Monday, May 31, 2010

Locked Out?

Very simple things were all I wanted this morning. I needed matches (because instead of buying their own my family uses mine), soap, phone credit, eggs for breakfast, and a new gas tank because mine was out. All of these things should be found at any boutique. 45 minutes later I had soap, eggs, and matches and then I had to wait for someone to open the door to the main house so I could sneak in and use their gas since I couldn't find a boutique that had any. That nice boutique I found a while back? Yeah, I don't like them anymore. I walked all the way there and the guy let half the quartier cut in front of me and then joined in the laughter as all of the kids, teenagers, and adults mocked my Wolof accent. My only solace that I scared the crap out of a toddler whose mom cut in front of me in line. Karma.

Today was also supposed to be the day of my lockout experiment. I told my Junior Achievement students last week that if they were more than 15 minutes late today that they would be locked out and couldn't attend class. I arrived 15 minutes early to make sure I was there on time and to get everything ready. As usual the room was still locked when I got there so I went on a search for the key. One would think that a school would have a master set of keys; this is apparently not the case at the Lycee Technique. Each professor who uses the room has a key for it, but there's no one who's generally in charge and can open all of the doors. Efficient. Why did my experiment fail you ask? Well, it took me 45 minutes to fins someone with a key to open the door, which allowed of my students to be their requisite 30 minutes late.

Otherwise, my Junior Achievement class went well. It was the final class before Talla and a few other professors come and judge the students' ideas. Today's subject was marketing and I struggled to convey the importance of market research while everyone just wanted to create marketing material and ads with the colored pencils I brought. I don't think that I adequately explained target market or anything else non-creative, but hopefully they took something away with them today. What they have not taken away is the fact that when they complete this Junior Achievement course I'm not going to give them a bag of unmarked bills nor will I go to the mayor's office for them and register their businesses alone, they don't want to come with me.

Back at home, I ran around the house with Ahmed - literally. He loves running in a circle around our house and courtyard. I taught him 1,2,3 go which he loves because it gives him greater opportunity to cheat!

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Shoes seemed to be the theme of the day. I was walking around today when a little girl started screaming toubab, toubab, toubab! It sounded like she was really excited to see me and she was sitting with her family and they were all smiling and I came up to her to shake her hand... and then she threw her shoe at me. I really don't think it was malicious because she didn't sound mean and I've never seen Senegalese parents act the way this mom did. The little girl was probably close to two and the mom swept her up and gave her a huge spanking. I appreciated that the mom took action, but I would have rather she sat the little girl and explained to her that toubabs aren't bad people. Oh well, I guess I have to take what I can get.

Ahmed is also having big problems at home with shoes. For some reason he hates his shoes - flip flops are obviously very constricting - and refuses to wear them much to the chagrin of my mom and Khady. They are constantly yelling at him to find and put on his shoes. Today Ahmed's creativity with the whole situation peaked. When they told him to put on his shoes he put them on every place except his feet. He wore them on his ears, tucked into his pants, and for most of the day on his hands. I only noticed this when I heard a strange tapping on the door and opened it to find Ahmed pawing at the door with flipflop clad hands.

Also, Mami probably has 50 pairs of shoes that she displays around the perimeter of her room.

Friday, May 28, 2010

White, White Walls

Dioss and I had planned to meet today so I went over to his place this morning and entered chaos. Next weekend several artists are putting expositions on at their galleries and Dioss is participating in the festivities. When we first started talking about creating a website and how to display the art I had mentioned that most art galleries in the US display their art on stark white walls. I thought this advice fell on deaf ears since he didn't paint a wall to photograph the art against and I've been cropping all of the pictures I've taken so they are just the artwork. Today when I walked into the gallery, Dioss had all of the boys/ men that live with him re-painting the inside of the gallery a stark, bright white. Dioss was a little disappointed that I showed up in the morning instead of the afternoon since I think he wanted to surprise me, but it felt good that he took my advice and it was amazing how much nicer the gallery looked even unfinished and with stuff laying all over.

The rest of my day I laid pretty low because I think (and hope) that I got really dehydrated yesterday because I've felt fairly terrible all day. I really don't want to get sick again. Gatorade has been my best friend today and I'm going to try and get to sleep early. It's starting to get hot again and I've forgotten how much water I need to drink. It's work to drink as much as I need to and my body and mind aren't trained to drink water constantly anymore. Hopefully I'll be fine in the morning.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mashed Potatoes

Today for lunch we had Daxin, which I feel fairly safe in saying is a volunteer favorite. It was definitely a favorite of mine during training. It is also "poor people" food according to my hilariously elitist family. Daxin is mashed up peanuts mixed with rice, some mystery protein (beans if you're lucky, fish is you're not, or meat) and potentiality a vegetable. During training it was the best meal we had so when I came to my house in Thies I proclaimed my love for Daxin - terrible decision. Daxin for not "poor people" means Daxin with a standing pool of oil on top. No joke. The amount of oil a family can use is a sign of wealth and my family really poured it on today. Just looking at the pool of oil on top of lunch made me want to run away and as I forced down the bites my family lamented the fact that I don't like Daxin, I only like ceebu jenn. I attempted to explain that we don't use a lot of oil (or at least like this) in the US, but that was a no go and they just told me that I'm a rich American therefore I use a TON of oil in my cooking as well. I left the bowl as soon as possible and fled the house in case my mom tried to make Jeenaba or Deenba made me eggs.

Upon my return, all of the women were sitting on a bench in the courtyard and on my porch. I sat next to Deenba who was making "mashed potatoes." I've been thinking about making mashed potatoes for my family since it should be something they should like although I'm sure that they wouldn't because they hate everything I make. She told me that she was making mashed potatoes before I actually saw what she was doing so I started to say how much I like mashed potatoes - you would really think I would learn. Mashed potatoes to my family means potatoes pureed (Deenba literally mashed the potatoes into a puree for over an hour) with condensed milk, butter, and pepper. While my mom was making up the dinner plate, I noticed that all of the potatoes went on to my plate that I share with my dad and big Ahmed. I protested saying that Deenba worked so hard. This was in vain because my mom stood over me like a hawk, since she thought I didn't eat enough lunch, to make sure that I ate the potatoes as I tried to take as small of bites as possible so other people could enjoy the delicacy/ I would immediately die of a heart attack due to the fat/ calorie content of the mashed potatoes. My dad liked the plate clean of potatoes and my heart broke for Deenba who watched from the kitchen.

