Working in Sub-Saharan Africa


From: Tubob: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps


The heat in The Gambia, in Sub-Saharan Africa, made life difficult.

When my husband Bruce and I first arrived in our village of Mansajang, where we lived for two years, women often asked me where my “hat” was, meaning head-scarf. I couldn’t imagine wearing one more thing in that heat. The African women artfully wrapped a length of cloth around their heads. Binta, a woman in our compound, tried to put one on me. With my slippery hair, a scarf wouldn’t stay on, but the effort gave us a good laugh. I had a scrap of material left over from having a dress made and I fashioned a triangular piece of cloth into a scarf that I could tie in the back. I couldn’t believe how much cooler I felt not to have the sun beating down on my head. On extremely hot days, I sometimes soaked the scarf in water before wearing it and that cooled me even more, though it quickly evaporated.

I understood why so much didn’t get done. It was difficult to work in that heat. If it wasn’t the heat, we still couldn’t do what we wanted to accomplish due to lack of supplies. At the UN shop where Bruce worked, shortages prevented projects from completion. At the Health Centre, I often couldn’t visit villages because they only had enough fuel to go on scheduled clinic treks.

At times I felt overwhelmed with the little I could do. I expressed my discouragement to Bruce. His job was actually far more frustrating than mine. Between the heat and lack of supplies, our tasks sometimes seemed overwhelming. Talking about it helped and each time we came to the same conclusion: all we could do was give it our best. We both knew our best wasn’t enough.

5 thoughts on “Working in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. I can only begin to imagine the intense heat there. Having our thermometer hit 100 this summer in AZ is bad enough! AND we have A/C! Your experience in Africa is so fascinating, Mary.

    • I so often think of you in Arizona’s sunshine. Yes A/C in Africa would have been wonderful. The only place that had it was the Peace Corps headquarters. That is, if the electricity was running.

  2. I also discovered the cooling effects of a wet head scarf when living in India. You and Bruce accomplished so much despite your obvious frustrations!

  3. Pingback: Mary E. Trimble: Working in Sub-Saharan Africa | CamanoCommunity

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