Wednesday, April 28, 2010


My hatred for the velociraptor of a rooster that my family has is growing stronger every day. One would think that with living at site for over six months now that I would be use to the crowing, but I'm not. It still wakes me up. I can usually sleep through the mosque, unless they're all going off at the same time/ having a drum party, my dad revving the engine of his truck, and the six month old twins in the compound next door. I've even gotten used to the suicidal sheep who I swear tries to kill himself my ramming his head into the metal water trough which then hits the concrete wall. All of these other things are fine, but eh velociraptor rooster is another story. 1. I'm terrified of this thing. It is huge. 2. Do you think I could take out it's voice box without killing it? Regardless, I was woken up at about 5:30am by the rooster which isn't the best way to start the morning.

I made my way to Dioss' after reading the French Wikipedia article on Excel. Last time we were supposed to work on accounting I became exceedingly frustrated when I typed the addition equations into the Excel cells and it didn't compute. Yeah, when using French Excel it helps to know the French commands. Since I was prepared this time, Dioss obviously had other ideas. He's still all about his website and we only have a few more people to visit so Dios, one of his friends who I really like, and I jumped in a cab and went around Thies to three different artists' homes. Some new pictures are up of the art we saw today.

Again, nothing much happened this afternoon. Khady made lunch so it was delicious, but at a time when one couldn't really call it a lunch so much as an early dinner. Deenba and I also made some lemonade so that was pretty cool.

1. Where do people go to have appliances/ cars repaired if they don't go to the technical high school?

There are various repair shops all over just like at home. There is an entire road of car mechanics in Thies, which is surprising since no one takes their cars to be repaired until they have actually died. The high school just has a problem with marketing, they have none, so hopefully with a little publicity we can drum up some business.

2. Is there solar power in Senegal?

Yes, there is solar power in Senegal. Tamar's island actually only has solar power. That being said solar panels are usually donated by NGOs, they aren't super powerful, and the average family definitely does not have them.

Pick-Up Line of the Day:
After attempting to ignore this man approximately my age on my way home he asks if I want to know his name, so I ask him.

Man: My name is Muhammad, like the Prophet. Isn't that impressive?
Me: Blank stare.
Man: Can I have your phone number?
Me: I'm calling my husband now. Sorry. (walk away)

This might only be funny to women who live here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wake UP!

With USB key full of edited pictures in hand I headed out to Dioss' this morning. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Dioss now has a facebook account and he had me take a bunch of pictures of his art so he could put everything up. While he does have a computer, this computer is obviously full of viruses and I had trouble transferring from my USB key because of it. Now I'll have to go somewhere to clean my key because I'm not putting into my computer. Anyway, we transferred all the pictures and started to upload and then the power went out, which meant accounting on Excel was also out of the question. One of his friends also walked in right about when the power went out so I called the morning a wash and headed back home to wait for lunch.

Khady's been cooking lately, which means we're eating good food, but which also means that we eat lunch at 3:30pm. Today everyone was waiting for lunch and watching TV in the living room and everyone fell asleep including me. Khady wasn't to pleased by this and woke us all up by banging a pot as she walked into the room. It scared me to death, but it was funny and pretty much the most exciting part of my day.

Until tomorrow...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Homosexual Rice

Creating low expectations is the key to success for my Peace Corps experience. Therefore, today I really didn't expect the people at the Technical High School to remember that we had a meeting to talk about Junior Achievement. While I had set my expectations low, they decided to do the complete opposite and apparently think I'm the second coming. I thought I was meeting with two teachers, one of whom doesn't shake hands with women and I made the mistake of trying to shake his hand multiple times (embarrassing), to discuss how they thought Junior Achievement fits into their curriculum. What I got was not only a meeting with them, but also the principal of the school who is ALL about Junior Achievement. They are really excited and I'm really terrified.

The teachers and the principal decided that it would be best if I worked with people who had recently graduated, but have yet to find jobs. The vast majority of people who graduate from the technical high school want to be entrepreneurs, but are given no business training. That's supposedly where I come in. To say I'm intimidated would be the understatement of the century. With my limited language skills, even in French, this is going to be an uphill battle.

Luckily, the technical high school allows former students to use the machinery at the school to further their skills and their businesses. The goal of Junior Achievement is to teach business through the hands on experience of creating your own business. I'm adapting this slightly and hoping to take the people who show up to my formation next Monday down the path of creating a freelance business through the school for residents of Thies. The idea is that with marketing (no marketing currently exists) that we can inform people in Thies that they can get their cars, refrigerators, etc fixed at the technical high school for cheap. This idea has several benefits: A. I feel much more comfortable with marketing and strategy and B. I've proven myself to be an arts and crafts all-star here in Senegal.

I'm really, really, really nervous about how this is going to work out. I'm definitely intimidated by the students who are my age and that I wont be able to communicate well enough for them to learn anything/ not waste their time. Next week is just a meet and greet and explanation of Junior Achievement so hopefully I can handle that. I think this would be incredible with the program even quasi works so I'll keep plugging along.

Lunch was awesome. Khady cooked and we had lunch before 4pm which is a miracle unto itself and she made my favorite lunch. Guess what it's called. Homosexual rice. I kid you not. In Wolof, homosexual directly translates to a boy-girl and this dish is called boy-girl rice and it's delicious. Why is it called gay rice? Well, because it's rice which women like, but it's spicy like how men like it. No, it doesn't really make that much sense to me either. We've had this dish a couple of times, but I asked the name for the first time today and when my mom said it I gave her a quizzical look and she thought I didn't understand. I explained that I did, but I thought I had misheard. This made everyone erupt in laughter. It's just so funny when the toubab gets the joke. The other great part about the meal was this delicious sauce Khady made. It was roasted tomatoes with hot pepper and onions and lots of MSG and it was great. It was also unbelievably spicy. No one else could eat and although I was crying throughout lunch it was too good not to eat. My family loved this. They couldn't get enough that I was crying and my nose was running, but that I kept eating. They pronounced me officially Senegalese and my mom shook her boob at me with love. It was a tender moment.

This afternoon, I laid low at home and deep cleaned my room. I got mad props for my efforts. Even Deenba said my skills are improving, which is a big complement because we joke around a lot. It was really hot today, but it's cooling down so I'm going to go help with dinner and watch some TV in preparation to teach Senegalese people marketing!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Here and There

After dinner last night everyone scattered and I found myself the only person on the main floor of the big house. With the mosque having a hopping party next door and no one to distract me, I went to bed at approximately 9:30. Because of this I woke up early this morning to complete quiet. No loud music, no screaming babies in the compound next door, and absolutely no one awake at my house. It was amazing. I reveled in the early morning calm and actually left my house to meet Jackie before I saw anyone come out of the big house. I left at 9am.

Jackie and I had agreed to help Emily and another volunteer create an Earth day mural at a middle school per the request of an English teacher from the high school. Yes, the convoluted nature of the project should have clued us in to potential problems. Jackie and I also made the mistake of arriving on time. We were the first people there and almost an hour later there were only a few Senegalese students around so we left. I felt a moment of guilt for leaving, but we didn't have any materials and the teacher in charge was an hour late and no where in sight.

We ran errands instead and my mom is going to be very proud of me. The door to my room has metal slats that open and close to either let air in or, infrequently, lock shut in order to keep dirt and sand out while I'm away. When it's open as it is most of the time it lets a ton of mosquitoes in. mosquitoes are back in town and last night I got devoured, Tamar style. I say this because Tamar gets 40 bites for every 1 that person who is not Tamar gets. Months ago my mom sent me Velcro so I could create a pouch around the window with some netting. Well, I just go the netting today and set everything up and it's pretty great. My family thought I was crazy attaching Velcro to my door, but I let Ahmed cut the excess netting off and it totally made his day. It also took him 45 minutes and he cut it at a diagonal so the extra netting is now useless, but he was ever so proud of his net cutting skills.