Questions and Answers:

Kaitlyn and Lindsay asked: There are a lot of goats in Senegal; are they just used for meat or is there delicious goat cheese?
- There are a lot of goats, but unfortunately, dairy isn't a big thing here because there's a lack of refrigerator. My family is in the minority owning a fridge. Most dairy that's eaten here is in the form of an unpasteurized yogurt that is sweetened with sugar and potentially condensed milk. It's what I have every Sunday night for dinner. I don't like it very much, but that's mostly because of the sugar/ sweetness than the unpasteurized component of it. Cheese is difficult to find here. I can buy cheese in the Toubab grocery stores in Thies and you can definitely get it in Dakar and other major cities, but not out in the villages, again lack of refrigeration. However, as I've mentioned before my friend Jackie lives near a town which has a Catholic monestary and they make GOAT CHEESE. And it's beyond delicious. The last time I was at Jackie's site I almost made myself ill by goat cheese intake. I can also order a salad that has goat cheese on it at the nicest restaurant in Thies, but that's only on special occasions because it's expensive.

Are cabs expensive?
- Cabs differ depending on where you are. In Dakar, cabs make me suicidal because the first price they quote is a "Toubab" price that sends me through the roof and I usually have to barter, beg, and the concede to paying a ridiculous price. In Thies, within the main area of the city there is a flat rate which is really nice because then I don't have to barter/ lose my mind. I don't take cabs very often in Thies because I don't want people to think that I have a lot of money (even though they already do) and because I eat pounds of greasy rice every day so I need to walk my ass off (literally). I usually only take cabs when I'm picking up packages from the post office, going to the lycee technique (because it's outside of Thies and really far away from my house), or I'm feeling unusually lazy and it's really hot.


All of these people rocked my world today.
- Thank you Mom & Dad for the package!
- Thank you Shirley for the card!
- Thank you Matt for the amazing letter!
- Massive, GIGANTIC, SHOUT OUT to Lindsay! Thank you so much for the package. I can't believe it got here in only 6 days! It totally made my day and was even more amazing because it was unexpected! All of the treats and everything else you sent were just what I needed and were really a pick me up! I can't thank you enough. You rock.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

She's Back...

She's back!!! On Sunday, the infamous Mami Gaye returned and I haven't remembered to mention that's she's back which is fairly ridiculous since she dominates the house when she's home. You will probably remember Mami as my host sister who has the Jolly Green Giant outfit and who is the basketball player. What amazes me about Mami is her incredible resolve to do absolutely nothing while she's home. In the past few days I've become highly knowledge about Whitney Houston and Tina Turner music videos from the 80s and 90s, watched Curious George cartoons in French, and marveled at Mami's badassiness as she lays on the floor of our living room topless with her bottom half wrapped in a towel sporting her new lip piercing. Mami also changes the whole dynamic of the house because she's fairly antagonistic toward everyone, she really knows how to get under both Ahmeds' skin, and she refuses to do anything, but will watch all of the other girls do house chores. She's probably my Senegalese female hero as she's 26, unmarried, and is pursuing her passion (basketball)... I also enjoy all of the drama she causes.

Random Events:

- I walk back into our compound after doing to Dioss' dripping with sweat and Khady tells me that I shouldn't walk as much as I do because it's bad for my health. She cites my recent cold as evidence that walking is bad for me. She failed to see the potential cause and effect situation of my entire family being sick the week before I was sick and then me getting sick because we all eat out of a communal bowl. Regardless, she made me promise that I would take taxis everywhere I go so that I wont get sick again. I think the weekend I was sick drove her insane because no one was playing with Ahmed.

- There is a "commuter" train that runs between Thies and Dakar every morning and afternoon. Trains are usually a pretty big deal at home with lots of warning signs that people usually respect... that's not the case here. As I stand on the side of the road waiting for the train, which is maybe 10 cars, to pass a massive truck decides that it's a good idea to gun it up the small incline and over the tracks so it doesn't have to wait for the train. The truck obviously stalled on the tracks and the train had to stop for it. Priceless.

- One of the construction workers busted a hole through the tile floor of my compound today, much to my mom's anger, and I learned that the tile is literally floating over the sand. The hole is getting progressively larger as Ahmed refuses to stop jumping around the hole's perimeter.

- Shout outs to Shirley and Sarah for both sending me letters! Thank you!

Monday, May 24, 2010


Junior Achievement went pretty well again this morning or at least it went well after it started. Today was a holiday so most everything was closed and classes weren't held at schools, but all of my students told me last week that they didn't care about the holiday and that we should hold class. If they wanted to have class that was fine with me so I was prepared this morning at 9am. Apparently everyone was willing to come to class as long as they could arrive 45 minutes late and then complain about having class on a holiday. Today was a day where I was completely unwilling to be messed with and was willing to let everyone know that I was not happy. As I waited the 30 minutes until the first student arrived I had an internal struggle with myself about whether or not I should leave. At fifteen minutes I remembered the Michigan rule that if you're prof is 15 minutes late you can leave class, at twenty minutes I was getting angry, at 25 minutes I resolved to leave at thirty minutes, and at thirty minutes the first student arrived and chastised me about holding class on a holiday.

Forty-five minutes after class was supposed to begin I stood before the class and declared that next week I'm starting class at 9am and I'm locking the door at 9:10. My mini-tirade included if you want to be serious business people then timeliness is important and there's no way that I or anyone else for that matter would wait that long for someone or something in the US. I tried to convey that being on time is a sign of respect and all that jazz, but I really just wanted to vent and to show them that I'm pissed. Quite frankly I do have better things to do than wait around in a super hot classroom with no ventilation.

Regardless, we worked on feasibility studies today. Each group had to create a very simple feasibility study that addressed seven key issues when starting a business: knowledge, economics, legal, resources, culture, environment, and operations. I try to speak as little as possible at JA meetings so to avoid sounding incompetent and in an effort to foster discussion and for the students to realize things on their own. Today the discussion was fierce as everyone pointed out everyone else's errors or things they had overlooked. The most interesting part of today was the fact that whenever I thought a group had a great idea the rest of the room attacked it.

One group's idea is to start a construction business by first starting a hardware and then developing this into a full-service construction service. I think this is a pretty good idea/ start to raise capital it was eviscerated a few weeks ago. Today, this same group proposed starting their business in a new quartier, on that is just starting to have a lot of houses and businesses go up. Their idea in their feasibility study (after researching whether or not there are other such businesses in the area) was to ingratiate themselves to the community by having a slogan about starting the quartier, neighborhood, together from the ground up. I thought this idea was genius. Everyone else thought it was crap. I would be interested to see if an idea like that would work here since I think it would work in the US.

