Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Whole New World

Before I start out on recapping today I have to go back to last night, which was great.

First... a confession. I had dinner with the boy from Ohio State who has a degree in accounting and who I totally judged on those two facts and facebook stalking before coming to Senegal. He's actually really nice and not dumb. I truly thought OSU students don't study and just drink wine coolers with Jim Tressel all day. He's nice and he's in SED so I'm sure we'll be pretty good friends.

Since we've been cooped up in this compound for several days now, we decided to have an impromptu talent show last night which, interestingly enough, was spurred on by boredom and not booze. I guess you have to get creative in Africa. Regardless, some people are really talented and we were entertained by two tap dancers, a guitar player, a violinist, games created from water bottles and frisbees, along with some excellent stories from currently serving volunteers about almost getting arrested by Senegalese police. Very amusing.

Now for today, which is a great day because we got to go into town, but not before we had a lot of training. In the morning the SED trainees had our first technical workshop of small business development in Senegal. What I found interesting was the already evident power plays going on among the trainees. As an alumn (finally) of RSB I find group work to be much more interesting in it's social implications than the work itself. People obviously wanted to take leadership roles and participate ad nauseum in order to become kings and queens of the island as I would like to call it. Regardless, hearing the long term goals of regional partnerships and increased funding for local projects was interesting. I'm excited to really see what people's strengths are and how competitive everything gets. For now, I'm willing to sit back, relax, and remember that I am no longer in business school and that everything will be all right.

We also learned a lot more about our home stays and we'll be leaving on Monday to live with a family for a week. It's definitely going to be intimidating and very difficult, but it will be nice to get out of the Peace Corps center and meet more people. Friday is also the start of Ramadan, which will add another layer of complexity to the home stay process, but our family's will still feed us three meals a day. We have been told not to try and fast our first Ramadan as we will have language training 8 hours a day and be in a very stressful environment. Plus, children, pregnant women, the sick, and women with their periods are forbidden to fast so we will probably have some eating partners.

This afternoon we finally had our safety training so we were finally allowed to leave the compound and go into Thies, which is pronounced Chess, and is the third largest city in Senegal. I don't know what I thought a large African city would like like, but I was completely blindsided by what I found. The streets were largely unpaved and since it rained this afternoon were pretty much just mud holes and the buildings were also surprisingly dilapidated. I was expecting there to be a real city center kind of like a European town square, but there really wasn't that type of centralization in Thies. There were several main roads that either had restaurants, the super-markets, or the out door markets. In Thies you can get pretty much whatever you want. The large grocery store had petit ecolier cookies, Nivea and Gillette products, and laughing cow cheese. The outdoor market had a wide variety of stalls. There were stalls with refrigerators and televisions, various electronics (the vendors even had iPhones!), beautiful fabrics (that I'm buying tomorrow to make into clothes), and almost anything else you could image like the latest Nike sneekers. Further down the market were the perishable goods. This section of the market was also the most shocking since most of the vendors sold out of little wooden shanties covered in tin.

While some of the conditions are a little shocking, the Senegalese people are amazing. The women are beautiful and have attitude. They strut down the streets in beautiful African prints. It's amazing. They exude confidence while carrying babies on their backs and I hope I can walk their walk and display the same love for life they do. I also want one of their awesome African print outfits. That's definitely happening in the near future.

I think that's it for now. I'm sorry my pictures aren't working. The internet here has been a little touch and go today so I will work on that when I get the chance. For now, I will post some in this post.

And just in case you were wondering, even though it rained today and is much cooler, I'm still hot and sweaty.


  1. Alyssa,

    You can buy beautiful fabric but how are YOU going to make clothes? Sounds like you are finding a lot of interesting things. Keep up the good work. A couple of days ago I played golf with Matt Malewitz. He was home from Bowling Green and summer baseball. He wishes you well.


  2. Alyssa!

    Your stories are amazing! I am loving hearing your experiences and am so glad that you are able to update so often. so sorry about the hot and sweaty-ness of Africa but I guess all we can do is hope it gets better...good luck making those clothes and I would love to see more pictures of those women in the awesome fabrics and strutting down the street! love you much and miss proud of everything you are doing!

    your little--jjb