December 20, 2008

I am here only!

side note: Akon's nobody wanna see us together is now playing for the second time in about 10 minutes in the internet cafe here. THEY LOVE AKON HERE.


YO GUYS! You may have noticed the non-sounding run-on sentences random-rambling tone of the last post- thats because whitney so nicely volunteered to transcribe a blog entry while we chatted on the phone. THANKS SHWI!! Oh, but my family's last name here is DABO, not davo. That's the only correction.

So I'm getting internet now for the first time in about 6 weeks... its glorious, except no one is on aim or gchat, which is unfortunate. ANYWAY, things are really great here. Although there are definitely some scary moments (emotionally, not physically, everything here is really safe and nothing is scary-- except maybe the HUGE spiders in my room and lots of bees and grasshoppers flying at my face--but other than that, it is really safe) I am generally happy and loving life. I did get bit on the neck by a big ant last night though.

It helps that the food here is really fantastic. For breakfast I get a loaf of bread, which varies in freshness, or NICE crackers which are tasty. I had been eating the bread with parmesan cheese every day, but I ran out. SO SEND ME SOME KRAFT PARM!! Now i put peanut butter on the bread, which is quite tasty and there is a lot of it here. Dinner and lunch is usually delicious rice and sauce with potatoes and maybe chicken or fish. And after dinner I will lay outside with my sister on a mat, last night I fell asleep for awhile. It's fantastic. My family here is amazing. I got such a great greeting when I got back from our technical training week. Also I get my hair braided a lot, which i know a lot of you will find funny.

-OMG, the song playing right now is like a monotone- cell phone ring tone of sean paul- baby boy. And it was really short, so I think that's actually what it was.

Um... So I move to my permanent site in 2-3 weeks. I'm really sad to be leaving my family and the only thing that makes me happy at all is knowning that cold-ish beers are sold about 3k from my village. Ok, that's a lie, I'm happy to be starting work and everything, but I just love my family and training village so much that it makes me really sad to even imagine leaving.

I'm trying to think of some specific funny stories, but there aren't any ones i can think of right now. Life in general is pretty funny. I especially love to say things in English that I know no one can understand and then laugh to myself- ie. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE HELL YOU ARE SAYING RIGHT NOW! So that's about all for now I guess. Oh, my 13-yr old brother sings the song, 'I like to move it, move it.' and my 16-yr old brother has a mandy moore shirt with the letters in hebrew-like writing, which I find really funny.

OK, thats all from me. I LOVE YOU ALLL SOOO MUCH!! and I think about you all the time!! MORE SOON!!

December 16, 2008

TIA - THIS IS AFRICA

So Africa is a lot like some of you would imagine in. I live in a house with a corrugated tin roof, with no running water, and no electricity. I fetch water from the pump and carry it on my head. I'm getting rather good at it. I take bucket baths and shit in a hole in the ground in my backyard. But it's wonderful. I love it because I can wear the most ridiculous outfits such as Amy's Christmas pajama pants and any random t-shirt and it's considered a relatively fashionable outfit. It's also A-okay to go bra-less which I take advantage of pretty often. Everyone here is beautiful.

I have an African name: Mahana-Davo. Davo is my family's last name. In one month my last name will be Fatty. So my name will be Mahana-Fatty. So right now I'm living in Davo Compound. My father has three wives and approximately 20 kids, give or take a few. However, only 6 kids currently live in the compound. The food is outrageously good. I learned how to say "I'm so full but this food is too sweet," which comes in handy almost every night when I can't stop eating. The Gambian people are jokesters by nature. You can say the most ridiculous things and people love it. A favorite is to tell you that your father or mother is not hard working. To which you are expected to respond, "No that's not true. They are very hard working." And everyone laughs. Or if you are sitting, someone will say "You are sitting" to which you reply "Yes, I am sitting." We make fun of each other a lot, like when I wore my shirt inside out yesterday. Learning the Mandika word for "crazy" has been clutch. My family is amazing and I am really sad that I have to leave them in a month. They told me that they would miss me while I was going to be away for training for a week. And I miss them because the food when we're away is never as good as my family's cooking. I'm gonna force my sister to move with me to my next compound so that she can keep cooking for me. But I'm really excited to finally get to site and start working.

