I’m writing this from inside my mosquito net in my dark hut in my dark noisy village. The village is called Mariana Kunde and the noise emanates from the mosque a hundred meters north of me. It’s been a real barrage of ‘Allah akbars’ these past few nights with the advent of Ramadan. I haven’t been near the internet since coming out to Mariana Kunde, which is my training village, and I apologise for the delay in keeping you up to date.

I’m really enjoying life here, the pace, the humanity. Dippy hippy though that may be. I’m living in a very basic hut under a grove of mangoes with the Ngie family. Haddy, the mother lives in the adjoining hut with her 5 children. I have my own pit latrine but there is no running water or electricity. There is a well near the compound but we are advised to only get water from a closed tap or pump system which is a bit away so I am having to lug water to and from it on my bike. We are also given a ceramic water filter system and advised to put bleach in our water to drink. I’m not really keen on drinking bleach and my stomach is holding up so I’m not doing that.

It is mango season so my diet is thankfully supplemented by the most beautiful fresh fleshy mangoes. I’m yet to master the art of eating a mango without making a mess of myself, but it is a glorious mess. We’ve also been given Pre Natal dietary tablets to prevent malnutrition as the rest of my diet consists pretty much of rice and a little bit of fish, maybe a few leaves of cabbage , a potato and some bread.

I found out a few days ago where I will be located for my permanent site. The village is a Wolof village in the Central River region called Sait Maram. I know very little about it other than I will be living in a much larger compound than I am currently living at, there will be 25 people in my permanent compound, and that the school I will be working at is relatively small one of only 150 pupils.

I have been thinking of a few things that would make my life here much easier and that I wish I had brought and that I hope my lovely father will be able to send to me successfully without it being broken into by the unreliable Gambian postal service.

The things I would like are

1)   A backpack that isn’t crap

2)   My current water bottle is falling apart already. My phone only lasted 2 weeks in country before the humidity affected the glue in the casing which made it come off and then the screen went so I had to get another one.

3)   some carabinos – good quality ones from a camping store, 2 small 2 large.

4)   A usb to nokia charger cable – I forgot that my solar charger can’t charge my phone without it. This is important to get please, I think you will be able to get it at carphone warehouse.

5)   A camping mirror – useful to shave with, you can get them made from shatterproof metal.

6)   A decent mac in a sac – it is rainy season for a while and downpours sneak up on you, preferably green.

7)   A peeler.

8)   A good quality flip knife – just a knife without any serrated edges. I want a good quality blade not too big maybe 4/5 inches, I trust your judgement but I’m happy to invest money in it as it is something I will use every day here and carry with me at all times.

9)   A pair of lite weight man made materials cargo trousers with zippable pockets. Waist 34. Green preferably, no light colours as things get dirty so quickly.

10)  Nikon En-el 15 battery. There is no way to charge my camera through my solar charger so a spare battery is needed , I couldn’t get one in the states before I left as there was a shortage, I hope you will be able to get that at Jessops.

11)   Some ziplock bags – really useful to store things in.

12)   Some heavy duty trash bags  – 3 or 4, good for protecting things from water should I get leaks in my roof.

13) A picture of my Dad and Mum – have some pics on my computer but want hard copies.

14) Bungee cords – so many uses, you might still have the ones you used to use for the car cover hanging around gathering dust.

15) Some black marker pens – only brought a couple and have used them a lot for making posters to help with my language learning. Just made a learning aid to get to grips with Wolof grammar toady – it’s a strange language as all the tenses are included in the pronouns and that means you have around 15 sets of pronouns to learn!

I’m sorry this has turned into such a long and exhaustive list. I wished I’d been here for a day before I packed so I had a real idea of what I’d need. As I said to my friend today, when I was packing in the states I didn’t really realize that I would be in many ways camping for the next two years. I’ve also asked my Godmother Patricia to help by sending me some supplies for school work e.g. pencils erasers pens. If there’s anyone who wants to send school supplies out to me please send them to

Alex Hughes-Smith

c/o The Peace Corps The Gambia
PO Box 582
78 Kairaba Ave
Banjul, The Gambia
West Africa

Anything is useful out here.

My life currently consists of endless training sessions and immersive language lessons in Wolof so I’m pretty busy, maybe not for a New Yorker but certainly for a Gambian and the climate here and the hardships of life can be quite draining but I think I’m thriving. I’ve been placed in a quite remote up country village for assignment as I think they have been impressed with how I’ve coped with life here – I’m not sure all the volunteers have found it such a pleasurable experience not having the amenities we are used to in western life.

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