The rest of the day I dealt with awkward food situations. I came home from JA exhausted to find Jeenaba and Deenba pounding okra. This was not a good sign - soupakanga for lunch. The only thing that I can not choke down. So disappointing. I immediately tell them that I'm going to make myself lunch, which is met with quizzical looks since I'm obviously incompetent and can't make myself something for lunch. 1:30 roles around and I'm just bringing my gas outside to make something when Jeenaba appears with eggs and salad she made me. I know that my mom forced her to do this because everyone knows that I hate soupakanga, but I feel so badly making extra work for Jeenaba or Deenba. They already have enough to do. The eggs were delicious, but I could have just as easily made them (and they would have been less oily). To make matters worse she made me a mountain of eggs so I had to take the leftovers into the house where everyone else was eating soupakanga and my mom told me to bring it to her so everyone could eat some of my egg leftovers.

Eggs for lunch, which is great, was followed by an equally great and awkward dinner. We had chicken (obviously amazing), but my dad and big Ahmed ate approximately two bites and left the table. This would normally be a situation of extreme joy as I could eat all the salad and the white meat of the chicken and then leave without anyone telling me to eat more, but the rest of my family was sitting on the floor eating dinner as well. So, I then had to think about how much to leave and what I should eat and what I shouldn't eat and everyone kept glancing at me. I ate all the salad because I knew no one was going to eat that anyway, took another bite of chicken, and then got up from the table to take the platter to the floor where everyone else was eating. Leftovers are awkward.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Belly Laugh

Good humor has been elusive the past couple of days so I headed out to a restaurant this afternoon in order to pretend to get it away from it all and to indulge in my new favorite discovery - an incredibly delicious milkshake. I was sitting in the back of the restaurant when some hilarious gestures caught my attention. A group of four Chinese men were trying to communicate their order to their Senegalese waitress. They all had English menus and were trying to tell her their orders in English, which wasn't working for two reasons. 1. The waitress doesn't speak English and was even trying to match up what they were pointing to on the English menu with the French menu and 2. the men's accents were so thick and their English so poor that I could barely understand them.

After allowing everyone involved to struggle for a little while, I went over and helped translate. No thanks were offered, but what happened next was more than I could ever imagine. I barely noticed when Whitney Houston's greatest hits went on repeat, as that is the usual soundtrack at this restaurant, but I did notice when four Chinese men starting singing along with Whitney as though they were alone in the shower and not in a restaurant in Thies, Senegal. The entire situation was just too priceless and it reminded me that as long as I leave my room every day something absolutely ridiculous will happen to make me laugh and smile.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Art Atelier

Today was the day Dioss and I finally had the art atelier at Darou Salam middle school here in Thies. I went over to Dioss' house right after lunch to do some last minute planning and logistics before we went to the school together. I also asked him a couple of questions and filmed them since I'm trying to create a short video for the kids at Murry Lake Elementary back at home.

Dioss wanted to start out just with the colored pencils to see if the students who came to the workshop had any skills and to not overwhelm them/ ourselves with all of the supplies and create more chaos than was inevitable. When we arrived at the school we were the only people there which wasn't a good sign. The principal showed up half an hour late and then we were still missing the teacher in charge of extra-curricular activities. I don't think I've elaborated on this before, but attendance/ sign-up sheets are of the utmost importance here. Last Monday I almost had a revolt on my hands at Junior Achievement because I forgot to send a sign-up sheet around and none of the students in attendance wanted someone who wasn't there to get credit from me, who has no power, go figure. Anyway, without the teacher who is in charge of extra-curriculars we were missing the all important sign-up sheet of students who had, in advance, said that wanted to participate in the art workshop. While there wasn't a sheet, there were students who wanted to do some art projects so Dioss and I convinced the principal to let us proceed with the kids who were waiting. We only started 45 minutes late which I thought was pretty good.

Dioss opened up the atelier with an explanation of the project with Murray Lake and explained that he would be giving a couple of workshops in different mediums for those students who were interested. Dioss wanted this first atelier to be very relaxed because he wanted to gauge what type of art experience and level the students were at so he pretty much let them start drawing from the beginning and he went around helping them and answering questions. I was shocked by the level of artist ability. I was definitely the worst artist there and therefore you will not be seeing a picture of my drawing since that would be embarrassing.

It was obvious that only students who had an interest in art and had practiced on their own signed up for the atelier. I had never seen children drawing and it was such a novelty with Ahmed that I was surprised at how talented and focused some of these kids were with their art. Two boys in particular caught my attention. One boy drew amazing anime pictures that were incredibly detailed and beautiful. The other boy was very interested in using words in his art and was extremely expressive and sad. They both told me that they want to grow up to be artists and Dioss invited them to his gallery to look around since they both expressed an interest in painting.

Overall the atelier was great. We had about twenty kids, only three girls, and I think everyone was really happy and excited. All of the kids were shocked when I told them that they got to take their drawings home with them and I think they found art class with the toubab highly entertaining.

THANKS MURRY LAKE ELEMENTARY! All of the supplies are great.

New pictures from today are up. A quick disclaimer: While none of the students are smiling this does not mean they aren't happy. Senegalese people just don't smile in pictures.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


With dread in my heart I asked why all the women in my family were sitting around sorting food in the main house. I was terrified that we were prepping for a party and a Senegalese party is something I really can't handle right now. The reason for all of the food was shocking in it's efficiency and simplicity. There have been massive fights going on recently about going to the market and cooking. Deenba has cooked five days in a row and she's not happy about it and she lets everyone know about it. I can't say that I blame her; going to the market, cooking on a gas stove in 90 degree plus weather, and then doing all of those dishes out in the baking sun is not pleasant. Unfortunately, Deenba is low man on the totem poll so she has to do a lot of the grunt work around the house.

The idea that just might revolutionize Deenba's life and the main topic of fights at my house is as simple as using a neglected resource. We have multiple refrigerators at my house that all store cold water and cold water only. Someone came up with the brilliant idea that food could also be stored in the refrigerator so someone doesn't have to go to the market everyday. Jeenaba explained this idea to me like she was the first person who ever had it, but I played along and told her that it is indeed an excellent idea and a real time saver. I wont go so far as to say that this change could help Khady have lunch ready before 4pm, but hopefully Jeenaba and Deenba will be less exhausted every day and they'll have a little more free time away from the house and the kitchen.

The other big event of the day involved me. Last week my aunt came over and told me that she was going to make me two dresses... she then demanded money so she could make me two dresses. I told her that I wanted dresses just like the ones she showed me in similar fabric and colors. What I got was not that. I think Senegalese women are gorgeous and regal and statuesque when they wear their brightly colored and voluminous clothing. I think I look like a clown and a poser. It's a very difficult line to walk. My family loves when I wear Senegalese clothes and were in love with the two dresses they forced me to try on and then parade around the house for them. I don't know if they were being nice and telling me I looked good and inwardly laughing to themselves or if they really appreciated my effort. For me, I will wear Senegalese clothes on holidays and around the house to make my family happy, but I can not go to work in Senegalese clothes. If I can't take myself seriously, then who can?

