onsdag 10. november 2010

Last days in Farafenni

Good costume?!
The coming week is Tabaski. It is the main happening for the Muslims (like our Christmas). Tabaski is, according to someones definition found on google: This two-day celebration is the most festive and important holiday of the year for many Muslims. On this day, celebrants slaughter a sheep to commemorate the biblical story of Abraham, who was on the verge of sacrificing his son to obey God's command when God interceded by substituting a ram in the child's place. Today, the sacrificed animal is divided into thirds and given equally to family, friends, and the poor. After several hours at a mosque, celebrants usually gather for large meals and visit with friends. Tabaski is known in other Muslim regions by different names, including Eid al-Adha (Celebration of Sacrifice) and Eid al-Kabir (The Great Celebration).

This is what I have learned about the celebration: Ram is a must for those that can effort it, and the amount of rams that is bought shows the wealthiness of a family. According to one of my friends it is stated in the Koran that one should have a male ram. If one can not afford or get a male one, a female can be bought. If one can not afford a ram, a male goat can be taken. The price for the cheapest ram is for uneducated people with a job two-three months salary. Many of my friends are worrying about how they will be able to buy a ram for their family. The more wealthy a family is, the more rams are slaughtered. The slaughtering happends outside peoples house so I have heard that it can be a bloody mess. The testicles are the main dish on the ram. According to my friend, Kemo, it is the best part.. We will be in Senegal for Tabaski and I will let you know if anyone invites us to eat testicles! (I hope so)!

This is the labor ward by the way.. Inside this ward is where I have got most of my mosquito bites when I went to fill up my water bucket. There are sometimes cats here, and frogs are often seen. I saw the first dead baby the other day I went through.. It was a miscarriage. The baby that was lying beside it was very small and I thought it was dead partly because of the rough handling it was given by one of the nurses.. It was alive, but I don't think it would survive for long as it seemed to be too weak and small. Malaria, anemia, hard work and insufficient diet (among others) are prevalent during pregnancy and the stillbirth rate is very high. The lowest hemoglobin I have ever heard of was a pregnant women that was admitted to this hospital with 3.5. (Normal HB is 11-15, under 8 is characterized as serious anemia in Norway). And this girl was supposed to have blood for herself and the baby. She fainted on the way to the hospital. I have seen several kids being carried to the mortuary during my stay. It is so sad, because these die of diseases that the world have more than enough resources and knowledge to prevent.. 


This is the coolest insect I have seen! I have no idea what it is called but it looks like an alien.
A conversation at the tailor:
Me: I want a skirt with a little road of embroidery (broderi) around the bottom.
Tailor: that sounds very simple
Me: I want it simple
Tailor: Let me make it nice and make two roads
Me: nja, I would like one
Tailor: but it will make it nice
Me: ok then, make two roads

Three days later when I went to pick it up most of the front of the skirt was covered with embroidery.
Me: It wasn't exactly like this I wanted it
Tailor: Is it nice?
Me: yes, it is nice, but I only wanted a little road in the bottom
Tailor: that would have been very simple..

My friend Fatou, me and the skirt!

Today is my last night in Farafenni alone! The interviews are about to be finished and Maiken is coming this Friday! We will be traveling around in The Gambia and we'll be going to a national park in Senegal. (Johanna, da kommer det flere dyrebilder til deg!). Og jeg vet at jeg får norsk melkesjokolade..! We are going to enjoy unspoiled beaches, hammock and books :) More or less the rest of my stay here is a vacation so my next three weeks will be something like this..!

onsdag 3. november 2010

Naming Ceremony and Halloween

 I was very lucky and was invited to a naming ceremony in a village outside Farafenni. One of the American peace corps host mother had given birth to a little girl. The tradition is that the woman should stay inside the first week after delivery, and then they have a big party and the baby get a name. This was a big celebration. Loads of people and loads of food.. In this bowl they have meat, vegetables and sauce at the bottom and rice on the top.

 The cooks. My engagement in gender equality meets certain challenges unfortunately. The women cooked for hours. When the food was ready, the men came and picked it up. Then the men ate, and when they were finished we women could eat. Then the women did the dishes.. Well, to be fair the men did slaughtered the cow. So they did actually contribute. But I wish everyone could eat at the same time anyway.

The best of Africa! Colors, smiles, dance and African drums.. Amazing! Check out the video and enjoy! I wish I could do these moves!

I was told that for one of the tribes (especially Wollof), the women have some long underwear under their skirt. When they want their husband to visit them for the night (men can have 1-4 wives and live in his own house or share his time between the wives), they lift up their skirt a little so he can see the underwear. During the dance they sometimes lifted their skirt up, but I didn't get the chance to see it unfortunately. I have heard that clothing is very pretty and I am still looking out for these pants!

