I wake up in one of two ways. It really depends on the mood of the mosque caller. At the break of dawn the loud speaker at the mosque will send a friendly warning that it is time to get up, "It is time to pray," he proclaims in Mandinka. Some mornings this is nice and immediately orients me to what time it is. The mosque caller will go on to sing the morning prayers in a soothing melodic way and I will go back in and out of sleep peacefully for the remainder of the morning......Then other days it is more the fire and brimstone GET UP AND PRAY OR ELSE, and there isn’t really any singing involved with that call. It is more threatening, so on these days I wake up in more of a panic. I have started to use the mosque call as a predictor for my day. It seems to be pretty accurate, though I think that it has more to do with the psychological damage done when woken up by screaming Islamic demands.
But today the prayers were soft and comforting and so I remained in bed and relaxed thinking today is going to be a good day. I stayed there and read till almost 8am which is pretty late for me these days. I have yet to figure out why the people do not enjoy sleeping in here, but no one seems to. After the mosque call you will here the pounding of rice and coos throughout the village. Most women get up with the sun to start their daily chores. And I don' t blame them I wouldn't want to be out in the sun doing manual labor either, but then again getting up that early just seems impossible. So when I finally role out of bed and open my front door I already know what my host family is going to say...... "You slept late, ohhh you can sleep too much....." and then we exchange morning greetings and I go back inside to get ready. Not that I should even use those words since getting ready here involves even less effort then my routine did at home. And if you didn't know my routine at home......well I wasn't exactly high maintenance. So I throw on some cloths wash my face and grab my bag and my bike and head out. I have stopped having breakfast at home mainly because my host family cannot understand why I don't want to eat the reheated rice we had for lunch and dinner the day before. I use the excuse that I have to be at work before breakfast is ready............It seems to work though I think they are on to my developed hatred of rice.
Some mornings a nursery school child comes over for a ride to school, most mornings that is...........So as I round the corner there she is sitting with her 2 dalasi ready for school. The nursery school is next to the hospital, it is a small single room brick building that usually is crammed full of anywhere from 50-100 preschool age kids and one or two teachers. So I sit her on the back of the bike and off we go. Some days I love her company, other days she wants to tell me all about something that I cannot understand what with her 4 year old vocabulary and my lack of translational skills for even the best Mandinka. So on those days I just ask her to count something like frogs or cows to keep her occupied, and keep me off the hook of asking WHAT???every minute or so as we ride along.
So I drop her off and continue on to the hospital, today is clinic. So there are already 50 some women waiting with at least one baby a piece tied to their back. The clinic is outdoors under a pavilion; in the front are two tables, one for screening and weighing, and one for immunizations. Each child is weighed and then given whatever combination of vaccines they are due for. I help out with whatever they need, some days there is plenty of help so I can be a resource, and then other days like today there are two people, including myself. But I have gotten use to the system and we go on with the day. Sometime around 1pm the last baby is vaccinated and we can pack up for the day. I usually wonder across the street and grab a snack (probably a banana or a boiled egg) those are about the only options, or fried bread, sometimes a bean sandwich.......anyway before I leave I check in at the nursing school to see what the schedule is like for the week. Right now both classes of students are in clinicals and some are in the capital for a rotation, so there are only lectures on Wednesdays until March :) This has been a great break for me and I've had a chance to catch up on some other things I have been working on. Since the mother and baby clinic is only on Monday and Friday I take the other days to write lecture notes, or help out with the computers at the school, but for today I am heading home because there isn't much to do and the power has already gone off for the day. So I ride back to village grabbing the school child on the way.
After lunch (which is the only meal I am eating with my host family now)-once again my hate for rice- I try to work on language-I have been trying to translate stories into Mandinka to help with my language skills. It is nearly impossible since the direct translation for most words does not make sense in the context that I want to use things in. I cannot explain this language mainly because even now it does not make sense to me, but reading the stories gives me something to do with the kids, and even adults like to listen since nearly 90% of my village is illiterate. So this afternoon I am working on that for awhile.
Since the weather is still cool I go for a run most evenings, I run to a village that is maybe 4K from mine. There is a group of old men that sit under a tree about halfway to the other village, and they have learned my name so now I get chanted at "Fatty, Fatty, Fatty," everyday as I run past. Fatty is my local last name, along with about 75% of my village. Everyone here is Fatty, and every time you great someone you say their last name, so needless to say when old when are chanting Fatty at me everyday it gives me a little extra encouragement............in a good way, and most days I laugh a little if only they knew..........After my run I fetch water and bath, the cold season is great down to one bath a day and only having to go to the pump for water one time.......I love that. At night now we have been listening to (and occasionally watching) the African Cup. It serves as a great geographical lesson every time. I have put my National Geographic Africa map outside so people can find where the countries are that are playing each other. Gambia did not qualify this year.......but Senegal the country we are surrounded by is there. Most people have no concept of how large Africa is, or even understood that all of the countries playing in The Cup were actually in Africa. I had a long discussion the other night with my host brother who was certain Angola was in Europe. The confusion most people have is trying to understand how Gambia can be so small? Hard to get the concept of the World across to people who have never left this country.
Sometime around 9 I go inside and read a little bit before I pass out, but not before wondering what kind of mood the mosque caller will be in tomorrow............