Well, school just let out (you can imagine the ruckus!) There are 260 students and about 1/4 are girls. There are 4 girls in grade 6, 3 girls in grade 5, 4 girls in grade 4, 13 in 2nd and 16 in first. Guess that's less than 1/4 huh?!
So I'm going to try and catch a taxi to Farafini. Oh good, today is Thursday. I thought today was Friday. You can't do ANYTHING Friday afternoons. It is the holy time for Muslim prayer. All shops closed, no taxis!
Gotta go. Show Dad this article PLEASE. I'll write him soon.
Today I got your letter you mailed me the night I called you. Itís a great letter full of fun Peggy facts yet, lotís of questions for me to respond to.
1) the 1st question you ask is ďSite is different then Banjul, thatís where you are right?Ē
Well, yes, itís different but no, I was not in Banjul. Iíve already drawn you a couple of maps (they all suck) but, hereís one more:
OK, I trained at Tendaba Camp. My Down Country house / Peace Corps Office/ Embassy are in Sarakunda. Banjul is the capital (mostly government buildings and businesses). And site is much different from all those places. It is very void of ďstuffĒ like food. Sarakunda has everything you could want (if you have the money) including a 5 star hotel.
2) Um, Gambia is not Sub-Sahara and Swaziland = well barely. I guess it could be considered sub-Sahara but it is more Southern Africa.
3) No I donít have Robbís address and phone number. Iíve been asking but... no letters from any family members this month (3 packages though).
4) As you already know, I got your package and it was great :)! Thanks.
5) I miss you too:)
6) What to study in grad school? Iím thinking adult education, possibly nursing (I doubt it) as a B.S. so I can work international relief organizations. Most likely adult ed TESL (teaching English as a Second Language).
7) I definitely agree with you that you should work before getting your Masters.
A) Gives you time to see what you enjoy and know what to get a Masterís in
B) Possibly your company will pay for it
C) Sometimes it is harder to get a job with a Masterís and no experience.
8) I canít believe youíre looking at houses! E Gads! :) Canít wait to crash at your place. I guess this means you will be settling in NE Ohio.
9) Where will Pheloni and I live? Um, Iím working on that. I am hoping to get a 1 year teaching job (or grad school) and grab us a cheap apartment. Iíll get a loan or something. I know it sounds crazy but itís something I feel I have to do. I will work it out (I am hoping for sponsors to help the cost).
10) Price Waterhouse Int. What do you mean? I mean, we have a book of all businesses that do Peace Corps type international work (i.e. Education, refugee aid, health...) And Price Waterhouse was in the book. I could apply. I forget its specifics, but ya never know. (And I Know itís your firm :) Thatís why I mentioned it :) ! Duh!
So, those are my responses to your letter. Now for a little news about me! Right now I am in Sarakunda. I got tired of animal attacks (I had a bat attack after the cat attack). I spent the night at Jenís, then came here. There is about 10 of us here, working and hanging out. Last night Scott and I watched ďThe Mighty Ducks IIĒ. We laughed a lot. Scott has been in Sarakunda a lot. He has been very sick. He had a fever, puke, running stomach, He lost so much weight it is scary. He was already so thin. While here, he got food poisoning and thought he would die. And now he has 2 boils. But I mean I have never seen a boil so big. As big as your fist. It is on his back and it makes a huge hump through his shirt! Poor Scott, heís really depressed and scared of becoming too sick.
Today we will go to the ďBull & BushĒ for pizza. Hope that cheers him up. Then I will visit Jean and spend the night. Tomorrow night they are showing ďSchindlerís ListĒ. (Of course I think of you with us both in body suits).
I have to also get some work done. Stop by the National Library and BPMRU for materials. (I told my headmaster it was the reason for my week long departure). It is nice getting some R&R here (more like itís nice to have company and running water:)
there are 3 guys here, about to leave the Peace Corps and they are traveling up through Russia, across the Bering Straight, into Alaska! Wow! Crazy. One of them lives in my Down Country house. Kool!
Hmm.. I hate to mail this off with one side all blank! I will put it away and right another later. OK!
Night - Oct 12
Um, hi. I guess itís later (actually much later). I didnít mail this in Sarakunda, now Iím back at site. To continue with the day I was writing...
jean ended up at Sarakunda that day. I went back to her site with her. Wow! Her house is kick butt! Her floor is painted black (Makes it look like a marble floor, not a dirt one!) Her bed is a loft over the bedroom doorway. There are drawers and shelves in the wood and a tiny spiral stairway. All space is useable. She framed the.. Itís hard to explain (another drawing follows) She even uses the over head empty space. It is framed in wood. It is covered with cool posters and awesome bamboo furniture. (She moved into it already like this. A PCV named Sandra lived there before her and did it up.) So, not only does she have a kick ass house, but she doesnít have to spend her ďsettling-inĒ allowance. (Mine is all gone!) I spent the night there and got sick. The next day I caught a ride with a ďSave The ChildrenĒ worker. Heís cute!
I ate lots in Sarakunda. Probably gained 5 lbs! Ah well, Iím back at site now! Back to one meal a day. Too bad it comes at 9pm!
So, I hung out, saw ďSchindlerís ListĒ and ďHouse of SpiritsĒ, ate pizza (well.. A reasonable facsimile). Sunday I was gonna go back to site and I woke up with swollen eyes. So I had to stay until Tuesday morning. It sucked. I was away from site for 8 days! Scott is till there, at least one more week.
