Friday, October 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Kristen

October 1, 2009

I woke up feeling amazing this morning even though it was early because I became a real PC volunteer last night and slept wrapped up in a wet towel to combat the extreme heat and humidity. I’m now hooked and will be sleeping that way every night. My morning only continued to improve because we had to meet the PC car at the Total station and I bought a bean sandwich for breakfast. Bean sandwiches are my new obsession they are absolutely delicious and 25 cents. It’s literally some cooked/ mashed up beans with my cayenne and other mysterious ingredients on a baguette. They are actually filling and have texture and a little kick. Amazing. I bought one for Tamar who was already in the car and it made her day.

At the center, I prepared for my presentation on the SED program since my counterparts still hadn’t arrived. They live the closest to the center and are therefore the last to arrive. They actually got there 2 hours into the morning session. Oh well. My supervisor is a man named Diof and I would guess he’s 40-45 ish. He’s a little pompous but really nice and he seems like he works hard and is motivated so those are huge pluses. My counterpart, the person I will be working more closely with, is a woman named Mme. Seck and who’s probably around 55, it’s impossible to guess people’s ages here, and she is ridiculous. She was so happy that I was a girl and that I am learning/ can put elementary sentences together in Wolof. She told me to call her mom, and that I was her child, and that she was going to carry me around on her back like a little Senegalese baby. All very nice things to say.

The main project that my work partners are working on is food transformation with women’s groups. Food transformation literally means the women go to the market and buy whatever is seasonally available and then turn it into something else. In the spring they turn fruit in jams, in the summer grains into cereal, in the fall/ winter they preserve vegetables. It sounds pretty cool since PC is interested in food transformation projects and I really wanted to work with women’s groups. I think it will also involve traveling to nearby villages since my work partners work with upwards of 20 women’s groups.

The morning session was definitely tolerable although my good night’s sleep was wearing off, aka I was nodding off in session, and the bean sandwich was no longer sticking to my stomach. It was the first time we’ve been with a large group of Senegalese people who aren’t our teachers and it was quite an experience. First, as we were told by our teachers, Senegalese people have ZERO cell phone etiquette. Someone’s phone would literally ring every 2 minutes and they would answer it and proceed to have a conversation in the middle of class and we were expected to keep presenting. It was really challenging to both present and pay attention since in the US speaking on your cell phone during a class is completely unacceptable. Second, every Senegalese person in the room has to answer every question even if they are going to repeat verbatim what someone else already said. Needless to say, my patience was wearing thin extremely quickly. I know that I will learn infinite patience during my time in Senegal. I just wish that I had come to this country with a little longer fuse…

At lunch I was starving and literally inhaled my ceebu jenn. I was happy because I sat at the bowl with the crunchy rice, which is delicious. It’s the burnt rice from the bottom of the pot and it’s really flavorful and provides textural contrast to the mush that is everything else. I’ve had a bottomless appetite the past few days, which I think is due to complete and utter exhaustion. I have to consumer298357894 calories in order to keep myself awake, responsive, and moving. This exhaustion was only exacerbated by the fact that I currently have no personal space at the center and there was nowhere to lay down and take nap. Luckily, other volunteers not work counterparts are staying in my room so I can still get into my suitcases and go in there to sit, but it also means that there were 8+ girls in there at all times during the break which didn’t make it much of a break.

The afternoon was pretty much insufferable. I felt like the same thing was said a million times. Actually it was because everything was said in French, in English, in Wolof and then various other local languages. I thought I was going to die. I know it’s important to go over the details with our counterparts, but listening to all of them say the exact same thing drove me absolutely crazy. All I wanted to do was go back to the home stay village… yes, I actually did just say that.

Back in the vil, my family was really nice and excited about dinner. They know I love peanuts and peanut butter so they were happy to tell me all about dinner and how they were making it from scratch all day and how much I was going to love it. Dinner was Reeses Pieces cereal. I kid you not… or at least the Senegalese version of the sugary kids cereal. Let me explain. Dinner was peanut butter soup and millet balls with approximately 18 pounds of sugar mixed in. My family knows that I hate nothing more than breakfast for dinner and that’s mainly because I don’t want a sweet dinner, I want a savory one. Well, this was no eggs and pancakes this was a quantity of sugar that barely dissolved in peanut butter soup over millet balls. It wasn’t bad, but millet balls sink to the bottom of my stomach and form a rock, this one happened to be covered in sugar. I ate as much and as slowly as I could to show that I liked it and appreciated the thought. My mom could tell I was exhausted and I can’t form sentences in any language right now. I told her my head is not working in Wolof and she thought it was the funniest thing in the world, took my bowl away from me, and told me to take a shower. Victory.

I’m about to wrap myself in a wet towel and call it a night.

Ps. Other funny things:

Jackie got locked in the bathroom. She screamed for help for 20 minutes and no one came. Finally someone entered the bathroom, but it was obviously someone’s work partner who didn’t speak French because the person just left without helping. 20 minutes after that another trainee came in and tried to help. She couldn’t and went to get someone else who eventually told Jackie she had to scale the bathroom wall to get out. Jackie stood by a disgusting toilet for almost an hour in 90 degree heat. Too funny.

Tamar’s work partner asked her her astrological sign.

1 comment:

  1. Jeez Alyssa I thought you and Matt were foodies...burgeoning gourmets. You are trilling about the delights of a bean sandwich?!!! and Matt is eating Domino's?!!! You've both descended into barbarism!