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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

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A normal day is:

   I have lived in Wallalan for nearly a month now and my daily schedule has settled into a normal enough pattern.  I feel like the first stage of my newbie-toubab grace period is ending as people are expecting me to understand more Pulaar and start some work.  I'll always be an outsider though, and that makes me happy because it gives me the freedom to be wildly different from other people as long as it is inoffensive.

So the day. 
I get up from my bed between 6:30 and 7:00 because i feel that it is finally light enough to crawl out of bed then.  I wake up earlier though, because the morning call to prayer is sung and projected from a loudspeaker just outside my house, and also my 3 day new kitten, Carlos, attacks my hands and feet in play.  Carlos is about a 6 weeks old, more on him later.  So it is 7 now and I yawn because I always sleep like a brick here.  I average about 9 hours a day.  As a side note, between all the sleep and the distance required for purchasing alcohol, I get to feel pretty healthy day to day.
When I open my door at around 7:30 I greet my family and the woken people of the compound next to me.  The same greetings are used every morning:  How is the morning?  Did you sleep?  Did you sleep without a problem?  Did you wake up without a problem?  How is your family waking up?   The answer to nearly all of these is "Jam tan, Peace only"  Greeting takes about 6 minutes.  Next I need to haul water for the day.  I have a victory, but also a problem in this portion of my day.  The victory is that I now own three  20L bidongs to store water.  I use this for watering, cooking, washing, and general purpose.  Capacity is an amazing thing!

Bidongs.  Worth their (empty) weight in gold.

The water problem, now, is that the village hand pump, which was very close to my house, has broken, so for the past week the village hauls water up about 70 feet from an open well.  When i go to the well for water, I take my place in the group of women fetching water.  Here the well can handle 4 pulleys and 3 people max can work on one pulley.  I am the only man in the village that hauls my own water (well I have the help of the two other women on the rope now) and the women, even after a week of getting water from a well, still seem surprised that I am hauling my own water.  I like how my hands are getting rougher and more callused.  I had felt a little ashamed about my soft hands in the village, and though more callused, they are still the softest of any man, woman, or child. 

After water, more people have arisen and more greetings happen.  I then go into my house and fix breakfast.  I have largely been eating oatmeal or cereal for breakfast with copious amounts of full cream powdered milk and a big cup of tea.  When i feel nutrient deprived, I cook a vegetable medley for breakfast and munch through out the day.  For this reason, going to town is the  best because of the fruit and vegetables there.  I am excited to eat bananas today.

Before the day heats up too much I try to get some work done.  Sometimes I collect seeds or sow polypots, most of which I have appropriated from tough plastic bags used to hold drinking water, or sometimes I go to chat with the people reclining on the stick platforms in the shade.  Most people in the Gambia call this structure a bantaba, but my village literally calls this "the sticks".  Other days I clean my house and sit and read while the day is still pleasant.  Now i also have the opportunity to play with a cat!  Speaking of which, meet Carlos.

Carlos likes to hang out in the Moringa bed in my backyard where it is cool.  I worried about the cat damaging the small trees, but then i remember that the local name for that tree here is Never-die.  The trees are getting tall and I can harvest the leaves for eating in another month.  Carlos eats rice but prefers sardines.  Carlos also likes string.

Then, like a wall, the heat comes.
The hours of noon to five are best spent chatting or sleeping.  Sweating is continuous in these hours.  My host brother's wife, who culturally is also my woman (wife), serves lunch at 1:30-2:00 and lunch itself is steaming hot from the cooking fire.  Normal procedure is to take off the lid, take off my shirt, and read a short story while lunch cools.

At five I rouse myself to action for the evening chores.  With three bidongs of capacity, I no longer need to go to the pump to fetch more water in the evening.  I water my beds and my polypots, and every few days I turn my compost pit.  With the watering at home down I walk to the other end of the village to the garden of my village counterpart, Buba Jawo.  I have started another Moringa bed for leaf production here and will soon have more beds and a tree nursury for fruit trees and live fencing. 
Walking back home my daily chores are done.  I bathe and soon afterwards around 8, dinner of lecheri (pounded coos) with some type of oil sauce.  I usually eat with my hand, like my family but i must sit on a bidong because I cannot squat to eat with the proficiency of a normal Gambian.

Around 10 i wander back to my home.  I listen to music and usually wrestle with the Africell network to send text messages to other volunteers.

Daily, I love the triumphant style in which Sarjo announces the arrival of a meal.  "Bubakarr!.....BO-tarri!  (lunch)"  or  "Salifu! (her husband)....HIIR-ande (dinner).
Sarjo, Abdulai, and Keba, part of my host family.

Now let's meet some characters.  On main street (you can see the sticks)
You can usually find these two men:
On the right is Demba Bah, who is both the village imaam and the alikalo, the mayor.  Demba is one of my biggest helpers in the village even though he does not speak english.  He does whatever he can to make me welcome here and I am very thankful for that.  On the left, is Ousman Jallow.  This man is my favorite person in The Gambia.  The Bahs and the Jallows are jokemates, so we constantly insult each other in good humor.  Let it be known, here and now, that Ousman Jallow is no good!  He eats too much bread!  All the bread!  And if there is rice, he eats that too.  Bahs eat only little, and mostly Lecheri.  Bahs work hard.  This man is my friend because he can usually be found relaxing on the Bantaba.  He has a belly laugh that induces more laughing from everyone.  He is constantly sleepy eyed and talks slowly but intelligently.  He wears amazing ski hats.  He is also a big help in the village for getting things done.

Ok, I can't resist.  Please look at another picture of my cat.  I'm living on kitten time right now.

My first mud stove is working!  The two week building process (most of it is waiting for the mud to mix or dry) is over and now Sarjo says that the stove DOES cook faster and DOES use less fuelwood.  Awesome, I'm stoked, i will begin village outreach about these stoves now.

Ok i am getting scatterbrained, more to come later.