Sunday I also went to the Sarakunda market all by myself. I bought gas for my stove (I got the stove free from a PCV going home), 2 cans of black paint, turpentine, frying pan, fork, knife, spoon, another cooking pot and 2 pillows. I also went by the National Library and got a huge box of books free, for my center.
Donít be surprised but I am now after a new guy named Larry. Heís awesome. True, not as built, strong, ďniceĒ, smart or hard working as Eric, but he is fun and crazy. He wears insane outfits and most importantly is afraid to get a physical. Iíve only seen him a couple of times but we have definitely chemistry and I think of him constantly. I was him for 3.5 minutes Tuesday morning and you could feel the intensity! I donít know what Iím gonna do. I plan to spend the weekend at Ericís on Oct 30 and at Larryís Nov 16! Iíve got to figure things out with Eric!
So back at site, I got my house shoved out (the debris from the construction), floors cleaned and painted! Iím having curtains and beddings made, things are shaping up. I pray I get my bed this Sunday. But I donít think I have enough money :(
Iíve got my teaching schedule:
Monday - 1 hour each of grade 1 and 2 and girls grades 1 and 4
Tuesday - 1 hour each of grade 3 and 4 and girls grades 2 and 3
Wednesday - 1 hour each of grade 5 and 6
Thursday and Friday are for working with the other 4 schools in my district (yeah, anyways...)
Why yes! This letter is the Never Ending Story. I guess this one should be shared with my family (if they can read it) can you read it? God we are so different! By the way, I loved the zip lock finger people on your last letter (OK , ďlovedĒ is a strong word, but they were funny! :)
Today is Thursday and last night the house was invaded again by a bush cat. In some ways it was worse then last time, in some ways better. But anyways, Iím not sleeping there alone anymore. No Way! I am going to Farafini to pick up my bed and I will begin to sleep in my home (not Billís). Even though it is not finished yet. If I canít get my bed Iím dragging Abhijit back here with me. (He lives in Farafini) until I get my bed. I refuse to sleep there alone. I had all the doors bolted shut and all the food put away, sleeping totally soundly, and that cat still came in (through the cat door). There is no way to keep that shut (it is a hole in the door). I will get cats, but I will get up and let them out at night. (Iíll go with them!)
Bill better get here soon. His house and yard are falling apart! Iím no agro/forester. I donít know what to do to his yard. Besides, Iím working on my own house!
Besides all that, Iím starting to like it here. I appreciate my favorite tree and the baby goats. I canít wait to move into my new house.
Hmm, what else did I want to mention??? I was thinking about my family (especially my mom) as I ate lunch today. The girl in Billís guardianís compound (called Jobe Kunda, I live in Jarama Kunda) brings me a meal once a day in a bowl with a lid. Today I opened it and there were 2 small fish heads on rice :) Yes, I ate what I could! Giving the skull and eyes to the cats! Vegetables are such a treat. Youíd never know you could even taste such a tiny portion.
I begin teaching in a week (I started evening classes for grade 6 already, twice a week). I teach English :) Iím sure I wanted to add more but, mail run is tomorrow and I must get ready! Did you get the toe ring? Um, from my wish list: t ape (the size that would go in a teacherís tape dispenser, clear), INK PENS! Blue and Black, maybe thatís it although candy, baked goods and Crystal Lite are always appreciated!
Oh Yeah! I bet you never got a hold of Kenny. Iíve written him but have gotten no replies! Iím beginning to see who my ďtrueĒ :) friends are. Apparently you and Brandy (and Seanís mom!) OK. Hope I hear from you soon. Oh and my phone number is ****** but I donít know the country code. (Ya never know, you may wanna call if something major happens, i.e. you set the date with Bear or win the lottery!
PS I meant to tell you about Jean and Ted in the bush. I wrote mom about it! Get it from her. Itís a good one!
Oct 14 Friday
Whatís up? Me, well Iím sweating. Tilo kandeta bakay. (The sun is very hot!) The 12th I shoveled all the construction debris out of my home, swept the walls and floor, washed it down and had the floor painted black. I get my bed in 5 days, then I can ďmove inĒ! And Iíve had some mid-night scares. I am starting to look for 2 kittens to keep the rats away. It will be sad to leave Billís cats behind but Iím only moving 1 ďblockĒ away! I also have to give his cats rabies shots today. Another useful Peace Corps skill.
We have to do a secondary project during the summers. I am thinking about seeing if I can volunteer at the health clinic. It is about 25K away. It will be a good bike ride every day. (Keep in mind, the roads arenít paved, so itís Mountain biking). Iíll tell you, a 3rd work health clinic is not a pretty sight. Lots of children dying or malaria and such. It was pretty bad. Well, I have plenty of time before summer to think about it.
If I forget to tell you, I mailed you a film a long time ago. Can you develop it, send me the photos and keep the negatives in a safe place please? Thanks.
Well, Halloween will be here in 2 weeks. Iíll be going all the way East to Ericís site. I have not seen him in a month. I told you about Eric right? He played rugby for Notre Dame. Anyway, I hope itís a good party! When you talk to Robb Sunday, tell him I wish heíd write. Iíve only gotten 1 letter from him. Plus I donít even have his school address or phone.
You should come and visit. Of course you have to go without plumbing for a couple of days, but on the bright side, all men are required to do is sit on the bantabaa and talk and hang out all day.
Iíve gotta go, they will be here to pick up the mail soon. Iím doing good, hanging tough, no thoughts of leaving. Iím used to the fish heads and peanut sauce:( Used to smelling like mildew and sleeping under a mosquito net!
