For my first 10 weeks in The Gambia, I am in Pre-Service Training while I learn one of the local languages, technical job skills and how to integrate into the culture. My training “village” however, is not much of a village. I live in Soma, one of the country’s transit hubs and home to about 10,000 people. Most of my days are spent in the town’s Jola neighborhood.
Every day, I pump from a nearby well to water a garden my training group planted down the road.
Sweat leaked down my cheeks and off my nose although I stood in nothing but my underwear. It was eight days after arriving in country — only the fourth with this family — and my Gambian sisters were stripping me bare below the corrugate iron roof that absorbs the African heat.
My sisters say their goal is to make me so fat I am unrecognizable when I go back to America, so everyone will know how great Africa is. I’m doing my best to counter their evil conspiracy!
I am learning the language and culture throughout the next 10 weeks through classes and integration with my host family. I live in a Jola compound in Soma, which is a big town about 1/3 inland, south of the river. Although many live in squalor, my family seems to be well off. The compound has 10 two-room houses, many of which are beautifully furnished.