September 13, 2009
Today, I got to see a day in the life of a volunteer. I can't say that it was all to exciting. The villages that weave all the baskets Daniel exports back to the US are a few kilometers down the road and we rented a car to get there, which is the expensive/ easy/ fastest way to get there.
The village where Daniel's Senegalese work partner/ where some of the baskets are made is a few kilometers off the national highway and it's a true African village. I would have freaked out if I had been dropped off there, as many of my fellow volunteers were, for our village home stays. The village is just a few compounds with concrete huts - some even with thatched roofs. When I first got to my home stay town of 50k I thought it was destitute and terrible and terrifying... I had no idea of what a real village was like. Truthfully, I'm happy that I will never really have to experience it since I'll be living in Thies. It would be too much for me to handle. I like living in my bigger cities with modern amenities, thank you very much.
We spend most of the morning talking with Daniel's work partner Sow, Jackie (another trainee), and her volunteer who met us in the village. It was interesting to hear about the logistics of working with the American importer, the plastic strip suppliers (to make the baskets colorful) in Dakar, and the village politics which constantly threaten to derail the whole operation. Today was a Sunday during Ramadan so nothing much was going on unfortunately, but we did get to visit one family who was weaving baskets and talk to them. I understood bits and pieces because it was in Wolof, but I couldn't stop staring at the little kids just covered in flies. It was disgusting and sad. The women basket weavers make a little profit on these baskets, but immediately use the funds. They don't have bank accounts, there's no future planning, and the kids are in the care of older siblings who have other things to do around the house. The flies are one of the things that bothers me the most about Senegal.
Coming home was quit an adventure. We tried waiting for a bus which never came, flagging down taxis, and hitchhiking (totally acceptable in Senegal) to no avail. After many obligatory toubab acknowledgment honks, a passing Mercedes stopped to get us - it was the PC head of the agriculture program so we got a door to door ride which was awesome.
Back at Daniel's house the three of us had a really good discussion about goals and concrete achievements in PC. We boiled it down to:
1. You need to be ok with learning... about anything to keep yourself occupied
2. Being satisfied with learning a language
3. Improving your personal adaptability
Is that enough for me? I came for the work. The concrete results that all the volunteers say you can't sustain yourself on. Can I change my American mentality... do I want to you?
Ahh. Why is this so hard? I want to go back to Thies and clean sheets.
Messy, but Warm
8 months ago