Oct 16, 1994
It's nice to see our friendship growing stronger instead of falling apart. I think I've "talked" to you more now then in the last 4 years combined!
You tap dance teacher sounds like an idiot. But I know you will find your groove and you'll be awesome. Dancing's in your blood or something
Is the dress at site more traditional? Well, no. Well, wait. On a daily basis, around the compound or village women wear a T-shirt or tank top (lot's of Chicago Bulls) and a fanno (a wrap around skirt). Little girls wear fannos and sometimes a top. Babies are naked or wear a top or shorts (but rarely both at the same time). Young boys wear shorts, sometimes skirts. Men are the most traditional with hats (sometimes traditional, sometimes knit . Yes, it is 90 degrees, why don't you put on that knit hat with the ball on top!) Their shirts are long (past their knees) and the pants are cool, the crotch is below the knee, lot's of breathing room if ya get my drift.
when you leave the village, the men are dressed the same but the women wear dresses and head wraps. The dresses look like cheesy costumes, not African wear. It is hard to explain, guess I better take some pictures. (Can't say "photo" here. "Photo" means penis in Mandinkan!)
Andy and Beth are cured with no scars. (Which is good because look wise they are the King and Queen of beauty in our group.) They are not vain or anything, they are simply the best looking. It was just a strep virus on the outside of their neck.
I am glad your taking the Africa class. Keeps me in your mind!
Last night I slept at Jobekunda (that's the Jobe family compound). Since I had another late night bush cat attack in the house I am afraid to be in here alone after night fall. I thought it would be freaky sleeping with Gambians but it was the best night's sleep I have gotten since training.
Wow! I just looked up and last night I set my bag on a table at foot from the bed Now I look up and see a HUGE (3 feet) spider web using the bag and bed as the bas points. It looks like no one has been in the room in months when in fact I cleaned the entire house yesterday and just set the bag there last night!
I am moving into my place in 3 days. That is when the bed will be ready. And my straw mattress.
Mail run came yesterday and I got a letter from you, Mom, grandparents (with a very precious picture of my 2nd cousins. The gorgeous cousin's kids.) And a letter from my Dad written in August/Early September! Oh and 2 notes from Eric.
man, I really think Larry is the one but Ericís letters were so awesome! My Farafini friend, Abhijit tells me to make no decisions until Thanksgiving. (I am spending a weekend with each of them before then). Oh, I think I put Illiasa wrong on your little map. But mark it on the one you photocopied at the library. OK!
Man, it's hard to write with this cat in my arms! I hope I get 2 kittens of my own soon. My landlord just stopped by. I live in Jeramakunda.
It is 8:20 am and I've been up almost 2 hours. I go to bed at sun down and get up at sun up. And winter months mean longer nights.
I must end it here. I hope I hear from you soon. I am headed back to Sarakunda in 5 days so I will be able to mail this. The 1st of my November batch! OH!! HAPPY HALLOWEEN! I still don't know what to dress up as.
So, I sit here by candlelight. It is 8:10pm. I just helped the cat chase a toad out of here. I think the bat family has moved out of the house yeah!
My laundry was just brought to me (once a week) & my water (once a day) I am getting stronger. Before I couldn't carry the water bucket to the bathing pad. It gets easier every day!
Oh! Here's one crabby thing. When I left for Sarakunda I put all the valuables into Bill's security box & locked it with his lock. Now that I'm back, I can't remember the combination! (I know I know, my spelling sucks!) Anyways I've been trying to pry stuff out of the corner but I can't squeeze the short wave radio through. So, no BBC for 2 weeks! Wahh!!! And I realized I hadn't locked mine up. So I got it out AND it doesn't work. So actually no BBC for 2 years Ahh!! (uh oh, the cat spotted another critter living amongst the Tupperware. I'm not surprised, I heard it earlier, scratching around.
Dinner just came (8:30pm). Oh yum, something I will actually eat, peanut sauce on rice (I actually enjoyed it). I'd love to tell you about the gross green stuff & the tiny fishies but I gotta end it somewhere. (There is a HUGE storm brewing outside. I just bolted my doors, now I'm really HOT & jumping at the shutters slamming in the wind!
PS . No, I don't think my parents are sharing letters. God.
Oct 17, 1994
I got your letter dated Sept 7 on Oct 14! It was kinda weird! You talk about sending Crystal Lite, maybe. And I go the package 3 weeks ago!
At site I don't have to walk 3 miles, everything is close, it's more like there's no where to go!
Once I get my bike I will ride to the surrounding schools (10 k RADIUS) and work with them. I hope to plan some exercise routine but it is so hot and it is not like I can jump in the shower afterwards! Rite now I don't worry about exercise because I eat so little. But once my body gets used to living on such small amounts, then I need to get moving!
Eric works out every day. He brought a push up bar and does 100 every day plus 100 sit ups. He started at 210 and is down to 192. He does not want to lose any and he eats lots and tries to keep his muscle up!
You wrote Robb came home to see a doctor. Why? For what? What happened?
Me? I had a small medical. The nurse says allergies. Whatever. I told her I don't have allergies. But I had to stay Down Country an extra day for observation. (My eyes were all swollen).
