In The Gambia, monsters don’t just live in children’s nightmares – they’re real.
Marching through the village, kankarangs “roar their terrible roars and gnash their terrible teeth and roll their terrible eyes and show their terrible claws” … and … clang their terrible machetes. Then, with the help of a posse of teenagers, the masquerade known as a kankarang snatches the little boys up and takes them out to the bush for circumcision.
My new niece was given my Gambian name, Fatoumata, and my host sister says she will call her “Jessica.”
My teenage sisters wanted to say goodbye to me with swagger and style, to give me something I would never forget. So, they arranged a “meet and greet” with the village dance crew, “The American Boyz,” who performed a private show for me at our family’s compound.
As we dressed for the cultural show, my mother draped strings of beads around my neck and across my chest in a traditional Jola fashion. She stood back, looked at me and sucked her teeth. “Ahaaaaa,” she said. “Nice, nice! My toma will be first.”
I love all the Gambian breakfast porridges that my sisters typically cook for Sunday morning breakfast. Here’s a look at what the Jolas call “chorai” (pronounced with a long I). A more universal Gambian term for the dish is “Chorah gerte.”
Here’s my tally of random happenings that sum up my Peace Corps Pre-Service Training.
The following is a profile on my host mother and Gambian namesake who cared for me during my two months of Peace Corps training. She not only welcomed me to her home, but folded me into her family — worrying and fussing over me as if I really was her daughter. She is quite the character and an inspiration for my service.