Before I came home, Jackie and I met up with Katherine for lunch and I went to see Talla, the Peace Corps trainer at his house. After reading the Junior Achievement literature this weekend, I had a slight panic attack and called Talla today for guidance. Tall is probably my favorite person in this country and one of my favorite people ever. He has so much energy, is so interested in my projects, patient with my language, and always ready to help. So, I barged in on his Sunday afternoon with his family to talk Junior Achievement and he helped me create some semblance of a plan for my meeting tomorrow with teachers at the technical high school where I'm going to implement the program. Now I just have to pray they are as motivated, understanding, and helpful as Talla.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Congrats Sarah

Recently I feel like I haven't really been taking chances or putting myself our there enough. I've been going to see Dioss and Keur Yaay and avoiding anything that could be incredibly obnoxious or unbelievably tedious since my rough week a while back. That all changed when I met the English teacher at Peace Corps last week and learned about the Arabic club at the big high school in Thies. Today was the first opportunity I had to attend a meeting. I can't describe how intimidating it was to walk into this vast high school populated by perfectly coiffed, stick thin, beautiful Senegalese girls and gawking, annoying, stupid boys. I could feel everyone's eyes on me as I walked through the gates as the only sweaty, confused looking toubab around. I called my contact with the Arabic club and told him I had arrived. Conversation as follows:

Me: Hello I'm at the high school standing next to the giant Baobab tree.
Malik: What color shirt are you wearing I'll come look for you.
Me: I'm the only white person here and I'm near the giant Baobab tree (sigh).

Anyway, Malik is a nice guy as is the teacher leader and my Arabic is beyond rusty it was actually a little embarrassing. All the students are really good and I was struggling. It definitely didn't help that people were going from French, to Wolof, to Arabic and back again. I was also really nervous and the classroom was really loud which made it even harder for me to make out words and understand. But, enough with excuses. I'm going to start studying so I don't look like a total fool again when the club meets on Wednesday.

Another cool thing about the club is that is mostly girls. Granted the executive board is composed of the 4 boys in the club, but all the other members, about 15, are girls. They sing a few songs at the beginning of class and then did a little repetition. I hope everything will come back quickly because they put me on the spot even though I said I just wanted to observe today. Oh well. I definitely want to continue going because I didn't go through four years of hell in college to come out with an Arabic degree only to forget everything, plus it always impresses people here and shows them I'm really not as clueless and useless as they think I am.

I came home to a lunch of hardboiled eggs and salad. Without a doubt the most healthful meal I've had, at home, in months. It was delicious. I also drew trees with Ahmed all afternoon before stumbling upon a brilliant idea if I may say so myself. He had a piece of rope and was playing with it so I showed him how to jump rope. He now loves jumping rope, but jumping rope is very tiring so after an hour of jumping rope I found him passed out in a corner of the kitchen. Excellent, peace and quite. I love rope.

And in a totally unrelated note...

HUGE shout out to my cousin Sarah today for becoming a Bat Mitzvah. I'm sure she did a great job and I was definitely there in spirit and I've definitely been fantasizing about the food pretty much all day long. While Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years hit a lot of my friends pretty hard, I was able to keep the homesickness at bay because it was just another event. Unfortunately, a Bat Mitzvah isn't just another event, it's once in a lifetime and that's when it sucks when I have two massive mosquito bites (one on each butt cheek if you must know) sitting in my bungalow in Africa. So shout out to Sarah again for her accomplishment, congratulations, and I would give the gift of raiding my closet back at home except for the fact that I'm pretty sure she's taller than me now!

And in order not to end this post of a sad note... in the daily what do Khady's eye lashes look like... she has now replaced the falsies that fell off so she is currently sporting two pairs of fake lashes embellished with crystals.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Command Verbs

In an attempt to divert my sisters' attention from my un-braided hair, I promised that I would cook ceebu jenn one day this week. After already postponing earlier this week, I was out of options today and Jeenaba and Deenba were all too excited to watch aka mock me while I attempted to cook to let me off the hook. I assumed that I would be cooking with Deenba since I'm closer to her and she was the instigator, but it ended up being Jeenaba. The two girls are opposites in most ways, maybe the most apparent being that Deenba never stops talking and Jeenaba is a woman of very few words.

Jeenaba has already amassed all of the ingredients for ceebu jenn when I arrive at the kitchen and she immediately puts me to work. The best part about all of this is that both Jeenaba and Deenba are huge control freaks so Jeenaba put everything in bowls for me and then my job was to pour it into the cooking pot. I am an excellent pour-er. I was also allowed to pound things in the mortar and pestle, pick leaves of the stalk to make bissap sauce, and put the stuffing in the fish, which had already been cleaned and the hole for the sauce been cut. Obviously, I was a HUGE help.

The best part of all of this was Jeenaba would hand me things and demand that I "do it." She handed me tomatoes and told me to "do it" so I started cutting them with the nearby knife, she was appalled because she had meant that I squish them into a "sauce" with my hand. How could I have ever messed those instructions up?

At lunch everyone commented on how incredible my ceebu jenn was although I really didn't do anything. I think everyone was happy that I "tried" cooking ceebu jenn and that I now "know" how to cook it.

Also... Khady is still wearing only one eye of false eye lashes...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I Want Biskrem

I've sworn off Dakar for a long while. I'm hoping not to go back until I leave for Ghana, not because I don't love sushi lunches, ocean breezes, and the company of my fellow PCVs, but because if I have to drive into Dakar one more time I may throw myself off the new statue. Riding into Dakar yesterday, I was "enjoying" the back middle seat of my sept-place when the car totally broke down in the middle of the road. After the men pushed it to the side of the road and quizzically looked under the hood, they pronounced it broken and our driver called another car. We were right outside of Jackie's site which is literally 10k from Thies so I thought this was going to be a quick fix so I didn't call her to ask her to bring the essentials for any Senegal catastrophe - water and a big pack of Biskrem, but this was obviously stupid of me. An hour and a half later as I was baking in the almost mid-day sun I thought I saw a mirage, but it was actually the other car coming to get us! Hallelujah!

Three and half hours after I started my adventure I was in Dakar... I live 70k away. At the office I met up with Elizabeth who just returned from a lovely European vaca and we got a delicious sushi lunch. We also went to the bank, bought Jackie a new computer charger, did some office work, and actually acquired Junior Achievement material (!), all before I dragged Elizabeth to Dioss' art exposition.

Earlier this week Dioss gave me the formal invitation to the event and I took notice because it was a real invitation, it was even laminated (Senegalese people love laminating things). Therefore, I was expecting this to be a fairly legitimate event for which I brought make-up all the way from Thies to Dakar. I'm happy I did. I was shocked at how nice, well put together, and well attended this event was. There were about twenty artists represented, with ministers from the government in attendance, and did I mention the unbelievably delicious hors-d'œuvres? I think Elizabeth was pretty happy she came after the appetizers started to be passed around. There were kabobs, spinach pies, delectable miscellaneous things, shrimp, nems, and great desserts. Needless to say Elizabeth and I acted like any proper PCV would and gorged ourselves on the free fare.