In terms of what I'm actually doing for the Peace Corps, it's not a whole lot yet. Almost every day is spent learning Mandika, which I'm getting pretty good at. (In fact my mom here has told me that I'm the best Mandika speaker in the village.) We do have technical training and we're learning ways to increase nutritional intake from local vegetation. We're also starting a large campaign to encourage breast feeding in the first 6 months. We're teaching them how to make mosquito repellant using items that are found in the village naturally. I've also been helping with wound care and how to keep cuts clean. My biggest achievement to date, however, has been the hand washing station that I set up in my compound. The people here don't use soap. They handle raw meat, then may rinse with water alone and then dig their hands into the food bowl. It's a problem. So I bought a bar of soap and this sleeve, then nailed the soap-in-a-sleeve to a post. I've been showing them how to wash their hands and encourage them to wash before they eat and after they go to the bathroom. They actually bring the soap in every night and put it out every morning which I find touching. I guess it's because they don't want someone to steal the soap. But I feel unbelievably safe in my village.

There's definitely ups and downs and times when I freak out. But for the most part, I'm very happy and I've made some great friends. And I'm very excited about the possibilities for the next two years here. Once I get to site, I should be able to get internet a few times a month so expect more posts in 2009. Happy Holidays! I love and miss you all! All the phone calls, letters and packages have been so amazing - you have no idea. Keep them coming. Love you guys!!

~ transcribed by Whitney

* Try pingo.com - it's a really easy way to get a hold of Marnie.

November 13, 2008

pictures

eating food with hands, what I will be doing AND LOVING for the next 10 weeks/2 years ENORMOUS SPIDER- that is my hand
The Tiny Man Crew (TMC as we affectionately call them) these three little boys running around pantsless in a reptile farm (ie. the most dangerous place in the world for children to be running loose)


THE GORGEOUS BEACH










LIFE IN THE GAMB

11.12.08
Before I start. I got my phone- so buy a $5 calling card at a gas station or a CVS or anywhere and call me. It’s really easy.
011 220 706 0792
I should generally get reception wherever I am. And just remember it’s 7 or 8 hrs later- not sure.
And send me mail!!

Well I’ve officially been here a week. It feels so much longer though, not really in a bad way, it’s just that we’ve done so much. Actually though, it’s kind of been a vacation so far, minus the countless hours of language and cultural training everyday. It’s really beautiful here, reminds me of Costa Rica. Sundays are our day off and last Sunday we went to the beach. I got to lay in a hammock and just listen to music. Also the beer here is pretty good and I got to have a beer in the shower yesterday, a favorite activity of mine. AND I got all my laundry done today for 41 dalasis (about $2.00). I also bought 12 meters of fabric for 240 dalasis ($10) to be tailored at my village, so I will soon post pictures of me in a full Gambian outfit.

The foods not bad either--lots of rice, very few veggies, which I love, really good sauces AND sometimes ice cream. But apparently we won’t be eating such good food after Friday when we go to our training villages where we will spend the next 10 weeks. There are 4 other people staying in the same village as me, but we are all living with different families, I think. The other groups are staying in villages within 5K. I’m definitely looking forward to it. ALSO everyone LOOOOOVEEESSS Obama. They wear shirts, they shout Obama when they see you, it’s amazing. And the people are soo nice.

So far, most of the language instruction has been on greetings. You HAVE to greet everyone you pass by, everyone you talk to, everyone you meet. It’s insane. As you can probably imagine, I try and talk to everyone I pass by. You start with Salaam Maalekum and then go into a series of anywhere from 2 to, I don’t even know, maybe 20, questions. The best part is that you don’t answer anyone seriously- there are set responses for every question. My teachers always joke, even if you are dodging bullets, you say everything is ok. Even if you are dying, you say, I am doing well. Only after the greetings do you actually start to talk about what’s really going on.

