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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

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Playground

June 29, 2011
I am now closing my sixth month in the Gambia.  To me, this short sentence encompasses many feelings because my concept and perception of time here in The Gambia are radically different from what I was used to in America.  Some days, I feel like I have only been here just for a few weeks, other times I recall all the mornnings of waking up in a foreign country and missing for my home's soils.

So, I guess, this is a typical and even expectable feeling from one within the window of 5-7 months away.  The biggest influences of this time dilation, i think, is my learning and using of the local languages here and just realizing that things take more time.  Regarding the former, I know Pulaar well enough now to have my language skills complemented by the people of my village.  I understand more jokes, and able to hold my own and tell a few back (although the simple ones).  When i have a good language day, i feel comfortable in my current home.  When the language days are hard, I feel like it has been forever since I've spoken eloquently with someone the American way (we don't speak the King's English, but Americans get the job done).  I feel disconnected (along a range ) from all people back in America because of the difficulty in communicating over such a large distance.  But this is supposed to be the communication age...well I will handle this topic in another post.

And now for the time.
Let me start by saying that things just take more time.  All things.  Especially living in a largely illiterate country and within a small community of farmers.

For example, this post was a long time coming.  Some days I bike 13K to come to the internet bar where I am now writing, only to find that electricity was turned off for the day.  Other days electricity would be here, but the computers would be so slow that blogspot was unable to load.  Sometimes i would come and realize that this just wasn't a day where I could write.  I try to keep this blog positive, but also separate from my personal journal.  Right now, we are running the generator, and I will keep praying that the current holds up.  So I come and put this blogging task first on my priorities at the internet bar, because although my last post feels like a week ago and 2-3 months ago at the same time, if i check my email first then i will lose momentum.

That's where my head's at.  Let's go to the playground.

This garden is where i have spent and will spend a lot of time.  I find myself coming here a lot sometimes just to be out of the village.  It's quieter in all the trees.

It is owned by my village counterpart, Buba Jawo (of whom I am lacking a picture and will post one soon).  Buba Jawo and I are finally starting to become friends as well as coworkers, and he also speaks good english.  He describes himself with pride as "an agriculturist" and I believe him.  He owns a garden and cashew orchard in a lot off of the main drag of the village and farms as well.  Buba and I are starting a beekeeping venture together, and when this is established we will also involve more community members in their own ventures.

Last night I could not fall asleep, I think that my body's muscle pains and also my brain kept running.  One fruit of the sleepless night was that I have decided to start the Wallalan Forestry Beenifit club.   I will hold meetings within the village once a week to talk about gardening and forestry topics as well as beekeeping.  I will strive not to claim ownership of the club though, so that it will hopefully continue when i leave.  Wooops, sorry, we kind of left the playground, let's go back.

These are our first beehives in Jawo's garden.

We've had one big rainstorm after which i had to repair the apiary, but our bees will soon be transferred back to the stick and mud hive.  Right now our bees are hanging out in a catcher box in a neighboring tree where it is safe and dry.

I can now proudly and skillfully wield a machete in the presence of Gambians!  This is huge for me!  This has taken practice, and I now have a healthy respect for the machete.  It is an axe, a knife, a shovel, and a saw (if you have a hammer too).  I had to earn the respect of my own machete though by sharpening it (took a long time to put a nice edge on it...but hey i bought it for $2) and practicing my skills by pruning the cashew orchard.  Over the last two days i pruned the orchard that hadn't had a pruning in about 5 years, I'd say.  The trees will love me when the rainy season really gets going, but now they are crying sap.  Additional benefits of the sopagol (chopping or clearing) is that i have a lot of dry, dead wood to play with mushroom inoculations, and a lot of wet wood to build stuff with.  Y shaped sticks make good beehive stands.  Cashew isn't the strongest, but I have some big pieces.

Last monday I planted my fence.  HAH.  I still laugh to myself when my village asks me what I plan to farm this year.  Today is the fourth day after the rainstorm and the fields are a toil with people sowing their millet fields.  Everybody is out in the fields by early morning.  It is a nice change to wake up, walk down the street to buy the morning bread, and see and greet about 30 less people on the street. Anywhom, people don't seem to understand that i am not farming millet this year.  Or corn.  What about groundnuts?  You aren't farming and cassava?   You are farming bees?  Whaat?  You want to germinate some fences?  Huh?   Huhhh?  And then i walk away smiling.   Oh lord, though.  come the close of rainy season, I better have put my efforts where my mouth had been talking.

