April 27, 2003 - Personal Web Page: Welcome to the Groundnut News! This is a website about my experiences living in The Gambia as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Gambia: Peace Corps The Gambia : The Peace Corps in the Gambia: April 27, 2003 - Personal Web Page: Welcome to the Groundnut News! This is a website about my experiences living in The Gambia as a Peace Corps Volunteer

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, April 27, 2003 - 8:47 pm: Edit Post

Welcome to the Groundnut News! This is a website about my experiences living in The Gambia as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Welcome to the Groundnut News! This is a website about my experiences living in The Gambia as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Welcome to the Groundnut News!

This is a website about my experiences living in The Gambia as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Updates may seem slow because I only have ?net access roughly every 4 to 6 weeks, but they will happen so please keep checking. In the meantime, please sign the guestbook so we know you?ve been here. And drop Michelle or me a line with questions or things you?re curious about.

Kayira dorong (peace only)-

Stacey (aka Jonsaba Danso), July 2001

I doubt sometimes whether a quiet and unagitated life would have suited me - yet I sometimes long for it. -- Byron

August 2001 - I just added more emails into the section below. I also have added a section with excerpts from my journal about my first 6 months in country. A few pictures of The Gambia were added a couple of weeks ago if you haven't been here recently. Drop me an email and let me know what you think. Thanks! - Stace

October 2, 2000 Landing in The Gambia.

November 26, 2000 A very frustrating Thanksgiving.

November 28, 2000 Follow-up to previous note.

January 28, 2001 Sick again and figuring out village life.

February 9, 2001 Interesting discussion on language.

February 24, 2001 Sick, tired, and frustrated.

March 30, 2001 Healthy, but struggling with fence woes.

April 22, 2001 Brief note to say she's back in the land of e-mail.

April 23, 2001

May 4, 2001

June 8, 2001 A long winded update...

July 4, 2001 Enjoying a 4th of July BBQ!

July 11, 2001 Prickly heat, rain, and new PCV's (and noticing her progress, after all!)

September 4, 2001 Preparing for her one year anniversary, and reflecting on her time there.

September 25, 2001 How the situation in America is affecting her.

October 23, 2001 Problems with the mail...

October 24, 2001 What an agfo really is and what she's actually doing back there!!!

Hello Friends and Family!

I'm here in The Gambia as you can probably guess. We are in a town called Kombo that's somewhere on the Atlantic Coast somewhere near Banjul. Don't ask and don't bother looking at a map because I'm 100% sure it's not on a map. Nothing seems to be on a map; not that they've given us one here.

Staging in DC was quick, just a hi, you made it sort of deal and let us know how to get there and what would happen when we do. Had some down time though and got to check out the monuments and ride the subway. Skipped the National Archives and the Smithsonian and opted to spend my last few hours on American soil lazing around Dupont Circle drifting in and out of shops and making a reading wish list in a SuperCrown.

The trip was horrendously long - 6.5 hour flight to Brussels, 3.5 hours in Brussels and then something like another 7 hours to Banjul (Thanks for the picture, Michi! The airport looked just like that!). Needless to say we were all exhausted (I barely slept) and stir crazy. There are 16 of us - 11 women and 5 men, 8 from Washington State and California and the rest from the rest of the US. Two older adults and the rest are recent college grads (meaning the past few months) so I'm the only in betweener - no real career and not just out of college either. We are all classified as Agro-forestry. I guess we normally would have gone with the rest of the volunteers in July, but that's the rainy season and a bad time to train ag-foresters so we are the first group where they are trying to send later so we can train better.

As you can see, I have internet, but the day after tomorrow I go to my training village which will not in all likelihood have internet. My next chance to log on looks like it might be in 3 weeks. So don't think you all got off the hook on letter writing duties. In fact one of our guys got the first piece of mail today.

So here's what happened (as quick as I can explain) we got there and the staff greeted up at the airport. We collected luggage, they took our passports and we walked right thru customs without stopping - it was so nice! On the other side there were other Peace Corps volunteers here to greet us and welcome us to The Gambia. We are staying at a hostel type place and so far have been fed fairly American food. That will all change the day after tomorrow. We went to the beach and swam in the ocean, had dinner at the director's house last night (backyard BBQ), got some more shots (I got my last Hep A that I started before Central America and an encephalitis shot on top of some others in DC - rabies is yet to come), met a whole bunch of people whose names I can barely remember (I do okay with the American names, the Gambian names are more difficult for me), had a health interview, had an agro interview and got my village placement today. They've gone easy on us seeing as how the traveling is such a bitch.