A typical greeting session could be (the translations are quite funny):
Saalaam Maalekum
-Maalekum Saalaam
I Saama (Good morning)
-I Saama (Good morning)
Suumoluu lee? (Where are the home people?)
-I be jee (They are here)
Kori tana te jee? (Hope there’s no trouble?)
-Tana te jee (There’s no trouble)
Somananda be naadi? (How’s the morning?)
-Somanda be jan dorong (The morning is here only)
Kaira laata? (Did you spend the night in peace?)
-Kaira dorong (Peace only)

It’s really weird, you answer everything ‘Peacee only’ or if the question is, how’s the work going, you answer, ‘the work is here only.’ I guess it roughly translates to, “It’s going,” or “I’m working.” I’m not sure, but I find it really funny. So now when people ask me anything, like, how was the store, I just respond, the store is here only.

So I’m going to stop here. There’s a lot more I can say, but I think that’s enough for now. Basically I really love it. I don’t actually acknowledge the fact that I’m going to be here for 2 years. But thinking about it makes me more excited than scared. It’s just really great, kind of like going to school in another country (because soooo much of the day is class, like 8-5). Ok, that’s all. I love and miss you all SOO MUCH. Please write/call because I won’t have email for the next 10 weeks.

October 15, 2008

How do you prepare for 27 months in Africa...

...by bringing A TON of stuff


For so long it seemed like I was never going to leave. And now all of a sudden I'm leaving in three weeks. I started packing...well not really. I've just been gathering all my 'stuff,' but there's A LOT of it. (see picture)




Did you know you can fly with knives?!? Well I'm bringing about 5--take that Bear Grylls!! I'm also pre-treating my clothes with military strength bug deterrent (not shown, haha). Then, I have 3 LED headlamps (picture of me wearing headlamp coming soon), a crank-powered shortwave radio, a solar charger, a solar-powered water purifier, and an INSANE amount of medicines (c'mon, a doctor's daughter leaving the country for 2 years--what did you expect?).


And, with the help of Clark and Jason, I made a Before-I-Go-To-Do list:

FOOD TO EAT
Sushi
In N Out
Panda Express
Korean BBQ
Golden Spoon
Sushi Wasabi
Rowland Heights Dim Sum
Melting Pot
Osteria La Buca
Roy's

THINGS TO DO
Vote
Mini Golf
Karaoke
Dinosaur Video Viewing Party
Laser Tag
Simpsons Arcade Game
Pro/College Football Game
Concert



-the ironic thing is I said I would never get pregnant because then I wouldn't be able to eat sushi for 9 months.... well, maybe not ironic, but you know what I mean.

October 4, 2008

Contact Info and Wishlist

**Because of reader feedback, I have decided to remove my huge list of books and instead create a wishlist on Amazon.com, so you can check off what you buy. Also I think Amazon is the cheapest. SEE LINK TO THE LEFT!!



So I will be leaving for the Gambia from Philadelphia in exactly one month from tomorrow. Soon this blog will be filled with funny anecdotes and pensive observations, but for now, it's just my address and a wish list. So, please write to me:

Marnie Florin, PCT
U.S. Peace Corps
PO Box 582
Banjul, The Gambia
West Africa

OR SEND ME STUFF!! It's true, I haven't left yet and already I'm telling you what to send me. But, take into consideration that it takes a month to receive packages. So if you send something tomorrow, I will get it right when I arrive and feel very happy.

Things I would love to receive:
Letters
Magazines
Kashi Bars
Teriyaki Beef Jerky or Nuggets (don't judge, they're delicious)
Dried foods

Label the green customs forms with "school supplies," "religious materials," "food," "personal health supplies" etc. DO NOT write down anything valuable (like batteries, solar radio, etc.) even if they are in the box. You can use generic terms like "electronics."
**Thanks to Leslie and Ryan