Monthly Archives: June 2012

I’ve decided that it’s too difficult to outline each of my days on here, so I think I’ll stick to a few select tidbits and stories. Many of the ones I feel like posting right now sound like those ridiculous headlines you can often find on Yahoo’s homepage- including “3-foot Dwarf Rapper Performs in Made-Up Language at Gambian Beach Hotel,” “Girl Receives 24 Mosquito Bites in 2 days,” “Development of World’s Most Unusual Sandwich- Onions, Mayonnaise, Ketchup, Fried Egg, Sausage, Cucumbers, French-Fries, and Cabbage.”

I’ll provide a few visuals regarding my living situations and my experiences instead of play-by-plays. Last night, we went to Leybato Beach, a quieter beach in comparison to the one we had gone to this weekend. It was breezy and absolutely beautiful, and when we were there around 5, local men and women were all over the beach playing soccer, running, doing pushups- it seemed like the time slot allotted for physical fitness. The hotels there house a lot of ex-Peace Corps volunteers, Ex-Pats, etc. less tourists, but still some Europeans and foreigners. Marquis joined in a co-ed, all-ages, touch-rugby game, with locals and foreigners and beginners and skilled veterans, while I watched with three girls who approached me, asking me what my name was and where I “stayed” in broken English. We are occasionally asked for money or approached relentlessly by vendors, so when this girl asked me if she could ask me a question, I reluctantly said yes. However, she asked me if I was here for a long time and if I could teach her to read. I was sort of taken aback, and didn’t know if she expected me to teach her right then and there, but she said she would come back on Sunday and if I was there I could help her with her homework. I said sure, unsure of my plans, and told her maybe. She said it didn’t matter, she came to watch the rugby every night at this time, and did not mind if I couldn’t make it.

Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had here have been with the two men who stay at the hostel during the night- the night manager Malang and the security guard, whose name I cannot even attempt to spell. Our conversations have, thus far, ranged from Michael Jackson and Tupac to cremation and afterlife to Texas to snakes and magic. Every night I sit out there, for longer when the power is out. They have a lot of questions about America and me and my family and basketball, and I do my best to answer and to help them with their English.

In my bathroom, the toilet is broken, so in order to use any of the water from the toilet, sink or shower, I have to climb on top of the toilet and turn a nozzle on the wall, turning on the water for the room. Once I’ve done that, I can step into the shower- which pours down not in a steady stream but in dribbles and then a huge burst of water every few seconds. The shower hangs over both the sink and the toilet, so by the time I’m done, the water has sprayed pretty much all over the room. It’s a lot to wake up to in the morning, but at night, it’s pretty refreshing. Difficult though, when the power is out, which is every other night from 8PM-1AM. I’ve avoided a few near-death slipping accidents but no real disasters.

Now you’ve read this whole post and are probably still waiting to hear about the dwarf, so I will oblige. Sunday night is the big social/party night here and we went to another volunteer’s hotel at the more touristy beach. There were hundreds of people and very lively live music- covers of American songs by Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, and many more, and as we were leaving, a small dwarf took the stage, his jeans sagging to almost his knees. He took the microphone and started vigorously rapping in a language that seemed incomprehensible to everyone in the beach bar, but everyone was enthralled nonetheless. I sort of stood there in shock for a while but when a very large woman got up and started dancing with him, I couldn’t look away. He was so determined, and not bad in terms of rhythm and beat, I just simply had no idea what he was saying. And he was three feet tall, tops.

Next time, more on my work and my experiences at the Y. Missing everyone,

I’ve decided t…


So I have been in The Gambia for about 36 hours now. Flight and travel was easy, and I was picked up at the airport by Poncelet, my boss for the summer. He took us to the YMCA, where the building I am living in and the building I will be teaching in are less than a soccer field’s distance from each other, and we were greeted by Malang, the night manager, who I have yet to see without a smile on his face. My room is on an upper floor, and has a fan, a closet, a table, a bed, and a bathroom. Everyone was incredibly friendly to us from the start (us being myself and Marquis, another volunteer traveling from San Francisco), and the next day we were welcomed into the YMCA staff.

I am working with a young group- Ponce is our leader, and then Umi, Annette and Kebah (leave room for error on the spelling here) are all in their early twenties and working for his Computer Training Center. Upstairs is Adriana, the head of his digital studio, a woman from Spain who lives here permanently. We are about 10-15 kilometers outside of the actual city of Banjul, but it’s a pretty populated area, with lots of elementary schools and taxis and buses everywhere.

After meeting with the staff yesterday, I was invited to Poncelet’s house for lunch, where his wife made us traditional Gambian fish and rice dish, and then taken to his club- The Banjul Reform Club- the oldest private club in West Africa, since 1911. The building is a large indoor auditorium with an outside patio, and his friends met us there to have drinks and chat. Two of his friends were very familiar with the US, one a graphic designer who studied at art school in LA, and the other who lived in Texas for 9 years. The best part of my day was listening to them discuss the various accents, foods, and experiences they found to be so strange in the US.

After each of them had finished about 6 or 7 drinks and an entire pack of Marlboro’s each, I walked back to the Y which is less than a city block away. A few hours later, Malang informed me Ponce was outside waiting for me, ready to take me to his usual Friday night hangout, a karaoke bar called Churchill’s, filled with locals and British retirees who I can only assume live at the beach nearby.

Today, I have been helping to administer a TOEFL test- Testing of English as a Second Language, an exam required to go to universities or colleges in the UK.


Pretty tired and out of it,a little shocked at how far from home I am, but excited for the adventures to come.



So I have been …

48 Hours!

It’s hard to believe, but in less than 48 hours, I will be beginning the first leg of my trip with my mom to Amsterdam. I have never been to Amsterdam, Brussels or Bruges, and I am excited to get to spend some time adventuring with my mom, museum-ing, walking, photographing and eating, which happen to be four of our favorite shared activities. For now, I am finishing errands, packing, and squeezing in what I can of San Francisco. The last few days, I have alternated between giddy excitement and what can only be interpreted as a very high case of nerves. I know this is going to be an incredible experience and I just can’t wait to get started.

In case, like me, your background on The Gambia was limited until very recently:

  • Approximately 1.7 million people live in The Gambia.
  • The current president of The Gambia is His Excellency Sheikh Professor Al Haji Dr Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh.
  • The Gambia is less than 30 miles wide at its widest point.
  • The Gambia is known for their music and dance (won’t they be disappointed when they see me try…)
  • The Gambia gained independence from Britain in 1965 and was declared a republic in 1970.
  • Agriculture (peanuts, livestock, fishing and forestry) account for 30% of the country’s GDP.
  • Almost 33% of the country’s population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day.
  • The Gambia is ranked 168 out of 187 on the Human Development Index, which serves as a measure of life expectancy, education and income.
  • Life expectancy at birth in The Gambia is 58.5 years.
  • The expected and mean years of schooling in The Gambia is only 0.334 years.
  • The Gambia has provided the MLS with many players over the past 10 years, and soccer is a favorite national pastime.
  • There is no national religion established, but approximately 90% of the country’s population practices Islam.
So…next time I post, I will be on my way or have already arrived in Banjul. I can’t wait, and please everyone keep in touch. See you in 8 weeks-and if anyone else out there is keeping a travel or other kind of blog this summer please send it along.
P.S. Thank you Mike for meeting with me this week and calming my nerves a little bit, my parents for putting up with my nerves, and my personal DJ Kendyl Klein for providing me with a soundtrack for my trip.


 ( YMCA Hostel in Banjul )