Today we got interviewed about how close we want to be to other volunteers, how we deal with isolation, language learning and a whole bunch of other stuff and then they waved their magic wands and determined which language I will be learning (Wolof, Mandinka or Fula) and the magic 8 ball said Mandinka. Apparently it is not uncommon for people here to speak all 3 languages so there is not necessarily an advantage of learning one language over another. I told them that I like to swim, dive and raft and so they are thinking about giving me a river placement which would be totally cool. Diving and rafting aren't possibilities, but swimming is and occassionally volunteers can buy a kayak. I won't find out more about my placement until about the 8th week. Next I'll be going to a training village to learn Mandinka with 2 other people from my group. It's kinda like the Spanish school that I did this summer. These people have had Peace Corps trainees before and are great with them. The village helps train you.

Running out of time. People are great, so warm and welcoming and happy to see you, it's just amazing the reception we've received. I'll try and write more, but it looks like it'll be 3 weeks before I'll email again.

Love to all,


PS. Send those letters, I'd love to have mail!

PS2 - Mom, you'll never guess who else is in the Gambia - Steve Sakala! We can't seem to get away from each other....

Hey folks,

Just a quickie becuase I thought today was the 'power on' day in Bansang (which it *should* be, but for some reason isnt). I figure I've got about 10 minutes left. I have a big ol' fat email half handwritten out to everyone that should go out in the next few days. I'm going to Kombo tomorrow morning, veeeerrrrrry early (6am if I get a free ride from someone, 7am if I dont) so I should be there by early afternoon and have email for a whole week... yay!

But here's some bad news... Sabena, the major airline that comes here, has filed for protection from bankrupcy or something like that. Well, I found out when mail run came that Sabena has declared that they are no longer carrying cargo. "Whooptie-do" you say? Yeah well, some of that cargo just so happens to be MY MAIL!!! Right now there's no way for me to send OR receive letters. I'm hoping that I'll learn something different this week while I'm in Kombo, but considering how slow everything moves here, I'm not counting on it. So hold those letters or better yet, send them to Terry, who will bring them to me in just 29 short days... that address again (for those of you who still manage to misplace it) is... Terry [removed by Michelle. If you want the address, e-mail me]. He's leaving on the 20th in the early morning so get a move on it if you're gonna send me something. While we're on the subject of mail, Mom/Terry, could you guys send me some more US stamps please with Terry. I've used about half of mine and it looks like I might be using a lot more the next few months. At least in November and December there's a lot of folks visiting so we can get mail out thru friends and relatives. Carrie, I havent gotten the M&M's yet, and I have a big letter sitting here to you, but I dont want to send it yet and have it rot away in some back office in Banjul.

That's the big news for the moment, at least that I wanted to get out right away. As for the other stuff, it'll be in my general letter that should be out as soon as I get a huge chunk of time at a computer where it doesnt cost me an arm and a leg (meaning: free).

Hope everyone is well, I'm doing fine...

Love ya,


Well it?s been quite some time since I?ve been able to give a general update. I had planned on being in Kombo at the end of September to greet the new agfos, but they were delayed due to the situation in America. So I?m here in Kombo now to greet them when they arrive this weekend. Better late than never.

It dawned on me as I was reading a letter from Carrie that you all dont really know what I do here. Some days neither do I. I figured gee, I?ve been here a little over a year now, maybe I should tell you just what is it I?m doing over here besides reading books (125 and counting), writing letters (110 and counting), marking off the days (roughly 399 and counting) and butchering another language besides English (3 languages (Spanish and German in school, Mandinka here) and counting).

You know my title is agfo, which is short for agro-forestry. Technically we?re not agfos anymore, but environmental educators, because that supposedly is a broader field. We PCVs dont care, ?agfo? is much cooler to say than ?enviro ed? (which to me sounds like some cheesy educational cartoon character - Enviro Ed teaches you how to save the planet!). As far as we?re concerned we?re agfos and it?s the coolest job to have in the Gambia because we dont have a 9 to 5 job (like the health and education PCVs) and we dont have a field supervisor to answer to (like the health and ed PCVs). Essentially we work when we want to and with who we want to. It makes the other two sectors jealous. We also have shorter meetings, the coolest Peace Corps boss, fewer and better workshops and and we get to play with shit (both literally and figuratively) - its good to be an agfo!

