Life has been intense since I arrived here. Everything is so different... the sites, the sounds... even the smells. It's hard to describe the smell, but do you know how your nose tingels a little bit when you burn insense? It's kind of like that, but different. The food has been delicious so far, but I'm told I should eat it while I have it, because once I go to my village, I'll be eating mostly rice and simple sauces. I've been eating fresh mangos everyday. I took this picture of one of the mango trees in our compound here when I was feeling artistically inspired.
The most challenging aspect of PC training for me right now is language training. I am learning a language called Pulaar, which is the language spoken by the Fula tribe. It is the smaller ethnic group out of the three main groups in Gambia. The other two are Mandinka and Wolof. Out of all twenty of us volunteers, there are only three of us learning Pulaar. The rest are being trained in one of the other two. So far, I we have spent hours on learning greetings. Greetings are very important to the Gambian people. You may spend five minutes going through all of your proper greatings before you actually have a conversation. There are general greatings like"Salaam Malaakum," which is spoken in all three languages. Then there are different greetings for morning, afternoon, evening, and night. Pulaar is very beautiful to listen to. There are a few new sound that I am having trouble with, but I hope to learn them all with plenty of practice. All of us traininees have been walking around using greeting after greeting with whoever will talk to us. Most people speak several different languages around here. You most commonly hear English, Wolof, and Mandika, but I also hear French and other Gambian languages from some of the smaller ethnic groups. It is incredible to me how normal it is for Gambians to speak two or three languages fluently. Not many Americans have that opportunity. My language trainer's name is Ide. She speaks 5 languages fluently. I am constantly in awe of it. She will be coming with us to our training village and living in the village for 10 weeks with us. We will each be placed with a different family. Part of our language and culutural training will be from them, and part will from Ide. We will also be making trips to meet up with the other PC trainees and train in our skills. There is so much to take in... sometimes it is a little overwhelming!
Today we have the day "off," so we will be making a trip to the beach. Last night, we went out to a local bar, and were able to have a few drinks and meet some other Peace Corps Volunteers who live close by. It was nice to let off some steam after such an intense day in training. It is hard to believe that I have only been here a few days. So much has happened. I am not sure how often I will be able to update this in the upcoming months. Right now, I am at an internet cafe because I cannot upload my photos at the Peace Corps headquarters. And since all of us trainees are here in town right now, there's usually a long line of trainees and PCV's waiting to use the computers there. I will try to update when I can though. I finally have some gambian money and stamps though, so I will begin writing letters soon!
These are some local kids I came across at the mosque yesterday. They love to pose for pictures!