April 27, 2003 - Personal Web Page: Sabrina Claydean Tindal in The Gambia
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April 27, 2003 - Personal Web Page: Sabrina Claydean Tindal in The Gambia
Sabrina Claydean Tindal in The Gambia
Sabrina Claydean Tindal in The Gambia
When the initial thought came to mind of constructing a web page as an avenue to share my Peace Corps experience I was elated. I thought pictures, newspaper clippings, articles and the like. Well, one year later I am just getting started and a very close friend of mines that I met while being here is doing most of the legwork. During the course of that one-year, I have shared my most profound revelations with those nearest and dearest to me. But as time has passed the e-mails have become few and far in between and the letters/care packages even less. The very idea that my experience had become less exciting and/or people had become just too busy motivated me to put this web page on the roll. This way I can post thoughts, emotions and occurrences; those that have an interest may ask question and I can respond and those that do not can avoid the drama of my stories all together. Then we're all happy.
My aims are so far beyond simply sharing my experience with others. They are more along the lines or providing exposure; giving my perspective of living in The Gambia as: a foreigner - as an American - as a woman - as a African-American and as one trying to share and gain knowledge on all aspects of life. Highlighting the advantages of traveling abroad - seeing the world - gaining new perspectives and seeing how the world sees you and I through the aid of media and music. And allowing others to see that your dreams are not that far fetched that they cannot be achieved; never that unrealistic that they cannot be conquered. You have the power to be just where you desire at this very moment.
At this junction, I will simply remind you that I am not a historian, politician or anything along those lines. I am simply one attempting to share my story with those who have a sincere interest. My entries are not a critique of Gambian culture and/or lifestyle, but merely entries based on my emotional stance in correlation to the things that I have experienced here. Feel free to ask questions and give feed back. But I also ask that you keep an open mind, ear and heart and we both take the remainder of this journey together.
In the Beginning…
Upon arrival in The Gambia, we spent one week in the Kombo (the capital area, where most of the major businesses are, the main Peace Corps office and the medical unit). Here we began to get accustomed to hot and humid weather, received more vaccination shots and began to get familiar with culture, customs and language. At the end of the week, we left for the village where we would spend the next ten weeks learning language and technical skills. We were placed in very rural villages and most of our houses had only one room; none of our houses had electricity or running water. After being there for a couple of days the village held a naming ceremony for us.
Training was a little hectic; it was hot, humid, the village always seemed noisy from all the animals and there just seemed to be so many people. And everyone wants to know where you are going, how long you will be there and when you are coming back. Language barriers simply added more frustration; just being unable to express basic needs and concerns can be a burden and serious handicap.
But by the end of the ten week training, my language had improved and I was beginning to get accustomed to the village life. But it was time for me to re-locate to the place where I'd be expected to live for the next two years.
Name: Sabrina Claydean Tindal
Born: July 18th
Hometown: Summerton, South Carolina
Mommy: Ms. Roberta Tindal - The Love of My Life
Eyes: Dark Brown
Hair: Beautiful Black Locks
Education: BS in Law and Legal Assistance
Future Plans: Career in International Health and Development…Marriage, Kids and all that good stuff
Other Endeavors: Publish a couple of books, Work in the arena of empowering African American women to pursue their dreams, maintain healthy relationships and promote positive representation
Hobbies: Reading, Writing Poetry, Dancing, Traveling, Meeting People, Listening to Music, Yoga, Cooking
Favorite Genre of Music: Raggae
Sports: Tennis, Swimming, and Volleyball
Rules to Live By:
Ø Through Faith and Perseverance…all things are possible
Ø You are exactly where you need to be to determine where you are going and why you need to be there
Ø Honor your past, present and future for it has been ordained
Ø Share your story - be open and honest with your mistakes - someone needs to hear it
Ø Love you for all that you are - remember there's only one of you!!!
Ø Manners will take you where money cannot (thanx Mom!)
