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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

Monday, August 8, 2011

Solitude

Another month has gone by since I've posted to this blog.  Time passes everywhere and my recent days in the Gambia have left me better acquainted with Solitude.  

I feel the oneness and the aloneness of solitude every day as an single outsider to a foreign culture and as a emigrant from my original place.  I think it is important here to state that my feelings about solitude are positive, negative, clear, and muddied all at once.  It is an unavoidable consequence of coming here. 

Language and understanding are the strongest walls that keep me single.  I will say with pride that I am quickly learning Pulaar and can survive for days in my village without speaking english.  I get compliments on some pronunciations and grimaces on others.  The amalgamation of languages spoken in Wallalan (Pulaar, Wollof, Mandinka, English, French) and the larger Gambia (also Jola, Serrer, Serehule and more) mean that while there are common words borrowed from each language and known to all language groups, sometimes the dialects within the same language (Pulaar, for example) are entirely incomprehensible to native speakers, much less a novice like myself.  My ability to talk better and with greater critical thinking than a native toddler is tempered by my lack of familiarity as to when a single  word has finer distinctions based on the others around it.  That was garbled, but it secludes me.  This is not my mother tongue.  I feel at times more alone for getting "it" halfway than not at all.

"Garbled" is a perfect counter example.  No Gambian nonnative english speaker without a college education would understand what garbled means.  And even if I tried to explain with literal examples, the flavor of the word is lost in translation.  Or garbled in translation.  As well as not using my mother tongue, I  can't speak fully with it mother tongue either. 
And the really good, multipurpose words that have been adopted here are abused by their overuse.  But I digress.

This is a very poor year for rain and we are now in another heat wave.  Apart from a prickly heat rash that has spread over most of my back, I have had tolerable skin infections and never had a peeling sunburn.  I am the only person in my village capable of having a peeling sunburn.  People here don't understand the concept that the sun cooks me and I'm not exactly willing to show them.


Solitude happens in the presence of fellow volunteers.  Whether the setting is a group conference or gathering, or a more intimate visit with one or two volunteers, we all take some time to ourselves, and withdraw back into our heads for a moments respite.  It is no scandal to say that chain smoking of shitty cigarettes happens when volunteers meet together.  From quick mental counts at gatherings and from what i know about my fellow volunteers, over 60% of us smoke, probably in part to deal with the pressures of constant solitude.


It is Ramadan now, the Muslim month of fasting to teach discipline against earthly temptations and to better the individual's relationship with God.  With the communal spirit of self betterment I am not smoking or drinking alcohol for this month, though I will not take part in withholding from food and water from sunup to sunset.  People's incredulous stares that I am eating, that I am not fasting, and that I am not a Muslim again set me apart.  On some days I take enjoyment out of explaining that there are many different kinds of people and beliefs in the world, on other days I am depressed by the level of social rigidity that people here enforce on each other, and to a lesser extent, me.


My camera has succumbed to the dust long ago and now that the countryside is green I have definitely missed the opportunity to share photos with you all!  I am sorry because there have been colors, situations, and landscapes that have reduced me to sniffling and I cannot capture the marching of time with still images right now.  I see myself as an apparition that floats through the photo albums and blogs of my fellow volunteers.

This is garbled.  Let me tell you of some of what I've been doing.

Agave sisalana is a spiky, spiky plant that is larger than a meter cubed when mature.  And when it gets big, it is impenetrable.  Bomb proof.  I have been transplanting many of the small runners that come off of big plants into lines with the intention to grow a live fence.  

I've lashed together 2 more stick frames for beehives with binding wire.  I've played host to traveling PCVs and visitors.  I've weeded a few times. 


My attempts to grow cashew seedlings and even a garden with my host family have been repeatedly thwarted by goats and a lack of rain.


I'm working to bring universal nut shellers to my village to start small business enterprises.


I feel alone in my work ethic.  I think that a large part of this difference is caused by the fact that even if the crops/plants that I sow all die, I will still be able to eat for the next year.  It's just that not only are meeting times hard to coordinate for work, people largely don't seem to want to try new methods here.  I am alone in thinking that toubobs shouldn't simply give out money.


 Awhile back, Remy Long and I exchanged brief text messages of things that we miss.  Here is some of the list.

Critical thinking
Live Jazz
Good Beer
Literacy in my fellow citizens
Insulation
Humane treatment of animals 
Snow

I've learned to just admire the thunderheads and lightning shows that build up over the South Bank and stop expecting rain.  I'm in a drought. 

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