Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 1. Or 2. Or 3 or something.

 I guess this is like day 2.5 or something. Not sure. This morning I woke up early and went for my first African run. There were quite a few people out, and I was a beacon of curiosity with my shorts and Vibrams on. There were a number of other Gambians out running as well.

The House and around Jeshwang

 Not a very long run as my feet have become soft and the only shoes I have with me now are my thinnest vibrams and boots. Mohammed and I then went to the first year student orientation at the University (I guess if you could call it that) where I met some other international students from St. Mary's of MD.

 We were made to sit at the very front, directly beneath the "High Table" of important University people. Describing this event should paint a pretty good picture of how things work here. The orientation was to start at 10:30 or something like that. Mohammed and I arrived probably 5 min early, and probably 50 students were there, along with one of the probably 10 High Table people. For about the next hour, people slowly filtered in, chairs were taken from other areas of the campus as the originally laid out seating would only accommodate a quarter of the people that showed up, and the High table people finally started at around 11. Refreshingly, the talking began with an Islam prayer, followed by a Christian prayer. Then, each important person would spend around 20 min giving us advice and telling us why their department was the most important, some with a more comical demeanor, others with a somewhat grime and demanding tone. Finally, at around 1:30, the Vice Chancellor spoke. He is directly under President Jammeh, if I understand it correctly, and began in pretty good spirits speaking quite well about all the opportunities that lay ahead. Later, it turned to almost a scalding tone as he told us these opportunities were "our's to screw up", and expressed his displeasure of the nearly 40% enrollment in Human and Natural Sciences and went on to tell those students that they should not be doing that but rather Agriculture and Education. It sounded much like a parent disciplining a child, he seemed very unhappy. Almost immediately after, he asked the international students to stand up, which was a bit nerve racking as I had been sweating quite furiously as, one, this is Africa, and two, it was a very uncomfortable situation (especially as I am one of those students enrolled in the Sciences). After that was over with, Mohammed and I returned to Jeshwang. I decided to try to make it to the beach, but only made it to the National Stadium where I looked around and decided to head back, to where I am sitting now.

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