Ø The cycle continues in the same order until you correct the mistakes and change the pace
I was born in Sumter, South Carolina. I grew up in a small town by the name of Summerton where I attended primary, elementary and high school with predominately the same classmates my entire life. At the age of 18, I left South Carolina to attend Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia as a Law and Legal Assistance major (Paralegal Studies). During my junior year, I interned at the District Attorney's office in Downtown Atlanta. It was at this point that I realized that the legal profession was not as lavish and eventful as I'd imagined.
Through the international students and professors I'd met, my interest to travel abroad began to expand. By spring semester of my senior year, I found myself steadily pursuing "The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love"…Peace Corps. In mid May, exactly one week before my graduation I received my acceptance letter to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer. The weeks that followed were filled with tears, excitement, stress and jitters as I prepared to leave The US for two years. On July 5th I departed from Hartsfeild Airport headed to DC to meet the fellow trainees that would accompany me to The Gambia. On July 6th we departed for The Gambia and arrived on the 7th. I can still remember how hot and humid it was as we stepped off the plane - 30 in number. From that moment on my life became an emotional roller coaster. Everything from excitement and amazement to loneliness and isolation then again up to achievement and accomplishment and back down again to annoyance and aggravation
After ten weeks of village-based training and a semi-successful effort of learning Mandinka, we were off to our site placements where we would spend the next two years (now 27 in number).
My initial excitement of living on a small island and in a family compound that had electricity, a television, and a water tap just outside of our compound vanished quite swiftly as I experienced the never ending fury of culture shock. Everyday - literally - brought with it new challenges. After about 8 months at site I'd switched jobs, as well as compounds and was on my way to finally feeling settled and more at ease
At this present time, I feel more at peace here in The Gambia. It took a while for me to realize that just as easily as I pointed fingers and accused people of offending me, they to had the very right - and even more so - to do just the same. I realized that American culture is just one of many; all with their advantages and disadvantages; morals and values; rights and opinions. And no matter how much one agrees, or disagrees, respect is due, especially when occupying another mans land. So my present days are spent attempting to do just that: maintain balance between what I respect, believe in and am comfortable with while, as much as possible, being culturally sensitive.
I now feel a new sense of serenity and peace as I have grown to appreciate so many things here, especially those things that are more difficult to attain in America. Not only have I learned a great deal about Gambian and West African culture, but about myself in general. The times that I have missed my friends, family and sorors at home, my mom's home-cooked meals, my times in the AUC and the like have been incomparable to the revelations and growth I have experienced here.
Hopefully through the construction of this web page, questions /answers and thoughts shared- we will be able to recap upon some of my most memorable moments thus far, share some of the lessons learned and discuss where it all heads now.………..
The Gambia's main indigenous groups have a highly stratified society wherein status is determined by birth. At the top of the social heap are traditional noble and warrior families, followed by the farmers, traders and persons of caste - blacksmiths, leather workers, wood workers, weavers and griots (GREE-oh). Griots are the lowest of the castes but are highly respected, as they are in charge of passing on the oral traditions and are usually the only ones who can recite a family or village history. Slaves occupied the lowest rung of the social ladder, and although slavery is now long gone, many descendants of former slaves still work as tenant farmers for the masters of old.
The overwhelming majority of The Gambia's population is Muslim, though many practitioners combine their faith with traditional beliefs. It's not uncommon to see Gambians wearing a small leather pouch around their neck, arm or waist; called gris-gris (pronounced 'gree-gree'), these amulets are thought to ward off evil or bring good luck. Devout Muslims sometimes hedge their bets by keeping a small verse from the Quran inside.
Great importance is placed on greetings in The Gambia. Wolof and Mandinka people, for example, greet one another with a ritual that lasts up to half a minute, starting with the traditional Islamic greetings Salaam aleikum and Aleikum asalaam ('Peace be with you,' 'And peace be with you.') This is followed by several more questions about the other's family, home life, village, health et al. The answers - which are almost always that things are fine, even for people on death's door - are often followed with Al humdul'allah ('Thanks be to God.') In the larger cities, traditional greetings sometimes give way to shorter versions in French or English, but they're never forgotten. If you learn a few stock greetings in the local lingo, you're bound to be a big hit with the locals.