In 3 days I get my bedroom straw mattress and I will move into my house, I am looking for 2 kittens to live with me. I still have so much to buy. A gibidia (for drinking water), 2 tables, some chairs. It is so much money and yet compared to the USA! My bed is $15, mattress $5, Gibidia $30. Not bad to furnish a house. But we only make $120 a month. And my rent is $12 a month. It costs about $4 to get Down Country once and month and $4 back. Laundry is $3 a month. It will work out. I've got $100 in the bank rite now, but I must pay $7.50 for Thanksgiving dinner.
So, Gotta go. Good to hear from you!
Hey Grandpa & Grandma,
How are you? I miss you. This is a picture of where I buy some vegetables! Things are good. I am working on my house. I've bought paint and pillows. Now I just need a bed. I am getting used to the food and weather. My resource center is finished. Now I must work to help the teachers and I am a grade 6 English tutor. Things are going well. I love you! Write soon.
It is Monday, high noon, I'm sitting in the most run down station wagon you have ever seen. The sun is relentless like always. As I have said before, the rain is gone until July. It is always hot.
Dear Mom, it's Thursday, 5:30. I'm sitting in a run down minibus. The sun is relentless, like always. It is always hot.
Are you getting a grasp of my life? Sitting in hot vehicles! I have been "traveling" (i.e. waiting for transportation since noon). It is 5:30 pm and I have traveled about 6 miles, OK, maybe? I wanted to get to Sarakunda by 8 for the movie. Alas 8 hours was not enough time to travel 30 miles.
OK Mom, it's Tuesday, 3pm. I'm sweating but I'm at home, not in a vehicle.
It took me 9 hours to Sarakunda, I missed the movie (which was dumb anyway!) I got your letter and Halloween jewelry just in time for our Halloween party. I will wear it. (The party is down near Eric). I have enclosed a picture of Jean & Eric. I will leave Thursday after school. And return Sunday.
I have 3 tiny kittens (2 are a week old) I have to let a young boy stay at my place & take care of them while I am gone. I've named the big one (3 weeks old) Poopsy. the others I haven't named. I want to see if they live. they must be bottle fed & potty trained.
It is a constant cycle. Some children go to school. one boy in my family lives far from home so he can attend Gambian High School. It is the best high school in the country. He may live with family or family that takes in borders. My "father" has around 30 children and only 2 boys go to school. One in Gambian High School and one locally.
Yesterday I walked to Kwinella with Dan. (3 miles). I stopped by my families and found my "sister" had a baby girl on Sunday. She was 4 days old. Children aren't named until they are one week after birth. So this little girl has no name yet but her little ears are pierced. They are pierced directly after birth. Saturday will be the naming ceremony. I am taking baby powder and ? something else. I don't know what yet.
Oh, I got my Down Country Housing settled. I am living in "Power 10" other houses are called "Sardine Can", "Pet Cemetery", "Fish Bowl, & "Chicken Ranch". The house will be me, jean, Eric, Any, Ted, Dan, Jennifer E, Leslie, and 2 volunteers that have been here for 2 years and extending to one more (2 boys).
Jennifer E is closest to me at site. I think I have mentioned her before. She is a feminist, vegetarian, bisexual, save the planet, doesn't shave or wear deodorant. She brought her own speculum to give herself gyno exams. She attends women's groups at home and has gone to classes watching women give themselves exams. She is really radical. We get along OK. Better since we are each other's closest neighbor. Around here, I am not considered so liberal. I even have prejudices here. The only things I'm known for that is different is that I like & accept everybody. I am like a moderator. AND I am the gossip Queen:
My health is good, just a rash and a blister. Jean has 2 bad infections. One on her elbow one on her foot.
Bill is in Mali on vacation right now. Um, oh yeah. If anyone sends me a package my new wish list is a Tori Amos tape (God, sometimes you just don't com through), AA batteries, Kool-Aid and anything that mixes with water!
October 19, 1994
Oh my gosh, I know I won't finish this tonight! It is impossible to find some spare time at night. Man if you think your life is hectic allow me to one up you! Let me say this, all the stuff I have to do may not sound totally overwhelming, but keep in mind the sun goes down at 7pm and my day pretty much ends. It is hard to accomplish anything in darkness with no electricity. I have a lantern going and I am totally running down my D batteries in this flashlight in order to write to you. Notice I did not write "wasting" , my batteries are never wasted on you. :) He He! Um, the writing is bad, not only because it is dark, but I am on a mattress on the floor, enclosed in mosquito net, covered in kittens. I have 3 kittens all too small to be taken from mom. Yet, here they are! I would give anything for a photo or video of this! They are neglected all day (I am very busy) so when I'm home I let them do whatever. All 3 are on me. 2 are only a week old. At this moment I am writing one word every 10 seconds for they are covering my chest ("I'm on my back) and this paper. OK, now one is in my hair. I tolerate as much as I can but now I have an infected finger from a bite "Poopsy" gave me. )I didn't name the other 2 , let's see if they live) So any minuet break I have I must rush home and bottle feed these guys with an eye dropper. What is funny is the milk costs 25 cents a day and I can't afford it! What a standard of living!
I get up at sunrise, with the animals, workers and the damn cats wanting breakfast. I have to go to Bill's to wash (my shower pad is not built yet). Sweep the house and it's time for school. Which I work through lunch break because it is the student's only free time. The kids are driving me nuts! As soon as I get one task completed i turn around and there are books everywhere!
I am done at 2:30. I go to Bill's, eat lunch, then run to my place to feed the cats. I am back at school at 4pm to 6pm to tutor grade 6. At 6 the sun is setting. I run to Bill's to wash. Then I have to stand and talk with the family as they make dinner. And I mean, have to. Chatting (kachaa) is very important, even to sit and say nothing. They get very offended if you don't sit for a spell. I am getting used to it. I used to hate it. But I still don't enjoy it because it is a 4 hour span and I worry about the kittens. As they get older I will do better.
