Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Tako is the name of our new maid. It's pronounced "taco" and since I have no idea how it's actually spelled I thought Tako was nicer than "taco." She appeared yesterday. Deenba introduced me to her in passing so I assumed that she was someone's friend or hanging out in hopes of scoring one of my family's good dinners. When I was sitting in our courtyard in my pajamas this morning enjoying the relative cool after it rained all night and eating a Cliff Bar, Tako appeared from inside the house with a toothbrush in her mouth. When I finally found Deenba alone I questioned her further and it seems like Tako's here to stay. I have no idea why we need 3.5 maids. Awa, although her status is now elevated that she's married, still does about the same amount of work that she used to and Deenba and Jeenaba are still always at the house. I'm terrified one of them is going to get married soon. Since no one ever clues me into big life events, this is a likely situation. I don't think it's Deenba and her boyfriend because I've asked her about it a few times and I do feel like she would tell me. It would be terrible if Deenba was leaving so I'm not going to think about that possibility.

Ahmed has been a little terror recently and it's apparently part of my familial responsibility to deal with him. Today he was throwing a tantrum while I was sitting with Jeenaba in the courtyard and she called out to him to answer me. After a few minutes of calling him, he appeared with an impish grin on his face demanding to play. Fortunately my mom sent me a puzzle of Africa recently and I busted that out much to Ahmed's delight. He was amazed that my mom could buy him an Africa puzzle in the US. We put the puzzle together in the living room while Petit oddly enough watched Al Gore and The Inconvenient Truth. The puzzle was definitely challenging for Ahmed and it took us a long time. He's also very nervous about putting a piece in the wrong place and he likes to confirm with me that he has everything right before he puts a piece in place. He also can usually find the right place quickly, but then has trouble rotating the piece or aligning it correctly. Jeenaba came in when we were about halfway through and quickly became exasperated about how long it was taking us to finish the puzzle. She attempted to quickly put in a few pieces which Ahmed quickly took out so he could put them in again.

This afternoon I went to see Dioss and discuss the potential export deal which has hit some snags because he doesn't want to reduce the price although it's obvious through his accounting that he's still going to make money. He has a price in his head and he doesn't want to budge, but I think we're making progress. Dioss also wants Pauline and I to put on and publicize an art show for him and his association before Pauline leaves. I love the idea and I think it could be really cool and interesting/ incredibly annoying and challenging to plan an event here, but I am concerned that Pauline only has about 5 weeks left and that I'm going to Kedougou on Friday. We have a meeting next week so I'm interested to see if she thinks she can take on the event plus the catalog she's working on, since I know she's super stressed about it. We will see...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


It's pouring rain right now and it feels so good. I was sitting out on my porch until the rain started to blow in my direction because it's been very hot and humid the past couple of days. The past two nights there have been intense lightening storms, but no rain and it was like a cruel joke since everyone was waiting for the rain to break the heat and humidity. Currently every bucket like object my family owns is sitting outside to collect water since our water supply has not been reliable lately. My mom has been staying up until 5 or 6am and then the water comes on for only a little bit so we haven't been able to fill all of the containers we usually fill.

My host dad also came home really early today and because it was too hot to sit in the house he sat outside with everyone else. I think he enjoys talking to me or at the very least finds me somewhat entertaining, probably because my entire family thinks the vast majority of my activities are utterly ridiculous. Today I told my family that I'm going to Kedougou (the southeastern region of Senegal) to celebrate the 4th of July with most of the other PCVs in country. My family had a panic attack. They told me that I'm out of my mind to go to Kedougou in July because it's even hotter than Thies and it's a really long car ride. When I told them that I'm taking my bike so I can ride out and see the waterfalls I thought my mom was going to have a heart attack. She claims I'll be sick for a week and she'll have to stay up all night and put cold compresses on my head once I get back. My host dad did seem to have a little more respect for the idea. He was interested in what waterfalls I'm planning on seeing and thought the bike trip could be interesting, but will definitely be extremely hot.

In completely unrelated news... it appears as though my host dad won the furniture war. The new black pleather couches moved upstairs and the more formal furniture that used to be upstairs is now in the living room.

