Two posts in two days? this is unprecendented, to say the least. today i am being more spoiled than i ever have been before. i travelled for a meeting this morning with the owner of the ecolodge in my village and now i have seen how the other half lives here. a car instead of a bush taxi. they gave me pomegrante/cranberry tea. after the meeting, we went to their house where they have 3 week old PUPPIES and had lunch at one of their other hotels. and the meeting...it was amazing. people stayed on topic, no one was breastfeeding, and there was a clear agenda which we followed (reasonably, they were still human). and then we went out for real honest-to-goodness ice cream.
and now i'm in the PC office checking my email in THE AIR CONDITIONING.
this could quite possibly be the best day of my life. at the meeting they even gave me a tree seedling. what could possibly top this?
a fully charged cellphone, i suppose. but after a day like this, one really can't be greedy. i'm killing some time, waiting to see if i can't wrangle a ride back to the lodge (my bike is parked there, waiting) or just not have to ride the gelly in the heat of the day. morning and evening are prime travel times here, it's just much more bearable. i learned that my peace corps visit isn't for another few weeks, as well, so i have a lot more freedom to plan my days. today is absolutely a glass-is-half-full kind of day.
good news. as for village life...
my village is great. like every third world village, it has a lot of problems that you can't even begin to address, but it's a nice place and the people there are very welcoming, and willing to listen. persuading them to act is harder, but they're open. my family is wonderful, i am still really enjoying getting to know them, and they give me a home-like feeling that probably could not be created any other way. baby monkey is trouble, but the good kind of minor distraction trouble. for example, besides eating anything i plant in my backyard, he got some sort of insect/parasite from the chickens, and we had to put palm oil on him to kill them. he is a white cat, and the palm oil dyed his fur so he looks like he's been rolling in iodine. it took several applications, and after the first one he was so angry with me he would not even come into the house. but now he owns it, he will at least come inside and scratch up the rug like normal. yesterday the goats somehow snuck into my garden. they ignored my plants, but destroyed my fence. i can't decide if that's good or bad. my plants are still alive, but for how long?
and as far as work goes, i really am starting to feel satisfied with what i'm doing. it's been touch and go for awhile, but i think that i'm making good connections around the village and even on a larger scale, and that i will be able to be (somewhat) effective when i pick a real project to settle down and focus on. i also think that everything is touch and go here, so getting used to that isn't such a bad thing, either. i am also really enjoying some of the smaller projects i've been engaged in. i have a lot of freedom right now, concerning what i do and who i work with, and some of this is because my program currently does not have a director. sometimes i think it would be nice to have a little more guidence, but i think i am pretty lucky in the sense that i have found plenty to do more or less on my own. the day we do have a new program director will be a very happy one, but for now i am okay with a little bit of freedom. at least, when i'm not sulking about missed meetings and late appointments.
so to give a quick rundown of what i'm doing, in case you ask yourself, what is casey doing over there...
1) i'm acting on a commitee to plan an annual music festival in my village. this festival is 4 or 5 years old, and the backers are british. they are trying to get villagers more involved, and this is proving to be somewhat of a headache. this may be my least favorite project, it is not very sustainable and the others on the commitee are very prone to procrastination. but it's important to the village, so i'm doing my best to motivate them and get it off the ground
2) i spend generally 2 days a week at the school. we have dug a compost pit and i do lessons with some classes on compost and why it's important. i also meet with some of the teachers and try and involve them with educating the village outside of the school, environmentally and otherwise. i really like going to the school, the kids are awesome, espeically the nursery school kids, who are just precious in their little uniforms.
3) i did some what i think would be consulting work with a NGO here called stay green, helping to write a manual for environmental education trainers on coastal wetlands protection. mostly i helped them to define scientific terms more precisely, and then re-word them so they would be in layman's terms, things the average villager could understand.
4) i am co-regional coordinator for the all-school tree nursery competition, which is exactly what it's name implies. this will be kicking into higher gear in march, when it's time to get the nurseies started
5) i am working with a women's group to make neem cream, a mosquito repellant made solely out of local ingredients. this group also makes soap, and has a shop that they are trying to open. they are working on a project proposal to get a sewing machine, furniture for their shop, and supplies to get labels. i really, really enjoy working with this group, they are very driven and, of course, friendly.
6)i am, at some point, doing more with the national cashew tree farmer's association. we are mostly doing record-keeping right now, but they want to come and have a 5-day training with the assoication in my village. and while 5 days is a long time to talk about cashew trees, i think it will be altogether worthwhile.
7) i try and drop by the skills center. i also have taught them to make neem cream, they are having a malaria education day. i am somewhat involved in the planning of that, and i want to do more work with them in the future. the students there, also, are really delightful people, and i sometimes just come over to chat with them and see what they're working on.
8) finally, today i attended a meeting for a committee of environmentally-concerned people. they are a subgroup of ASSET, association of small-scale eco tourism (or something similar), which applies to me only in the sense that my village includes a lot of eco tourists. but this group is more concerned with outreach, they do massive tree-plantings and other sorts of small, locally based projects. i can't say too much because i just met most of them today, but i think we could at least get some trees planted with them in the future, which is something i will never say no too.
so i have some other things on the backburner, the NEA, who apparently is trying to pass out desk jobs, does quite a bit of work with coastal monitoring, which i hope will become more of my focus here. like any governmental organization, things over there move slowly, but hopefully i will get to actually sit down and talk to someone at some point next week (keep your fingers crossed!) also i've been hearing more and more about a community forest in my village, which has been both celebrated and ignored, depending on the year. so i'm looking into that, as well. i hope you made it all the way through this post, and i promise the next one will be just as info-packed, maybe i will write some about gambian culture, or linguistic idiosynchrosies, something which personally fascinates me.
till next time!