Let's talk food. It's weird but I think about food and weight less and less, The other day, it was bed time before I realized all I'd had that day was a cup of rice with palm oil. Sometimes I'm hungry but sometimes I'm too busy. It's not like I can eat anytime of the day. Food is served 7:30 am, 2 PM and 9 PM. If I am working or sleeping I am out of luck. No restaurants in Illiasa! It is almost noon and I know, since I am traveling, I have not eaten today nor will I until 7pm. But it will be Toubab food! (White tourist food!)
Wherever we go children (and some adults) yell (scream) "TOUBAB!" (Pronounced "two-bob") Toubab!! Can you imagine in American screaming "Black Guy!" "Black guy!" Every time you saw a black guy?! It gets annoying. Sarah wrote a hilarious horoscope in our newsletter. For Scorpio she wrote " You are a celebrity, a hero! You are famous! Hordes of children follow you wherever you go, shouting your name."
It is so true. Every day every person either yells "Hey Jara" or "Toubab, Toubab!" Depending on if they know me. Do you understand? Every person I pass on the street. It grates on your nerves sometimes.
I try and think of all the good things here. These are usually every day things I don't remember unless I think about it. Like, here, when a stranger offers a child food, the child eats it. No danger. Everyone offers food, even on the bus. It is weird to eat alone.
And the sky is incredible. It's indescribable. Every day, every night, so different and beautiful. The atmosphere, the lack of pollution, no electric lights, makes the sky phenomenal.
I take a shower (well, bucket bath) in the moonlight. I really get reflective at night (Oh, some kid just walked by and yelled "Toubab!") anyway... , at night I sit in JobeKunda with all the women and children. We hang out for an hour or 2 until dinner is ready. I sit and eat and look around me. It is dark, we eat by moonlight only. They are all hunched down on the balls of their feet gathered around one large (huge) bowl, eating with their hands. All these black bodies and only speaking Mandinka. And I sit there and think "This is Africa." Not too many toubabs experience this. What would my family do in this situation? You gotta eat what's given, I can't insult. Sometimes it's spicy or not so good. You just take a lot of rice and wash it down with water!
Oh yeah! People tinkle wherever the spirit hits them. I've seen children, women and men just squat and go. (I think of this as I look out the window and see boys peeing.)
Yesterday was a hard day, worked, went to Farafini for my bed (which of course was not ready.) Waited 2 Ĺ hours for transport back. Was late for tutoring. My feet were killing me (never walk more than a mile in flip-flops!) And I was thinking about the rain, how it is finished until next year. How I miss it! And why were there fluffy white clouds in the sky, there should be no clouds until July.
And it started to drizzle. I couldn't believe it. Does this mean God does exist and was listening and was giving me a sign? The sun was beaming, the clouds were fluffy white and sangeo be kerring (Rain is happening.) But I still wasn't happy. It was sprinkling, wouldn't a down pour be great! And low and behold, that night, a storm with lightening and everything. It was great.
It's funny, even a little drizzle sounds like a storm because all of the roofs (well, Ĺ the roofs) are made from sheets of corrugated metal It is so noisy! My roof is corrugated and you can not speak and be heard during a normal rain.
Some other fun Gambian facts. It is totally cool to pick your nose. It is not a "no no". I've seen more noses being picked then I ever needed to see! (Belching is cool too, so are breasts just swayin in the breeze.)
Gosh I'm tired. These cats keep me up all night. (I rolled on one last night. She's OK though. Darn it!) I am going to Sarakunda today (Thursday) until Sunday. Then Farafini (i.e. Abhijit) until Monday morning. The kittens will be attended by a 5th grader. I know they are gonna die, but at least I won't be here to see it. I would me gone now but I have to wait for Fibrima to get out of school to show him how to bottle feed them.
Hi. Let me say I lost a small page 2 and 3. But I want to mail this out today so...
Hmm.. I am at Sarakunda. I'm not supposed to mention this, don't tell anyone else because it's just a chance that we will not be here for 2 years. The gossip here is that we will be evacuated by April. It seems such a long time from now. In my heart I don't believe it, but volunteers that live around politics say there is a 25% chance we leave.
To brief you, Like you know the 1st month I was here, there was a coup. USA and Europe don't support military coups over democratic governments. But the military said they cooped because the democracy was not working (same President in office for 30 years). Europe has pulled out all aid and America is deciding this week. All of our officials are in Washington arguing that we should stay. Tomorrow the leader sets the timetable towards a return to democracy. If it is good... we may be allowed to stay. But if it is too long....!
This last week there was a murder and riot in the market place. There is worry the violence may escalate. It is too complicated to explain here, but I think we'll be fine. There is talk of a rice shortage and the Dalasi (money) is going to fall drastically. Business will be affected. But know that I am in Sarakunda and this affects me as much as the LA riots affected Ohio!
Anyways, I gotta go. Back to site. (Oh, the rumor about me and Jason (the true rumor) is making the rounds. Eric will hear it soon.)
Love ya! Don't worry!
So how did the car show go? Did it rain? You should have it here :) The rains are finished. I will not see a drop of rain or a cloud in the sky until July. Wow! Can you imagine that? Clear skies day & nite.
