Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Herbert Hoover #1

I got up early and all I wanted was a delicious bean sandwich, which seems impossible to find around my house and I had to settle for beignes (fried dough balls made from millet). I was not happy.

I met Chris at our usual roundpoint, but earlier than usual and we headed off to the office. We were supposed to leave at 9:30 in order to get to Notto the village where we were conducting the accounting session by 10. Good thing Chris told me to bring a book and my iPod. Although Diof, my work partner, is surprisingly punctual and understands American efficiency he was not at his best this morning. Apparently several emergencies arose and we didn't end up leaving until 11. Go figure. At least I had my book.

We also had a government driver to get us to Notto, which was hilarious because it was me and two women in the back and when I say two women I mean two HUGE women. I had to sit sideways to accommodate them and yes, they did sweat all over me. At least I was amused by what was in front of me: Diof and Chris sharing the front passenger seat. Priceless. Although it was a fairly uncomfortable ride, aka usual for Senegalese transport, I still love driving here. And this is not because I feel safe because I do feel like I'm going to potentially die every time I get into a vehicle, but because the countryside is so spectacular. Everything is still green and the baobab trees all over is just awesome.

We stopped in Notto to meet some officials and stand around for a while, I have no idea why, before journeying onward to a little village outside of Notto for the formation. We were greeted with fifty kids running after our car. I always say it's not a good day in Africa unless you make a little kid cry and seeing Chris and I sent more than one little kid into hysterics. The women's group who was to receive, at some distant point in the future, the millet machine promised by the government were waiting for us, but we had to greet the village elders first.

Unfortunately, I've just been exhausted lately so it was difficult for me to really concentrate on what was going on especially since everything was in French not in Wolof. What did strike me was that these women seemed really motivated and even though 3/4 of them were breastfeeding during the meeting they payed close attention and asked questions. The first couple of hours of this meeting was spent electing a President, VP, Treasurer, and Secretary for the millet machine maintenance team. It took forever because as usual everyone needed to have their say. After the elections we moved into a compound to discuss basic accounting procedures for the machine.

I thought that Diof was going to do the formation, but it ended up being one of the women, Mme Fall, and I was actually really impressed with her. From what I could make out she really knew her stuff and she was really enthusiastic. When we walked into the compound I was really nervous about the session because there was no blackboard or paper so I didn't know how we were going to illustrate an accounting ledger, but Mme Fall was way ahead of me... all she needed was the sand. She drew an accounting ledger in the sand and explained it. I was impressed.

We also ate lunch at the village and I realized I'm becoming spoiled. My family in Thies eats so incredibly well! I hate eating lunch out with people at little ceeb shacks or other houses because it doesn't hold a candle to what I get at home!

Back at home I made complete amends with my brothers after this weekend. Ziabata told me that now that it's my second week we are going to only Wolof, which I probably should've been doing this whole time, and Petit and I sat and talked for over an hour in English and Wolof about the US. As I mentioned before he's a US Culture major at the University in Dakar so he's an excellent resource for me. He's a really good teacher and he has a lot of patience because he wants me to explain English to him as well. Our conversation was really interesting until it devolved into a disagreement about the order of American Presidents. First of all, his favorite President is Herbert Hoover. Yes, strange, I know. I asked him why and he just said that Hoover is one of our best presidents. Ok, I don't think many people would agree with the 1929 stock crash and Hoovervilles, but whatever. He then tried to convince me that after Hoover came Eisenhower, JFK, Bush, Bush, Obama. I couldn't convince him that he had forgotten a few until we turned on my computer and looked at a list. I told him he didn't want to go toe to toe with me over presidents or American history! Anyway, it was a really cool conversation and I feel good about our relationships now.

Dinner is still a mystery to me. My dad didn't come back from Dakar tonight so I ate at the big bowl with everyone. I wonder if my time of forks and knives has come to end or it's just my dad being super classy and I'll eat with utensils when I ate with him. Regardless, we had one of my least favorite meals here. Fried fish with spaghetti and onion sauce. The strategy is to eat fast early to try and get the fish while it's crispy and while the pasta isn't soaked in oil and then slow down and eat the onions with the bread so I don't get yelled at for not eating. I know, intense.

Well, that's it for me. I'm exhausted and I need sleep which is not interrupted by a massive dog fight complete with incessant howling like last night!

Ps. Happy Birthday Katherine!


  1. Does Petite understand he has unleashed a human US History wikipedia? Challenge him to read Tocqueville in the original French.

  2. Alyssa,

    Should your mother leave room for some ear plugs to help you get better sleep, or is food more important. I am thrilled that it seems like a great fit and you are enjoying yourself.