The tiny bus sputtered as it lumbered across the bridge. The Gambia river slithered under us, winding its way west. The sun was setting and the winds were rising. The soccer team in the back and on the roof were chanting, “koulari, koulari,” the name of our village. They had just won a match at a village 50km away. Now we were almost home, crossing the Gambia River in Gouloumbou before turning onto the dirt road that leads to our village. From the front seat I strained my eyed to see what was up ahead.
Smoke enveloped us, stinging my eyes. Must be a burning field. Burning crop waste is very common here. Then the water came. Not smoke, dust! Dust blown up from the strong winds, the first rainfall of the year. There was a pounding on the roof. We stopped so people on top could cram into the already overcrowded back of the bus. As we turned onto the dirt road, darkness had fallen. The bus had no headlights…our driver improvised by holding a flashlight outside the window. We arrived amidst the rain to a cheering village, everyone celebrating the victory. Africa is awesome.
The rains arrived on the heels of Ramadan, a time of fasting and prayer. From sunrise to sunset the people did not eat or drink water. This lasted for one month. I still was given lunch(a small bowl of rice) and drank water throughout the day. Children and pregnant women(and Americans) do not fast. I told my host father I was interested in fasting but he laughed and insisted I eat. Every night after sundown my father would drink lots of water and then break fast with several meals. At the end of Ramadan there was a big celebration called Korite. People dressed up, danced, and ate. The whole experience made me appreciate sustenance. Food and water are amazing gifts and easily taken for granted.
Now that the rainy season is upon us it is a busy time for a lot of my projects. The beginning of rainy season is the best time to get trees in the ground so that they become established and strong for the next dry season. All the tree nurseries I started need to be out planted. I also plan to plant seeds along fence lines, allowing thorny hedges to reinforce existing fences. This technique is called direct seeding. It is less work than using trees raised in nurseries but the tree mortality is much higher.
The community also decided to give me my own plot in the women’s garden! I want to turn this area into a demonstration zone for agroforestry techniques. Incorporating trees into garden areas is a great way to raise the natural capital of the village. I still have to plan out what I want to plant but I’ll be sure to update everyone on my gardening adventures.
Overall I am loving the experience of living here. There are always struggles however. For instance on the way to Gouloumbou to catch a car to the city, my bike lost air in the front tire. I had to ride over two miles with a flat! Now that I’m in the city I will have to find someone to fix it. That shouldn’t be hard as almost everyone here has bikes. As Leonardo DiCaprio says in Blood Diamond, “T.I.A.”(This Is Africa) Important words to remember. Till next time.
Disclaimer: this blog is solely my opinion and does not reflect the views of the US Government or Peace Corps