I think Dioss was a little overwhelmed by the exposition. I know that he doesn't like Dakar and that he doesn't like speaking to new people or in front of crowds which he definitely had to do since he was interviewed for the national TV station. I'm glad I went although I wasn't really needed. He had his posse with him and I think I may have further overwhelmed him, but I did snap a couple of pictures which are up.

This morning, after eating ice cream and then a salad for dinner (neither of which were necessary after the expo), I left for Thies because I had a meeting concerning the camp we're putting on in the fall this afternoon. Traffic in and out of Dakar is never fun. But, when "construction" has closed a four lane highway into one and one is sitting in the middle of the back seat of a station wagon choking on exhaust fumes, it much like imagine hell to be. Add to this that another PCV's Senegalese counterpart keeps calling me and demanding that I do something for him while I'm telling him that I'm in a car and can't hear him because there's a jackhammer outside my window, made for an exceedingly 3.5 hour trip back to Thies.

I really don't want to be upset with this man, but he sent me over the edge today. Because of all the traffic I barely made it to the meeting on time when I was planning on getting there early to gossip with Jackie (disappointing) and I literally got 15 phone calls during this meeting. I was told that I MUST do this RIGHT NOW even after I explained that I was busy, exhausted, and that this wasn't my problem. After many calls, text messages, and me angrily complaining in English to the disruption of our meeting I finally was strong armed into doing what was asked of me because it may really help Dioss' mom. It was just so infuriating that something had to be done at that exact moment in time when I have to plead, beg, and bribe people to show up at a meeting or do anything that may help them. A little advance notice, aka more than the 10 minutes I was given, would be much appreciated and then I would have been happy to help. It wasn't the other PCV's fault at all and she helped explain things to me in the end, but doing business here in unbelievably frustrating and this incident sent me over the edge.

Immediately after the camp meeting I headed home to Skype with my Aunt's class who put together an AMAZING art supplies drive at Murry Lake Elementary school. The event is still in progress and it's incredible to see how many supplies have already been donated. Dioss and I are really excited about some projects that we have planned for some schools in Thies. To make all of this possible the students at Murry Lake have learned a lot about Senegal and Africa and I've really enjoyed talking to them. Below are the announcements they made to their school to describe the purpose of the drive. HUGE SHOUT OUT to Murry Lake Elementary.

We Need Your Help!

Murray Lake students are collecting art supplies for the children of Senegal, Africa. Why? Because kids in Senegal (even grownups) don’t know how to be creative.
Many of them have never even seen a crayon or colored
pencil! This is a problem because when they have problems there, they don’t know how to think creatively to solve them.

When: April 19 through April 30

Where: Boxes are in the Murray Lake Lobby

Young 5s and Kindergarten: Pencils and sharpeners (hand held)
First Grade: Crayons
Second Grade: Markers
Third Grade: Water color paints
Fourth Grade: Colored pencils
Fifth Grade: Plain white paper

It’s also okay to donate items that other grade levels are collecting.
CASH DONATIONS are also needed to help cover the cost of shipping.

Questions: Contact Mrs. Titche – Third Grade Teacher at


Arts and Crafts in Senegal

Kids in Senegal need arts and crafts to learn to be CREATIVE! Senegal is a poor country in Africa. Do you know what they do for art? They don’t do anything! Most people there, even grownups, have never even seen a crayon or colored pencil!
We draw flowers or robots and then color them in. Mrs. Titche’s class wants to HELP send the children in Senegal markers, crayons, plain white paper, and lots of other art supplies. To HELP kids in Senegal, you can pitch in too!
Mr. Noskey will put this information in morning announcements and Friday’s newsletter. Each grade will get one supply to bring in. Here’s the list:

Young 5s and Kindergarten will bring in pencils
1st grade will bring in crayons
2nd grade will bring in markers
3rd grade will bring in water color paints
4th grade will bring in colored pencils
5th grade will bring in plain white paper
Now, if you want to help Senegal, say, “I do!”

I know that this post if epically long, but one other thing... the moment I walk into my compound everyone pushes me over to the sheep pen to see the twin baby goats that were born this morning at 4am. My mom forced me to go pet said goats and then said what a shame it was that I wasn't able to get up with the rest of the family to watch the birth at 4am! Petting the goats this afternoon was just about as much "animals" as I could handle and I can't imagine anything I would rather not do more than get up at 4am to watch a birth of two more animals that are going to continuously wake me up at 4am since my room is next to the sheep pen. I may be growing a small soft spot for small children, but we are a long way away from liking animals.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Couple of Conversations

Over the past couple of days I've been having some very interesting and very intense conversations. Everything started with Dioss a few days ago when we were talking about the Senegalese/ French educational system and then digressed into a discussion about the West and Africa and race. All of these conversations have been fascinating.

Conversation with Dioss

Fortunately, I feel like I can say pretty much everything with Dioss and he will either give me the time and the latitude to explain myself or realize that I have a fairly limited vocabulary and give me the time to use circumlocution. A fairly boring and ordinary discussion of the French/ Senegalese education system versus the American system started the conversation although he was shocked about how many arts and crafts American students usually do. From this point he asked me why I would ever go back to the US after living in Senegal, which he described as peaceful and calm. I explained that there are many (maybe several) aspects of Senegalese culture which I really enjoy (family meals, eating lots of mangoes, gossiping with my sister, etc), but that Senegal is not the calm oasis for me that it is for him. I told him that every time I walk out the door that people are screaming at me, asking me for money, and hurling racial slurs at me. I think this surprised him a little bit because I've walked around Thies with him and this obviously doesn't happen. When we walk around together I assume other people think that we are husband and wife and that he has a toubab (read sexy) white wife. All this aside, Dioss and I talked about how the he believes the Senegalese are very accepting. While there are ethnic groups they can all coexist.

The hard part about this for Americans to understand is that the ethnic groups in Senegal call each other out. They scream "hey, you pulaar," come here or "you're a Wolof, you eat a lot of rice (ha ha ha)." I've been thinking about this a lot since it's completely unacceptable to call out an Asian person on the streets of the US. I've been trying to come to terms with whether verbally stating someone's ethnicity is different than the non-verbal, socioeconomic, and defacto-discrimination and segregation that exists in the United States today. I know to me, it is very difficult being called different every day all day, but I'm also the majority at home.

Conversation at Peace Corps

I went to Peace Corps today to answer questions during the Islam discussion for the new stage. It was completely unnecessary that I be there, but it was fascinating listening to this discussion about being an outsider, being a non-Muslim in a Muslim country, and being a woman after being here for the better part of 8 months. I now see all the s and nuance with which the Senegalese PC staff speak and how much different life is once a PCV is installed at site.

Conversation at the Post Office

I got a package today from Matt! Yay! Thank you Matt! And had to wait at the post office for forever and a half for the customs guy to show up so I was talking to one of my friends. Our conversation started off very similarly to the one I had with Dioss about why would I ever leave the calm of Senegal. I told him that it's not calm for me and he tried to explain that people just call me racial slurs and toubab because they think I'm French and he went into much greater detail that I had ever heard before. He makes a huge distinction between France and the rest of the West because he believes the French exploited the Senegalese more than anyone else and the sin of selling Africans into slavery is much greater than buying slaves, as the Americans did. He kept coming back around to how Americans and myself, not in a creepy way, are so much different. After 8 months in country I "speak" Wolof while he claims there are generations of French people who don't speak Wolof, live amongst Senegalese, or don't eat ceebu jenn (aka the ultimate sin). He really wanted me to believe that people call me terrible names on the street just because I'm white and therefore they think I'm French and that they wouldn't do this if they knew I'm American like he does. This doesn't make me feel any better.