Eric... well he is to good to be true but, he's real! There is a guy that's been here one year already named Larry who I really like but everyone in my group is against me talking to him. Everyone loves Eric. The girls think he's so attractive & Jean said she'd leave her man if Eric asked her to (which Eric would never do). All the guys consider him a friend. There is not one person who dislikes him. SO everyone wants to see him happy. We are so far away, sometimes I worry he'll find someone else, but everyone says "Eric's not like that! He'll never be with anyone else!" So, yes, Eric's an angel. Only I know him better. I've seen his "dark" side. Granted his "dark" side is better than many people's good side. But he's not perfect :) We will see what happens. I will see him Halloween weekend. There is a party up his way. Maybe that will straighten out my feelings. I really like Eric & Larry. But I'm moving at an ants pace. I don't want to blow this decisions so I must move very slow & get to know them both before I decide.
I move into my own house (out of Bill's) in 3 days. That is when my bed & straw mattress will be ready.
At site, bugs are the least of my concerns. I'm having problems with wild bush cats, bats, and snakes are always possible. Lizards, frogs, roaches, crickets, in the house are not dangerous, just a fact of life.
And no, I will not have 3 scars under my eyes. It is a painful process and doesn't look good on white skin.
No, they do not supply me with anything (clothes, shoes, etc...) Except a mosquito net & a bucket for water (& medical kit). I get paid monthly but rite now it is all going into fixing up the house. It's good to hear you & Mr. Brown are doing well. I forgot what a souvenir he wanted. He doesn't still collect masks does he?
October, a week before Halloween
It is Monday, high noon. I'm sitting in the most run down station wagon you have ever seen. The sun is relentless, like always.
As I have said before, the rain is gone until July. It is always hot.
It's Thursday, 5:30. I'm sitting in a hot vehicle! I have been "traveling" (i.e. waiting for transport) since noon. It is 5:30 pm and
I have traveled about 6 miles, ok, MAYBE. I wanted to get to SaraKunda by 8pm for the movie. Alas 8 hours was not enough
time to travel 30 miles.
OK Mom, it's Tuesday, 3pm. I'm sweating but I'm at home, not in a vehicle.
It took me 9 hours to SaraKunda, I missed the movie (which was dumb anyway)!
I got your letter and Halloween jewelry just in time for our Halloween party. I will wear it. (The party is down near Eric). I
have enclosed a picture of Jean and Eric. I will leave Thursday after school and return Sunday.
I have 3 kittens (2 are a week old). I have to let a young boy stay at my place to take care of them while I am gone. I've named
the big one (3 weeks old) Poopsy. The others I haven't named. I want to see if they live. They must be bottle fed and potty
trained. They drive me nuts but I hope they live.
Bill is back from America. He is helping me define my role here. Plus he is fencing my backyard. There is still so much work to
be done! I have sent a photo of my house. As you can see, it needs work. I don't have enough money so I can only do a little
work each month. I have all my windows and doors finished, a bed and mattress and a gas stove (no oven). Next month I
want a jibadab (a large clay pot to hold drinking water) and a table. But Bill says I must buy fencing for the back yard.
I regret telling you about Eric because he is great and perfect and I've started to see someone else. I still see Eric but my new
love (well my new like) is close to me and I only see Eric once every 6 weeks! But, we will wait and see. I have to choose this
weekend I guess. they are pressuring me!
If you think Dad is weird to you, you should see how weird he is to me! I get letters every month saying I am
the best daughter in the whole world, etc... etc... It gives me the creeps. I just write back normal, but his letters
I am accustomed to Gambian food: rice, fish, peanut sauce, etc... I think about Africa the most when I sit with the family at
night, eating out of one big bowl, with our hands, in the dark. the words are Mandikian, the skin is black, and there I sit. I
guess not many people have this experience. I am now perfectly accustomed to the mosquito net and unhygienic
Oh yeah, Iím not happy about one thing. My landlord was stung by a scorpion! They are really big! I am
supposed to wear closed shoes so as not to get stung! Man! That's scary!
well, I gotta go. I am so busy lately it is unbelievable. And I have to start going to school earlier! These
kittens never let me get anything done!
Oct 25, 1994
Sorry to hear about Coach Shafer. If you see John, give him my condolences.
So, did you visit Robb? Thanks for his address, now I can write him directly.
School is OK. Bill is back from the states, he is helping me define my job here. have to start expanding to the other local schools. Bill is also working on my yard. He has put a fence around 1/2 of my Kammo (hole in the ground potty). My house is coming along very slowly because I need so much money but don't make so much. So every month I can fix my house a little bit more. Bill thinks I should paint the inside (the walls are dried mud, but I don't think so. We will see.)
I have 3 kittens that drive me crazy. The oldest one is 3 weeks, the other 2 just opened their eyes and must be bottle fed. They drive me crazy. Plus, I go away every weekend and I have a young boy stay and take care of them. The big one is named Poopsy. I haven't named the other 2 yet. I want to see if they live.
I like the Peace Corps. I do a lot of traveling. I shouldnít write this but there is talk we will be leaving this country by June. the politics are not so god. Europe has pulled out all projects and American has pulled out governmental aid and programs. Only base relief working on the level of the people remain. We stay unless violence breaks out. Everything will be normal. March will be an important month. So, don't worry until then. Keep an eye out in international news, but you probably won't hear much. There is no problem rite now. Crystal Lite is always great. And I can always use batteries (AA and D). Plus ink pens. Otherwise I have adapted to the lifestyle.
