Because I'm cool like that...

The adventures of a knitter in Tucson, AZ.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dear Peace Corps...what a week...

Where to begin? How about at the beginning?

Wensday last, while everyone was sleeping, someone came into my compound I really hope so. If not, it was someone from my compound and cut a slit in my window screen. This is the window that I sleep under earplugs, tylanol pm and my dog vissiting the next village helped them here, reached in and stole my phone.
I was a little freaked out when I realised what happened. Senario one: someone who knows me, where my house it, where I put my phone at nite, where my dog was and my compound well enough to sneak in robbed me. Senario two: someone in my compound robbed me. Either way, I freaked just a little. So I went to Basse Thursday after trek. Friday was going to be the new Basse House opening ceremony we'll get to that in a minute. I met Mike, our new CD here, at the riverside. I told him what happened, and that I was scared to be in my house right now, so I came to Basse early. Guess what his reaction was? If you thought considerate and sympathetic, you are way off the mark. I was told that it was "stupid" to be scared. That this was just like having a peeping tom. CAN YOU BELEIVE IT?!?
I was so shocked and angry I didn't say anything.
Let me reply now:
1)Mike, if you weren't my boss and we were in America, I would have slapped you for that. And I would have been supported by every woman in the country. As a man, you have no right to tell me when I should be scared or not. You don't know. As a man in the Gambia who lives in Kombo and doesn't spend time in village, you deffinitly don't know what it is like to be a woman here. We face constant harrassment from the cops, the military, the customs officers, governemnt workers, the random man on the street. When you face that every day, then are shown how easy it would be to have your home broken into while you are in it you get afraid. You start thingking "what if...?" What if they came in to my back yard? What if I had forgotten to lock my back door when I came in from the bathroom at 1am? What if...?
2)As a man who lives in a nice compound with security guards at the frount and never leaves Kombo withouth a Peac Corps driver and sees a very edited version of the country, you have no idea what there is to be scared of or how dangerous a situation can be. You don't live in reality. At least not a PCV's reality. Don't try to tell us how to interpret it.

The next day was the Basse House Open House. First, let me explain something. PCV's face constant harrassment. Especialy the women. You have no idea what it is like. I hope you never do. Girls ET because of it. Girls complaints are egnored because of it, then when they are sexualy assulted, admin is shocked. That being said, here is the top 5 list of who harrasses us the most outside of Kombo:
3-customs and secret poliece
4-governemnt workers or anyone in athority
5-any male between the ages of puberty and decrepid

Guess what the guest list was for this?
1-the governor and his staff
4-people in athority

Hmm...can anyone else see the flaw in this? THEY INVITED THE PEOPLE WHO ARE THE WORST OFFENDERS!!!

THEN Alpha theoreticaly our Saftey and Security Officer, who in fact puts thoes things in jepordy didn't translate what Mike said. We sat there, as he was adding things that were never said. When Amanda walked in and he said "that girl there who just came in, she is from village name has been omited because it is AGAINST PEACE CORPS POLICY TO OUT A PCV'S VILLAGE" we were all shocked. Then he invited the "security people" as he put it to tour our house. Yes, please. The people who put us in the most danger and we are most afraid of. Please show them the security arrangements of our house.
Again, we complained to Mike. He said "so what? At the 40th Annaversary 100 volunteers announced their villages on national tv. It's not against policy" this from the man who didn't know the federal governemnt couldn't speculate on currency and is the biggest gossip in country with no clue what "confidential" means. Again, so angry, didn't respond. So here we will:
1)The man responcible for our saftey can't even be trusted to translate what his boss says accuratly. That worries us. His boss didn't care that he didn't translate correctly.
2)100 volunteers didn't announce their villages. There are not 100 volunteers in country. Not every volunteer choose to do it or was there.
3)there is a huge difference between CHOOSING to announce your village and having that choice taken away from you.
4)National tv in Gambia means Kombo. Kombo viewers are made up of 90% of people who have a vague recolection that there is someplace called the URD in their country but couldn't tell you where. Versus sitting in the middle of the URD telling the people with the cars and motorcycles who harrass us with immunity where a single woamn lives far from any athority who cares to help her if they come "visit" note: In Gambia when a man says he wants to "visit" with you or come and "chat" with you, he means sex.

Conversation with another PCV
Question: What do you do when you are more afraid of the cops than the criminals?
Answer: ET

Question: What do you do when Admin doesn't give a damn?
Answer: ET

Question: What do you do when your Saftery and Security Officer puts both your saftey and secrurity at risk?
Answer: ET

Question: What country has the highest ET rate in the Peace Corps?
Answer: The Gambia

Question: Are you surprised?
Answer: not at all.

Only 90 days left.


At 7:10 AM MST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, things have really changed since I served there (in the 80s). I'm so sorry to hear of your difficulties.

At 9:31 PM MST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sadly, these are the same things I heard from the women I served with, except back then we had the legendary Rupert as our head of security, so we had it a little better. However, I do remember a lot of difficulties with our CD.
Just remember the basics of safety in the Gambia: be part of your community. when my house got broken into, my village did everything they could to catch the guy. I had a friend who was starting to get harassed by a bumster, and the bumster was chased away by a woman wielding a piece of firewood. Compound Mothers can be a major support. But if all else fails, you can always switch sites
And remember, things get tougher at the year 1 mark, but hold on.
-the infamous Saajo Bah


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