Tuesday, January 5, 2010

swine who?

we are rounding on the swearing-in date (it's friday, big day, big deal!) and it's one final push through policy workshops, tests, and more policy sessions. by the time i'm a full-fledged PCV i might not know everything there is about agriculture practices in the Gambia, but i will be throughly versed on the IT policies and procedures. which is more important? we may never really know.
today was kind of an important day, we had our big tree id test (no results yet, i may have a problem here if i didn't do well) and we got the results of our language tests. i scored intermediate high, meaning i get to stay! and that i speak a little bit of Mandinka, i suppose. i have no idea how they graded it because i've heard part of my tape and you can't make out any words, it's just me and the instructor giggling as we act out the scenario designed to test my skillz. we were supposed to be negoitating rent for a theoretical apartment, but we were just yelling numbers at each other and laughing. i wish real haggling were this much fun. and yesterday we took "second-language lessons" (as if any of us have gained a first here!) and i chose Wolof, a language commonly spoken in the more urban areas. it is also very common in Senegal, and due to my proximity to the Gambia's only neighbor, i decided i should be able to throw a few phrases around. also, all of the fishermen are Senegalese, so if i want to know anything about fishing here (and i am damn curious about how much overfishing is occuring, etc) i need some Wolof under my belt. and a good counterpart. i really like Wolof, it's different than Mandinka, but that really just means i won't get them confused. also they have more than 90 pronouns, because they don't conjugate verbs, just pronouns. the way languages develop is really fascinating to me. i had never really pondered it much before coming here. but when you live in a place where you hear different languages spoken every day, and most of your friends are multi-lingual, you have no choice really but to wonder. in my village, i have been greeted in Mandinka, Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, French, and English. and i've heard other languages spoken around me, small tribal dialects that strongly mirror some of the more common languages but have their own accents and inflections that make them nearly indeciphrable to my untrained ears.
and really, we're all starting to divide english into 2 languages, english and "gambian english." you definitely speak different english to your american friends than you do to a Gambian, no matter how good their english is. it's actually very helpful to be learning a language, because if i don't know a word in Mandinka, i don't use it in english when conversing with someone who has english as their 3rd or 4th language. it's suprisngly effective, keeping communication simple for both of us. but you have to be careful, otherwise you'll catch yourself speaking Gambian english all the time and then you'll lose your vocabulary. even for this blog post, i'm digging deep.
but i should go. i titled this post as such because i got my H1N1 shot today, which cracks me up, being in a Muslim country where there is no swine save for a few rouge bush pigs. i know, i know, it's not really SWINE flu, but i still think it's almost as funny as when we visited the health clinic in training village and saw the "breaking the pork-worm cycle" posters hanging in the waiting room.
there is no pork in this country. if someone tells you they are serving you pork, it's flavored chicken. but no matter, breaking that cycle is important.
i'll let y'all know if i get thru swear in or they send me home.
but i don't think they're going to buy me a plane ticket anytime soon. i'm here to stay.

1 comment:

  1. Case! Any way to post pictures? Would love to see your new home. Missed you during the holidays, but raised a toast to you on more than one occasion. Love, the Rutherfords