My fence is an experiment.  It is going to be a 100% Moringa oleifera fence, with plantings spaced at 10cm.  The idea is that the trunks will grow next to each other and form a solid wall, especially with the help of pruning and the weaving of support branches.  This 5m x 5m area i planted a perimeter for will house an agroforestry tree nursury.  This garden is an ideal spot to experiment because it already has a chicken wire fence around the larger orchard.  Goats sometimes get through, so we patch the holes with thorny branches, but cows do not enter.  Goats have been my bane of existence and comic relief at the same time.  I love the fact that they will soon be tied up during the rains, unable to forage the fields and eat all the seedlings that i plant.  When they scream at me, I yell back that they look nice and plump and ready for Tobaski.  Oh, I'll get the goat.  But the goats work to get you back, even in death.  For example, a goat fell down the open well in Buba Jawo's garden and died.  And goat smell is a very strong smell, anyone who works with goats will tell you.  And you know, even a drowned, bloated, semi-rotted goat carcass extracted from a well smells like goat.  And....so does the water until we draw enough out.  O daa luuba.  That really stinks.

Another thing, first the dust of the dry season, and next the wet of the rainy season are slowly grinding down my electronics.  The camera is the hardest hit so far.  When i first came here, I lost the ability to take macro photographs.  The buttons have deadened, one by one.  Now I cannot look at pictures that I have taken, no macro, no light adjustment, no zooming, and my flash is permenantly set to off.  BUT, the camera does still take normal pictures and it does interface with a computer so it is not all bad.   My laptop though......well i leave it in misery at the Transit House in Kombo.  The CPU is fried.  running windows explorer crashes the thing.  If i have the patience and the time, i can manage to rip a few cds or write a word document but that's about it.  So I am surviving on a data stick diet.  

 Well...as of right now the computers are not agreeing with my loading of pictures.  I hate to write but not deliver photographs.  I make a trip to kombo for a celebration of american values on the fourth.  Volunteers will gather there, rent a boat, and float around the river while drinking beer.  God Bless.  I promise to deliver photographs while i stay at the transit house.

Spend the day in Peace

July 2, 2011.
I have arrived to the Kombos.  I am sitting luxuriously at the PC office computers in an air conditioned room!  It’s really nice after a travel day of cramped gele’s and a river crossing in the sun.  I have started a pattern which has developed into a tradition to buy a coconut on my way to Kombo.  So, my coconut keeps me company while I finish this post.
Because of Africa time,  the pictures seen above were loaded here today.  A new development has happened with my camera though.  At the internet bar, I took out the battery to recharge it.  Later at my village when I tried to take a picture, I had to set the date and time in order to be able to take a picture…but alas, the OK and BACK buttons have perished, and with them, my ability to take pictures until I find a way around this.
Walking into the Peace Corps office I just saw the new volunteer trainees that arrived a couple of days ago.  This brings it home to me that I have been here awhile.  Although I am still “newer” to the Gambia, I am now in a position to give advice and answer questions for other raw recruits.     Weird.

This is my host mother, Jabu Bah, with her grandson Momodou Bah.  Jabu is a very patient person.  She's patient, although unknowingly so, in the time that it has taken me to share a picture of her with people who read this blo.  She gives me support for pretty much anything I do and is understanding of my my periodic incomprehension of Gambian culture.  I supply her with Kola nuts.  It's a mutual relationship.

AHA!  I found a picture of Buba, he is the shaved head closest to the camera.  Here we are at the village pump. 

Notice that the pumps are working!  We drew out the 50m of line, replaced the slip and then put everything back.  I am glad to have that project behind me now, and focus more on forestry and farming type work at site.  Thank you everyone for support in this project, and in case you feel like you missed out on the opportunity, there are constantly projects waiting for funding at apprpriateprojects.com

It rained last night.  The clouds finally opened above wallalan at 3 am after a fantastic lightning show starting at sunset.  The village is happy, and as I walked out towards the highway, I passed many fellow Wallalandians sowing their peanut crops.  These peanut crops are the cash crop of the area, but farming 'groundnut' as it is called here, is increasingly hard because of unstable prices, unreliable weather, and environmental degredation.  Part of what PC The Gambia's Environment sector is pushing is the education and spread of cashew trees as the next big cash crop.  The statistic that i am told is that the sale of cashew seeds from  10 mature cashew is comparable with an entire field of groundnuts.  So with the July rains I hope to plant a hundred or so cashew trees with motivated farmers.

Haa yeeso (till later).

1 comment:

  1. Hi this blog is really good. I share this blog to my friend. This is really great job man. Keep update to your blog and keep posting realistic and good. The travels is more competion to our world. All the best for your future process good keep it up bye...