Pre-departure reading

How can you prepare for going to a land quite unlike your own for two years? How can you prepare your mind? You read.

The main recommendation from Peace Corps to better understand The Gambian way of life is a book written by a young Englishman named Mark Hudson in 1991, called Our Grandmothers’ Drums: A Portrait of Rural African Life & Culture. Although out of print I strongly recommend this as an introduction into the strangeness and beauty of Gambian village life. I’m not yet able to say if it’s an accurate representation but Mr Hudson undoubtedly entwined himself in village life for his 14 month stay, in particular with the women of the village, which by the sounds of it is no mean feat.

His focus on the women of the village, and his own libido, is the only drawback of the book. Men are pretty much ignored and this obviously hinders the books ability to give a rounded view of village life, whilst the repeated musing of the author of strategies of getting desirable female members of the village into bed verges on misogyny. His constant worries about his attempts to initiate sexual liaisons can seem like the musings of a horny pubescent in a situation where he is out of his depth. Having said that it had not been an issue I had given much thought about. If you’re living in a village for a long duration what is the etiquette for developing relations with the opposite sex? Is it an abuse of power to contemplate anything sexual happening with a local? Is it abusive to say that you would never have relations with any local? I don’t know the answer and I don’t think I’m going to over-think this one.

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