 The American girls made a potato and cheddar soup that was sent from U.S and served it to the guest. Most of the Gambians did not like it. A old lady looked very angry after tasting it, she obviously didn't like it all! I loved it

I had a bug invasion some days ago. I always have some bugs in my room, especially cockroaches seems to settle here.. But this evening there were bugs everywhere. I kept on wiping the floor for two hours continually and the amount was not reduced. It was weird. I used a lot of insect spray and when I turned off the lights they finally decided to stop their invasion. Above are the dead insect that were lying on the floor the next day, killed by my precious insect spray.
I accidentally bumped in to a Norwegian couple -a doctor and a social worker, and a nurse and a surgeon from from England. This happened in my "missing-home-period" and meeting them was a huge comfort! The lady beside me made sure she gave me some "mummy-hugs"as she called it, cause she was sure I missed my mother:) And she was right, it was exactly what I needed! I loved to be able to speak some Norwegian as well. These people does an impressing job for for mercy ships in West Africa.

I went to Janjangbureh island with a group of peace corps to celebrate halloween. Watermelon was a good substitute for pumpkin. 


The locals does not know what halloween is so the peace corps people had some trouble explaining their families here what they were up to. And it seemed like we were entertaining the people on the island.

Some the best costumes. I will post a picture later that will make this costume make perfectly sense!

Dirty laundry. The Gambian way!

I was told about the party a couple of days before, and had little time to plan for the happening (my first halloweeen!). With some idea input from Lato, some fabric from the tailor and the rest taken from my "office" stationary, I went as my facebook profile.

Dinner at Sambas. These are my favorite hang-out friends and it will be very sad to leave them, Wesnic and her two kids.

In a little while...

fredag 22. oktober 2010

The sound of a donkey

I have heard a noise for weeks, and I could not understand what it was. At first I thought it was a bird (as Gambia is famous for all its species of birds), then I thought it was a machine or a big tap or something. Finally I heard the sound when I was at Sambas place, and he told me that it was a donkey! It was unbelievable, I had to hear and see it on youtube before I really believed him. I haven't seen any donkey making the sound yet, but hopefully I will. It is legendary! I see the possibility of this being more fun if you did not actually knew it was a donkey in the first place.. Anyway, check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWS4Eu8E2z4

I am sorry for the complains in my last update. I regained some perspective yesterday and I am now positive minded again! I believe I have learned to tackle the things that were bothering me, so there will be no more complains. And the possibility of feeling a bit down while sitting in a room all day by my self, working on a computer is high no matter where I am positioned. I am going to enjoy my last weeks and not waste the time wishing to be home. I celebrated my new mood by a run this morning and I will be doing that every day from now on, which will put me in a positive circle! It also seems like I function as an entertainer for the locals when I run past them :)

Enjoy your weekend!

mandag 18. oktober 2010

Data entry

There is not much going on these days actually. Wesnic and Samba do the interviews, I spend most of the time with my computer and the statistics program. Data entry is boring. I spend some time at Sambas place every day though, which I really enjoy. I have an American peace corps friend in the town and we are movie buddies as we share the interest in Hollywood movies, and not Nigerian movies which is the hit here. And I have my weekend friends in Kerewan and Soma which I really appreciate!

I have had my hair plaited. It wasn't as painful as I have been told. But I had to sit on a concrete floor for two whole days and that was painful. 

It seems like we can close the data collection in four weeks. Then Maiken will come for a week, then I will have one week in Banjul before the last group comes.  I have changed the ticket home so I will be in Norway the 6th of December :) I am still having a good time, but I can't hide that I am missing Norway and I am counting down the days. 48 days until I a am home, to be specific! Being with family&and friends, being able to cook my own food, being independent and invisible are pressuring needs at the moment. I have to say that I struggle a bit with all the attention I get. I am very happy that I will get to travel around the country with Maiken, Trond & compmany before I return home though! Binu and I have been doing some planning today and our days as tourists will be awesome! So I am really only counting down to Maiken gets here, which is in 23 short days :)

I have spent the last weekend by the coast and it was fantastic. I went with Vicky and Marcus, and we stayed with Courtney and Paul. (All are VSO's) My goal for the weekend was to eat and bring back with me, loads of western food (no rice and palm oil) and enjoy the company, which I did!

Here we have lunch at a 5 star hotel. The price for a plate was about 40 NOK, which was surprisingly cheap compared to the prize of the rooms..

Yesterday I had Vicky working full time and Courtney part time to remove the braids. Even though I washed the hair it had a weird and bad smell and I am now very happy that I only have my own hair. Thanks girls, for a great job! Especially Vicky, you're patience was amazing!

