dimanche 18 novembre 2012

Happy Tabasgiving!

We recently celebrated Tabaski here (hence why I'm wishing you all a happy tabasgiving. Tabaski + Thanksgiving, get it? I'm sooo witty!) and it was actually a really cool way to see how far I've come in the last year. Timing worked out last year that I celebrated Tabaski in my training site three days before I installed into my permanent site. Last year I was nervous, terrified and still feeling really unsure in my abilities to integrate within my communities and function as a volunteer. Fast forward a year and Tabaski was a completely different thing. Although I still doubt my abilities to get any long lasting worthwhile work done, I had a blast! I spent my day hanging out with my family, eating extreme amounts of food, and then walking around at night greeting people. A tradition in my village (and probably all over the country) is that over Tabaski you walk around to everyone you know and ask forgiveness for wrong you may have done to them. My village got such a kick out of me coming around and begging their forgiveness. I may have been a little overly dramatic with some people, but it made it so much fun.

Since it's also Thanksgiving time I just want to take a little space and say how thankful I am for all of the blessings in my life. One thing that I didn't realize I should be thankful for before I came here is my ability to be creative and dream. The opportunities that are open to me are incredibly limitless and varied. I am thankful for my education which allows me to pursue my goals. I am so thankful for my family who have supported me all my life (even when I decide that the best thing I could possibly do is work in a remote village in western Africa for two years). Thank you to friends as well who have laughed with me and at times (ok, a lot of the time) have been there to tell me I'm being an idiot and to get my life back in gear.

Last but not least I'm so very grateful for the opportunity I have to be here in Senegal. Although I know I complain a lot this truly is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I've gotten not only personal growth from this, but a new family, friends and possibly amoebas.

So thank you to everyone that I have had the honor to interact with this last year. If you are in the States I hope your Thanksgiving is a wonderful one (and for crying out loud would you please celebrate the holiday instead of hitting the sales, go shopping the next day!) Much love from out here in Senegal!

Yeah, this guy is going to be eating Pumba for his feast

dimanche 21 octobre 2012

I'm back!

I'll admit I've been dragging my feet about updating the blog merely because it seemed such a huge task after four months but mother has been quite adamant about it so here goes nothing! 
So what has happened the last four months? Since it's been rainy season all of the villagers have been working in the fields, and therefore so have I. All I can say about it is that I never knew how good a work out plowing a field by hand could be. Seriously, sometimes I thought I was going to die of the heat! However after all the hard work is over you get great and satisfying results. My personal favorite has been the corn. When the corn ripened we ate cooked (burnt? they put the corn on the cob on hot coals and wait until it 'pops') corn all the time! Best snack food ever.

A field on the way to my road town. It's so green!

I also was able to go home for my little brother's wedding at the end of August, which was awesome! Congratulations Andrew!!

In conclusion, so much has happened so I don't really know what to put in this post, but I am going to try very hard to write more often so I can actually write things that are interested. And now, peektures.

My mother, niece and nephew decided that the best place for a nap was on the floor of my hut. One of the biggest adjustments I had to make when I got to country was the complete lack of personal space and time you get here. My personal bubble has definitely shrunk a considerable amount.

This is a charete, now you know what I'm talking about when I write about them. These kind people stopped and let me catch a ride with them to my road town when I was walking there. This was day one of my five day journey to the states for my little brother's wedding. Congratulations Andrew!!!

This is also a charete, albeit a very small one who's horse is more of a gin bottle. I woke up one morning and found Goor constructing this toy and thought it was so cool. This is how you play toy cars Senegal style.

Ugh morning traffic, am I right? Although it may be easier to navigate than a gridlock of autos, this traffic jam is slightly more terrifying when I'm trying to ride through it on my bike.

mardi 5 juin 2012

Just call me Dr. Doolittle

So...I have added yet another animal to my little menagerie. Now amongst the two cats and their pin worms (the worms are not by choice), sheep, chickens, toads, lizards, bugs, and the occasional mouse there is a puppy to be found. My host brother brought me back the energy bundle a month ago, and I have not slept an entire night since. Nduman (such is his name) is absolutely adorable, but has more energy than a nuclear tsunami. I never realized what ingenious inventions raw hides were until he tried making me his chew toy. Thankfully there are enough random chicken and goat parts lying around for him to destroy that I'm not always first on the list.

The rains are really on the way now. It stormed here a week or so ago and the results were spectacular. Not only did I learn that my brand new roof leaks (thankfully not over anything important), but I also discovered the difficulty of leaving my village after one of these storms. To put this in perspective, before the rains my village was surrounded by seemingly flat land. Leaving was extremely easy and riding my bike to and from my road town posed no difficulties apart from kamakazi flies. After the rain though my village was no longer surrounded by land, but was more like an island in the middle a very large lake (puddle?) Suffice to say that exiting by wheels was not going to be an option seeing as neither my bike, nor villagers charetes (a flat bed made of wood drawn by horse) would be able to make it out of the mire in one piece. So during the rains my only way of leaving village will be by foot until I get to a more main road. Thankfully the village road is only about 4 kilometers, I just wish I had brought waders.