Other than that, I sweat a lot today. It's getting hot and everything is starting to slow down. No one wants me to do anything in the afternoon because "the sun is hot." I assure them that the sun is hot every day in Senegal and life must go on. I leave, they watch Marina.

Tomorrow is the art atelier with Dioss. Get excited!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Heat is On

The switch that I have been dreading has been switched. Yesterday it was fairly oppressively hot and I thought to myself that there was a possibility that the unseasonably cool temperatures we've been having we gone for good. Try as I did to deny this fact yesterday, today it is apparent that the hot season has arrived in the Thies region. It arrived every place else several weeks if not months ago so I can't be too upset that the heat is finally on in Thies, but I do hate it when I wear pants and it looks like I peed my pants after I stand up because of sweat. Don't make a face; everyone's been there.

I finally took the time this morning to clean my cesspool of a room. For about the past week workers have been fixing the roof of the main house, but using my porch as a staging area for all of their supplies including huge cement bags which have laid down a thick layer of dust. Add all that to me being gross and sick and my room was not a nice place. It took me a couple of hours to clean everything up because cement dust is really hard to sweep up!

Unfortunately that was the most exciting part of my day. The power was out all day again so I helped with the cooking and played with Ahmed and hung out while trying not to sweat too much.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Not Created Equal

There was an intense goat fight outside my house this morning. I was all ready to ride my bike to Dioss' when I opened the compound door to find 7 goats having an all out war. I was too afraid to go outside so I watched for about 20 minutes while all the goats gained up on one poor goat who was obviously the odd man out. After the mean goat pack chased the one away I proceeded to Dioss'. We discussed the art class we're doing on Friday and an exposition that I'm taking some of his cards to at the end of the month. I have to make a promotional brochure and a poster for the event so I wanted to make sure that he liked the pictures and formatting I chose and he had to give me his resume. Or, he had to write his resume since he hadn't updated it since 2002 and I assured him that a more recent synopsis of his work would be better. I actually spent most of the day working on the brochure and the poster from Les Delices because my house didn't have power all day. Literally from 7am until 5pm so I spent the afternoon with a salad and Kether at Les Delices. Good times.

I did eat lunch at home and that's why I had a salad at the restaurant. One of the boys who periodically lives at my house apparently has a wife since she's been here the past couple of days. I never knew about her. Regardless, she cooked lunch today and I was able to answer the question: Is my family's ceebu jenn better because they use better ingredients or because they're better cooks? Let me tell you it's not all the ingredients because Jeenaba bought everything and then this other woman made lunch and it was just plain bad. Not all ceeb is created equal and I now really admire Jeenaba and Deenba even more than I used to. I chocked down as much of the bad ceeb as I could/ as little as was polite and excused myself. The best part? My mom didn't even pester me to eat more! She knew it was bad too! Classic.

My night was spent watching old Tom & Jerry cartoons with Ahmed. He absolutely loves them and kept breaking down in tears because no one would watch with him. Khady gave me and apple for my troubles and the cartoons are in English so it wasn't too bad. I just don't want to become a professional babysitter. Although, I could then potentially share words of wisdom like Ahmed is crying uncontrollably because he's 4 years old, it's 10pm, he hasn't taken a nap, and no one has put him to bed. It's a melt down every night.

It's now time to put myself to bed.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Today was my second, solo Junior Achievement meeting and it went pretty well again which is exciting. Working with a school is incredibly eye opening. The challenges that students face just going to class are incredible. I arrived at the technical school about twenty minutes in advance because I knew that I had to ask the supply room supervisor for paper and thought that could take a few minutes and I definitely wanted to be prepared and ready when 9am rolled around. Well, I may have been there, but no one who knew anything about the supply room was and the room where we have the class was locked. I tried asking several maintenance and cleaning people who looked at me incredulously since I was some random toubab walking around asking for things. At 9:10 the first students actually showed up, by 9:20 one of the boys had tracked down someone who could open the room, and by 9:45 we started since 17 people were there. Most of the students showed up by 10:30 (for a meeting that ended at 11), but I had to do the entire class without paper. I won’t make that mistake again. I’ll definitely bring paper and a marker. I was impressed that I had 29 students (once they all showed up) today and last week I had 37. I can't be too terrible or boring, so that's a plus.

Today all of the groups presented their ideas for new businesses and we critiqued each other. It is very interesting to see how the group interacts. At first it's very slow going, but once I prod a few people or pose questions myself things really get rolling and then it's like I'm in a normal Senegalese meeting and everyone wants to talk (even if they do say the same exact thing). Some of the business ideas were innovative. The group that specializes in construction had the idea to open a hardware supply store to help raise capital for their construction business and therefore be multi-purpose. I thought that was a good idea since full service doesn't really exist here so it was interesting to see most of the other students attack the idea for being completely unsustainable and just a fairly crazy idea. Another group also had a full/ multi-service business idea and what I think happened was students are worried that if multi-service businesses open their specialized business will be obsolete. There is a lot of redundancies in Senegal, so this makes sense, everyone wants to protect themselves, their skill-set - their livelihood.

We also worked on SWOT analysis, which is a matrix type tool used to evaluate a businesses internal and external strengths and weaknesses. I was actually surprised at how well the students understood SWOT so I'm excited to try more strategy tools. Next week, we are going to meet for three hours, their idea not mine, and work on feasibility studies.

This afternoon I met my friend Kether for ice cream and to catch up and when I came home I pretty much hung out with the fam in the dark since our power's been out almost all day. I also worked with Ziabata, one of my host brothers, on English for his job. Once I prompt him he remembers a surprising amount of English for school and he says that he hasn't studied English since 1994!

We had chicken for dinner. Heaven.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Massa Massa

I'm finally feeling better and actually ventured out of my room and into the real world. I had a very good excuse though... Jackie and Katherine were in town and we went to Massa Massa! It's so delicious every time. The lasagna and Greek salad split never disappoints! Getting out of the house was a bit of a hassle because my mom really, really, really didn't want me to go. Yesterday, I poked my head out of the my room to say that I didn't want to eat and I looked absolutely horrible and everyone kept telling me to stay in my room and rest, which I did... and watched a ridiculous amount of movies.

