Friday, August 14, 2009

Another Hot Day in Senegal

It's still hot and I'm still sweaty, but I am slightly smarter or at least more knowledgeable about Senegal than I was yesterday. We had a cultural fair today, which taught us the basics of Senegalese culture. Here's a run down:

Food and Juice
In the food and juice segment of today's tutorial we learned about food and juice. We had white and red bissap juice, tamarind juice, ginger juice, cassava (which has a different name here which I can remember) juice, along with a few others. They were all tasty although the ginger was a bit intense. It tasted like you just drank all the ginger available at a sushi bar. I liked it, but it had a kick. We also learned how you can take the leaves from all of the local plants to make sauces and were introduced to some local vegetables like sweet potatoes which look nothing like sweet potatoes at home.

Dining and Tea
Proper meal time etiquette is very important here. Meals are served on the floor on top of a mat. Before sitting down to eat you must wash your hands (one of our jobs as volunteers is to get our families to use soap when they wash their hands because people rarely do) and take off your shoes. Then everyone sits on the floor together and as a women I will need to wrap a pagne (a two yard piece of fabric with strings)around my lower body so only my ankles show. People here either eat with their right hand (you can't eat with your left because it's unclean in Islam) or with a spoon. No one uses forks and knives. If you use your hand you are supposed ball up the rice in your hand before eating it. I will try and post a picture of the big bowls we eat out of so you get a better idea. But, there is rice all around a big bowl and then the meat, vegetables, and miscellaneous other things are in the middle. You are only supposed to take a bite sized portion of the middle items at a time and when you're done just get up and walk away from the table.

Tea is another important Senegalese pastime and can last for hours. There are three different teas that range from very sweet to incredibly sweet. The first tea is for visitors, the second for friends, and the third for family although the Senegalese will attempt to make you stay for all three courses. The tea is incredibly hot and drunk from communal cups so you have to drink it quick so other people can have their cup of tea.

Appropriate Dress
Obviously everything must cover your knees and at training they don't want us to wear tank tops although all of the volunteers do at their post. During this segment we learned traditional Senegalese dress, how to wear the outfits, and the different types of beautiful fabrics that clothes can be made from. When we swear in as official volunteers in October we will wear traditional dress, but I'm definitely planning on picking up some pagne skirts once we are actually allowed outside the compound.

Water and Toilets
We received a lovely tutorial on squat toilets. Excellent. I believe that I slightly misinterpreted what "running water" means because I think it means a sink with a squat toilet, but we'll see. Now, I really understand why you can't do anything with your left hand here. There is no toilet paper so you wipe with a bucket of water and your left hand. I can't wait to start trying it out on Monday when we start our home stays. The girls also learned how to get water out of a well and carry it on our heads. Since I'm SED I will have running water so I wont have to carry it, which is good. We also had lessons on Religion and sticks as toothbrushes, which weren't as interesting.

In other news, I received shots #2 and #3 today, Typhoid and Hep A. I would like to give myself a pat on the back for not even thinking about crying although I don't feel very well from all of the drugs coursing through my veins right now. Malaria pills are not fun and I haven't even had any psychedelic dreams. Damn. I'm hoping that I will sleep better tonight as well. Last night it was hot as hell and people were having a dance party until 12:30am. Seriously, people in Senegal have spontaneous dance parties all the time. Supposedly you get used to the drums and they don't wake you up. I'm hoping for rain tonight so some of the humidity breaks. The currently serving volunteers who are here helping us with training are telling me it's not bad right now, but I'm still dieing.

Nothing too interesting to report today. We still haven't had our security lesson so we can't leave the compound and I wont be finding out which language I'll be learning until Sunday probably.

I hope everything is good at home! Enjoy your AC and lack of sticky sweat.


  1. Hey you! I'm SO SO SO proud of you. Your first few entries sound so much like what i remember 14 months ago. It made me emotional reading about your new beginnings and I just KNOW that you have the most exciting, wonderful road ahead. And PS-you absolutely do NOT have to wipe with your hand. Only in dire emergencies do I do that. They've gotta sell TP somewhere, invest in it. :) xoxo... Kate

  2. We are all so proud of you, I am so excited to read your blogs and keep up on your life in Senegal. I thought it was bad in Costa Rica when we had to wipe and then throw the toilet paper into a garbage can instead of in the toilet. Wow! I love learning the culture through your eyes. I will send TP soon, I promise! You are doing great things, keep it up!

    Love Aunt Cindy

  3. Also enjoying not wiping myself with my hand. Mom just sent me the link so i have a lot of catching up to do. Are you going to be able to skype? I'm trying to get into it since that's the only way i'll be able to be in contact with kt.