With the rain also comes the beginning of a main project of mine. One of my job responsibilities is seed extension to my community. As a quick overview I'll be extending a few kilos of improved variety seed to a select amount of farmers from my village. I'll be working with them throughout the entire farming season collecting data and teaching techniques that will not only help increase yield, but also organically help reinvigorate the soil. At the end of the season the farmers are supposed to give me back a double amount of seed that I give them so the next year there is more seed to extend, and eventually they are self sufficient in their farming practices. I'm excited to get going on the project and interested to see what challenges arise.

As a conclusion I'll bring it back to the menagerie. More than work and un-navigatable paths, the rains will harbor one more little nugget. Apparently when the rains come something called the camel spider comes out. I have yet to see one but there are a lot of volunteers who have them in their huts so it's probably only a matter of time before they are sprinting (literally. They can run half as fast as the quickest human) across my floor as well. If you don't know what they are, look them up. As soon as I find one I'll get a picture. Happy nightmares :)

jeudi 3 mai 2012

We be burnin'

The hot season is starting to move in. As I write this at 8 in the morning it is 84 degrees out there. Weirdly enough it probably got down to 80 last night and I was so cold I needed a blanket. Yeah boy!

Village life is starting to pick up finally! I have weekly women's group meetings with six different groups alongside members of the aid group AfriCare. We are going to construct either 2 very large gardens or six smaller gardens for the women to use. The produce (hopefully) grown will be used both to sell as well as (even more hopefully) eat. When there is money the people in my village subsist on a steady diet of greasy rice and dried fish only. When there's no money we eat this weird porridge stuff with fish bones in it...I prefer the greasy rice. I can officially say that such a diet leaves something to be desired in the energy and nutrition department. So fingers crossed we can start construction soon!

I also held a meeting for all the women in my town recently with the school director and teachers. To be honest that made me realize how little of this language I really speak. When you have 50 women trying to talk over one another in a small echoey room...let's just say I was extremely grateful that one of my friends was there to translate for me. Actually he had to translate from Seereer into Wolof for the school director who then translated into French for me. The outcome of the meeting was we organized 4 classes that I'll be starting up next Wednesday. I'm going to be teaching the women French, literacy, and basic mathematics like addition and subtraction. I'm also going to be holding an English class for the men in my village who have expressed interest. We'll see if these classes are a success. The rains are supposed to be here really early this year, so I may only get one or two weeks worth of classes before since once the rains come all my work will stop because everyone goes to the fields all day long. I'm actually really excited to go and help my family in the fields.

To take this in another direction, I have been told that I need to post more pictures, but unfortunately my camera has been broken for the past few months and I haven't been able to take any. Thankfully one of my friends visited my village and they were kind enough to take some pictures.

This is a picture of my counterpart/brother's two wives. The one on the left is Roqee, the second wife. Her son Modou is in the bucket, and the first wife Dib is on the right. I love these women so much.

This is me with Mara, he's about 3 years old and I really, REALLY wish I could bring him back to America with me. He's the sweetest baby in the world.

Ok, it was an especially hot day and we had a charete in our compound with a barrel of water in it. Apparently the barrel was leaking and these two boys are drinking the drops coming through the bottom. It was hilarious.

Baby Modou in his bucket. Adorable.

Baby Ami with her mother, Dib. Because you can never have too many pictures of babies. Fun fact, Ami can say three words: 'ya' which means mom, 'ba' which means dad, and 'Yacine' which is my name :) She always shouts it out whenever she sees me, and then usually starts a little dance.

My host mom Kumba with her 'power stick'. She uses it to hit anything annoying her. Horses, goats...children. Please keep in mind these are not hard hits, more like taps (at least with the children. Animals not so much)

Little family protrait. Dib's oldest son Goor (10), Ya Kumba, me, and Mbai (4-ish)

Another picture of me and Mara. I'm teaching him English and he can count to five. I don't know if he really understands that they are numbers or just that when he gets to three I toss him up into the air and that's just plain fun.

I went to visit the other Seereer sites in March (I'm the only Seereer placed outside of the Kaolack/Faticke region) and we had blueberry muffins for breakfast one day! De-li-cious

mardi 13 mars 2012

Chickens are evil raptors

Up until now my days in village have been fairly quiet since I've mostly concentrated on learning the Seereer language and integrating successfully into my village. This being the case I have had a sufficient amount of time on my hands to sit and think about the deep things in life like: what is the meaning of life? Where will the future lead me? and what the freak is that chicken doing!?! But don't be worried, it isn't only chickens. I also daily catch myself gazing awestruck at goats, sheep, cows and horses. Just the other day I was visiting another volunteers village when we both realized that we had been sitting and commenting on goats for 15 minutes. Yes, the life I lead is exceptionally exciting.