All of these conversations were just exceedingly interesting. How the Senegalese perceive race is just so different from how American's deal with it and it's really hard for me to wrap my head around the difference and understand it when I feel like I'm being harassed. In this post I'm not making any conclusions, these are merely observations...

Things That Made Me Smile Today:

1. Khady has been wearing fake lashes for the past couple of days with huge rhinestones. When I say fake I mean I have no idea how she actually sees now because the lashes are so long. Today one of the pairs of lashes had fallen off. Therefore, she had one that was normal and one eye that sported huge fake lashes with even bigger fake rhinestones. LOVE.
2. A package from Matt!
3. Thinking I'm going to meet Kether and Emily at the bar and finding the a lot of the new stage sitting there as well.
4. Walking into Khady's room and catching her intently working on the Dora the Explorer puzzle I gave Ahmed a few days ago.
5. Coming home tonight to the smell of burnt weave. Delicious.

Sorry if this is disjointed! And I will be in Dakar tomorrow so no post! Until Thursday!

Monday, April 19, 2010

What's That Noise?

I woke up late this morning because it wasn't very bright outside. When I went outside to go to the bathroom I noted that there were clouds in the sky which was very weird and that it was humid. I thought to myself that these were the weather conditions that foretell rain, but then reminded myself that it's not going to rain for another three months. As I sat in my room eating my breakfast I thought the wind was pounding the leaves in at a very steady pace which sounded like rain, but it couldn't be. Then I heard a cry as Deenba slammed the door to our compound and ran toward the house. I got up to investigate and it actually was raining! It was the weirdest thing. It rained for about 15 minutes. Obviously, this was the talk of the town today because it's not supposed to rain until July. My mom assured me that this was a freak occurrence and that I should not let go of my fear about how hot it's going to be for the next couple of months. She cackled while she said this which made it especially terrifying.

After watching it rain from the porch of my bungalow, I made my way to see Dioss who I haven't seen in a while. He's getting ready for an exposition in Dakar on Wednesday. I'm going to go and be his official photographer. Although I'm not looking forward to going back to Dakar, I am excited to go to this exposition. It looks incredibly professional. There are laminated invitations with pictures of all the artists and one of their pieces.

The other big news in Dioss' life is that he's now online. He got the internet and is SO excited about it. I had to look at his facebook page for quite some time and then I took pictures of a bunch of his art so he can put it on facebook as well. I'm a very good digital picture taker. Put it on my resume. We also discussed setting up some great art workshops for some schools in Thies with all of the art supplies I have coming my way. It's going to be great.

This afternoon I met up with Katherine and Jackie, who were working on our camp project, and Thomas who was eating, obviously. It was a good time and then I came home to no power and fanned some coals which were cooking fish for our dinner for a couple hours.

Good day.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Puzzle Time

Ahmed was not being a very nice little boy today and everyone was yelling and screaming at him. Although I saw the error of his ways, in order to preserve my mental sanity and to stop him from running around the house screaming and crying at the top of his lungs I decided to give him a present. My mom sent me a puzzle a couple of weeks ago and was dying to see what Ahmed thought of a puzzle so I broke it out. First, I had to look up how to say puzzle in French. This was a waste of time since no one in my family knew the word. Regardless, after I showed Ahmed how the pieces fit together and that he should look for similar colors he LOVED it. He was also surprisingly good at figuring out how the pieces fit together. He did the puzzle four times, which took a significant amount of time, until he started annoying everyone again and my mom banished him to his room with a DVD.

Other Ways I Spent My Time Today:
1. Watching Deenba cut okra for my least favorite lunch - don't worry, I made myself eggs because it's the only thing they think I can make. I said I was going to make pasta and they told me I couldn't because I don't cook it long enough.
2. Running away from Jeenaba who was trying to braid my hair
3. Watching Jeenaba give Awa the biggest weave I've ever seen
4. Hiding so I didn't get dragged to another wedding for another person I don't know
5. Sweeping my room


Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Thank You"

I've been craving hard boiled eggs for breakfast for the past couple of days, but the boutique by my house hasn't had any gas tanks for sale and I've been too lazy to walk approximately 3 more blocks to the next boutique. This morning that I all changed. I decided I had to have hard boiled eggs and after I had a very obnoxious interaction with the boutique owner near my house, I ventured further into my quartier to the next boutique. Needless to say I caused quite a stir. A toddler started crying, everyone stared, and people pushed in front of me, but the boutique owner was so incredibly nice. He kept track of where I was in line and made sure I got everything I wanted and finally after I thanked him for helping me, he responded with "thank you." It was so nice. It caught me off guard. Because this boutique owner took the time to be nice he has won my business. I vow to walk three extra blocks to buy soap, gas, eggs, and lets be honest, Biskrem cookies from the boutique owner who takes the time to actually be nice to me and not rip me off.

This afternoon all the women in my family were sitting around about to butcher a chicken and I asked for them to teach me. Since chickens are expensive it is really the only food product that my mom handles - she doesn't want anyone else messing it up. They chopped the head off and let the blood drain and I said that I was going to pluck off the feathers after they poured the scalding water over it and everyone was very excited that I was going to learn how to cook Senegalese food because eventually, down the line, I will be able to find a husband... The boiling water was poured over the chicken and as my first finger was about to touch the chicken my mom yells out that I'm touching it incorrectly. At this point, I have yet to touch the chicken.

I guess how my hand was approaching the chicken was completely unacceptable and I was obviously going to hurt the dead chicken in a bucket so I was asked to stop. I was told that after I watch my mom kill, de-feather, and and butcher 8 more chickens THEN and only then will I be allowed to try. How my mom and my sisters arrived at the number 8 I have no idea, but it appears that not until then will I be ridiculed for not being able to butcher a chicken. It was a pretty funny afternoon. Now I'm waiting to eat said chicken...

Friday, April 16, 2010


Today was a pretty good day. My friends at the post office helped me out a lot, the weather has been absolutely beautiful, and I had chicken dibi for dinner. Bliss.

Emily and I had planned to take Hannah, the refugee (as we like to call them) volunteer from Benin out to the Catholic bar and then to the holy location that is chicken dibi. While Emily and I are a great time just by ourselves, Erin was in Thies for the day, Jackie came, and there is a PCV who completed his service in Niger and is traveling around West Africa for a couple of months. I'm sure it was a good time had by all (girls), the PCV from Niger might have felt slightly out numbered as the only guy, but really when chicken dibi is involved no one can really be too upset. After chicken dibi we went to another restaurant/ bar to talk for a while and as I was walking to the bathroom I heard my name. I whirled around ready to tell off some man who randomly knew my name when I realized it was my sister Khady! I was totally floored we were at the same restaurant and asked her what she was doing at Big Faim. She told me she was picking up 7 sandwiches for her and her friends aka she's super cool. I will admit that I did feel pretty lame since I was wearing an unbelievably stretched out GAP t-shirt and khaki Northface capris (my PCV uniform) while Khady was decked out in Senegalese finery with her make-up (I don't even remember what this is) and hair done to "perfection." The interaction was awkward/ hilarious to say the least. Luckily she was gone after I had gone to the bathroom. She obviously didn't want me to tag along with her and her friends!

I came home fairly late, for me, tonight after being out and going to dinner with everyone to find Jeenaba alone in the living room. I complemented her on new outfit she was wearing and asked her if Khady was home yet. She said no and asked me why I was interested in Khady. I told her that I saw Khady at a restaurant. Jeenaba turns to be and says "great, congratulations," I almost died. It was just so Jeenaba. So dry and witty and quasi mean. It was the perfect end to the night. I really can always count on the women in my family to put me in my place and give me a good laugh.

