ADL – Activities of Daily Living


So, when I was first thinking about a blog I was reminded by another blogger to stick to the basics – often times even the simplest daily tasks and things happening around here are worth a look and make a good story (Seth & Mishi – thanks). This is especially true for people who aren’t here in Gambia. Our 3 goals of PC are to teach the host country men and women relevant skills, teach host country members about America and to teach Americans about our host country. So, this post is straight goal 3 for day-to-day activities here. Plus, I think there’s a tendency to want to put forth amazing stories of helping, farming and cultural integration, but most people back in the states are still trying to figure out what it’s actually like here with respect to food, work, sleep, leisure and family. So, going with that idea I’m going to put a lot of basic photos up here of things PCVs see as “normal” but may be interesting for you guys to see. And to be honest, still for me it’s not that “normal” but its always interesting :).


A meeting about fixing a water tank. No official formalities, uniforms, appointment times or customer satisfaction surveys. I think the only thing said was “Hows the morning? Is that the tank?” and then we climbed up.


This is a village made clay pot called a ‘jibida’ – its a good place to keep your water cool. Most PCVs filter their water but a lot of people just drink it straight from the pump, tap, etc.


Clothes are washed by hand in large pans using both bar and powder soap. They are hung to dry out in the sun and the wind. People also sometimes iron their clothes using hot coals in a hollow metal iron.


We eat food together out of one big bowl. I eat lunch (around 2:30pm) and dinner (around 8:00pm) with my family. This food bowl is really nice, with lots of vegetables and sauce placed on top of white rice.The women do most all of the cooking here.


For special occasions Gambians may purchase and kill an animal such as a goat, sheep, chickens or cow. Within Islamic religious practices, the animals neck is faced east toward mecca and cut with a knife, often while saying some type of prayer. From what I understand I couldn’t kill an animal being served at a program because I’m not Muslim. The men kill the animals and deliver the meat in large pans (see lower right of photo) to the women who cook it. They use pretty much all the parts of the animal, intestines etc.


Programs happen a lot – weddings and naming ceremonies are the most common. There are also programs for fundraising, to celebrate circumcisions or welcome strangers that visit. This photo is of a friends wedding.


The morning commute to work often looks like this if you’re lucky. Most people don’t have bikes. This is Alagie, he came to the farm one day to pull weeds in the grain field – he got paid about $2.00 for 4 hours of work which was the standard rate I was told.


This is my kitchen in my house – it may not look it but I think this is a very nice kitchen for a couple reasons: its inside, there’s lots of space and I’ve got a gas stove. Most Gambians are cooking outside in small covered shacks over wood fires.


This is a garden training that went well. It’s outside, hand on and attended by villagers, students and PCVs.


This is the type of animal that would be bought for a big program or religious holiday, such as Tobaski. This bull was bought for about $430 and split between 6 families.


Here’s how the bull gets divided up – we borrow a scale from the local shop and weigh out equal parts of meat. The hacking and skinning is done in the back, on corrugate with machetes and various small knives. The work took a group of 8 about 2 hours. While the bull costs about $430, we ended up with about $600 worth of meat.


Here’s the final minutes of the work. One thing i learned is that according to Islam, you cannot drag a slaughtered animal to the place were you’ll skin it etc. So, we cut the neck of the bull then had to lift it up and carry it 10 feet to another place.


Rice is the main food here. This is all the rice husks behind the back of the rice milling machine. Rice is covered by a hard husk that has to be removed before you can cook and eat it. Women take their harvests to the machine and for a fee they will pound it for you with the machine. The alternative is to pound in yourself using a mortar and pestle, which many do, since a machine isn’t in their village or town. One book about agriculture in Africa described pounding as the biggest hindrance in the lives of food insecure people – mainly because it takes hours and you lose a lot of your food while doing it (e.g., 25% crop loss during post harvest handling etc.)


This is Chinese green tea: attaya. Its one of the main ways to pass time here – brewing 3 rounds of tea and talking. Some days, its not uncommon to drink attaya 3 times throughout the day – morning, after lunch and at night. Goodbye sleep! And teeth!


Here my host sister Satang is helping give my little brother Cherno a bath.


Of course everyone’s got friends out here. Here’s my brother Kebba (left) hanging out with his friends. “My boys” as he would say :). Kebba is waiting for a shoulder surgery to correct an injury he sustained in a car crash last year. Once done he will be able to rejoin the military.


This is a Baobab tree – the fruits are broken open to get to the edible pulp around the seeds. These trees get leaves and fruit seasonally so people enjoy making sauces from the leaves and eating the fruit. You can often find young boys throwing sticks and rocks at baobabs, trying to knock the fruit down. There’s even friendly jokes between people about having one arm longer than the other because their always throwing rocks to get baobab.


After the rainy season the farmers harvest what they’ve grown. This is millet from the hectare of land we planted. My farmers said it was a poor harvest because we had a weak rainy season. This millet will be dried, threshed, pounded and stored to eat or sell later.


Working conditions – usually muddy with old tools and low pay – not passing any judgment or making a big social commentary but its just the way it usually goes out here. This plumber and his apprentice got paid about $23 for the whole 4 day job.


The plumber came every morning, had a coffee with me and went to work.


We often play around taking pictures and laughing about them. People love cameras and trying them out. These are 2 of my host sisters and my baby brother. This day we were writing on the compound walls with charcoal.


Play time for kids – usually in the dirt :). Rocks, leaves, old cardboard boxes, milk tins or chasing animals – all these things are fair game for play. The lucky kids may find a tire or an old bicycle rim. Parents are busy doing their own things and check in on the child frequently, but overall the children here are much less ‘supervised’ then in the states.


This is a nice car! Even having your own car is a very rare thing – a bike or maybe a motorcycle is more likely but even then may be much to expensive. I’d say this car would cost about $1000 here and with a teachers salary being near $60 a month it may be far out of reach for most people. A bicycle and public transport are the best idea for most people.


A good day at the garden. I will take these sweet potatoes back to my compound and share them with my host family. The women cooking will add them to the food bowls.


Cassava is another crop that many people grow.


Occasional visits are made back to my training village family. This is my 1st host dad Musa with my namesake Mohammad sitting out front of my training house. I think Musa is wearing a Detroit shirt :).


Shepherds and their herd of cows are a daily sight at the farm. This is an occupation mostly done by members of the Fula tribe. If you ever want milk its best to talk to a Fula!


After the rains, the crops are gathered into big piles before they are threshed. This is a pile of groundnuts (i.e. peanuts)


Here you can see the groundnut. Next step is to knock the shells off the plant with sharp sticks.


Another thing that happens here is the cold! A couple months after the rains end we come into lovely cold season in Gambia. Gardening starts along with making fires and wearing coats and hats. I think the mornings get to be around 60-65F.


This is a road here. Its made day after day by the passing of people on foot or donkey cart. The roads connect villages and villagers to their fields, rice plots, shops or to the main paved road where you can catch public transport to another part of the country.

Ok, that’s it for now! Does it feel like you’ve got a little better understanding of the Gambia!? Well, if so, we’ve accomplished our 3rd Goal for Peace Corps! Two left to go. Post questions and comments below and thank you for being part of my service in this way.


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