Since I've done so much 'research' on these beasts of Senegalese households, and since I've always been a huge animal person, I decided I'd compile a list of interesting facts that I've learned. So here we go:

1) Chickens are not herbivores. I learned this while I watched a 'pack' of them hunting down and eating frogs.
2) Chickens are cannibals. This was discovered when I watched them viciously fighting over the entrails of      one of their previous friends.
3) Roosters do not crow only in the morning. They crow ALL DAY LONG! Their favorite spot? Right next    to me while I'm trying to read or sleep.
(Can you tell I hate chickens yet)
4) A braying donkey sounds like a car crash.
5) Like roosters, donkeys like to bray all day long. They also very much enjoy braying randomly throughout    the night.
6) Baby goats are the cutest things in the world...except for my niece. Nothing is cuter than her.

Baby goat = adorable
My niece = beyond the ability of words to describe

7) The sheep here are the ugliest things in the world.
8) Apparently the inside of my hut is the perfect place for horses to hang out. (I need to get a picture of this     one)
9) According to Islam, cats hold the keys to heaven, and dogs hold the keys to hell. I tend to agree with the cat part since getting my two cats has means that I no longer have mice. However, I think the dog portion    should be changed to chickens. 
This is what heaven looks like. (This is one of my cats, Abdul Fall Cheese Ninja lounging about.)

And this is what hell dogs really look like

I think that's enough for now. I'll check back in soon with an actually informative update on my life :)

dimanche 5 février 2012

Happy belated Christmas and New Years! (And let's not forget super bowl!!)

Once again, it’s been quite a long time since my last update. I’ll just give a brief synopsis of what’s been going on the last month and a half.

The last half of December and all of January were filled with much comings and goings in my little sphere of Senegal. I celebrated Christmas with my fellow volunteers in Tambacounda. We prepared slightly traditional food like cookies, mashed potatos, and roasted chicken. Sadly I went without my favorite winter holiday food: potatiskurv (or however you’re supposed to spell that). We also partook in traditional holiday activities like board games (Settlers of Cataan was more like an unimpeded addiction), dance parties and caroling. In case you were wondering, nothing seems to terrify the Senegalese more than a group of volunteers singing carols. They didn’t really like the Christmas songs, but they loooved ‘Jeremiah was a Bullfrog’.

New Years Eve was uneventful back in my village where I ended up passing out at 9 pm. Actually, this isn’t too different from my normal NYE habits back home…I’m so cool J

In the middle of January we had an All Volunteer conference back at the center in Thies. Basically we all got together and listened to others give presentations on the projects they had been working on for the past year or so. Honestly I can’t say I got a whole lot out of it, but it was really nice to see all 200 volunteers in one place.

After AllVoll we had the West Africa Softball Tournament in Dakar. My region (Tamba) had its own team, but to be honest I went to maybe 30 minutes of one game and spent the rest of my time eating a whole lot of fantastic food. Tracey, Kate and I were lucky enough to stay with one of the directors of USAID in the Almadies section of Dakar. It was incredible. There was an oven. It was clean. We had beds. We had a choice of either HOT or COLD water. And the garden was incredible! There was grass! I’ve still not gotten over my shock at how nice that house was. I was literally in shock and unable to formulate cohesive sentences for the first few hours I was there.

After this I went back to site for about two weeks and now I’m back in Thies for my IST (in-service training). Allegedly we’re going to learn the agricultural, and agro-forestry techniques that will enable us to work for the next two years. We’ll see if this actually happens.

This is the tree stump that I can sometimes get cell reception from.

Nduutaan and her son Dawda. Dawda, like almost all Senegalese children, absolutely refuses to wear pants. I caught him on a rare occasion where he was willing to put a shirt on.

I found this in the Dakar fukijay. Oh America, how you've spread.

I feel like this is a perfect sob story "Save Africa" picture.
These are some of the children in my compound. Goor, the one on the far left, is being 'tough' for the photo.

vendredi 9 décembre 2011

Still kickin' it

Ok it’s been quite a while since my last post so I’ve decided to give an update using traditional test wisdom. So here goes, my last month (or two) in one hundred words or less:

I swore in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer on November 4th, gave a speech in Seereer in front of the US Ambassador and other Senegalese dignitaries (I can die fulfilled now, I’m on YouTube), participated in my first Tabaski (Alhamdulillah I missed the sacrificing of the four sheep that became lunch), installed in my village, learned that you really can go crazy without any outside contact, became an aunt, celebrated a lovely thanksgiving, adopted (more like stole from their mother) two baby kittens, committed cricket genocide (sorry if that’s offensive, but it’s true) and developed microscopic amounts of patience. 

FYI, that paragraph is in fact EXACTLY 100 words, booyaah kashaah!
And finally here are a couple pictures depicting some of what I just described. 

This pretty much sums up Tabaski. FYI, she's cutting the head off the sheep.

Actually this summarizes it. Just walking around with a sheep's head, you know, no big.

Jaxat, Asaan, and I at Tabaski. Jaxat is beyond adorable, and do you see how much fabric is on my head!?!

My hut!

This little mouse got stuck in the bottle one night and kept me awake for ever. I was extremely brave and set him free outside all by myself.
This is the view from my backyard at site. Beautiful!