When I came home from lunch, Ahmed latched onto me and wouldn't let go. My two days of sickness may have been worse for him than for me since he lost his main playmate and access to all the wonderful toys in my room. He got a new ball and all he wants to do is have me throw it so he can do soccer headers. Over and over and over again. We played with the ball for what seemed like an eternity until I was able to distract him with a book about elephants that held his attention for a couple of minutes.

Other than that I've been trying to lay low and fully recover from my cold especially since I have Junior Achievement in the morning!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hit By A Bus

I woke up this morning feeling like I had just spent several hours on Senegalese public transport and then just as I was making my escape the vehicle came back and ran me over. I have a really bad head cold and spent the vast majority of the day lounging (and sweating) in my bed and watching movies. When I finally ventured out of my room this morning to see what was going on my mom caught me, told me I looked like crap, my face was redder than usual, and then after mauling my face pronounced that I had a fever. She sent me back to my room and then guarded the door against Ahmed, both of which were much appreciated. What was not appreciated was the fact that she still force fed me ceeb, which was probably the last thing I wanted to eat.

Steps I've Taken To Feel Better:
1. Lounging in my bed
2. Watching "The Young Victoria"
3. Attempting not to eat Senegalese food
4. Making myself some really good pasta (Shirley, the spices you sent are a god send)
5. Generally being a waste of life

So, a pretty exciting day...

I'm hoping to make a full recovery by tomorrow so I can run to the post office and do some other errands that I was supposed to do today.

Also, the new volunteers swore-in today in Dakar! Congratulations!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!

While I knew that today is the momentous occasion of my mom's birth, what I did not know is that today is Assumption day and that everything is closed in Senegal on Assumption day. My Senegalese mom inquired why I was even going out today and told me that no one else was working, but she neglected to tell me that literally everything was going to be closed. So the post office and the other errands that I had planned to run today were a no go, but none of the kids were in school so I did get harassed all along the way which is always great.

One thing that was open today was the Peace Corps training center, although the main office was not. I got a phone call telling me that my "package" had arrived in Thies. While I was on the phone, I didn't ask about the singular nature of my package and just assumed that it was a miscommunication, but when I got to the center there was only one package. I should have known that the hardest part in getting the packages of art materials from Lowell, Michigan to Thies, Senegal would be the Dakar to Thies leg. I know that four packages arrived in the Peace Corps office in Dakar so I'm not that worried, but I am impressed that only one of the packages made it into the car after I had a long conversation about them all coming to Thies. I will call the office in Dakar tomorrow when it opens and hopefully the rest of the packages will be in Thies by the end of the weekend.

Even the one package completely overwhelmed Dioss when I took it to his house. He has seen me carrying around the flat rate packages that my friends and family have sent and even though I told him that HUGE boxes were coming, I don't think he believed me and he thought that the small boxes were coming. When I showed up at his house in a taxi with a box I couldn't wrap my arms around he was really surprised and really excited when I opened the box to show him all the paper, colored pencils, and markers that were in this box. He immediately started writing down all of his ideas for what he wants to do during the workshops and he was very adament that when the rest of the boxes arrive we sit down together and sort everything so that the schools get a good mix of supplies. I think this project is going to be great!

Dinner is currently nowhere in site and it's all I want because I'm hungry and want to go to bed. I have a really sore throat and want to try and beat it with sleep.

Happy Birthday again mom!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


This morning I went back to Dioss' to start on the infamous website. Before today Dioss thought that a website was going to be easy and we could do it in a few days. His goal for today, when we spoke yesterday, was putting up all of the pictures that we've taken so far. I let him live in his fantasy land because explaining how to make a website while not actually in front of a computer was just too difficult a task for me to tackle. Today, he learned his lesson. I spent about an hour and a half at his house, before some of his friends came over and his attention was diverted, and we accomplished signing up for Google Sites and putting the name of the artists' association on the main page of the website. Honestly, that was my goal for the day. I knew it was going to be slow going and just registering for the website was going to be an accomplishment. I'm also happy that Dioss now understands that this is going to take some time and be quite a bit of work. My favorite part about the whole meeting today was that he kept trying to get me to type in French on his French keyboard: that is something I'm refusing to do.

The rest of my day wasn't super interesting. I hung around the house and ran errands with Deenba for a lot of the afternoon. I also worked a little bit on my Junior Achievement lesson plan for next week.

The one little story from this afternoon involves Ahmed, of course. He got a new ball and we were playing with it in the courtyard when one of his little friends came over. I haven't had too many interactions with this little boy, but all of them have been positive and the three of us played together for a while before I went into my room and the two of them continued playing with the ball. A few minutes later Ahmed waltzes into my room to see what kind of treasure I'll pull out from under my bed for him and brought the friend in too. My aunt recently sent me two little Hot Wheels cars which Ahmed loves, he's especially impressed that he can throw them off of the second story balcony and they wont break, so I got those out and asked the friend if he wanted the red or the yellow car. That's where things went south. He looked at me, his eyes became crazy and huge, and then he just started wailing. Ahmed looked almost as shocked as I did and we both walked the other little boy out to my mom who had to comfort him and tell him that I'm not an evil monster. I even had Ahmed come back into my room to get a piece of gum to give him because when I attempted to leave my room the crying got even louder. It did surprise me that the friend was so scared of me once we were in my room, but I gave a gum peace offering so hopefully I wont be so terrifying in the future.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ladies Man

Big Ahmed is a ladies man. While he may be quite, studious, and ever respectful on me at home when we're alone together, when the ladies are around he can really turn it on and I saw him in action today. This morning, after riding my bike all around town to Dioss' and the post office (shout out to Shirley for another great letter!), I came back home dripping in sweat and not looking too pretty to find Ahmed surrounded by a gaggle of perfectly quaffed and gorgeous group of girls. Usually Ahmed and I had brief interactions. He asks to read my magazines, I inquire about what he studying, we both play with little Ahmed, but today it was different. He sauntered right up to his toubab home stay sister (me) and proceeded to ask me about my morning and what I was up to for the rest of the day and if everything was "nice." It was classic. Although I looked like hell, I chatted with all of his girlfriends to their great amusement and they tested my Wolof. It was funny.

I didn't understand while all of these girls were over until later today as I've never seen Ahmed with a female companion. Apparently, they are having a little graduation (from high school) party at school tomorrow and Ahmed graciously opened up our house as the cooking center. When I again returned home after riding to Peace Corps and back not looking so pretty I was met with the delicious smell of chicken and the laughter (and stench of perfume) of a half a dozen girls. Ahmed, again, was playing ladies man and hovering around them as they cooked and playing with little Ahmed and just being all cute. It was really funny to watch... that is until he put little Ahmed on his back and clotheslined him. And when I say clotheslines him, I actually mean it. He ran Ahmed into our clothesline. When Ahmed started screaming big Ahmed immediately shirked responsibility and everyone looked at me as the only person not doing anything so we went to read "The Cat and The Hat" in my room.

