Friday, August 28, 2009

Happy Birthday Leigh

August 27th

Leigh, I’m slightly worried about you getting older since I had to re,ind you in the Nordstrom Rack that you zere turning 23 and not 22! I zish ze could hit up that zeird pub in East to celebrate! Happy Birthday!

Another day in the village. Nothing too exciting happened today except that I young boy came up to me and I was already steeling myself not to get angry when he called me a toubab and asked me for money, but instead he came up and told me in French that I was the most beautiful toubab he’d ever seen. While this was incredibly nice, it was also impossible since I’m pretty sure it was the hottest day today since I’ve been in Senegal and sitting under a tree, not moving, and fanning myself produced a constant stream of sweat. Yeah, it’s disgusting. I can’t wait to take my night time shower.

I think my Wolof is progressing pretty well except that there is one boy in the class holding everyone else up which is pretty frustrating. I really like my teacher though. She’s hilarious and tries to make class interesting. We are also finding out a lot more about her. She lives in Thies and seems fairly well off. I’ve only seen the outside of her house, which looks run down like everyone else’s but she has a refrigerator and eats beef and chicken and vegetables. I wish my home stay was with her! Both she and her husband work for Peace Corps. It is not too uncommon for women to work outside the home if they are well educated although most women are too busy having/ taking care of babies to work. Birth control is not a common practice in Senegal. Usey also speaks some English, but we conduct our class in French.

Since I don’t have too much to report, I’ll get back to the questions.

Mom Question #2: What is it like in Senegal during Ramadan.

Over 90% of the people in Senegal are Muslim so Ramadan drastically changes the pace of life for the month. The home stay village is also very religious so my insight might be a little skewed. During Ramadan Muslims fast from sun up to sun down or, more specifically, they have breakfast after the first prayer which is around 5am and then fast all day until after the 4th prayer which is around 8pm. Muslims pray five times a day although it is not necessary to go to the mosque five times a day people usually just go on Friday afternoons. My dad has been going to the mosque every morning, but doing the rest of his prayers at home. Ramadan actually makes the work a little easier for my sister since she doesn’t have to make a big lunch, only food for me. But, she does make a small break the fast snack at about 7:30 before we have a big dinner around 10pm. In general people move even slower during Ramadan because they are irritable and hungry. You can’t really blame them. It doesn’t really impact my daily life since stores are still open and my schedule continues at its normal pace. My teacher, Usey, isn’t fasting because she’s breastfeeding so there’s no difference there either.

Matt Question #2: What does the sky look like in Senegal

The night sky in Senegal is one of my favorite things about being here. It’s breathtaking since there are no lights obstructing the view. There are millions of stars and they’re really bright. Since we sit outside all the time it’s really cool to eat under the beautiful stars and the moon. I explained to my family that there are too many lights to really appreciate the night sky in the US. They didn’t really get it and kept telling me that the sky was the same no matter where you were. I think they might have got it by the end. There are also HUGE bats here, which fly around at night and are terrifying. I just have to keep telling myself they’re eating all the bugs.

Matt Question #3: What are the hairstyles in Senegal?

Hair, at least for women, is art here. A lot of women have very elaborate braids that go into pony tails and wrap around and are really intricate, others wear it up in a tight bun all the time, and some women do attempt to straighten their hair and have more American-ish styles. Many older women wear a traditional head wrap so their hair is totally hidden. Men usually have really short buzz cuts. The men don’t really differ too much.

Well, sorry for the fairly uninteresting post. Nothing much happens in the village.


  1. Alyssa,

    Keep up the good work on the blog and your language skills. Things appear to be looking up and the light at the end of the first tunnel is coming soon. While Matt is a space and heads up guy, my guess is his next question will be toward the earth and the toilet facilities. Full indepth graphic discussion is not required. Have fun and don't attempt to break what must be a record of 103 books in a year, unless See Dick Run et al counts.


  2. Actually the big bats eat fruit... it's the little ones, about the size we get in Michigan, that eat insects.
    I swear I didn't know that offhand. Really. OK that's a lie, this is why I'm a bio major.

    Glad things are getting better. I doubt it was all a phone high (though having means of communication always makes you feel less trapped). My money's on you feeling more comfortable after the project presentations and the promise of purpose that they hold.

    I have a question about agriculture and general environmental interaction. There is well supported speculation that the leading cause of the sahara/sahel expanding is domesticated goats (I could explain why but I honestly doubt you care). But any way my questuion is what is the human/environment interaction like closer to the coast? do people keep subsistence gardens or get everythng from the market? that kind of thing. did ask for questions.

  3. Hi Alyssa,
    You are doing a fantastic job on your blog and I know I am only one of many who LOVE reading it! So don't apologize! While for you it may seem boring and mundane to write about nothing much happening in the village, to us it is a window into a world which I doubt most of us could ever imagine.

    So, here's my first question . . . you didn't say anything about getting sick today. So that means you survived drinking the tap water juice without any real harm, right?

    I'm glad you're beginning to feel better about things. After I read your post when you first returned from the village, I called your mom to make sure you were just going through a period of questioning (not unexpected) but were really okay. She reassured me and your more recent blogs have set my mind at ease. Keep up the good work my dear. We're very proud of you!