It is the end of October now, which means that the wet season is coming to an end and the dry season is just beginning. Regardless of how the Gambians tell me that we are entering a new season, my body cannot help but feel confused. I'm used to a Fall... the temperatures drop, (in some places snow is already falling in the U.S., or so I have been informed by my Colorado friends), the leaves change, the air gets dryer, etc... Right now, the humidity is better (except for a few days here and there), but it's still as hot as ever. It just feels as if summer is going to keep going indefinitely... my jacket hangs neatly and completely unused in my hut. I can count on one hand the number of times I've covered myself with a sheet while sleeping. I still take at least two baths a day just to cool my body....
But from what I hear, it really will be cold here in about a month or two. Maybe even as low as 55F on a few evenings... that would be wonderful. Now that I have a thermometer (thanks mom and dad!), I know for sure that I am getting adjusted to the heat. It was quite pleasant in my hut the other night, so I ventured to look at the temperature. It was a chilly 86 degrees F! I almost had to use the sheet that night.
I am also beginning to adjust to other things as well. After two months, my language skills are beginning to develop a little bit more. I can pretty much accomplish almost any day-to-day task in Pulaar. I can buy things from the market, get anywhere I need to on public transport, make small talk about the day, borrow or lend things to/from others, talk about what's paining me or ask other's what's wrong if they are sick or hurt... and all in Pulaar. (with some roadblocks, of course). I feel as though I definitely have a long way to go before I can really form close friendships with anyone who cannot speak any English though. Friendships can only go so far when all you can talk about is what you did that day. I want to be able to communicate feelings, emotions and abstract ideas as well... well as the Fulas say, "Seda, Seda!" (slowly, slowly).
School is going well so far. I am teaching three classes right now. It was supposed to be five classes, but due to a teacher shortage, they have combined the two grade 11 classes into one class, and the same goes for grade 10. My smallest class has about 40 students, and my largest class has 55. In the beginning, teaching was easier, because the class sizes were smaller. Not all of the students had shown up yet. As the sizes began to grow, I realized that I would have to figure out ways of adjusting my teaching methods. I can completely understand why most Gambian teachers simply write their notes up on a blackboard for the students to copy, memorize, and then take a test on later. Between the class size and the lack of English comprehension (and literacy in general, for that matter), it's difficult to engage the students in meaningful learning activities. Even giving tests and quizzes, for example. The other day, I wanted to give my grade 10 students a quiz on measurements and measuring tools. I really wanted to have them read the measurements themselves from different instruments, but I didn't have enough of each instrument for all fifty students to use (or even half that amount), and since we have no computer or photocopier, I had to write the questions and diagrams on the blackboard with questions for the students to answer and turn in... but with 50 students, not everyone can see the blackboard well... especially when it comes to paying attention to details (like what I was asking for). I finally asked for advice from some of my fellow Gambian teachers and they helped me come up with a solution. I had half of the class take the test, while the other half of the class waited in another building. Then the second group took the test. So it's been a lot of improvisation. I'm learning more and more every day. I really enjoy my students though. Many of them come to visit me in their free time for extra help or just to chat. One of my students has even started running with me in the mornings. A few others have expressed interest in joining us too. The next thing I know, I'll have a little running club!
I've also begun riding my bike more often as well. It's nice to know that if I cannot find public transportation, I can always ride my bike to Base. It takes about 3 hours (42 km). I am also planning on making some trips into the surrounding villages and hopefully into Senegal after my three month challenge is over. I hear that there are some Senegalese Peace Corps Volunteers who live just over the border. They may be closer to me than even my fellow Gambian PCV's... we'll see.
I'm hoping to be able to post some pictures at some point. This internet connection is not very good, so posting pictures is completely out of the question right now, but I'm working on sending a CD with pictures back to the states for my family for me to post for me instead. That may take a while, but I am heading to Kombo in about a month (for Thanksgiving), and I know that I can at least put a few pictures up using the internet there... so expect at least a few before Christmas, I hope!