The other big news items of the day:
1. I got a letter from Shirley! Yay!
2. Dioss and I set a date for the art atelier at the second school which is good because...
3. The art supplies arrived in Dakar at the Peace Corps office! Amazing! It only took four business days and Peace Corps is sending all of the boxes in the next car to Thies. I can't believe how well it all worked out!
4. My bike is fixed, but I now remember why I let it be broken for two months: I actually think I get harassed more with the bike even though I can make a speedy get-away.
5. I went to the center to answer questions about PCV life with some other volunteers since the new stage is installing next week! I can't believe it! Obviously we went to the speakeasy afterward!
6. Not only did Ahmed's girlfriends cook chicken, but we're having chicken for dinner too!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Girl Power

Yesterday, the vast majority of my time was spent procrastinating writing a lesson plan for my Junior Achievement meeting today and dreading the pending meeting in general. When I woke up this morning after tossing and turning all night the meeting looked even more formidable. A fight with the taxi driver who wanted to charge me a ridiculous rate and the lycee technique professor's shock when I requested a flip chart or chalkboard be brought into the room weren't good omens either. I became even more panicked when the two professors who were supposed to help me told me that they weren't going to sit in on the meeting and left. With that, I was left with 36 high school students, at least the number dropped from 47, in a room with no writing utensils, but from there things took a surprising upswing.

At first I did have trouble controlling the class. I wanted to open with introductions. I introduced myself and then asked everyone to say their name, their specialty at the lycee technique, what they wanted to learn from Junior Achievement, and what their favorite Senegalese dish is. Most of the students were not listening to each other and talking which made it very difficult to hear the students introducing themselves, but when I called out one boy for making up a dish, in Wolof no less, I think a lot of people took notice that I wasn't going to take any sh*t. The most interesting part of the introductions were the answers about Junior Achievement. Every single person said they wanted to learn how to make money. I could have predicted this answer. The higher pursuit of knowledge isn't a big draw here.

My first question was "is there a specific business need in Thies." This was greeted with blank stares. Creativity not being a big thing here, someone ventured a guess of car repair shop. There are only 29387498725 auto shops on my street alone, but another student did jump on this fact and the discussion started rolling from their. The students did understand there there needs to be differentiation for your business to survive and prosper, but they had no idea how to make that happen. After a few minutes of this discuss an especially cocky boy told everyone that he had opened his own "froid" shop, which means refrigerators, air conditioning, and other things along that vein, but he wasn't getting any business because he doesn't think there's any demand in Thies.

Fortunately, he let me use his business as an example and from there the discussion really took off. The first aspect of a business we discussed was the name of the business, which no one thought was important. His business was some word in Diallo, which is one of the ethnic groups here, and which only about 1/3 of the class actually knew. The owner didn't think the name was important even after so few people actually knew what it meant so I proposed an example. There's a restaurant here called Les Delices or Delicious and I said that I was going to opened a restaurant called Disgusting. Everyone laughed, but everyone also got my point and we brainstormed some more creative names for an air conditioning store like Anti-Heat or The Cooling Station. It was fascinating how intense the discussion became and how little marketing knowledge is out there. Some people were really catching on while others were skeptical that any business strategies could actually affect their bottom line.

We then discussed how we could differentiate generally available services since all of the students already have their certificates and a set of skills from the lycee technique. One girl, who is obviously whip smart, posed the idea of working together and opening a store that offers multiple services. She was then absolutely attacked by the majority of other students. Profit sharing was absolutely unthinkable even if the risks would also be shared. While almost everything is shared here: food, beds, homes etc. the thought of collaborating on a business was abhorrent. With their distaste of working together fresh in my mind I split them up into groups to start their own businesses.

Since we don't have a lot of time until summer recess and the book provided by JA for the high school program is slightly ridiculous, I started to make my own lesson plan with the idea of making JA a competition and pitting the different specialties against each other. No one was very enthused by the idea of working together, except maybe the one brave girl who originally had the idea, but my promise of a prize at the end and an actual judging panel of "experts" swayed popular opinion.

The groups' tasks for today were to come up with a creative business idea, a good name, and an interesting write-up they could put on a flyer as a marketing tool. One interesting observation was which groups were really working. There are four girls in the class two girls with the "froid" specialty and two as metal workers and those two groups were really getting the information and making good progress, the three other groups composed of all boys weren't nearly as motivated. I don't want to make any sweeping generalizations, but Go Girls!

I had a couple of people come up to me after the meeting to tell me it was interesting which made me feel good and I hope that I did a fairly decent job and that people didn't have too difficult a time understanding my Frolof.

From the lycee technique I ran over to Dioss' because we had a meeting with one of the schools were we're going to do an art atelier with the supplies my aunt's class is sending. We have a date on the books so I'm really excited about that and we're going to visit the other school tomorrow.

It was a fairly exhausting although very satisfying morning so I hung out at home for the rest of the day. I ate some ceebu jenn for lunch and then sat down with my host brother Ziabata who had some English questions. He's currently working at a factory with some British people who don't speak French and not surprisingly, is having some difficulty communicating. He had me write down some basic phrases that he could practice or show to the Brits if they didn't understand. My favorite part of this interaction was at the end when he told me that he is so much more tired each day after work because he has communication issues. It makes his work so much harder. He neglected to make the connection to the fact that he had just described my every day life...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy To Be Back

Someone laying on their horn right outside Nicole's house for several minutes this morning was a great early morning wake-up call since I wanted to leave Dakar early and get back to Thies in time to go to the post office, although I was annoyed at the time. I packed up my obscenely heavy bag, which contained twenty Junior Achievement books and every single pair of underwear I own since I did all of my dirty laundry in Dakar, and headed out to the garage.

I need to become more aggressive in the garage because since I didn't push through the myriad women selling everything under the sun I was forced to sit in the back seat pressed up against the side of the car. And when I say pressed up against the side of the car this is not an understatement by any means because two large women both of whom had children on their laps squeezed in next to me. It was an unpleasant to say the least. My leg still bears an indentation where it was held against the exposed metal hub of the car. Luckily we left early enough that it wasn't too hot in the car and the small children on the women's laps weren't terrified of me and therefore didn't cry the entire way back to Thies.

After extricating myself from the back of the sept-place, I made it to the post office with plenty of time to spare and was justly rewarded! SHOUT OUTS!!!!!!!