I have enclosed 2 photos. I hope you send my photos soon. It's VERY hot here. I stink constantly. I am going to travel to Senegal in a few months. I am visiting Eric on the other side of the country for Halloween.
I hope I find more time to write. I have been WAY to busy!
Oct 27, 1994
Good to hear you and Bear are having more time together. But I will believe that you get less than an "A" when I see it. I think you will manage Barry and a 4.0 average.
I've never been to "Howl at the Moon", but it sounds fun (Actually it sounds embarrassing, but after a couple of beers... who knows?)
You talk about small beds and fitting Barry on it. Well, I can relate, the beds are even smaller here. I bought a big one which is nice but the mattress is made of straw. But you get used to it, it's no so bad.
You ask about my house. It is made of mud blocks and then cemented over. My floor is cemented with dirt wholes that my kittens use as litter boxes! I painted the floor black. We can not have dirt floors because f all the worms (ring worm, etc...) I think I told you it's 3 rooms. My kammo has been built in the back. Bill used my old fencing to make some temporarily privacy. The kammo is only fenced (barely) on 2 sides, which means, anyone on the other 2 sides can see me squatting! i also bathe (naked) on my kammo because I have no bathing pad. So far I haven't seen anyone staring but who knows?!
I live alone (with my 3 kittens) but there are people in my compound. The well is an open well, actually a damaged well. My clothes and myself are bathed with this water. It's a gross grey color. My drinking water is pumped from a closed well. But it still is not "treated".
I do share my house Down Country with 9 other people that is where I am now. It has 3 bedrooms, 2 disgusting bathrooms (no door or shower), kitchen, and main room. We usually have electricity (ceiling fan, fridge, lites) but not for a week and everyone is too lazy to find out why. It is by the office. We stay here when we visit. I am trapped here for 4 days! I was supposed to see Eric today for Halloween but I have to get rabiesí shots. Bill's cats were rabid and I spent a month with them, very close. So just in case I was infected, I need to get treated. this sucks. It is so expensive down here. Luckily Peace Corps has to pay my travel and 50D a day for food. I will leave Saturday morning for Eric. And stay until Tuesday Morning.
I know I mentioned Abhijit (the Indian I'm dating), did I tell you we had sex? And he's uncircumcised! It was kinda weird :) But now he says I must choose between him and Eric. I don't want to give up either of them. That is why this trip to Eric is important. (Abhijit will be there). I have to sort things out. What sounds better, Wendy M**** or Wendy C*********? :)? Do you think my parents will freak over Abhijit?
I guess my family's doing OK. I never hear from Robb. (2 B's, very important!:) Dad just says how I'm the best daughter in the world and he is going to clean the house soon (every letter says that). Mom says Dad is stalking her.
My Dad never mentioned the money. Probably our first fight when I get home he will bring it up!
My weight loss here slowed down. I don't mind. I'm just scared I will start to gain. Especially in Sarakunda! All this toubob food (Ice cream, pizza!) I am at 187. I don't even remember the last time I weighed that! I was 192 when I was cocktail waitressing last year and I weighed into the Peace Corps at 213.
What do I do at site? I haven't had a chance to develop a routine yet. I just moved into my house and Bill just returned from the USA and now the rabies thing!
My house is well, not really moved into. No furniture except for the bed. I am too busy to work on it. And I definitely lack the money. The sun is only up 10 hours a day. I can't work at nite. (No lite!) My tentative schedule is:
6am - wake, feed kittens, bathroom, coffee at Bill's?
7:30am - school (help staff and kids before school)
8:30am - home to work on house and feed kittens
lunch at school if we ever get the program started and now with the change of government we may never get it!
11:30am - school, help during break, lunch
12:30pm - home
2pm - school
6pm - home, dinner, visit Bill
9 - bed
I have not received a letter back from Pheloni. I still plan to bring him back for school. I kinda hope I lose contact because I might want to extend a year (especially if I get evacuated next year). I would only extend in another country, not this one! But my 1st responsibility is to Pheloni.
How was your Chicago Trip?
I appreciate the Kool-Aid and wouldn't mind a flavors switch! My parents send me Crystal Lite. I have access to powdered milk and unsweetened evaporated milk. Um, can't have pudding because there is no fridge. Unless you send the kind you can cook and I ate it hot. Now that I have been here 4 months, I don't crave American food like I used to. Except we still love getting candy (chocolate) and homemade goodies. You can buy it in Sarakunda but it is not as good. Basically I'm not lacking much. What would be most useful (food wise) is cream of wheat or instant oatmeal (the packet kind). A quick breakfast would be nice. But I can survive without it. I've asked my brother to mail me a video tape of awesome movies. We have a VCR at the office. What I still need are batteries AAA and D and ink pens, also clear tape and an inflatable beach ball globe! But like I said, don't knock yourself out, I'm doing all right. The only appliance I own is a gas stove. (Rite now I'm listening to the child next door being beaten. All children are beaten at home and in school here. By adults & older children.
Oh, did I tell you my landlord got stung by a scorpion? That scares me!
So I end it here. Hope to hear from you soon! Thanks for writing and remembering me!
October 31, 1994 HAPPY HALLOWEEN
It's me. and my last aerogram. I better have Bill get me more. I refuse to discuss my love life this month, I'll fill you in next month.
It is 2:15 pm, school let's out at 2pm. I am at my resource center alone, hating it here. Not here, I like Illiasa and all that but I hate schools. I really really do. I never want to set foot inside a resource center again. I'd like to work at the health clinic. Maybe I'll talk to someone in Peace Corps and see what I can do.
