Here I am trying to make the internet work for me again in Fara Fenni. At some point I hope to find a better place, but for now, this hot, strange spot – weird hours and policies – and its slowness are what I have. I wrote a long post a week ago, and was just able to post it – with the date I wrote it – so there will be two entries today.
Today is Monday, yesterday was the lumo here, and Maalik came down from Njau to go. We went with Wuli, a friend of Stacy and Jade, who were the two volunteers that left the day after I arrived. It was useful to have him there, translating and helping out, but made for a bit of a buffer compared to my first trip there, which was quite overwhelming in its intensity. Anyway, it’s fun to have a friend visit, he got supplies he needed, and I got food for my family’s foodbowl, and some for myself this time. Tonight I cooked pasta with sardines in tomato sauce, was very good as variety and would certainly pass as a good dinner on the river. Maybe not in the finer kitchens of Lakewood, but I am just getting started here.
The past week has been a doozy – the trip to Njaba Kunda started it off with a bang indeed. Actually, the trip there was great: early morning bike ride, a bit cloudy, the road was dry and I made it in two and a half hours, only a bit tired. I got there, cleaned my bike, had a shower, had the meeting I had gone for, saw the computer lab, checked out what needed to happen before we could get to work, and generally was productive. Then I saw the school, which would be a great school but for the absolute lack of maintenance or even seemingly concern about the facility. But, it’s The Gambia, and I am learning that is standard. Depressingly so. But, I hung out, had lunch with a Nigerian who is also a volunteer there – and a good cook, and then also with the principal and some teachers. It had started raining by then, and it continued to rain. I read a book – “The Power and the Glory” by Graham Greene – and it rained. All day. At night they turned on the tv (the principal lives on the school grounds, in a house built for him, and there are ten other housing units for teachers, one of which may shelter me at some point), using the solar powered batteries. Wonderful facility. The tv didn’t really get any reception, but the teachers there pretended to watch a Champion’s League match – Ajax and Arsenal, I think – through the static. The book was great, loved it through and through, and want to read more of his stuff.
All that rain wasn’t kind to the road though. I left the next morning before dawn, and once I got to the road, realized it was a complete mess. The section from Njaba Kunda to Minteh Kunda (6km) is likely the worst along that stretch of road, and after I finally got through it, I thought I was done with the worst. Not so lucky. I spent almost four hours slogging through mud and water up to my knees (feet on the pedals) at times, getting mud everywhere on the bike and myself. I got back to Fara Fenni thoroughly exhausted and dehydrated, but I was home. The bike clean up took a long time, and in fact is not really complete, and both front and rear derailuers failed from the abuse, and the chain seized. I have gotten the front gears working again, and the chain is better, but the bike will never be as good again.
After getting cleaned up, I was starving as I hadn’t eaten anything, so I went out and got a meat sandwich at the market. At the time I thought, this is one of those things that I would only do because I am living here, and need the protein. I didn’t need whatever was in that meat, as I found out 12 hours later. I wasn’t so worried – a little stomach bug is something I have dealt with already a few times here – until around noon the next day, when my temperature started going up. I took some Tylenol, but by four o’clock or so, it was 104. I called the Peace Corps medical staff, to see what they thought. I got my least favorite of the nurses, and she said to wait, “and if you feel like it, take Cipro”. Cipro is a very powerful antibiotic that I took in Peru (I was told it was Cipro at least), and it did kill the alien that was in my intestine, along with the rest of my digestive capability. So, her advice to take it “if I want” wasn’t so helpful. I took more Tylenol, drank fluids, hobbled back and forth to the latrine, and eventually lost lucidity. It was a special day. One of the boys who lives in the compound had just come down with malaria, and I was worried that I had too. But, by the morning, my fever had broken, and I was feeling somewhat in control of myself, if not my bowels.
I went to school, told them what had been going on, then decided to keep my planned trip to Pakalinding to see Woman. I rode the bike down to the ferry, and on the way, to add insult to injury of a broken bike, the bolt holding the seat on snapped. I got to the ferry terminal with the seat tied on, and not really support any weight. As I arrived, the ferry left, so I had a long wait that turned fortuitous when one of the other passengers took an interest and got a local boy to find a bolt of the same diameter – the seat was fixed, and better than it had been, since I didn’t have the right size hex wrench to tighten it and it had been more or less loose since I got it. Likely why it broke. I had a great time in Pakalinding, good for the soul, and then came home Saturday evening. That was the week.
Life continues to be interesting; I find my motivation for some things wanes, while my interest in others waxes. I have more doubts about the nature of development work in this country, if it is helpful at all in the larger scheme, and think I would be better as a pure cultural tourist / representative than with any sort of purported work to do. Not that I actually have any work to do in Fara Fenni yet. But theoretically I will be working for someone at some point, and I am not sure if that will be good for much. Probably the answer to this question is patience and humility, something I always need to work on anyway.
Love to all, drop me a line sometime - or call!