So when I finally decide to interupt my reading with work what is it that I do? Right now my main projects are the school?s environmental club and gardening. I?m at a bit of lull at the moment in the gardening aspect of things. We?re at the end of the rainy season (no rain for 12 days and counting) and so it?s a matter of clearing the crops and areas for gardening space and strengthening the fences to keep out the goats (which will eat anything), the cows (which will trample anything), the sheep (which will follow the goats and the cows as they?re eating and trampling as well as doing the same themselves) and the chickens (which will scrath and kick and dig up anything, especially if it?s already been eaten or trampled). One of my host sisters (she?s about my age) really wants to garden too. Two days ago she told me that she will have the area we want to use cleared when I return in two weeks time.

I enjoy gardening, and during the rainy season we got to eat butternut squash, zuchini, okra, beans and hot peppers that I grew. We?re still eating the hot peppers, they?re just coming in now. My bitter tomatoes are just starting to flower right now. I?ve also used lots of my basil to make pesto as well as in tomato sauce for homemade pizza and in a few omlettes. Fresh basil in omlettes is wonderful! My mint is also big enough now where I?ve used it for tea. There?s a lot of other things I want to grow too when we get the garden going (tomatoes, eggplant, onions, etc.), but that kinda sums up gardening.

The school?s environmental club is rapidly becoming my pride and joy. We started it last school year but it never really took off too well. I refused to run the thing myself (for various reasons) and instead just sat back and watched and helped as needed. It really floundered; it was really rather painful to watch. Well at the end of the school year party the teacher who is the advisor said to me that he really didnt have many ideas. I said, ?well, we could do this...? and proceeded to name off a bunch of things. He was just floored by my ideas. He asked me why I didnt say anything before, I told him I said this stuff before, just nobody listened. This school year we talk a lot more and I?ve given him about 20 ideas and a book with even more. So I?m essentially acting as an advisor to the club?s advisor. It?s great, that?s what I want my position to be. Students listen to him better and I really dont want the responsibility, plus, when I?m not there, like the next 2 weeks, the club can still function without me.

So last academic year all we really accomplished was cleaning up the school grounds once and planting some seeds for cashew trees. Not much, but it was a start. This year Mr. Sanyang (that?s the teacher) and I are working much more closely and have our activities planned far in advance with some logic to their scheduling. These past few weeks we?ve been working on making a mud stove for the school cooks. People here cook with firewood which obviously is a finite resource. Well, if you build a mudstove, it acts as an insulator and uses less wood and also protects fires from wind, which also contributes to heat loss. You make one by gathering soil from a termite mound (which is clay), break it up and mix it with dry grass and fresh cow dung (see... that?s one of the ways I play with shit... there?s many more!). You add water and stomp on this mixture with your barefeet to get it all mixed together (picture Lucy and Ethel in the grape stomping scene). Then you let it sit for a week. Then you can build the stove, which is essentially a U-shape that rises three-quarters of the way up your cooking pot. Then you let it dry for a week and taa daa! You have a more effcient cooking place! So Monday we put together the stove and now it is drying. Our hope is that people will like the stove and then will pay our club 3 dalasi to go to their compound and make them one or two. Already I?ve had three women stop me in the village and tell me they want one cause they?ve seen what we?re doing at the school. Hopefully now we can get them to pay for it. Our hope then is to use the money for club activities like field trips or club t-shirts or something.

While I?m gone they?re supposed to be trying to sell their labor to make more of these mudstoves for women as well as put up protective barriers around the cashew seedlings we planted before the rains. I?m also going to make a club bulletin board and hope to raid some old National Geographics laying around here for some cool pictures and stuff. Plus, I?ve gathered almost all the materials to make a beehive. My hope is for the school to get into beekeeping as well as some of the villagers. Honey is an expensive, treasured commodity around here, but people here harvest with fire, burning the hive, killing bees and giving honey a smoky flavor. I?ve learned how to make a beehive for about 20 dalasi (a little over one dollar) where you can harvest the honey and not hurt the bees. I have almost enough materials (believe it or not, one of the materials is fresh cow shit - yet another use!) to make 5 hives, but I plan to start with jsut two - one for the school and one for me. One of the things I have to do while I?m in Kombo is visit the National Beekeepers Association and get some beeswax to bait the hives and guide the bees as to where I want them to build their comb. That and get a beesuit for protection! One beer bottle of honey sells for about 10 dalasi here (which is a lot!), and you get a couple of quarts each time you harvest (2 or 3 times a year per hive). Plus you can then use the wax to make candles (they burn much longer than parafin) and lotion (a film canister of lotion can seel for about 10 dalasi too). You can see that very little work can make people here a lot of profit.