I'm going to get ready for bed and enjoy the relative cool that the rain has brought!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It's A Small World After All

Dioss has started calling me at a moment's notice to ask me to do something with him or help him out in one way or another. Unfortunately, I think he does this now because he knows I'm usually free. Today was no different. I was sitting on the floor in our family praying the mass of rice in my stomach would digest and or miraculously evaporate through my buckets of sweat when I got a text message from Dioss. All it said was please be at my house by 3:30pm. We were supposed to meet this morning, but he postponed it until the afternoon. I received the text at 3:15. I reinforced the behavior of calling me at the last second my hoping in a cab, because that's the only way I could make it on time, and heading off to his house.

Just as I arrived a white SUV pulled up and I saw diplomatic plates. Two women from the American Embassy popped out and introduced themselves and then another woman got out of the car and as one of the women from the Embassy turned me around to introduce us I was thunderstruck. The woman getting out of the SUV was grew up in my hometown and we went to the same high school where we took French classes together and her younger sister and I were in the same grade. I absolutely could not believe it. It's amazing to think that Dioss called me to meet some random Americans and that I actually knew one of them. And that all of this happened in Thies, Senegal! The girl who went to my high school doesn't work for the Embassy, but the Department of Defense and was taking a tour of parts of Senegal with some Embassy staff.

Aubrey and I were able to catch up a little bit and she and other two women bought a lot of Dioss' art which was great. Seeing someone, randomly, from home was so weird. She was so clean and shiny and had such pretty clothes it made me homesick, but at the same time it was just so cool. My only regret is that I rushed out of my house in the clothes I had been sweating in all morning and didn't brush my hair back out after it had been caked with dirt and sweat while I was out and about this morning. The picture on the post is of me and Aubrey. In case you're in doubt, she's the one in the nice clothes and I'm the sweaty dirty person.

Instead of working on accounting after the women left, Dioss dragged me to a children's talent show to see the props he had made for the festivities. If anyone ever needs a cardboard, painted children's boat call me. After the riveting talent show we went over to Pauline's office to check up on her. It seems as though she's making progress with the catalog, but coming up some administrative problems. Shocking. If she finishes the catalog and has time left over in her internship we're going to work on the website together. Finally, we went back to Dioss' to talk about prices for the cards that might be exported. Several years ago Dioss exported some cards through another PCV and now he has that price stuck in his head and feels a moral obligation to stick with that price. He's obviously an artist and not a businessman, but I'm trying to help him out.

This morning I went to the Post Office where there is a new and very mean (read: actually does his job) customs official. He wasn't there when I arrived and I ended up waiting almost an hour for him to return to his job. In the meantime I had already distributed gummy worms to all my friends and we were having a grand old time. When the customs guy wanted to charge me all of my friends were shocked and told him he was dealing with Jeenaba, our friend, she doesn't pay! They were horrified which was funny. This man refused not to do his job though and I ended up having to pay which wasn't fun, but I got some great packages!

Shout Outs!!!

Thanks mom and dad! Everything you sent is great!

Debbie - Thank you so much for your package it was so nice and everything it was great. I'm going to save all of the Blow Pops for the USA v. Ghana soccer game in an attempt to bribe people to cheer for the US and to appease them after we beat Ghana!

A huge shout out goes out to Katherine for sending a letter, or more specifically a picture she drew of a hover craft, all the way from Bombay, Senegal! It's hanging in my room in a place of honor.

Last, but definitely not least. I've talked about a girls' camp that the PCVs from my region are putting on this fall. Well, we finally got approved and are starting our fundraising process. We are using a Peace Corps Partnership to raise the funds which means that we are asking you (our friends and family) to donate whatever you can, while Peace Corps, and the community itself also contribute to make this camp happen for the girls of the Thies region! If you are willing to donate or if you are just interested in learning more about the project please visit this link:

Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Dioss called me early this morning to see if I had time to meet his infamous (only in my mind) French intern, Pauline. I have to admit that I've been jealous of her and the idea of her since I heard about it and am interested in who she actually is. Dioss, one of his friends, and I met up with Pauline at her "office." She's very French, but very nice. Pauline and Dioss discussed the catalog she's working on for his artist association. This is when I started to like Pauline because she's obviously already frustrated with Senegal and she only landed ten days ago.