Until tomorrow...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On the Upswing

Yesterday, since I didn't really get out and do any "work," I was feeling badly about myself so I wrote the monthly report, in French, that I'm supposed to give my Senegalese supervisor, Diof. My train of thought was: this week can't really get any worse so I might as well go see Diof. This philosophy turned out to be completely true. I don't know if it was because I haven't had a great week or because Diof was just really busy and wanted me out of his office and gone, but our interactions were completely pleasant and he didn't ask me to do anything ridiculous, tedious, or just plain obnoxious. It was a win win on my side. I went to see Diof, which I needed to do AND it made me feel good about myself and that I had a big accomplishment. Excellent. It's all about the little things here. Keeping myself happy/ semi-sane.

I rushed home because even though it was a pleasant experience with Diof, it was a long one because people kept coming in and out of his office. There was no need to hurry because Khady was cooking lunch. When Khady or Mami make lunch it's going to be at least 3pm before we eat. While this is annoying, it's also very exciting because, from what I can deduce, they are allowed to buy much better food goods since they are biological children and not just maids. Today we had chicken with salad and eggs; it was unbelievable and well worth the wait. My family has been busting out the awesome food this week and not only did we have chicken for lunch, but we are having chicken for dinner! Yum!

This afternoon, after a disappointing run to the post office, I met up with Emily and a new volunteer who just transferred from Benin. This girl, Hannah, is currently all by herself because everyone else from the new stage is visiting their site for the week. Emily discovered Hannah at the center all alone and we took her out for a drink. Tomorrow we are really going to show her the town... aka chicken dibi.

As I'm waiting for dinner to be ready, I'm going to go draw some trees. Ahmed and I have been drawing a lot today, but the only thing I'm allowed to draw, according to Ahmed, are trees. I have no idea why. And I have no idea who I've become. Where did all this patience for small children come from?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Scrub Down

If I was keeping score this week, the tally would be Senegal: 128472356 Alyssa:0, so I planned to keep today fairly low key in order to keep Senegal's lead from increasingly too substantially. The one thing I will not lose is the Post Office. It's filled with packages and love from home and I had been gone for too long since I was refused stamps last week. Today, it was much less packed and although I had to deal with the same man at the counter I was successful in mailing a couple of letters. Either his guy is really enjoying messing with me or the Thies post office really doesn't not very many stamps because today I was able to explain that I wanted any value of stamps on my post cards. I just wanted to mail them TODAY to the US of A. I ended up paying a slightly higher rate, but the post cards are in the mail and I'm hoping Thies' stamp supply will be replenished soon. I also got another letter from Shirley! Thank you so much!

I really didn't have the stamina to leave the compound this afternoon, I needed to hide behind the walls in a place where at least if I get mocked, which I always do, it's lovingly. Plus, today was cleaning day. Everything came out of the main house as all the girls, even Khady, bleached the entire house down. I attempted to help and they didn't let me so I decided to give my bungalow a scrub down. When I say they wouldn't let me help I really mean that. They don't want me to help. I think it's because it's their work and they're proud of it and it's their job, but I really don't know. It could also be because they think I can't do anything, which is sometimes true... I felt extra bad today though because the big communal lunch wasn't made, but Jeenaba made me eggs. I've told Jeenaba and Deenba not to do that and just tell me and I can make my own food. Neither of them ate lunch and worked literally sun up to sun down scrubbing the house.

Regardless, it felt really good to accomplish a goal that was totally within my control. Although I did get ridiculed for not knowing how to properly scrub chicken poop off my stoop, my mom gave me the nod of approval when I was done. She was especially impressed that I spent over an hour scraping all of the red dirt that had accumulated on my door and window off. While I would like to say everything is sparkling clean now, I can't, but it is a brighter shade of dingy.

I was supposed to have a Skype date with my Aunt Diane and her class, but the power was cut almost the whole day so we couldn't Skype. They did call me to tell me that their entire school is going to do an art supply drive and send it all to me! I'm SO excited. It was a great pick me up and the students are so cute. They have a whole marketing campaign planned out and I'm going to post their announcement as soon as I get it. Dioss is probably going to have a heart attack when I tell him. It will be really cool to go into the schools and have an art day. I'm pumped. I got really emotional on the phone because I can't even imagine what it's going to be like to take all this stuff to the school where Dioss teaches and to do art projects at the camp the Thies sub region is planning this summer. More details on all this later…

I'm helping Deenba make dinner. She's letting me wash lettuce, which is a huge step up from her letting me do nothing! Wish me luck on not messing it up!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tap That

Sleep crept over me last night in the quasi quiet of a blackout, I wish that the morning was as peaceful. Starting at approximate 6:44am incessant drumming emanated from a nearby compound. As I silently (or not so silently) swore to myself in my room, wishing for the constant drumming to stop or for me to no longer be bothered by the drumming I heard my mom up and around the courtyard. This is highly unusual. I usually don't see her until lunch or right before lunch which is around 2pm. I commented on the drumming and she rolled her eyes and said something to the affect of "Yes, congratulations, she's a virgin!" I almost had a heart attack and the obvious question just spilled out of my mouth. Apparently the reason why there was loud music all day yesterday was that there was a wedding down the street. Last night, the wedding night, the bride was found to be a virgin. And to celebrate this fact, the family, as tradition dictates, starting beating drums the morning after the marriage was consummated and the bride was found to be a virgin. While this provided me with a hilarious interaction with my mom, I do wish they would have discovered the bride's sexual status at a slightly later hour.

The morning really went downhill from there. I went to Keur Yaay only to discover that the school that the English class girls attend is still on vacation aka the students are striking so they don't have to go to school. So, instead of helping out with the English class I had an incredibly awkward conversation with the owner, Boya, about how she wants all of my friends and family in the States to start sending stuff for the children who come to Keur Yaay. It was really disappointing being asked point blank for goods and money. It was really disappointing to be asked for things like that after I thought I was forming friendships.

The afternoon didn't really make matters any better. I've been spending a significant amount of time at the Thies Art Museum because of Dioss and when the curator called me this morning to see if I could meet with him this afternoon to discuss work opportunities at the museum I was pumped. After I waited an hour for him to arrive to our meeting, I was enraged to discover that I was there under false pretenses and that he wanted me to type up a Visa application for him. And this isn't the credit card Visa, which I would have only been too happy to discuss, this was a Visa to the US. After he had me look at a specific portion of the application without reading the instructions and then berated me and the US for not being clear and concise like the Senegalese?, Tamar miraculously called and I pretended it was urgent and I had to leave.

Fortunately, I was going to meet Emily to catch up and a Gazelle has never tasted so good. Right now, I'm taking it one minute at a time and waiting for dinner, which is chicken, to be served and from there I will be hoping that tomorrow is a better day full of people getting married who aren't virgins.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bad Boyz

Caught red handed is what happened to Dioss this morning. I went over to his gallery to talk about the exposition he had in Dakar this weekend and to check over his progress on his record keeping. While he was going inside to get his papers I overheard him tell his friend that I was going to mad at him and I totally called him out on it. He claimed that he didn't think I would be able to understand his Wolof if he said it quietly. Don't underestimate my mad Wolof skills. Anyway, he hadn't written anything down since the last time I saw him, which did upset me because if he wants to take his business to the next level like he claims he does then he has to have some system of record keeping. To mollify me Dioss and one of his friends who went with him to Dakar starting listing all their expenses for the weekend. I've mentioned before that a lot of Senegalese people have absolutely unbelievable memories and Dioss and his friend completely impressed me with what they remembered. It definitely seemed like everything and even if it wasn't, it was really close to everything. While this did make me happy, I did not withhold my displeasure and since I'm going with him to Dakar the next time it wont happen again.

