About Me

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I hope I'm the right Scott Jorgensen that you are looking for.  

The professions and identities of some of my more illustrious namesakes include Scott Jorgensen the flyweight UFC fighter, Scott Jorgensen the podiatrist, and, more locally, there are two other Scott Jorgensen individuals in the Greater San Francisco Bay Aea, according to LinkedIN.

Well, if you read that whole paragraph, I bet that you know by now whether or not I am the Scott Jorgensen that you are looking for.

About the Gambia (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

The Republic of The Gambia, commonly known as The Gambia, or Gambia, is a country in Western Africa. The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, bordered to the north, east, and south by Senegal, with a small coast on the Atlantic Ocean in the west.

Its borders roughly correspond to the path of the Gambia River, the nation's namesake, which flows through the country's centre and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Its size is almost 10,500 km² with an estimated population of 1,700,000.

On 18 February 1965, The Gambia was granted independence from the United Kingdom and joined The Commonwealth. Banjul is The Gambia's capital, but the largest conurbation is Serekunda.

The Gambia shares historical roots with many other west African nations in the slave trade, which was key to the maintenance of a colony on the Gambia river, first by the Portuguese and later by the British. Since gaining independence in 1965, the Gambia has enjoyed relative stability, with the exception of a brief period of military rule in 1994.

An agriculturally rich country, its economy is dominated by farming, fishing, and tourism. About a third of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day

Friday, March 25, 2011

I am a volunteer now!

After the whirlwind of a combined swear-in and All-Volunteer conference in the urban, touristy part of The Gambia, I can proudly declare that I am a card-carrying Peace Corps volunteer (although most days that card stays safe inside my house)!  The swear in ceremony took place at the American Ambassador's house, possibly the cushiest backyard  I have been in thus far in the Gambia.  I mean, with a view like this.....

She gave a speech about her past experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer herself and at the ceremony were other important Gambian officials.

The graduating Fula Class and teachers of March 2011!

And the whole group together, everyone looking at a different camera.

I have been living the past 10 days at my site in Wallaland in the Upper Badibou District of the North Bank Region.  It is very close to Senegal, in fact I could ride a donkey cart across the border (though i should technically let my Program Manager, Safety and Security Coordinator, etc, etc know of my whereabouts before i do).  Wallaland has the most welcoming people, and since they are Fulas, numerous cattle.  I am enjoying my time there so far, and although i can get frustrated with not understanding most of what is being said, my language will improve very rapidly in a village with only a handful of english speakers.

In my compound, I have one mother, Jabu.  My host brother, Salif , is the head of the compound, and he has one wife, Sarjo, who is about 25 years old.  There are 6 children in the compound, the oldest about 10.  We are a young family.  Unfortuneatly i don't have any pictures of them yet.

I have spent a few of my first days here making my hut into  home.  This includes the backyard where i have dug a compost pit and also a garden bed for intensive moringa tree leaf production.  I will later dig another bed for my other garden veggies.  Between the pickaxe, shovel, and water fetching to loosen the soil, I am so proud of my little patch of dirt here.  This picture was taken just after I sowed the seeds, so hopefully in a few days they will be sprouting.  Thanks to all of the lovely cows, there was plenty of manure to mix in for soil improvement.  The soil is very clay-y here.

The front door to my home!

Now the goodies:  Here is my chariout, my water filter tht sits on top of my wardrobe, my cooking area, and my deluxe red plastic chairs (really quite comfortable).

This awesome tree shades me in the morning.  My backyard has the only corrogate fence in the village, so it is pretty easy to guess which house is mine.  In the afternoon sun, the corrogate turns into a 4 walled radiator and you need to put on sunscreen if you want to go outside to use the bathroom.  No joking.  And the real heat hasn't come yet!

There are some quirks that I am noticing everyday about life here.  Cell phone culture is interesting, as they are a relatively new thing in the society.  It is never considered impolite if your phone starts ringing, whether you are in a meeting, at a naming ceremony, or whatever.  That's a changeup for me.  Also, ringtones are amusing out here.  I particularly enjoy when Gambians, who are largely Muslim, have Christmas carols or other Christian affiliated music as their ringtone.  Given, this ringtone is usually accompanied by a techno beat.
It is the start of mango season!  Already, kids are pulling unripe mangoes from the trees to gnaw on.  Having bought a couple at the market, and waited for a day before i ate the last one, I was struck with a question I can't yet honestly answer.  Is a fermented mango better than no mango?  Also in season right now are cashew apples , which i enjoy and am thankfully not allergic to.

I will likely have a lot of work opportunity at a community gardn for the village.  My counterpart, Buba Jawo, and I have discussed live fencing, tree nursury, gardening, and even bee keeping projects designed to improve villagers lives and create income generation.  Thing is though, it really will take village support to pull off any of these projects simply because of the manpower needed to haul water up 60 feet from the garden well.  I will hold meetings to find out what the villagers feel their needs are before  really begin any serious project work.  To be most effective, i need to be able to talk and understand people, so the Pulaar language is my current homework.

I am becoming accquainted with Farafenni, the nearest city, and since i can find my way back to this internet bar now, I can make more posts in the future.  Now though, it is lunchtime and my brain is fried.  I'm going to go find the chicken sandwiches that this town is famous for, and later go to the market to buy veggies for the next week for me and my family.  I got my banking done earlier this morning, so I'm getting in the swing of things.  WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO