10 September 2005

Finishing Training!

My 10 weeks of training are virtually over, with only this week in the capitol remaining, with the following tasks: shopping for provisions not available upcountry, attending swearing-in ceremony at the ambassador's residence (which reportedly has a great buffet featuring food we will never again encounter in The Gambia), swimming at the beach, and drinking away our paltry salaries at the bars.

I am very excited to be starting work at the Njau Lower Basic School (grades 1-6) on the north side of the Central River Division (40kms east from Farafenni along the main road, 1km from the northern border with Senegal). There's some excitement as there's a by-election for an open parliamentary seat, so I already saw a lot of activity and heard lots of conversation in my first few days in Njau (I moved into my new compound last week).

My school looks like a good place to get lots of work done, particularly in the library, which will be my primary focus at first. The room is not too bad, but we are extremely short of books, shelving, and other materials. There is a lot of potential! My headmaster/principal, Oussainou Touray, is rather eclectic but very interested in helping improve the school, and is quite proactive. Among our upcoming weekend activities: visiting the feeder villages to try and drum up enrolment, and having the police join us on a friendly sweep of Njau to collect benches, desks and chairs "borrowed" for various naming ceremonies and weddings. And I'm certain we'll be drinking plenty of ataaya (green tea with oodles of sugar).

I'm definitely going to miss my host family from my training village of Saresamba. My family there, the Tourays, had 18 members in the compound, 13 of them girls or women. By contrast, the Ceesays have only four people in their family, and the only female is the mother. So it's quite a different dynamic.

The good news is that Njau is a manageable size (350-400 people) so I should be able to know just about everyone, and find some social outlets. The village is about half Wolof (they are a bit wealthier), and half Fula. I'm in the Wolof side, but expect to learn some Pulaar -- at least the (elaborate) greetings. For a village without electricity and running water, I was pleased to still find some treats -- sour milk (tastes like yoghurt and is plentiful in the rainy season) and fresh bread (baked every two days).

Dinner at our hostel beckons so I must end here, but will try to add more in the future.

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