Dioss' wasn't all that interesting today since we didn't do much and no one was working on any art, but I am getting to know one of Dioss' friends who is probably in at least his mid-60s, but it's impossible to tell people's ages here. This man is incredibly interesting and always asks me American history questions. He's obsessed with Abraham Lincoln and was naming off all the Union Civil War generals today. Past conversations have been about American architects and I have to admit he knows a lot more than the subject than I do!

We had eggs and salad for lunch. Perfection.

This afternoon I wanted to get some work done and since Khady and practically everyone else in my family is gone I knew that if I stayed at home Ahmed would not leave me alone so I went to a restaurant in town. I did some really good work until a big group of Senegalese men in their 20s and 30s came in and started making a ton of news. I definitely wasn't pleased and the manager of the restaurant came over and said that if I wanted to be "undisturbed" I could move to the back of the restaurant. I did so because I wanted to finish my work, but I was annoyed. All annoyance would melt away when I realized what was happening...

Let me set the scene. I was at a restaurant called Les Delices which is baby pink with green accents and has a poster of Breakfast at Tiffany's. They also sell amazing pastries. After a few minutes of peace in the back of the restaurant, music starts blaring so loudly that it startles me and I look up to see set lights, huge speakers, and cameras. Suddenly one of the guys stands up and starts rapping. I was beside myself. This guy is hard core rapping next to a table where I was just eating a puff pastry in front of a Breakfast at Tiffany's poster while the rest of his posse sits around at the various tables checking their cellphones. It was all too much for me to handle and after several minutes of staring with my mouth open and trying not to laugh I got up, paid, left, and immediately called Tamar because the story was just too good to keep to myself. Sometimes Senegal just makes me smile.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jackie's Birthday

Everyone converged on Dakar this weekend to celebrate the momentous occasion of Jackie's birth and have to say that th occasion did not disappoint. After taking care of some business at the office and indulging in a delicious sushi lunch on Friday afternoon we got to the work of toasting Jackie's birthday Friday night. First off was triva night at te American club whih is really fun although I have to admit that our team put up an embarassing perforance. Definitely not my best trivia apperance, but I had a couple of drinks, a chiken wrap, and it was with good company so I really can't complain about it too much. After trivia the party moved downtown to a bar and then on to a third year PCV's apartment; it was a really fun night.

Most of the time, a fun night does not translate into a fun day after which was definitely the case in this situation. Luckily, my personal goal for Saturday was watching movies, sleeping, and making fajitas all of which came to fruition so I would call the day a great success. We made really, really good fajitas which came together at the last second when Katherine magically found tortillas at a random grocery store. We were missing chips and guac, but we had salsa and jalapeños so it was ok.

This morning I got up with Katherine and Jackie and we headed back to Thies for a meeting about the girls camp we're putting on with a bunch of other Dakar region volunteers. The meeting was shockingly successful and we came up with a bunch of good and exciting ideas.

Back at home Ahmed has yet to leave me alone since no one has played with him in the past couple of days. The good news is the weather has been absolutely beautiful so we sat outside playing with some cards and then I snuck into my room to decompress from the weekend and clean up a little bit. Now I'm waiting for my usual Sunday dinner of millet, milk, and sugar.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Unwanted Attention

Ironically, the big thing on my schedule today was going to Peace Corps to talk about Unwanted Attention with the new stage. Obviously I'm an expert on the subject. The Health/ Environmental Education stage has much different sites that my SED/ Ag stage so I don't really know how helpful I was during the discussion. I've never really lived in a village since my home stay during PST was actually a town of 50k people and the vast majority of the Health/ EE PCVs go to relatively small and rural sites. I think the biggest site in the new stage is 1/6 the size of Thies so most people will know everyone in their village and wont have some of the types of harassment that I face in Thies. That being said, I don't think I could have handled the vil for 2 years. The other PCV that led the discussion with me did live in a small village so she was probably more informative than me, but it's always interesting to hear how people think they're going to handle a situation before they are pushed out into the real world to fend for themselves.

In the afternoon Dioss called me to ask if I could go to the art museum to take some pictures for artists in the association who were holding an exposition. He couldn't attend because he's setting up an exposition in Dakar, but I went and met one of his friends that hangs out at the gallery a lot. After the museum curator told me I couldn't take pictures and my attempts to request if Dioss' friend was indeed there, I was butchering his name apparently, we finally got everything straightened out and I got the pictures we needed. The pictures are up, but Dioss' friend who was writing everything down accidentally kept the piece of paper so there are no names or titles.

Other than these two events I've been laying pretty low. I've definitely been in a funk and instead of making something happen I've been waiting for some type of catalyst that's obviously never going to come. I'm going to Dakar tomorrow to celebrate Jackie's birthday so I'm hoping getting out of Thies will clear my head and I can come back rejuvenated and ready to work and really get some projects up and running.

Happy early birthday to Cj, Ben, and Jackie!!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Today was one of those days. I woke up in not so great of a mood and the days events didn't really help the situation. The first little episode was my fault. A few days ago my flip flops broke and instead of just wearing another pair of flip flops or buying a new pair, I decided to "fix" the broken pair with a crappy piece of wire I found on the ground. Why did I do this? I have no idea. Anyway, I set out for the post office, I had written a letter and intended to mail it to give myself a sense of accomplishment for the morning, and half way up my street my sandal broke again and I had to walk back home shoe in hand to get another pair. This made several peoples' day along the way and Deenba laugh out loud when I came in wearing one shoe.

New shoes on feet, I headed back out to the post office. On my way I ran into a group of small children who I guessed to be around 3 or 4 years old, not one of them looked older or was physically bigger than Ahmed. I greeted the little kids and was walking past them when one of the boys lets out this angry scream and I turn around to see that he’s brandishing a knife. This is not a joke. I really wasn’t scared in this situation for two reasons: 1. After living here for several months I know that there really isn’t a single sharp knife in this country and 2. The kid was three, if he was 10 it may have been a different story, but I thought I could probably take a three year old. I stopped and apologized for scaring him and told him my name and said that we could be friends. To this, he responded by running at me screaming with the knife stuck out in his hand. I pretty much just walked away from the situation since there were no adults around to complain to, but it was fairly unnerving, annoying, and just so so so frustrating. It’s very difficult to be the bad guy all the time.

Finally, I make it to the post office. Unfortunately, the letters and the packages are in two separate buildings so my friends from packages can’t really help me when I’m buying stamps and mailing letters. The letter side of the post office is miserable. It’s crowded, there’s no order, and I buy stamps in bulk so I don’t have to deal with it very often. This morning the chaos was in full force. All I wanted to do was send my letter. After having a very lengthy conversation with the guy behind the desk about how many stamps I wanted, where I was sending the letter, why I wanted so many stamps when I only had one letter, and then a whole diatribe how I couldn’t have the 550 CFA stamps I requested because there isn’t a 550 CFA although I had explicitly requested ten 500 CFA stamps and ten 50 CFA stamps he leaves me at the desk for several minutes, goes into a back room, and comes out to inform me that there are no stamps. I want to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, but I have a feeling there were just no stamps for toubabs speaking in Frolof. Luckily, I had a letter from Shirley! Thank you Shirley! So the trip wasn’t a total waste, but I do have to go back at some point and get more stamps.