She is at a disadvantage. Although she speaks French, obviously, she's not associated with and NGO or university. Her sister is in an agriculture program in Thies and Pauline tagged along and then found Dioss and his artist association through a series of coincidences. Pauline is having trouble getting people to meet with her, take her project seriously, and difficultly in finding the right people to talk to. Shocking. The more she complained the more I smiled to myself. Ten months in I can completely understand her frustrations and revel in the fact that she's more annoyed than I am. She's only here for two months and is legitimately worried that she wont be able to to finish her projects.

Dioss wanted to take Pauline about town to meet people. Before Dioss takes me places I force him to call the person we're supposed to meet because I hate arriving at a deserted location, but Pauline doesn't know this trick. We went to five different homes and saw zero people. At each failed attempted I evilly enjoyed myself more as the frustration showed on Pauline's face. The last place we went was an abandoned basketball court where someone had painted a giant mural that Dioss wanted Pauline to take pictures of. Obviously it was locked and no one had a key. As Pauline, Dioss, and the friend pondered where to go next I climbed a tree, jumped over the wall, and opened the gate from the inside. Yeah, I'm a total badass. Not to bask in all of Pauline's "failures," but I felt great about myself when Dioss suddenly realized that he had to translate his Wolof conversation into French for Pauline and remarked about it out loud. Although it may not seem like it after this post, I do wish Pauline the best because I wish Dioss the best and I think she promised him more than she can deliver and he's going to be disappointed. Hopefully we'll be able to work together in some respect so at that very least I know what's going on when she has to return to school in France with unfinished business in Senegal.

Back at home I watched the USA v. Algeria soccer game. It was awesome. Especially since my family decided that Algeria is in fact in Africa and started to cheer for them against the US. Their rationale? All of the other Africa teams are choking so they're going to take whoever they can get. The US had a lot of scoring opportunities and in my opinion we were robbed of another goal because of a questionable offsides call. We finally scored in extra time and it was awesome. I started screaming and rubbing it in everyone's faces, which my family actually enjoyed because they think I'm ridiculous when I watch sports and I bought them cookies.

OK, I'm going to post this and shower before our power turns off for the night!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Some people hate the word "moist" for the way it sounds, some people hate the proper words for one's private parts, I hate the words certificate or diploma for what they mean here in Senegal. Today was my final Junior Achievement meeting at the Lycee Technique after Talla so nicely helped me post pone it last week since I was stuck in Ghana. I was excited about today because I had really nice certificates, treats, and was interested to see the students' final presentations. Immediately upon arrival at the school I was became annoyed when one of the teachers gave me a hard time. By now one would think that I would be somewhat immune to the daily annoyances that are ever present in my life... but I'm not.

A teacher I had never meant waltzes into the teachers' lounge where I'm talking to a teacher I actually work with and interrupts our conversation to give me an impromptu Wolof test. My favorite! We are speaking in Wolof and he asks me where I'm from and I say America. If I was speaking French I would say the United States, but in Wolof everyone says America and everyone knows that one is not talking about Canada or Mexico, but the greatest country on Earth. He then asks me if I'm from Canada. I say "No, Canada is not a state, but I'm from a state called Michigan which is close to Canada." I kid you not he then went on to give me a geography lesson that Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, the US, and Canada are all in America and don't I know anything about where I come from. Obviously I wanted to punch him in the face at this point, but just kept repeating my sanity saving mantra of "I get to back to the US, I get to back to the US." The best part about this was the fact that Katherine and I had been discussing North American pride while in Ghana since everyone is all about Africa. We started telling random people that we were from North America just to see what would happen, but people were just confused and it actually became easier to say "America," which everyone understands as the United States of America.

After my ever so helpful geography lesson, the teacher I work with demanded to see the certificates that I was going to present to the students. He then told me how nice and offical looking the certificates were, but undercut the compliment with a dig about how my handwriting is not pretty because it's not in the French style. News Flash: I'm not French, I'm North American. Luckily, Talla arrives and helps me shake of the teacher. I take the opportunity to ask him about why certificates are so immportant in Senegal. He goes on to explain that it's a remnant of the French system and people wont do anything unless there's a certificate involved which I already knew since my students constantly nag me about certificates. Apparently, the number of certificates one has is more important than where you went to school or your grades. It's all about the certificates, which is annoying because this translates into no desire to learn; the point is to sit in class and get a certificate. This made me resent the certificates and not want to present them because even though I knew from the beginning that the certificates were more important than the knowledge, it really upset me after my freaking geography lesson.

