Congratulations and welcome to The Gambia Peace Corps family. I am guessing you have already googled The Gambia and found out it is not Zambia and that it is the smallest country on continental Africa. So what else can I tell you about this distant slither of land and the life you are about to be submerged in?
I can tell you that the next two years of your life will be full of juxtapositions and contradictions. Your service will simultaneously be the most interesting and the most boring experience of your life. On one given day you can be struck by the beauty and intricacies of this fascinating land and culture, and feel swamped by the amount of stuff you need to get done; on the same day you will find yourself kicking your heels trying to think of something, anything, to do to stave off boredom.
You will feel isolated from your friends and family back home, yet you will have never felt so connected to people – whether it be the host family you live with, the teachers and students you work with, or your fellow Peace Corps Volunteers. Your work will be some of the most fulfilling you have ever done, yet also some of the most frustrating. You will be working in schools severely lacking in material resources, but with ample amounts of the most precious commodity a school can hold – children with an insatiable desire to learn.
The Gambia will feel both like a vast uncrossable expanse of land and a claustrophobic dot on a map. Thankfully The Gambia’s size means you will know everyone in the Peace Corps community – all the amazingly supportive and knowledgeable staff, and all the varied and exceptional volunteers from all the sectors working in The Gambia. The variety of cultures and landscapes captured in this little finger of a nation will also be more than enough to keep you captivated fro two years.
On a final note – Africa is hot! That may seem a blindingly obvious statement to make, but prepare yourself; heat without AC, cold drinks, running water and electricity will redefine your conception of what it means to be hot. Oh and take those socks out of your suitcase, you won’t need them.