The afternoon was a little bit of a pick-me-up because I went to the center to hear the new stage’s site announcements. It’s really exciting to see where everyone’s going even if my region is only getting two new volunteers. I’ve also been able to lay really low at home because Khady took Ahmed to Dakar and Mami went back to Mbour where she trains most of the time at a basketball academy.

Tomorrow is another day and I hope it is a much, much, much better day.

Update: As I was attempting to write this our power went out, it looks like we’re back on a daily schedule of blackouts, and my day was salvaged. My mom was in the most hilarious mood and she started telling all the women who were sitting around cooking that all the neighborhood women came over to our house today to tell my mom that I was walking with only one shoe. Oh, she loved it and thought it was the most hilarious thing. She then went on a long tangent about how they MUST braid my hair – this is not happening. And then we ate in dinner in pieces as it was ready because my mom was starving. It goes to show that your interactions with people during your service totally make and break everything.

…and Happy Birthday Aunt Diane.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Eat, Eat, Eat, Sleep

I'm really, really full and exhausted right now and I had a really nice day. This morning I took Tamar and her mom to Dioss' gallery. Needless to say Dioss' business is booming because of all the Peace Corps parents and friends I'm bringing through. I feel like everyone feels at home when they go to Dioss' house and he's always so nice and informative about his art. He also made a big point of writing the receipt and promising that he was going to transfer the purchase information into his Excel spreadsheet so we'll see if he can keep that promise.

Tamar, Anat, and I met up for lunch with Jackie in town which was great and while they took a walk from the center through the market I did some work at the restaurant where we had lunch and waited for the group to return for dinner. It really is amazing how we plan our lives around food here. Anyway, Tamar, Anat, and I went to the infamous chicken dibi for a delicious dinner. Mohammad, my personal chicken dibi chef was there so a good time was had by all. Saying goodbye after dinner is hard. It's always so nice to see someone from home, even when I'm meeting someone for the first time, so it's really hard to say goodbye.

Back at my house we didn't have any power when I came home so everyone immediately yelled at me to go get the lantern flashlight Shirley gave me. We haven't lost power on a consistent basis since I've been back from IST so I hope this was just a fluke and we're not going to be powerless every night again. Also, Mami is back in Thies for at least a little while. I also haven't seen her since I started IST, but she is back in full force which means sleeping in late, not getting lunch ready until at least 3pm, and causing general havoc around the house. Mami and big Ahmed tend to fight a lot which is fairly entertaining because Ahmed is straight laced and Mami is just plain hilarious.

Now that I'm sufficiently full of delicious dibi I will be drifting to sleep to Deenba and her boyfriend listening to the traditional lullaby "Boots With the Fur," on their cellphones.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Yesterday wasn't the greatest day and the partying continued long into the night as the mosques blared music, which kept the goats and roosters awake and my host siblings came banging through the gate at all hours of the night and then banged the bathroom door open and closed which is right next to my room. I sound like an old bitter woman! Regardless, I lounged in bed for a long time this morning dreading getting up and walking around since today is still a national holiday and I knew lots of kids would be out and about to harass me, which was true.

The long walk to Dioss', while annoying, wasn't too hot since the past couple of days have been really pleasant since there's been a nice, cool breeze and it was totally worth it. While most people were glued to the TV yesterday watching the parade, wrestling, and bad movies Dioss was apparently hard at work because he had a really cool new painting to unveil to me this morning commemorating Senegal's 50 years of independence. We also started Excel this morning, which wasn't much of a success because Dioss really hasn't been writing things down even though he promised me he would. Therefore, I told a few white lies and I'm hoping things will be much better documented now.

What was a success was going to visit another artist with Dioss this morning. I got to meet a photographer that is part of the association and who has some amazing photographs. The photographer is an older gentleman and has amazing historical photographs documenting the presidency of President Senghor as well as really cool fashion pictures detailing the evolution of the weave here in Senegal, obviously these were among my favorites. The pictures are up on my blog.

This afternoon, after Mami finally got lunch ready at about 3:45, I had some very special visitors because Tamar and her mom came to visit! Yay! Tamar had been on my Senegalese mom's black list because she didn't come to visit during IST, which was my fault, but Tamar bringing her mom to our house absolved all past transgressions and my family was thrilled. Everyone loves Tamar since she is the first volunteer that came to our house and has been my most frequent visitor. So, Tamar's mom got to meet almost everyone in my family, see my room, visit the managerie of animals currently roaming around the courtyard, we probably have close to 20 chickens right now, and take some pictures of the bungalow. We spent a lovely afternoon in my courtyard, in the shade, on the benches, coloring with Ahmed and talking. It was great, but what was even better is what was coming.

We went to Massa Massa for dinner and it was amazing as usual. We started to a bottle of wine on the roof and moved inside for some delicious salad and lasagna. It definitely wasn't a bad way to end the night!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Senegal at 50

Today is Senegalese Independence day and it turned out to be a pretty big event... at least on television. For the past week stadium style seating has been going up along the main road in Thies for what I assumed would be a parade today. I asked my family this morning if anyone was going to go, the answer was no, but they said that I could go by myself. No thank you. I did watch the parade in Dakar on TV and it was what you expect a parade to be. There was lots of marching, dancing, and delegations from other West African countries and France, and even some floats. I watched a LOT of TV today and the parade was just the beginning. We also watched some traditional Senegalese wrestling which featured a special guest at "halftime"... AKON! Yes, Akon is here so get excited. He didn't sign or perform, but he did do some commentating on the wrestling match and cruised around the stadium in his huge SUV. Fortunately, my family didn't ask if I know Akon which was a relief. To round out my TV viewing pleasure I just excused myself from a feature length Senegalese film, in Frolof, about wrestling with a love story wrapped up in it. I actually kind of enjoyed watching the movie since the actors were speaking in Wolof,but there were French subtitles.

As with most holidays here, the highlight is definitely the food and since today is a big deal Khady was forced to cook and she's a good cook. We killed two chickens so there was a lot for everyone and there were fries, lettuce, and onion sauce in the bowl. It was delicious.

The second highlight was the little Easter egg hunt that I did for Ahmed after lunch. My mom and grandma sent me ridiculous amounts of Easter candy, including eggs, so I attempted to explain the tradition to Ahmed which resulted in me giving up, handing him a bag, and telling him I hid candy around the courtyard and he had to find it. Needless to say he thought this was a great game and I'm assuming he's going to ask me to play it quite often now. My family did freak out when I busted out the Lindt chocolate bunnies because they had seen a commercial on TV for something very similar.

Now I'm exhausted and waiting around to see what happens. I find holidays fairly exhausting and frustrating here. Deenba and her boyfriend wanted me to go to a party with them tonight at his house, but now he's here and they keep acting like they're going to leave and then don't, but then they disappear. The problem is that I never know if people are just being nice to me and don't really want me to come or they want me to come to be the party novelty. I can't say that I particularly enjoy holidays it's just very awkward for me because no one ever gives a straight answer and I don't know what to do and I don't really enjoy going to homes I don't know where people are astounded that I speak Wolof and test me and then tell me I can't speak Wolof. I think alternating between hiding out with my door open and lights and laying on the couch watching the Frolof movie is probably the answer for what's going to happen for the rest of the night.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ah Sugar

Jackie came into Thies today which was a good treat. We did the usual rounds of toubab grocery store, bank, and lunch out at a restaurant. The only thing we were missing from our repertoire was paying our internet bills! It seemed like I hadn't seen Jackie in forever since I went to Rome and being back at site. It's weird how time can fly and crawl at the same time here...