A selection of the food (and some luxury toilet paper) I brought back. The assortment in the shop here is so far away from our supermarkets at home, and also from the capital of this country. Even the variety of fruits and vegetables is limited in this part of the country, which is a pity cause in the capital part they have loads of mangoes, papaya, watermelon and everything I can imagine. I don't have fridge and no possibility to cook which makes the selection restrictive. That is how haribo as Saturday sweet, porridge for breakfast with normal milk (instead of water and milk powder), some chewing gum, soup, apples, oranges, jelly and musli bars will be my luxury for the next four weeks!

I hope everyone are having a good time! Thanks for comments on the blog and elsewhere, it makes me very happy!

torsdag 30. september 2010

village life

We have started data collection and have been going to some of the villages around Farafenni. The children are very happy about getting a tubab visitor (means white person and children shout tubab and wave at me everywhere I go).
The roof of the huts are made of dried grass and it is totally waterproof. There is no sound when it is raining, which is an advantage as the rain at home is nothing compared to the rain here!

The average number of children per woman is around 6, so each family has got several of these huts. Many people live in larger houses also. They call it a compound, and several houses are part of one compound. Many men has 2 or more wives (he can have as many as he can afford, I have seen up to 4, as number of wives is a measured in our questionnaire). The family consist of co-wives- (I don't think I ever will be comfortable with that word), plus in-laws and 6 children per women. Large families!

 My fantastic crew eating breakfast! (Everyone is eating from the same pot, which is the procedure for every meal). Wherever you are when there is a meal you are invited to join. Most of the time they eat with their hands. I was at a hair dresser and there were no question, I had to eat with the workers. In this picture, Wesnic is to the left, a friend of Samba, Samba and our driver to the right. Wesnic and Samba are my research assistants and I really enjoy spending time with them!
  These small children were helping their mothers washing.
Seems like children here get heaps more responsibility than kids at home.. I wish I asked how old these girls are

We participated in some village work!
 And this is ground nut (peanøtter), before polly gets their hands on them them. The fresh ones are really good if they are roasted a bit. Not fatty and salty as the ones we get home. 

The road to the field. There are no signs, and one can hardly see the road. I have no idea how they end up in the right village. There is no electricity and seldom cars in the villages. Most of the time people use donkey cart to move around.
 Samba and I went out of petrol in the middle of no where.

 There is always a solution!

At the health clinic. Colorful women come with their newborns for vaccination and weighing.
 Wesnic and I got to try out some cooking preparations. Though work!
 Inside one of the huts. The tradition is that a woman can not leave her house the first week after giving birth. I was happy to I finally see how the huts looks like from the inside, and had tea with the women.
The boy is making a skipping rope (hoppetau). I joined the kids with the skipping rope that was a success. I had the best cheerleaders ever!

People are very relaxed here. (More about that later) The working day is supposed to be from 8-16, but the electricity comes on at 9, so the first hour seems to be for greeting each other and eat breakfast, if they turn up as early as eight. When we are going to the field, there are many things that need to happen before departure. Sometimes the driver sit around for a while before he starts washing the car. When the car is clean, he goes home to change clothes and maybe pick up some of the other workers. Then one of the others figure it is time for breakfast.. My patience and sense of effectiveness are being tested..!

Here are some of the phrases that people say to each other whenever they meet (this is in Mandinka, one of several languages). Trond-Olav, Binu, Pradeep and Maiken; if you know this when you come, you will make many people happy! (Thank you Marcus, I copied from your blog)

Salaam aaleekum - Maaleekum salaam (Peace be upon you - Peace be upon you also).
Kayira be - Kayira doron (Peace be upon you - Peace only).
Suumoolu lee? - I bee be jee (How are the compound people? - They are all fine).
Kori tana te jee - Tana te jee (Hope there is no evil - There is no evil).
I be naadii - N be jan doron (How are you - I'm fine).
Dookuwo be naadii - N be a kan doman doman (How is the work - I'm on it slowly slowly).
I have now ended training of the research assistants so they go out to the villages while I stay at home punching data, which is boring. I really miss the villages, I have had my best days there! But it feels good to pick up the questionnaires every evening and enter the data into the statistics program :)

torsdag 16. september 2010

Life in Farafenni

Sunday morning a car full of hospital staff (and me) left Banjul to go to Farafenni hospital. We had to take a ferry to cross river Gambia. The river is not wide, but first we had to wait for the boat to come. It was a struggle to get on the ferry, as there were many car, buses and people that wanted to get over to the other side. We drove a government car and we were prioritised, so we did get to go with the first ferry. (After 1.5 hour wait). It was the slowest ferry I have ever taken and the little crossing took an hour. We got to the other side (Barra), and the road to Farafenni was in a good shape, so the rest of the trip went fast. We drove almost half way into the country so I got to see a lot. The first stop in Farafenni was a visit to the director of the hospital. He is an extraordinary man. He knew I did not have cooking possibilities, so he suggested that his wife would cook for me, and the driver would come to my room with dinner every day- an irresistible offer. I have been to the market and it is like I have said, basic. I am glad I am not cooking for myself, because I wouldn't know how to do it. This solution really saved me, and the food is good (luckily I love rice- cause 90% of the plate is rice).