The last class was very nice though. The principal came and said a few words and I was impressed with the students' final presentations and the little portfolios they created. The students were also really excited that Talla came to judge the groups and that I had brought chocolate bars for the winners. The part that I did not enjoy was when about 10 students approached me after the class to complain that I didn't get them a certificate. Why didn't I get them a certificate? They hadn't come to class since the first day. Unfortunately they have my cell phone number so I'm expecting many angry class, but I refuse to give in and give them certificates they didn't earn... even if I think those certificates are meaningless! Talla was impressed with everything so I feel good about that and although there are a million things that I want to change for the next academic year I feel like I did the best that I could in the time that I had.

This afternoon I visited Dioss to do some work. I had to take pictures of his cards to send to the woman who is hopefully going to import some of his cards and I wanted to talk to him about French Chick aka Pauline. After waiting for an hour, fortunately I brought a book, Dioss appeared and we got down to business. I wanted to attempt to work with Pauline so I brought all the resumes that Dioss and I had collected to give to her because it’s stupid for her to do work that’s already been done. Pauline wasn’t there, but Dioss wants her to re-do the work. I don’t really know what this means, but I was sweating so much that I didn’t really care. I took the pictures I needed and I told him that summer means hard core accounting season. He didn’t seem to happy with this proclamation, but if we’re going to export cards things need to be in better order.

In desperate need of a bath, I decided to go to the bar instead of going back home because there are a bunch of Ag volunteers from my stage in Thies for more training. It was really fun to catch up and a relief to sit in the AC for a while with a beer. This actually turned out to be a fairly poor choice since our power went out within 10 minutes of arriving home and I hate talking bucket baths in the pitch dark.

Events of the Blackout:

1. Attempting to convince Ahmed that she should not cut his sandals with the giant shears someone had given him as a toy
2. Laying on the floor of the living room with everyone else sweating
3. Watching my dad and Ahmed sleep outside on a mat together - it was adorable
4. Brushing my teeth and feeling something on my arm. I'm not used to my long hair and thought it was my hair falling out of a bun and on to my arm. Nope. It was a giant cockroach. I shook it off of my arm and it flew on to my back. Amazingly, I didn't panic during this ordeal nor did I utter any noise. I was pretty proud of myself. I relayed this experience to my ever supportive significant other in an expensive phone call since I could use Skype. He then concocted a story about my bed being infested with cockroaches and them crawling all over me. He found this incredibly amusing. How did I find it? All I have to say is payback is going to be a bitch when he comes to visit!
5. Talking a bucket bath in the dark after attempting to kill all of the cockroaches in the shower before I got in.

Also, pictures from my final Junior Achievement are up!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Today was hot, very hot, which means that no one did much of anything which was totally fine by me. This morning I took my time getting ready, continued organizing my room around my new shelves which I'm completely obsessed with, and spent the better part of the hour trying to scrape my water filter clean. I also played with Ahmed for a really long time, which I haven't done in a while. We played with his "Legos" and he told me that I can make really beautiful giraffes, but that my castles are ugly. I think I'm going to put that on my resume.

All of these activities only brought me to about 11am so I grabbed a book and parked myself in front of the television to watch soccer for the rest of the day. As I said, it was extremely hot today so everyone was laying on the tile floor to remain as cool as possible. The living room and entryway was like a mine field of dozing people who would occasionally rouse themselves to cheer for a goal or bemoan a missed shot. I too passed in and out of consciousness as the games were played, we ate lunch, and I finished my book. My favorite sleeper was big Ahmed who passed out with his head under the couch in the entryway and his feet in the doorway of the living room. It was oddly exactly how I wanted to pass my day especially after Petit and Jeenaba had been talking about going to the beach and dragging me with them. My past 36 hours had been spent thinking up potential excuses/ lies.

