Volunteer: Mara Coyle
I spent two years teaching science at a secondary technical school in Basse, The Gambia where I lived with a Gambian family. About ten years after returning to the United States, I became a sixth grade teacher in St. Paul, MN. In 2007, twenty-five years after leaving The Gambia, I received a travel grant to return for a visit to the village where I had lived as a volunteer. I brought my sister with me, and we stayed with my host family where we were warmly welcomed. I am currently working on a memoir about my experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer and my return trip to The Gambia.
Contributions from Mara Coyle
She sits in the shade on a worn pink silky cloth laid on the raised cement slab that is a resting place in the late afternoon. Joankunda and three of her grandchildren gather under the sloping grass roof while the children’s mothers sweat over simmering pots of spicy stew that will be the evening meal for the family. Now that her two oldest sons are married, Joankunda no longer has to cook. The daughters-in-law take turns preparing the food. This is a well-deserved break for Joankunda, a...
A Lovely Parting Gift Twenty-one is a certain age, at least it was for me. I was certain that I understood how the world should work and disdainful of how people had so thoroughly messed it up. I left school certain that I was armed with the knowledge and skills to make a difference in the world. I thought I knew what lay ahead for me when I got on that plane for Peace Corps. I didn’t have a clue. Twenty-five years later I still don’t know what difference I made in that little mud-hut...
Joankunda was the head wife of my host family. She was the one who understood me before anyone else did. After twenty-five years away from each other, we still had a strong bond.