The Gambia's richest artistic tradition is music. For many centuries, musicians and griots, or praise-singers, have kept alive the tales of families and ethnic groups, giving peoples such as the Wolof and Mandinka their strong sense of history and identity. Many griots sing accompanied by tunes on the kora, a kind of harp, and the Mandinka are particularly noted for their skill in crafting these instruments.
Along with other countries of the Sahel, The Gambia's literary tradition is based on the family histories and epic poems told over centuries by griots. In recent times, a number of contemporary writers have emerged, although their numbers are few compared to other West African nations. William Conton is The Gambia's best known novelist, whose semi-autobiographical 1960s classic The African was an influential bestseller in many parts of Africa. Lenrie Peters is another Gambian author with a similar background to Conton's - both were born of Sierra Leonean parents. His best known novel is called The Second Round, though he's perhaps better known for his poetry, which has been fittingly described as 'surgical.' More recent contributors to the Gambian literary scene are Ebou Dibba, author of Chaff on the Wind, and Tijan Salleh, whose main collection of poetry is called Kora Land.
The oral tradition
For African people, dancing is as natural as breathing and the music is always around, as essential as the air. " - "by Eric Serra"
The professional oral historians (also known as jelis or griots) of today's Mandinka society have taken great care in preserving their history and heritage through stories and songs passed down to each generation. The Mandinka Epic is a compilation of songs and short stories that gives a brief chronological history of the Mali Empire that was lead by the Mandinka ethnic group. The Mandinka Epic features costumes, songs, music and ritual dances that were extensively researched for this production. The songs are sung primarily in Wolof and Mandinka.
Youssou N'dour is probably the most well-known West-African artist. He has earned world-wide recognition through his collaborations with American artists Peter Gabriel, Neneh Cherry and Branford Marsalis. The most distinguishing feature is his voice. His music has a strong African feeling, and a strong following in his home country, Sénégal. The texts always have (judging on the translations) a social relevance.
Youssou N'dour was born in 1959 into a griot family, in the neighborhood Medina in Dakar, Sénégal. He started singing at an early age--first at family gatherings. He appeared in a radio talent show (at the age of 12) after which he regularly performed in public. In 1975, he started singing in the Star Band, the most popular band in Sénégal in those days. The band was founded in 1960 as a symbol of Sénégal's independence. It played Cuban rumba, but soon started to include more local rhythms, instruments and eventually, texts in Wolof and other local languages. The addition of the indigenous tama drum with its characteristic cracking sound and its rousing rhythms finally turned their music into what Youssou coined M'balax (Wolof for "rhythm"). Youssou N'dour soon became the band's main attraction, and in 1977 he formed his own band, the Étoile de Dakar (French for "Star of Dakar"). A number of his colleagues in the Star Band followed him. The public attention increasingly focused on Youssou N'dour, which caused the break-up of the band Étoile 2000 in the early 1980's. Youssou N'dour then renamed his band to Super Étoile de Dakar. It became the most famous band in Africa.
Baaba Maal styles widely range from acoustic traditional music to high-tech Afro-pop. Baaba Maal is a Toucouleur from Podor in the north of Sénégal. He is not from a family of griots but does have close ties with traditional music. That's most easily recognized when listening to Djam Leelii, which he recorded with his "mentor and griot" Mansour Seck. After some years in a traditional ensemble, the Lasli Fouta, he founded his own band, Dande Lenol (The Voice of the Race). With this band, he has made several records, usually leaning towards Afro-pop. His last, Firin' in Fouta, also features an impressive list of (western) guest musicians
Weather: 3 months or rain and 9 months of nothing but dryness and humidity
Food: Most dishes are made with rice, meat and some veggies; porridge or bread and tea for breakfast
Work: Spend most of my time at the school, but have also worked on training sessions for staff and other PCVs, along with secondary projects like the library and Gender and Development Activities
Extracurricular: I spend a lot of time reading and writing; if there is a dance, wedding or football game in the village I may attend; When in Kombo, I go to clubs, out to eat or relax and watch movies sent from home.