Anyway, that?s some of what I?ve got going on with the environmental club. This is what I do here in the Gambia. Some of the other things I do is write an astronomy page for our monthly newsletter and act as co-coordinator to the Volunteer Support Network - a group of volunteers who act as peer counselors as well as other things. Erica (the other co-coordinator) and I wrote a small travel guide to the Gambia for new PCVs that includes restaurant info, maps to regional houses, important phone numbers and transportation information. She and I are also going to be training the new VSNs in a couple of weeks. This week, as I said I?m here to greet the new PCV agfos coming from America. I?ll be helping with a few training seminars next week and then go with them to their training villages for a few days to help them get settled into their new surroundings and used to their new teachers (this is why I?ll be gone for 2 weeks from my village - a week here and a week in another village). Later on I think I?ll be teaching a gardening seminar or two, I?m not sure yet and need to verify this tomorrow. So this is what I do. My life in the Gambian in a (ground) nutshell. It may sound like a lot but it?s not really, sometimes I only work a couple hours a week! It?s just the months of October and November happen to be busy because of all the trainings. I sit around and read alot and write letters.

Speaking of letters.... I found out some crummy news. Sabena, the airline that carries our mail is no longer taking cargo. So at the moment we have no way to send or receive letters. If you have a letter or something that you?d like to send to me, you can send it to my brother. He?s coming here November 20th and he?ll bring it to me; email me if you?d like the address.

That?s about it for now. It?s terribly humid and icky here, but hopefully that will be over with in a few weeks. From November to February it?s pretty cool here, at least at night, which makes sleeping much more pleasant. We?re all looking forward to those days. Hope everything is going well for you. I hope to hear from you this week while I?m here.

Longing for better food and cooler climes...


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Story Source: Personal Web Page

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - The Gambia; PCVs in teh Field - The Gambia



By Anonymous (bhsnt.bhs1.org - on Friday, September 01, 2006 - 9:37 pm: Edit Post

I am in the nomination phase to return as a PCV in summer 2007 with Africa as a possible placement. I first served in the Gambia in 1970/71. Can anyone provide me with up to date info about the Gambia or put me in touch with RPCV's from the Gambia?

By Anonymous (cache-dtc-ae04.proxy.aol.com - on Saturday, February 17, 2007 - 7:04 pm: Edit Post

i am looking for tapes or disc so i can learn to speak Mandinka to a friend from The Gambia. can anyone tell me how to locate this information it would be greatly appreciated. thanks in advance.

By Ivan,Ivan ( on Wednesday, November 28, 2007 - 3:13 am: Edit Post

Hi, my name is disman-kl, i like your site and i ll be back ;)

By Robert Connors (xfiles34) ( on Friday, January 03, 2014 - 12:45 pm: Edit Post

I am trying to connect with Gambian RPCV's, especially those serving during the 1969-1973 era.

I volunteered in the Gambia during the 1970/71 time frame and worked as an auditor for the farmers who were members of the government-sponsored agricultural buying stations.There were three of us that did this work and we traveled with a Gambian counterpart.I was 6'1'' and weighed about 180 lbs and had black hair and was from Pittsfield, Ma. ( see my links below)

I am trying to find: Mel Adams and Jim Fittus (sp) and Peter from Boston area, and another guy who was from Va among others.

I recently joined a PC organization and became part of " Friends of Gambia/Senegal" via this link: http://community.peacecorpsconnect.org/

If any of this sounds interesting, please contact me for nostalgia sake at least and/or feel free to forward/post this message to any and all concerned.

Wishing you the best,


Robert Connors
1409 County Route 5
Canaan, NY 12029
C: 413-464-3345
H: 518-781-4686
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/robert-connors/39/327/ 558

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