NYE sparkles up village life

I had felt a little bummed all day that I would spend New Year’s Eve alone. After two weeks in the city with Peace Corps friends, I was finding the adjustment back to village life a little difficult. I almost didn’t take out the sparklers I had found in the Kombos to show the kids because I was being so mopey. But, I decided to get over myself and “do my job” and teach Gambians about an American tradition.

Several kids from the neighborhood, along with my brothers and sisters, crowded in around me with so much anticipation that I couldn’t even open the box. When I finally was able to light one of the sparklers, they were so amazed it was as if I had actually brought Las Vegas fireworks to Sibanor.

New Year's Eve in the village

New Year’s Eve in the village

The kids jumped up and down, ran around the compound and cheered waving the flashing fire stick. They fought over who would be next to hold their own sparkler as I couldn’t light them fast enough in the wind. My littlest sister, Auntie, begged to hold one but then squealed and immediately dropped it in the sand because she was scared. She then pleaded to have another one, and then dropped that one too.

It was complete chaos as the 15 or so kids of all ages went absolutely crazy, but I managed to capture a quick video while they chanted “Happy New Year” as the last of the sparklers died out.

It made me remember that although I may be the only American around for miles, I am far from alone. It was something special to be a part of such simple joy and amazement. I can’t think of a better way to refocus on my service and begin my new year than being surrounded by those smiling children having a “this is why I am here” moment.

–JDF