Dress: Considering that The Gambia is about 95% Muslim, dress in the village is pretty conservative: consisting of a long wrap skirt and a tank (usually) or pants that come past my knee and a t-shirt. In Kombo, I can and do wear many of the same styles I wore at home.
Education: The education system is improving and students seem to be taking a more active interest in their careers and future. In an effort to encourage more girls to attend schools, many NGOs are sponsoring them and promoting free education for girls. Children that live in the rural villages go to school whenever it is convenient for the family; a senior in high school may be 21 or 22 years old.
Marriage: Some marriages are still arranged by families in the rural villages. But now there seems to be more of a trend of girls choosing their own husbands freely. And yes, the men can have up to four wives and some have more than that (it's not as bad as it sounds; although I cannot foresee myself being in that situation, it works well with families here when one considers the amount of kids and chores to be distributed).
What I Miss the Most: My Mommy and (ironically) libraries
Favorite Gambian Dish: Benechin, a dish consisting of rice cooked with peppers and seasonings inside. It is usually served with fish.
Drinks: Many women make a juice from a tree called the baobob tree and/or sorrel leaves (wanjo or beesap
Entertainment: Many of the young and older boys play football. The girls may braid hair, sit around and chat, crochette or knit. Dancing is also done as a form of entertainment. In the evenings, young boys will sit around and brew attiyya (green tea).
Income generation: Women may sell fruits, vegetables and juice at the market. The men may have technical jobs or such jobs as tailoring, carpenter or shop owner. All income is shared within the family and even distributed to the extended family - which may sometimes be a great bulk of the village.
Wildlife: baboons, monkeys, hippos, crocodiles, plenty of frogs and lizards, an abundance of colorful birds and salamanders
Most Beautiful attraction(s): Children, men and women, the beach and the birds
Favorite Artist among many Gambian male youth: Tupac, Nas, Jay-Z, Bob Marley
Transport: "Bush taxis:" small minivans that travel throughout the country or small taxis that travel locally. Ferries are available for crossing the river.
Language: English is the primary language but Wolof, Mandika Fula and Frnech are spoken
Things that I (feel) I have become more aware of since being here:
-Descriptions of people, places and things in the media
-The way I dress
-My choice of words
-The way I treat others, in terms of spending quality time, giving gifts, opposite sex relationships and being understanding of cultural/background differen
-The importance of patience
-THE IMPORTANCE OF FAITH AND/OR SOME TYPE OF BELIEF IN A HIGHER POWER
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Story Source: Personal Web Page
This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - The Gambia; PCVs in the Field - The Gambia; Afro-American Issues; Minority Volunteers; Photography - The Gambia
Once again I'm trying to contact you and possibly this time stay in touch. You have been on my mind for a while now so i googled you and got this website. This is your classmate and friend Happiness. If and when you get this message please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello Sabrina I recently spoke with Happiness and she told me that she spoke with you. Found out that you live in Atlanta and I recently moved here. Haven't spoken to you in a while and would really like to catch up. Oh yeah I had to google you too because she didn't give me your email.
It's amazing to read through your experiences, I'm very much glad that you managed to get through all the challenges, it was very hard and I remember fully days when you just ask me if I know how it feels to live without any close friends and family members around,I honestly had no idea then but I living away for almost five year now I personal understand.
I've always underestimated what you a lot had to go through until I live in the UK. I have experience almost every challenge one can face in a foreign country. Considering the Gambia is a poor country and I still some days wished I was back home this goes to show it's not just about what is available in the country matter but is what you left back home, Family, Friends, The culture and just little things that you never notice you can do on daily basis.
I enjoyed reading through this blog and it inspire me on my daily challenges. I hope you are doing ok and good luck with all your future plans