Now that I know that Ziabata and Awa are married I've been observing all of their interactions closely to see if there are any changes. Ziabata's life seems to be pretty much the same. He's still the oldest man at the lunch bowl and kind of the man of the house until my dad gets home at night, even though he's not an immediate family member while big Ahmed is. Awa's status has definitely improved. She used to be what I liked to call our "quasi maid," which means she came around to clean, cook, and be with Ziabata sometimes, but she wasn't a daily presence. It now appears as though she lives here and unless her honeymoon means she doesn't have to work for a week she's not doing nearly as many chores. Also, Jeenaba and Deenba have to have either Khady or my mom taste the rice they make for lunch before they can serve it to make sure it's ok. Today they were both passed out on the floor so Jeenaba took the rice to Awa. I don't know if a married woman has to taste the rice or if Awa is now a woman of the house and is therefore more powerful than Jeenaba and Deenba.

I also wanted to give a special shout out to my dad for Father's Day. I know that you went to Ma's and Pa's for dinner, but in my daily exercise of "What Would I Eat Today If I Was In America?" I imagined a Caesar salad, burger, and snowball at the club for your Father's Day meal!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Yesterday I discovered a huge bowl of okra in the kitchen. That can only mean one thing, soupakanja was on the menu for today's lunch. Once I asked Deenba and Jeenaba to confirm I told all the women in the house that was going to cook lunch for myself since I don't like soupakanja and I don't want them to have to do extra work and make anything extra for me. I detailed plans of a salad and maybe some pasta to show how serious I was and this morning I set out early for the market and to do some errands.

First stop was the post office where I got a letter from Shirley! Thanks Shirley! And then I was on to the main market. The fact that it was Saturday did not dawn upon me until I saw the market completely packed with people. Intimidated and ready for hassle I pressed on. Lettuce, tomatoes, and green beens were easy finds and purchases. I also picked up a few bowls and forks since my family seems to mysteriously acquire utensils that were mine. I also went by one of the supermarkets to buy chocolate bars to give the winning team of my Junior Achievement competition on Monday. Those were all easy things. I was also on the hunt for some shelves because I have miscellaneous items on the floor around my door and I'm sick of the clutter.

I remembered from my training days that there is a quasi furniture market on the road that leads from Thies to Tivuouane, my home stay town. I set out from the market with all of my purchases, a half full water bottle, and the sun absolutely beating down on me in my quest for shelves. Instead of being smart and getting in a clando, a shared taxi that picks up random people on the side of the road, I decided to walk. As I kept realizing that the market was further than I previously thought I stubbornly refused to get in a cab or a clando in order to get to my destination. I just walking while turning a brighter shade of red and sweating profusely. A half hour into the walk I almost gave up, 45 minutes into the walk I had almost convinced myself that I was wrong about the location of the roadside market, an hour into the walk I asked a little girl where the market was and when she told me it was far I for some reason kept going. One hour and five minutes into the journey, with the little girl trailing me and asking for money, I thought I saw a mirage, but it was actually the market I was looking for!

Immediately upon arrival I was swarmed with vendors who all wanted me to buy random pieces of furniture from them. Swatting small children away as I tried to look for good shelves, I finally found what I was looking for in one of the last stalls. I then heard perhaps the most ridiculous price quote that I've heard in Senegal. The man wanted 20,000 CFA for the shelves I wanted. I asked him if he was joking and then told him that with that 20k I would take him to a doctor to have his head checked out, but I would not buy his shelves. He thought this was about the funniest thing that anyone had ever said and brought the price down to 10k. The maximum I was willing to be pay was 5k so I said 3k and we finally arrived at 5k. I'm sure I was stilled ripped of, but I got exactly what I wanted and I was flush with the success of my adventure in finding the market.

Hauling my shelves into our compound after taking a cab Deenba greets me with her "You are so weird. What have you done now?" face. At this point I was the color of a tomato and dripping in sweat, but I proudly displayed my shelves and vegetable purchases. She was highly unimpressed, but humored me none the less. She also told me that she had already bought eggs for my lunch. No one has any faith that I can feed myself. I'm really starting to find this fact annoying. I may not understand everything they say to me, but that does not mean that I haven't previously survived living on my own and feeding myself. My family thinks that because they hate everything that I make that it really is just truly disgusting and therefore uneatable even for me. I had eggs for lunch and then ate salad alone in my room.