My kittens are good. One of the little ones can lap from a bowl a little. Soon I won't have to run home and feed them every couple of hours. I'm losing weight slowly now. (2 lbs a month). I'm at 187 (186). So I'm still happy. I am super busy, I scheduled too much traveling. I didn't know it was so expensive! 150D my last trip cost on bus fare alone!
(Excuse me, I had to go in the classroom next to this one and chase out the goats who were having sex!) Hmm, thereís not much to write when I exclude my love life!
Oh yeah. Yesterday I bought 2 chickens, carried them upside down and transported them home. Tomorrow we have no school (All Saint's Day, but yes this is a Muslim country) anyway I'm going to behead, pluck, gut and cook chicken. My friends are coming to eat it. It will be good practice. I'm building a chicken coup in my backyard ya know!
Oh I am also desperate for D batteries, a flavored salt (i.e. garlic slat, onion salt, Lawery's seasoned salt), some kind of salt.
I'll write more later. I'm off to Bill's to hang.
I'm writing this section last. I am sending my Christmas list to my brother so he can tell both parents. I probably won't be sending much out. Did you get the toe ring? How's Barry? Life? Think you'll be able to travel in the next 2 years? I have written 2 pages but I'm putting it in a separate envelope.
October 31, 1994
I'm writing in the great Notebook you sent me! Thanks! How are things?
Even though today is Halloween, I suppose I should say "Happy Thanksgiving"!
I'm all right. The kittens are still alive: Poopsy, Lamin and Fatou.
The flies are driving me crazy and I just realized I must continue this letter later. The sun is about to go soon and I must bathe before it does!
Late that hour
Hi! This is going to get a lot messier! It is now dark. I sit on my front step using lite from one candle. I can barely see. My mother just brought me geo (water) and my younger mother is making dinner. earlier I saw her pounding coos. Which I detest. I told her I don't like coos, I like rice. So I hope I see rice in my food bowl, not coos!
The mosquitoes are driving me nuts. Supposedly they disappear in November. We will see.
So I took my bucket bath on my kammo because I still have no bathing pad. On the bright side, Bill is going to Farafini tomorrow to get me fencing material. I may not have a bathing pad but I'll have a little privacy.
Well, my life is going good except I really, really, hate school. This is concrete proof I am not meant to teach. I like my village, family, friends, travel. I don't mind the weather, food, lack of conveniences. But I hate working at the school. I like the kids, teachers. I love setting up the center, organizing the shelves, painting and staining but I dread the rest of it.
Don't worry, I'm not coming home! I am going to travel to other centers for ideas. I have many trips planned. Plus I am going to talk to Barbara the nurse about a change in direction. I plan on visiting the health clinic to see if I can volunteer there.
I know the.....MOTHER!!!!! I can't finish that sentence! The HUGEST bug I've EVER seen just fell from the roof, brushing my foot and landed on it's back. It is the size of my fist! It was all covered in Bug Armor. I jumped up and yelled "Ning mu munneti? ning, ning? (Which means "What is this?! This? this?!)
So they all came over to look and laugh at me. My father was trying to flip it over but I started screaming so he smashed it with his BARE foot!
Then he took me to the cow pen where the bug came from and showed me all the holes where they live. So I guess there will be plenty more like it in the years to come. This candle is not helping either.
OK! Now I'm inside because they came out in full force after me. 3 more. At least they didn't drop out of the sky. So my family has loaned me a chair and I sit here knowing these bugs can find a way in. My only protection is my mosquito net. They may crawl on it, but I don't think they can get in it. But I guess a bug that size can chew it's way in!
Man! There are huge holes in every screen where I lock the shutters. They could get in!
Well I lived through last night, barely. :) I killed a baby scorpion in my room. But I'm thinking, where there is a baby... there's a mommy. So I'm freaked. I want to clear out my back yard and put cement down! Fumigate the house. (Did I tell you my "father" was stung?) But don't worry, it is no big deal. Not fatal, just painful.
So it is 7am, it was the first night I did not get up in the middle of the night and feed my babies. I am sitting in my back doorway now, watching my babies play and watching a family of chickens walk on my kommo.
So, what was I saying? I know things will get better once I know what I am doing. So how are things at home? Where are you having Thanksgiving?
It's 1:30 and I bathed the cats, cleaned my room and the main room and done a tiny bit of work in back. I'm hungry! But I only eat once a day around 8pm. Maybe, since I am here I will eat lunch with the family.
It's funny, my younger mother showed me her huge tub of corn meal. It is for dinner, and it is infested with bugs. But she doesn't care and neither do I. I know I will eat what is given. I was thinking of coming home to visit but I don't know. If I manage to save up that much money I would probably go somewhere else, not home. It is easy for me to think so far ahead because time goes by fast here. I won't even start working until Jan because I am too busy right now. Not enough time.
Hi, I mail this out today (well, actually I will seal it up. It won't get mailed until Mail Run (Nov 14).
I have included negatives from a roll of film developed by Bill when he went to the states. It contains my house and resource center, swearing in with the Ambassador, My Down Country house and a good one of Jean and Eric with there arms around each other. You can develop then if you want or just put them with the other negatives. I already have a set of photos.
I have sent Robby my Christmas list in case anyone wants to mail a package. I figure he talks to everyone and could make sure nothing was duplicated. But it is not big deal. You've already send more than I ever thought I'd get.
So goodbye for now. Have Robb tell you about "the chicken".
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