Aunt Diane, Uncle Wayne, Rachel, and Jenn - THANK YOU FOR THE PACKAGE!!! It was great. The Cliff Bar Block electrolyte things are some of my favorites and I can always use an influx of Cliff bars let alone trashy magazines! I also gave Ahmed the two little hot wheels cars, which he absolutely loves. I turned the box into a ramp so he's been sending the cars down my stairs all day. He'll get the rest of his presents in due time. A special shout out to Rachel for her mini Hungary package. I already ripped open the cookies which are absolutely delicious and I can't wait to break out the booze when one of my friends comes over. I'm slightly skeptical about the cherry soup, but I will definitely try it the next time I'm force fed a bad millet meal that I in turn feed to the sheep! Thanks again!

Ma - I got your package and it was great! I'm getting quite the reputation for bringing salsa to the bar so the salsa was much appreciated as were the Pringles (delicious) and fruit cups. I also have full faith in you that you'll be able to pick a great color of paint for your house!

Lynn - Thanks for the letter! Hope the boat is in the water soon!

Shirley - I got two letters from you today! I absolutely loved the card that you had everyone sign at Sarah's Bat Mitzvah. It was awesome and I already put it up in my room! Thank you, that was so thoughtful!

Back at home, my room was absolutely disgusting so I had to move everything out in order to sweep the layer of dirt off the floor and scrub everything down. The next order of business was my bike which has had a popped tube for approximately two months. I finally got a replacement in Dakar and was determined to fix the problem myself. I got the tire off, took out the bad tube, inflated the new tube slightly, and put the tube in the tire. I will say I was pretty proud of myself until I jumped because someone was right before me. It was big Ahmed who stated "that is not correct." In retrospect the mistake was stupid, I was trying to keep the lips of the tire on the outside of the rim instead of the inside of the rim, but I did do a lot of the work myself. After that Ahmed pretty much took over and completely the task in 2.5 seconds. I'm still proud of myself and now my bike actually functions which was the overarching goal.

I'm very happy to be back in Thies. Dakar stresses me out and makes me irrationally angry for some reason so I spent the rest of the day relaxing and organizing my room. I'm currently waiting for dinner and then I'm going to bed in my own bed. Yay!

Ps. Additional SHOUT OUT to my mom for finishing the 5/3 Riverbank run and beating her time from last year... I ate the entire pack of cookies Rachel sent me today!

Friday, May 7, 2010


Fruitless phone calls took up the majority of my morning as I continued to try and make contact with NGOs who, if I did get someone on the phone, told me I had to send them an email to request a meeting. Would they give me the correct email address over the phone? No. Do the NGOs have working websites or websites that list contact emails? No. A few days ago I did successfully set up a meeting with an NGO for 11am this morning. A Peace Corps driver took me there and I thought everything was going to be good until I was still waiting at in the lobby at 11:40. Apparently the person I was supposed to meet with scheduled another meeting downtown at the same time. I called his cell phone at 11:45 after the receptionist was not so friendly to me and he assured me he was on his way back and that I should wait a few more minutes. At 11:50 I'm actually in his office and asking my first question. At 11:52 he's answered part of my question and gets up to leave and go talk to one of his superiors. At 12:15 I go ask the receptionist where he went, she told me to be patient so I took the educational literature off his desk and left.

I feel bad that I didn't get very much of the work done on this NGO project. Another volunteer was really relying on my help and it appears this project is much more difficult than previously believed, especially if the volunteers are making the calls to set up meetings and not superiors. I only got 2 actual interviews done, but I did do some editing and made several new contacts and potentially found some new phone numbers if the person who answers those numbers ever picks up and confirms that they work for so and so organization.

Today was salvaged by Trivia night at the American Club which is always a good time. Although I'm completely exhausted for no reason, especially since I took a three hour nap, I was prepared to compete over trivia and eat some burgers. The best category during trivia aka the category that I dominated was about people who broke barriers or famous entrepreneurs. Billy Jean King made me look like the women's tennis buff which I am, but Elon Musk sent me into the trivia hall of fame. When Oliver started reading "The entrepreneur who started PayPal and now owns SpaceX and Tesla..." I started laughing and writing down the answer before he even finished the question. I think Oliver was disappointed someone got his hardest question, but I had to represent. All I wanted was the bonus question: "What was the most recent Friday lunch?" because it was Nachos Bar and that sounds like heaven right now.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bad Ice Cream

I spent most of today calling phone numbers that supposedly belonged to NGOs and while the results weren't spectacular I did get a hold of a couple more people and even interviewed a woman who works for Catholic Relief Services, which is an NGO on the list.

On my way downtown to Catholic Relief Services, an interview to which I dragged Tamar, we bartered for our cab and then attempted to explain that while a higher fare may be better for him it's actually not better for us. A concept that seems difficult for many to grasp here or at least the phrasing sounds quite ridiculous to a person translating Wolof to English in their heads. So, after going back and forth with this guy we realize that he's pretty much completely deaf and can't hear anything we're saying which explains a lot. Additionally, mid-way through what I believed to be a particularly eloquent part of my rant against Dakar taxis, the driver pulls over to the side of the road to take a several minute long piss break. Ahh, the joys of public transportation.

After the interview, I wanted to reward myself for accomplishing at least one of the interviews on the list with a PCV favorite N'Ice Cream. It's delicious. When Tamar and I got there there were very few people and we took our time and I even sampled a flavor called Arabic. Don't ask me what's in it or what it tastes like because I don't know and the girl working the counter couldn't tell me. Then a bunch more people walked through and for some reason, I think complete and utter exhaustion, I became frazzled and made a poor decision. I decided to get "Ivory" which was supposedly cream, banana, and chocolate flavored. Tamar went with a nice chocolate berry mixture that was sure to please. I made a huge mistake as my ice cream tasted like a candy runt. It was not my finest hour.

Those are pretty much the highlights...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Call Waiting

Highlight of my day: Going to this really good and pretty cheap crepe restaurant with Tamar for lunch and talking while sitting under an air conditioner.

The rest of my day was spent calling phone numbers that either don't exist or the owners of said phone lines don't want to talk to me. I'm currently in Dakar working on a project to compile data on NGOs in Senegal so volunteers have something like an encyclopedia to search for funding and help with their projects. I spent today trying to set up meetings to go talk to NGOs about their past successful projects, funding sources, and where the NGOs operate in Senegal. I spent most of the day at 0 for 6, but near closing time I finally secured a meeting for Friday afternoon and I resorted to calling another volunteer to track down another NGO president so I ended the day at 2 for 6. I'm hoping to get some more tomorrow so that my trip wasn't in vain, but I think that I'll have a lot more success with the NGOs in Thies because I'll be able to just walk in and see if anyone is available to talk to and it should be easier to set up meetings. I say this now...