My room was a disappointment at first. It was not washed and insects were crawling around, so the first thing I did was to clean. I called my contact at the hospital and he sent the cleaning personnel and they cleaned it again. There were worms in my toilet, and I was not able to handle that, so I was very glad to see the cleaner. (Han vasket hele badet med toalettbørsten, så jeg sa jeg kunne vaske selv fra nå av..) Anyway, after a spray with insect killer and a wash, I was satisfied. The room is light and almost insect free, so I am very happy with it. I cannot say it is clean, but it is cleaner. I have electricity 9-16 and 17-03. There is no running water in my room, so I carry water from the labor ward which is the ward under me.. That is interesting! I have to walk through the ward to go out. The midwives want me to conduct deliveries, and I hope I get to do so soon! Showering and toilet flush is done with the help of my bucket. I haven't seen a rat since I got to The Gambia and I am sure that not even a mouse can enter my room, which has been a huge relief! My contact at the hospital is my savior. Everything I ask for or mention, he has a solution to it. He makes some calls, and it is fixed. His hospitality is unbelievable and makes my life so much easier. Living at the hospital is a new adventure. There are 400 people working here and a large part of them know me already. Every time I go out people shout my name, asks how I am, how the morning is, where I am going and so on. It is not possible for me to learn all of their names though. They have given me a Gambian name, which is Maryama. I have never seen such a hospitality and friendliness as I see here, it is overwhelming and I am very lucky to be here and experience it. Everyone from the hospital director to the washing man come to check on me too see that everything is fine. 

 My room, office and laundry. (Johan: jeg har vært flink og skaffet meg myggnett!)

My fieldwork is not conducted in the hospital, but at the RCH (reproductive and child health clinic) which is situated right beside the hospital. The staff is amazing. The managers are very interested in my study and they do everything they can for me to succeed. They have given me two people from their staff to be my research assistants for two months, and these days I am training them in conducting interviews. Abdou, a Gambian ph.d. student at my institute in Oslo will be here for field work and he just knocked on my door. He will be my neighbor the next days and he has agreed to support me in the training of the assistants. Baba will also come here soon. It will be fantastic to have some people I know well around for some days!

I went with the RCH team to an outreach clinic on Tuesday. We drove to a village where there is no health center, so the team goes there once a month to vaccinate children, treat minor diseases and conduct antenatal care (svangerskapskontroll). They used a big empty (and dirty) building with a hall and two small rooms, they were eight nurses and community health workers. They brought two small boxes of equipment which were used for all of the activities mentioned. When we came there were about 80 mothers and children waiting. I joined the antenatal care team and they showed me how to estimate the week of pregnancy by measuring the fetus with our fingers. It was amazing to see how they worked. No doctors and a minimum of equipment. Within four hours everyone were examined and treated, some were referred to the hospital. One can ask about the quality, but everything is relative. Thinking of the standard of the hospitals I have worked at in Norway makes me feel bad. The world is unfair.

Forresten! For dere som vil sende meg meldinger men ikke har google konto, send mail!! priler@gmail.com er addressen. Jeg håper alt er bra med dere hjemme og jeg vil gjerne høre hvordan dere har det..

søndag 12. september 2010

The excitement begins!

 This is how the road can get in the rainy season.. The trip today can be very interesting. (I have to add that this is a side road, there are very good roads in The Gambia with asphalt). I have bought a big bucket (to store water in as I don't know how reliable the water supply is), a plate, a cup, one knife, spoon, fork and some bedding; it is time to go to the field! I have been told that the internet in one of the neighboring town to Farafenni has been down for some days, so I might not be online in a while. The rainy season also affects the internet connection. The room I will be staying in is originally for short visits, and therefore without fridge and cooking possibilities. There is no supermarket, only small shops with the most essential products. It will be interesting to see how things will work out the next days. Luckily the supply of local vegetables and fruits in this season is on my side. Besides, eating fruits feels nice and safe. I had something in my dinner today that did not look familiar to me. I asked what it was and was told that it was a part of a cow stomach (magesekk).. I guess we eat that at home also, in our sausages.But not seeing how it looks originally feels better.
I decided a couple of weeks ago that I would get a lift to Farafenni with someone, as the trip there is challenging for newcomers (especially with my luggage). I have now talked to a man that works at the hospital where my housing is, and he is picking me up and will take me all the way :) Happy news for the day is that Binu and Pradeep are coming in November! By the way, I saw a very good movie today- "things we lost in the fire" (thanks to Kjersti for the tip), it is worth seeing!