When I sit down and try to articulate what has been happening here in The Gambia, songs tend to pop into my head. Steve Miller singing, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future… doo, doo, doo, doo…” comes to the forefront of my mind as I ponder now having lived here for 10 months.
While each month has been full of activity, April seemed to pass by faster than the rest. At the beginning of the month, I took off to Kedougou, Senegal with 5 others to celebrate spring break. We hiked through the bush, bathed in waterfalls, camped in the wilderness, swam in the river, and saw more monkeys than I can count. When I think of my time spent exploring with other PCVs my mind takes it up a few notches with some Mariah Carey. ♪ “It’s a sweet sweet fantasy baby.” ♪
My fantasy life continued when our group was called down to Kombo in the middle of the month for our reconnect. “Reunited and it feels so good” sang by Peaches and Herb floated through my head as I watched a weeks worth of sunsets, went for late nights to star gaze on the beach, and attended training sessions where free breakfasts and lunches were provided.
I’d love to say that it continued from there, but when I returned to village Mariah Carey left and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers singing, “Don’t do me like that,” took the stage. For months now, I’ve been in a battle with my host family to remove the animal pen they have created next to my hut. It’s a Peace Corps housing requirement that a volunteer is not placed next to an animal pen for obvious reasons, however I’ve been sharing a fence and window with 5 donkeys, a horse, and 3 cows. Peace Corps has gone through 4 steps of trying to get my family to relocate the animals, first sending my headmaster to speak with my family, calling themselves, and then on two separate occasions sending out representatives to tell them to fix the problem. When I left my village for reconnect, Peace Corps gave my family the ultimatum that it’s your volunteer or the animals, one of us was going to have to go.
Still on cloud nine from the week I had spent in Kombo, I wasn’t prepared to see that my hairy neighbors hadn’t gotten their eviction notice. After greeting everyone, I stepped inside my hut to call Alpha, the safety and security officer and the man who is in charge of housing. He asked to speak with Chima, a village elder in my community, and the same thing that had been happening the past 2 months was happening again. My family was again saying they would move the animals, but again, nothing was happening. Soul Coughing’s “I don’t need to walk around in circles, walk around in circles, walk around in circles, walk around in…” started playing on the jukebox, as heat and my emotions took over. Tears were shed as reality surfaced. Speaking to my program manager, she informed me that there wasn’t much more they could do, and that she thought it was time that I move to another village.
I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning packing my bags to wake up at 6 to undistinguishable noises taking place outside. Curious, I opened my door earlier than I ever have before to find the men shoveling piles of manure onto the back of a donkey cart. The Backstreet Boys serenaded me with “Quit playing games with my heart,” and confusion hit me like a brick in the face.
Although my family was finally starting to show progress towards moving the animals, I stuck with the plans I had made with my program manager on the previous day. I’m now in Kombo and will be working on a Sarahule workbook for the education trainees coming at the end of June. In the weeks prior to their arrival, I’ll be helping Joe, the new PCVL (Peace Corps Volunteer Leader) plan their training and then I’ll be leading sessions when they do arrive. For now, things are up in the air as to where I will go when the workbook and training is finished. It’s a possibility that I could return to my family, if they do indeed move the animals, or I can also choose to be relocated.
Until then, I’m going to take comfort in The Five Stairsteps' “Ooh Child,” and know that things will get easier. On the up side of things, it is the hottest month of the year and I’m one block from the beach. Things are already getting brighter. J