One interesting aside about phone calls in Senegal: Many people do what's called a beep-beep. In Senegal all the phones use pre-paid credit therefore when you run out of credit your call drops and you have to buy more credit. People will "beep-beep" you when they have no credit or they just want you to call them back so you have to use your credit. I personally refuse to call anyone who beep-beeps me out of sheer principle unless it's Khady or my mom and I find the practice generally annoying. Regardless, I thought that since I was calling everyone that they would pick up and we could have a conversation. This is not so. Apparently, many professionals wont pick up the phone or even forward you to voice mail unless they recognize your number. So, yeah, I spoke with practically no one today.

Although I had a fairly unproductive and frustrating day, it did end pretty well. I'm staying at my boss' house to enjoy a real bed, a shower, and some peace and quiet and I also had lasagna with salad and wine for dinner. Nicole, my boss, also had company over and we had a really interesting conversation about the French/ Senegalese vs. the American system of standardized testing and college entrance exams. Random, but interesting.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Not So Happy Students

Crazy, crazy, crazy day.

The Junior Achievement meeting went pretty well today. I am so so so happy that Talla came with me because otherwise it probably would have been a disaster. The meeting started out about 45 minutes late and I felt really bad because Talla was starting a tournee today and started it late to help me at my meeting. After the two professors that are helping me and the Dean of Academics waxed on about the Lycee Technique, Junior Achievement, and how all of the people at this meeting (recent grads) will hopefully soon find jobs. While Talla did an excellent job explaining the Junior Achievement program, one of the professors segued into talking about different grant opportunities which had the effect of making all the students extremely angry about how this money isn't easily accessible and how they didn't want to do Junior Achievement if they couldn't put it on their resumes and if they wouldn't immediately get a job directly after finishing the program taught by a toubab who doesn't really speak French or Wolof.

The professors told me at our meeting last week that they were going to invite 50 people, which terrified me, and since then I've been hoping that half would show up and then only half would actually participate in the program so I would wind up with about 15-20 students. Well, 47 showed up today. 47 recent grads who are severely displeased with their current job placement, or lack there of. Talla had the meeting and hopefully the student's expectations of Junior Achievement under control by the end of the meeting, but I'm definitely nervous about next week. The plan is to prepare a second by second lesson plan and then assume that nothing will go as planned, but know that I at least tried. We'll see how it goes.

While I was in my Junior Achievement, I got a bunch of texts from Chris, the volunteer who lived in Thies with my family before me. He's going back to the States soon and wanted to say goodbye to the family. After stopping at the post office where I got a letter from Shirley (thanks!), I went home to meet Chris and see him interact with our family. Everyone was very excited to see him and it was fun to have another toubab around to comment about the personalities in the family and to see if we had the same thoughts and opinions on things. Since I told my family he was coming yesterday, Khady made her delicious homosexual rice so it was a pretty good afternoon.

After lunch I ran to Dioss' to give him all of the pictures I've edited for the website, pick up some of his cards to sell at an exposition in Dakar, and talk about the art seminars we are going to put on for two schools in Thies with the supplies being sent by my Aunt's class. It was a highly productive meeting, which was good. We need to get back on the accounting track, but we both have a lot going on and he has a huge exposition in Thies on the 15th so it will have to wait.

This afternoon as Chris wanted to go see a boutique owner who he spent a lot of time with and have a quick beer before we went to chicken dibi for dinner. Obviously we went to a Catholic boutique and sat in the back having a beer with the owner and talking. All of a sudden we hear someone calling Chris and myself... it's Khady. My family NEVER uses this boutique because Catholics own it and there's a closer one to my house, but Khady, being as refined and amazing as she is, wanted a 10 liter bottle of water which you can't buy at the boutique near my house. It was awkward because my family has never seen me drink, but it was OK and I blamed everything on Chris, which my family loved. Ending the night with chicken dibi and drinks with Emily was a great finish to the day.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Pojangos are a delicious drink that we invented while visiting the lovely city of Pout earlier this week. What is a Pojango you ask? Good question. The first ingredient is being in Pout, the second is Jackie, the third is Jackie's blender, the fourth is mangoes, and the fifth is vodka that costs less than the mango juice we bought to supplement the fresh mangoes. Why did we subject ourselves to vodka that is cheaper than fresh fruit? Another good question. Because this vodka has a label featuring a Russian skyline, writing in French, and is bottled in Thies. This is not a joke and I'm slightly embarrassed that I just discovered this fact. Needless to say that I will be drinking only Le Vieux (Old Man in French) vodka for the rest of my service. The spiked mango smoothies we created were absolutely delicious and will be common occurrences for the rest of mango season.

Friday morning we woke up and made our way to Mboro, which is a beach town north of Thies and directly west of Tivuauone. My mission was to ask Talla to help me at my Junior Achievement formation tomorrow (which he is! Yay!), but the real purpose was to watch Talla give a formation. I really enjoy watching Talla because he's very engaging and this formation was especially interesting because he had everyone play a banking game and they got really into it.

After Talla left, we started all the shopping for Oliver's birthday party. Getting enough food and drinks (including water) for 15 people is a lot of work! The best/ most ridiculous part of getting all the supplies was purchasing the ice. Tamar and Jackie actually located the ice while Katherine and I were on the all important "where can we buy a chicken sandwich for lunch run," but Katherine, Tamar, and I went to pick up the ice. The first ridiculous thing that happened was that the ice woman and Katherine had the exact same Senegalese name, which Senegalese people love, and the ice woman went crazy and we had to talk about names. The second ridiculous thing was that this woman thought that I spoke good Wolof and thought that if I speak Wolof that I should be able to carry 30 pounds of ice on my head. Before I could protest too much she was already helping me lift a huge bucket of ice on my head. After participating in the ensuing the toubab has a bucket on her head photo shoot, I stumbled the several blocks back to the house where we were staying without passing out. I have to admit I was quite proud of myself.

The most interesting part of this weekend was that a group of our friends including the birthday boy were walking from a PCV site 30k away to the beach where the rest of us were. The plan was that me and my girlfriends would have the house and the food up and running when the ridiculous walkers arrived. This sort of happened. Although we were ready with all of the supplies there was some miscommunication about the house and it took us a little while to get set up. After figuring everything out everyone had a really good time and we made really good taco salad/ Mexican smörgåsbord. Success. There are a few pictures up from the trip.

I'm now back at home completely exhausted and about to make dinner. I'm glad to be back and my family is in fine form today, which makes everything even that much better.