The title here means 'What are you doing?'
I realized recently I had not posted in awhile. Also, my mom just came to visit. Before I get into that visit, a quick update on what I have been doing. I am still doing teacher observations and some direct work with students. Also, the school building project is still progressing slowly, slowly. Though we are a lot closer to getting the roof up and are a lot closer to having spent all the funds, so here's hoping everything comes together. Through another volunteer's health mural project I recieved training in painting murals-especially health related-and painted a proper handwashing mural at Kwinella Lower Basic near the kitchen where students get fed from World Food Program rice.
I also recently completed a small donor project through the organization FROGS, Friends of Gambian Schools. A few of Kwinella's chalkboards were pretty much unwritable. Through funding, I purchased plywood and paint and replaced 5 chalkboards. We also had a carpenter cut the plywood into mini chalkboards/slates for students. A version of the individual dry erase boards you may see in American classrooms. When I go back to site next week, I will model lessons with how to properly manage the boards as well as ideas of how to use them. I hope it all works out.
In January, I had the chance to be a part of Camp GLOW: Girls AND Guys Leading Our World. It is a general camp model that several Peace Corps posts follow. However, we were the first to include boys at the same time as the girls. Most places just do Girls Camp as far as I am aware. Burkina Faso was the first to incorporate boys, but had them come a different week from the girls. The camp is a leadership and empowerment camp for girls. The amazing health volunteers that organized, raised funds through grants and planned the entire camp felt that just empowering the girls was not enough. If we want to achieve or get closer to gender equality here, boys would have to be on board too. Even though we covered sensitive health topics including teenage pregnancy, HIV, FGM and more, the grade 10 campers came together in discussion and participation in a very mature way. The students we had at camp were and will be leaders.
My role at camp was teaching a few sessions and running activities and games. I was on the "Gender Equality" team of the curriculum planners. Other sections included Life & Leadership Skills, Community Engagement and Healthy Lifestyles. I sat in on most sessions but directly taught only one, Cultural Roles, and helped with the Working as Equal Partners session. I also helped another volunteer, Cat, run sports. As activities coordinator, a lot of the time I felt lost and unsure of what to do because the camp was so well planned that down time was minimal. However, I did lead a few games and one everning busted out some of my favorite campfire songs from Camp Wildcat and CCSC. Overall, it was a fun week and the students took a lot away and will be leaders in their communities wherever their lives take them.
M BAAMA NA TA (MY MOM IS COMING HERE!)
A week after camp, my mom came to visit. It could not have come at a better time, as now that my time here is winding down I am freaking out about "what's next": Where will I go? Will I ever get my own classroom?? Time will only tell. But that's not what's important right now. Let's talk about the amazing three weeks where Nancy Budde saw The Gambia and a small chunk of my life here.
The first few days we did some market trips and saw places in Kombo. Serekunda market on the first full day may have been a bit much, but it was how the schedule worked out. I also got to go to some of my favorite restaurants that I don't usually hit up. It was a perfect way to begin the visit. We also ventured out to a Kombo village, Sukuta to see some family relations that have moved down to the city (my host brother Lamin, and sisters Wanta and Nyima. As well as an older sister, Fatou and her baby Sarjo) It was a lot of fun to see them and to show mom a 'fancy' village. They had furniture and one compound has TV!
On the Sunday after she arrived, we headed up to village. In village, we were greeted by the entire village and a traditional cultural masquerade, the Conkoron. (Okay I had been talking about the visit for awhile, but I didn't ask for any of that). It was extremely overwhelming, even for me! Sorry mom! Once things settled down, we took a walk around the village.
Having her there gave me the unique chance to see things as new again, in a way. For instance, she immediately noticed the trash and litter everywhere and wanted to pick it up in a big garbage bag. This threw me off. Why didn't it phase me anymore? I know it did at the beginning, but it's one of those things I don't even see anymore. What would you do with the big bag? The garbage truck doesn't come and cart if off every week. What little trash and waste there is, kids sometimes find things that they turn into toys or school project. (One teacher was doing a building car project for speed and velocity -KUDOS, teacher, KUDOS. Interactive lessons like that are not the norm.) Other than that it is just littered or burned. Anything I can't save to use for something at school, I burn or throw down my latrine. I don't like the idea of the children rooting around in my garbage. It makes me too sad. I do, however have a stash of cleaned out cans that I will give them when I go. They like to tie a string on and drag it around. The little joys. I used to think of myself as moderately environmentally aware, trying to make postive decisions for the earth. Now, I will probably be more likely to analyze every piece of trash. Where will this go? Can I use it somehow? Will my one-day kids' toys be empty cans? Maybe. Jokes. Just some thoughts about clean living.
In village, we modelled reading lessons and PE lessons for teachers at Wurokang the first week and Kwinella the second. I'll leave the details and stories and perceptions for her to tell. She also has all the pictures.
We also went up country over the weekend to a place called Baboon Islands. We stayed at a small camp that can only host 8 people, in a safari tent. Each evening, we went out on a small boat ride (kind of like a janky pontoon type boat) around three islands that house rehabilitated Chimpanzees. The famous chimp, Lucy, was one of these chimps at one point. Yes the chimps were interesting but for me, it was more just a quiet, peaceful and amazing break from village in beautiful surroundings. It didn't feel like the Gambia anymore.
I'm sure she has more stories and I do too, I just wanted to give a brief overview from my perspective. It was fun to see things as new again, to show someone else my life here, and to have my mom at a time a girl just needs her mom.
I still miss all my family and friends dearly, and I'll see you in a few months :) Also, because everything is now just life for me, please tell me if there's anything you want to hear more about. I would be more than happy to explain.