Monday, November 30, 2009

Tournee Day 1: Fatick and Keur Madiabel

I'm spoiled. Before today I had never left the Thies/ Dakar region and now my eyes have been opened to how most other people live. I complain about my sept-place rides from Thies to Dakar. There are no stops in between and it's always possible to get a car. Haha. That's the Thies/ Dakar region that doesn't exist in other places. While the road from Thies to Fatick is pretty much as good as the road from Thies to Dakar, the road from Fatick into Kaolack and the surrounding areas aren't roads. They are giant sink holes surrounded by thin strips of asphalt.

Fatick was our first stop and felt just a hop and a skip away from Thies since I passed out in the back of the car. In Fatick we met a volunteer and I watched, Talla (one of the SED teachers) give a formation on pricing. It was very interesting to watch him. He's actually quiet charismatic, this could also be because I found it almost impossible to look away from his awesome fedora, and really engaged the women in the lesson. I served as honorary paper taper-uper, which is an incredibly important job if I may say so myself. I also took pictures, which will be up at a later date. The portion of the formation that I actually enjoyed the most was Talla's description of Peace Corps. He really emphasized the fact that we are here for an exchange of knowledge, not cash. He talked about PC philosophy for a couple of minutes, which I thought was really good and cool. The formation in Fatick went well and the women had a lot of good questions. They were also all there when we arrived aka we were actually late as were they so it all cancelled out.

Next up, the drive to Kaolack, which was terrible. The scenery was pretty awesome since we drove over some salt flats and while there are less baobab trees than there are around Thies, there are a lot of Neem trees and other shrubbery. I just wish there was big game to look at too. Entering Kaolack was like entering a major city after the apocalypse. I remembered how overwhelmed I was the first time we walked around Thies. Thies now looks like paradise. I used to think that Thies had a ton of trash all over it. Haha. Kaolack is literally a dump. There is trash everywhere and while Thies has tree lines boulevards, Kaolack has trash... Granted I haven't really been able to explore the city. There are also huge salt plants and ships that export the salt to other countries. We ate a quick lunch in Kaolack (I had a chwarma with actual pita instead of a baguette!) and then made our way to Keur Madiabel, which is a small village outside of Kaolack.

We had to take a bush road to get there because the main road is being "paved." Supposedly this has been a multiple year process and about 5k of the 40 has been completed. Keur Madiabel looks like a lot of other small villages that I went to with Diof for formations, but dirtier. We arrived at 3pm, which was, unfortunately, the same time the volunteer had told the women the formation started at. 2 women arrived at 3:20 and women kept trickling in until 4:20, but we eventually had a full house and I think the formation went well, but not as good as the first one because the majority of these women were illiterate. One of the women could only write in Arabic, which I thought was pretty cool and we talked a little bit. Her husband is Arab, but she wouldn't tell me where he was from.

Riding back into Kaolack, the Peace Corps car dropped me off at the regional house where I could not open the door in another brilliant show of my burgeoning ineptitude so I left my bags with the guard and navigated my way in the darkening twilight (don't worry mom, I'm still alive) to meet a few volunteers for dinner and drinks. After being harassed in a clando (taxi where multiple people share) and paying a ridiculous fee to have the cab driver drop me off at the restaurant I arrived in one piece mildly terrified, but alive and ready for a beer. Hey, every day is an adventure here.

This is day 1 of my tournee and I'm already in awe of what other volunteers live with and I haven't been to a remote site. I could not do what they do. They are amazing. I'm definitely excited to see more, but that's knowing that I get to go back to the safety and comforts of Thies. My family is right when they say Thies is the best place in Senegal. I'm definitely starting to appreciate my site more and more after the initial disappointment of staying in the same place.

Tomorrow is going to be a long, long day. We are visiting a boy in my stage, doing a formation at a second year's site, and spending the night in a third town. Sleeping in the back of the Land Rover sounds like a good plan.


  1. Questions: Please describe a "bush" road. How is it different from others.
    Why do you think the woman wouldn't tell you where her husband was from. Could you understand her Arab dialect?
    I am still deciding whether a beer is worth risking your safety....who did you meet and what was the bar like Kaolack Senegal.I need context!

  2. Hello to Alyssa (and her parents),
    My daughter will be in a French speaking, sub-Saharan, African country next fall if everything keeps going well in her Peace Corps application process.

    I just wanted to write to say that your blog has been enlightening to read. I love how candid you are about things and it has actually helped me feel better about what the experience could entail.

    Sharyl - I would be interested in your parental perspective on things. Our first reaction was absolute fear for our daughter's safety but the more we learn about the Peace Corps the better we feel. If you'd like to chat I can be reached on email at I'd like to know some basic logistical things like sending packages, etc.

    Best of luck to you all in your continuing Peace Corps journey!

  3. Woah this is the first time in awhile that I've gotten on and not been terribly behind. This is probably due more to your inability to post while road tripping in the land of no infrastructure than my punctuality.

    And Aunt Sis, I can tell you now that that beer was worth risking life and limb. No more context required.

    Also kudos on you first post for a random stranger... sharing you pain and wisedom to the benefit of future PCV's everywhere

  4. I just went back and read some entries I skipped and now realize how wrong I was when I said you had your first random stranger post.