When I came back home no one was around so I took that as a sign that I should go into my room and relax in peace. Suddenly my aunt comes pounding at my door with Ahmed and tells me that there's been a crisis and she's really upset. I ask what's going on and she says that I'm the only person home now, I have to stay with Ahmed, and that she's going to the hospital because big Ahmed has had some type of crisis. Since I have no idea what kind of crisis is occurring and she just keeps repeating that there's a crisis I'm fairly concerned. Ahmed is also fairly upset and wont tell me what's going on. What to do in this situation? Bust out the crayons.

Finally Deenba comes appears and tells me that Ahmed has had a diabetic crisis. I still don't really know what this means, but apparently he is OK now. My mom and Ahmed came back a little while later. Ahmed was walking and seemed OK, but my mom was obviously drained. I've been wondering how no one in my family has diabetes. They eat an unbelievable amount of sugar. My family has picked up on the fact that I can't handle sugar like they can so they always give me my juice or my millet/ yogurt combination before they sweeten it with a kilo or two of sugar. How did my mom unwind after the trip to the hospital? With three cups of tea... and she yelled at Deenba because it wasn't sweet enough.

Tonight's activities will include hiding from Khady because she's trying to make me go to what sounds like a block party with an exorbitant cover charge with her, waiting for dinner, and trying to figure out what tomorrow's Independence Day/ Easter festivities will be. We are having Moroccan couscous and chicken for dinner so whatever I'm in for can't really be that bad.

Ps. Happy Birthday Grandma!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Feed Me

I had high expectations for today. I was excited to go back to Keur Yaay and see everyone since it’s been a while and I was even going to force myself to see gold old Diof. Neither of these things happened, obviously. With Good Friday today and Easter and Senegalese Independence Day on Sunday nothing much is going to be happening for the next couple of days.

At Keur Yaay I did meet the two Belgian college students who are staying there for two months to work with pre-schoolers, I didn’t really understand what they’re doing although they seem nice, and the maid who I love and who is really cool and smart. Surprisingly the English teacher also showed although none of the students did. I assumed this was going to happen since the second I opened my door this morning Ahmed flew in to play since he didn’t have school. Regardless, it was relaxing going to Keur Yaay and catching up with the few people who were there. I was really upset I told Deenba that I would be back for lunch since Keur Yaay’s maid was making chicken!

After my visit, I swung by my office to see Diof, but the office was closed and then I ran over to Peace Corps to drop off the mail that I received in my box.
The rest of my day was pretty tame. I played a matching game with Ahmed and we did a lot of coloring. We did have a coloring breakthrough though. He drew people for the first time today. Before, he was too afraid that he would mess up or he just didn’t know how to draw a person so he just scribbled all over or “mixed” as he calls it. I hope that all the crayons and markers and such laying around will spark his creativity.

Three interesting things to do with food:

1. Last night my mom wasn’t around for dinner and I just assumed she was tired or sick and up in her room. It turns out she had a night out on the town with her friends! I had never heard my family talk about going out to restaurants, but apparently at least my mom does because she told me she went out. Additionally, she brought a big cookies back for Ahmed and lamely enough I know the restaurants in town so well I could tell where she went for dinner based on the pastry. The restaurant is Les Delices, which I personally think is the best, in case you were wondering.
2. I sat in the kitchen for a long time with Deenba today and watched her cook and kept her company. I always assumed that when I discretely buy vegetables and devour them in my room that I was doing a better job cleaning them than my family. False. She uses three different bleach bathes on lettuce. I was impressed and also worried about how much bleach I consume each time I have lettuce.
3. It is currently 10:10 and I still haven’t eaten dinner and I’m hungry and I told Deenba and my mom I wasn’t hungry and was just going to bed and they had a panic attack and told me that was unacceptable, but made no move toward completely dinner…

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Packages and Pictures

I was supposed to have a very successful paperwork morning. I was even planning on going to a restaurant and treating myself to a nice breakfast as I worked. I can't really be upset about not getting my work done because when I went to the post office to pick up my one package that I was just going to stuff in my bag it turned out to be THREE!

So, I haven't gotten multiple packages on the same day from my mom in a while, spacing them out is preferable, but today she struck twice. It's really a package/ post office miracle because one of the packages was sent on March 26th! Only 5 days ago. I don't even think I've gotten a letter in under a week. Obviously, the packages were filled with goodies... for Ahmed. Just kidding, I got some delicious treats as well, but I did receive some excellent coloring books, a book for tracing letters and numbers (we've already done A and B and he loves it!), two Cat in the Hat books in French, and a puzzle. We are definitely going to be busy. It's probably a good thing I have a lot to do with him because he's going to be bouncing off the walls on Sunday due to extreme amounts of Easter candy. Thanks mom and dad!

Shout out to MA! Ma, you sent your package over a week before my mom sent her first one and they all arrived on the same day. Go figure. Your package was AWESOME. I'm definitely going to plan an Easter egg hunt for Ahmed and a couple of his little friends on Sunday with the eggs you sent and he's going to love the coloring book, he really likes animals. I'm also going to enjoy the jelly beans... by myself as I hide in my room because I don't want to share! All the magazines are also much appreciated. I was spoiled in Rome because Matt brought me a ton which I read too quickly and now I don't have anymore. Thank you so much! It was a great package!

Instead of getting all my work done I waited around at the post office for the customs guy talking to my post office friends who were excited to see me after such a long time and talking to an American missonary who is translating the Bible into Wolof. Since my plan to go to the restaurant was foiled by the fact I can't carry three packages, I took a cab home and sat with Jeenaba and Deenba as they made ceebu jenn for lunch.

This afternoon I realized I double booked myself so I ran to Dioss' right after lunch even though the sun was blazing hot today and my family thought I was crazy. While I did drink 1.5 liters of water on my way to Dioss' the walk was actually really nice because no one else was crazy enough to be outside then. My plan with Dioss was to start Excel and take some pictures and when I walked in he said that I was going to be mad at him... all the young boys that hang out at his house had been playing video games on the computer, the power went out, and now the computer didn't have a battery. I feigned irritation, but it worked for me since I had to get back home, and we went to take pictures of some artists around town for the website.

Going to the artists' houses was fascinating. Dioss and the other members of his family are definitely the most successful just by looking at their homes and I really enjoyed seeing what more homes look like in Thies. Lets just say I have a pretty nice set up. I have posted the pictures of the different artists on my blog under WAIST and Onwards. Only Doyen is not a member of Dioss' family, but over the next couple of weeks I'm going to be visiting upwards of 20 artists which should be really cool.

The reason I had to get home quickly was because I had a Skype date with my Aunt Diane's class! I always enjoy talking to her class and today we had a really good discussion about art and creativity here in Africa. This conversation was especially interesting to me because of an experience I had with Ahmed yesterday. Yesterday Ahmed was so excited to see me when he got home and to show me a little Easter basket he had colored at the private Catholic school he attends. He was brimming with pride over how he was the only person in the class who knew how to use colored pencils and that because he practices coloring at home with me his drawing was the best. He just couldn't contain himself and he was so proud of his drawing which was really cool. So, I talked with Diane's class about how most children here don't have the opportunity or the guidance to express themselves creatively here. We may just have come up with a little plan to change this...stayed tuned.

Now I'm at home waiting for my fried fish and salad of a dinner watching Ahmed and one of his friends color. Don't worry, I have something amazing to do while I watch them. I'm looking at the Saks spring catalog, god bless my mother.