things I hear
A month or so ago, the data backbone into the country from Senegal was improved from 9mb/s to 45mb/s. I think at home you can easily get about 2mb/s into your house, so we had the equivalent of about five broadband homes for the whole country. It was slow. It's still slow, but now more of that problem is due to the aforementioned dial-up, so we're seeing progress. That progress was rumored to be going into place when I arrived in this country, more than eleven months ago, so it was a surprise when it finally happened. But, the summit meeting of the leaders of the African Union - all the kings, despots, elected dictators, and other fairly and unfairly men in power here - is happening over the next couple of weeks down in Kombo. This is a huge deal here, the AU, and serious work is actually happening on a few things. Like painting the streets that the delegations will use. Or improving one of the intersections they will pass by. Of course, all the major infrastructure issues upcountry are ignored, but one has to pay attention to what's important. Am I being cynical?
I haven't written in nearly a month. I've been sick. I almost feel like I need a note from the doctor or something, I've had to tell so many people this. Gambians are very good at noticing when you've been out of your routine. Like spies, I think. I hear "it's been a long time, did you travel?" so often that I wonder if there are locator beacons on my shoes so that everyone can ask when anything different happens. I did have to travel, down to the capital region, where the nurse decided that I didn't have malaria or any of the exciting famous diseases, and that perhaps something was infected in my throat and causing all the mess. I'll spare you the details of that mess. In any case, I've been trying to rest and get back on my feet, and hopefully I'm back at full strength now.
In my absence, the rains have arrived! We had our first storm right around the first of the month, and have had two more since then. It's too early for the every day rains, but I can wait on those as they tend to turn the air into a swamp and clothes into mildew. It's not as hot as I remember last year's rainy season - I guess a definite sign that my cold weather blood has thinned, and none too soon. I still sweat like a racehorse on the back stretch, but not in quite such a constant flood. So that's nice.
In other news, I'll soon be away from Fara Fenni for most of my time, as the new Education training group arrives in a few weeks and I'm going to be helping them get settled and learn the ropes. That should last into September, when the new school year theoretically starts. I'm not sure what will happen, as Ramadan (the Muslim month of fasting) will coincide almost exactly with the start of the term, which by itself is always an exercise in building up slloooowly. The teachers don't all arrive for the first month, so the students don't feel any need to be there, causing the teachers to be even slower, repeat until you want to knock yourself out with the nearest hard object. There are many problems in the Gambian school system, but one of the most frustrating can be the issues with attendance and truancy. I'm being cynical again, I think.
The good news! The road building project is nearly complete in town. This entire calendar year has been an exercise in how to bike through construction sites, but there are finally new black bits of road, and cement drainage structures, and all sorts of exciting details. In a few weeks, the whole thing could be done. Of course, my friend who builds the road has been saying that since February, but all of the sudden it's believable, or nearly so. I predict my first serious bike accident will be because the road is too nice and fast. Not to be cynical.
So, things continue to go along, I haven't quite gotten to a totally smooth experience here, but it continues to be interesting. And the change of scenery for the summer holidays (we still think of them that way, even with no summer here) will be a good one.
Oh yeah, and I'm thirty now! And I weigh less than when I turn twenty! Go Peace Corps!