Friday, January 1, 2010

Holiday Roundup

Happy 2010!

Here, in no particular order, if a Top 10 list of my recent shananigans. I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I need updates on all of your activities as well so you better get on that!

1. Bonne Annee, Bonne Annee, Bonne Annee Africa
New Years Eve in St. Louis was fantastic. We had a great time. We started the night off with a huge BBQ at our campement. There were a bunch of people from our stage and the boys were awesome grill masters. Shrimp and beef kabobs, fish fillets, bread and cheese, and lots of peanuts were all on the menu and everything was fantastic. I didn't even bat an eye when there were no utensils and I reached into the bowl of fish and just broke off a big chunk for myself with thumb and forefinger. It was delicious.

Our first stop of the night was a local bar which was featuring some live music. Traditional Senegalese drumming created a very memorable New Year. We sang and danced with the crowd, but appeared to be the only people really into counting down the final seconds of 2009.

A dance club followed which was also really fun.

2. Lighthouse in Dakar
The lighthouse is Dakar is beautiful. We made a trip out to the lighthouse and walked up to the top, which was totally worth it. The views were amazing and the lighthouse has a very pretty garden. There was also a nice breeze which gave our lungs a good cleaning out since we had to walk several blocks next to burning trash.

3. A Real Jewish Christmas
Christmas night a big group of us went to the Chinese restaurant in Dakar. I've been there before and it was excellent then and it didn't disappoint this time either. Our delicious lo mein and garlicy green beans were complemented by a group of Chinese kids around my age drunkenly screaming to karaoke and lighting huge illegal fireworks in the parking lot. It was a very enjoyable evening and I'm also craving Asian here so having some Chinese was awesome!

4. Death in a Taxi
After our trip to Goree Island, the historic slave island off the coast of Dakar, we stopped by an incredibly seedy port bar for a drink, then moved to our favorite happy hour spot, and then to a little place called Caesars where you can get fried chicken! It was an epic night which ended with my life flashing before my eyes in the cab ride home. I was sitting in the front seat and we were all talking and laughing about our night when I realized that our cab was being flanked by two other cars... on a two lane road. I immediately let out a little scream, our cab driver was already white knuckle gripping the steering wheel, and the car became silent. Obviously we lived, but there were literally centimeters between the three cars. My biggest fear in this country is that I will die in an automobile accident. I have confidence in most of the drivers, they seem to know what's up, but there are an abnormal amount of crazy risk takers and people who want to drive three cars abreast on a two lane highway.

5. Decotech
Decotech is a huge fabric store in Dakar that we stopped by to see if they had American flag fabric that we want for a costume. While I was slight disappointed with the store, no Obama or American Flag fabric - I know they exist and I'm still on the hunt, it was really nice to go shopping in a store. It actually blew my mind a little bit that there were employees to help you instead of stall owners in a market trying to force you to buy something. There really isn't good shopping in Dakar, but throughout our trip I enjoyed popping into stores and just looking at merchandising. I'm trying to think up some unique business opportunities for Dioss and his artwork and I think I have a few good ideas!

6. Cooking at the Regional House
My friends and I cooked a lot in Dakar which was great. It is so nice to have a meal whose main ingredient is not oil. Katherine made some excellent de-constructed lasagna and then we also made Mexican fiesta thanks to Aunt Diane & Family and some pumpkin bread courtesy of my mom. I also brought a few extra surprises like jalapeño cheese, which I would never eat in the States, but which we all inhaled in about 2 minutes along with the rest of our Mexican fiesta. All the other people staying at the regional house were impressed and jealous with our cooking efforts and I satisfied some American food cravings which was great. And Yummy!

7. St. Louis
St. Louis is a French colonial beach town up north where we spent New Years. St. Louis itself is an island and we actually stayed on the mainland in a very nice campement. I was really surprised at how nice it was. We had a nice bed and a shower with hot water and a toilet with toilet paper. I don't have to tell you how awesome this was. I honestly thought there would be more to do in St. Louis than there was. If we had been up north longer it definitely would have been worth it to take a day trip to some of the nature preserves, but that's a little expensive and we didn't have time. It was fun to walk around St. Louis and look at the French architecture and it was nice to see buildings pained in colors other than beige. The beaches are beautiful as well and all of the pirogues, brightly colored fishing boats, are cool to look at... even if the fishing village doesn't smell so great. The best part of St. Louis was getting to see a lot of people from my stage I hadn't seen since PST ended and relaxing... well, going for New Years Eve wasn't too bad either.

8. Camels!
We saw a herd of camels running along the road on our way from Dakar to St. Louis. We were really excited with the animal siting. I actually woke Jackie up so she could see them! Sorry!

9. French Cultural Center
We went to the French Cultural Center in Dakar for lunch on Katherine's birthday. We had heard that they have the best burgers in the country and the place did not disappoint. The restaurant is outdoors and has what an American would think of a cool, breezy, and safari-esque African setting. Very, very classy to our standards. They have gourmet burgers and real salads and waiters who almost understand hospitality! It was a great lunch for Katherine's birthday and if you come visit me I will take you there and you can pick up the tab!

10. Surviving the Week
I have now weathered the first holiday season of my service and I'm feeling good. I'm definitely proud of myself for being upbeat throughout the whole trip and having a really good time. It was great to have fun with my friends and I did need a break from site, but I'm happy to be back at site with my family and with my own space.

Happy New Year! I can't believe it's 2010. On to the next set of challenges.

And new pictures are up so check those out too!


  1. Whew! What a week. What I see is that you and your "sistas" have formed a community! You are a fantastic group of young women. It is clear that you have set yourselves up for an amazing 2010. With all the changes of 2009 I'm glad to see you maintained the Jewish traditionof Chinese food on Christmas! Carry on!

  2. What a great post!! Thanks for tending to my with-drawal. I too appreciate the Jewish Christmas. Who'd have thought Chinese for Chirstmas in the middle (well, side) of Africa. Far-ra-la-la-la.

    Nice photos!

  3. Hello Alyssa, its Kissi, so glad to hear about you! My daughter Taylor is very fascinated with this blog and your adventures! It is hard to explain to her the cultural differences that you are experiencing. We are thinking about you, and we hope to follow you through your fascinating adventure!

    BEST WISHES for a memorable 2010!!!

    Kissi and Taylor

  4. Hello Alyssa,
    I am a former Senegal PCV (79-80) and am returning with a friend for a visit in March. It sounds like you may be posted near Thies. If so, would it be possible to visit your village? If yes, just send me an e-mail at with an indication of where you are.
    Carmen Peters

  5. So I am a blog ameteur and am not sure if I am writing in the right place or if you are ever going to see this (I hope you do), but today / tomorrow is your bday (I also suck at time zones...), and I wanted to wish you a happy bday!!!!

    I still can't believe that you are over there - you are my hero!!!!

    Anyway, I hope your bday is amazing, and I can't wait to catch up whenver it is you are back!!