The rest of my day was spent writing names on Junior Achievement certificates, watching Deenba and Jeenaba chop onions because I can't be trusted with knives, watching soccer, and trying to avoid conversations about going to the beach with Petit and his friends tomorrow. We're having chicken for dinner so I'll go watch Deenba cook and try and help her out a little bit.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Miracle Worker

It's taking me a while to get back into the swing of things here in Senegal and to not feel absolutely exhausted after walking across the courtyard so today I took it pretty easy. This morning I ran around trying to a few errands and getting things in order, but I hung out around the house for most of the day. The morning consisted of organizing my room a little bit and helping Deenba chop a million onions. I was at first terrified of all of the onions for lunch because it usually means that we are having Yassa. Yassa is a dish that most volunteers like, but that I have grown to dislike the more I'm forced to eat it. The dish consists of extremely oil white rice, the ever present onion sauce, and deep fried fish. This doesn't sound bad and I used to like it, but now it tastes so oily to me and the fish has such a weird texture after it's fried and then left sitting around in onion sauce that I can't really stomach it anymore. So, I was disappointed when I thought we were having Yassa because we've been having great food since I've been back. Fortunately we had eggs with onion sauce and lettuce! Yay! Unfortunately there were a million people at the house today so there wasn't that much to go around.

After lunch we all settled in to watch the USA v. Slovenia soccer match. I bribed my family with caramels so they would cheer for the USA. This did open up the conversation about which teams they were rooting for. The African teams, England, and Brazil were at the top of the list. They are very happy that France is a joke. A fact I learned later on during the England v. Algeria match: Algeria is not Africa so they wanted England to win. But, back to the good old US of A. I fill give a short synopsis since I'm sure none of you watched it. The US went down a goal quickly at the beginning and it was 0-2 at halftime. Then we turned it on and scored two awesome goals in the second half. I was screaming and jumping up and down the whole time to my family's amusement and enjoyment. With about 5 minutes to go we were absolutely robbed of another great goal with an offsides call and the game ended in a tie. The England v. Algeria game also ended in a tie so the US still has a shot to go on to the next round. I've never watched more soccer in my life, but it is a really good way to hang out with my family and talk. The best part about the World Cup is that since my family bought the new TV they can get high definition channels for the game, but only in English. So, I get to watch the game in English because all of the boys want to watch it in high def! My family is just ridiculous.

This afternoon I had planned to do some more errands about town, but the miracle worker called me to say that he would be swinging by at some point so I stayed at home and jumped rope with Ahmed. The miracle worker is Talla, my Peace Corps Senegalese supervisor. He is amazing and absolutely awesome. My final Junior Achievement meeting where the students were supposed to present their business ideas was scheduled for Monday, but I was stuck in Ghana. Talla had graciously agreed to come and judge the ideas and answer the students' questions about starting businesses in Senegal since he is a successful entrepreneur himself. On Sunday I had to call Talla from Ghana and explain the situation. With his "I can fix anything attitude" Talla went to the Lycee Technique for me, explained the situation, and postponed the final meeting until this coming Monday so I could attend. Then he called the Junior Achievement office in Dakar for me and had diplomas made for all of my students, which he dropped of at my house this afternoon. All I have to do is write their names (which is easier said than done!). Talla is freaking amazing. Thank you Talla!

Now I'm hanging out waiting for dinner and listening to my family fight. Ohh, the sounds of home.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Black Eye and Couches

This afternoon as we were just sitting down to a lunch of ceebu jenn, Khady gets a call from my host father instructing her to let the boys know that the delivery is coming. All of the boys immediately jump up from the bowl, obviously I have no idea what this delivery is since I never know anything, and run out of the house. A few minutes later they return carrying new couches to go with our new television set. These are no ordinary couches. They are huge, black, leather couches from the '80s (Matt, insert Ikea here). It now makes sense why all of the furniture from the living room had been haphazardly strewn around the courtyard today.

The couches are quite large and puffy and the boys were having difficult navigating them through the house's narrow doorways. As Ziabata and Petit are trying to get the first couch into the living room, Ziabata accidently runs into the door frame, which runs the wooden foot of the couch directly into Petit's eye, which causes Petit to drop the couch and start crying while my mom screams that the boys are ruining her brand new furniture. I saw the bill and the new furniture cost 1 million CFA! Now I know where all of the money I give my family for rent goes.

The new furniture consists of three couches two of which are supposed to be sectionals featuring a chaise lounge. The best part about the sectional is that no one thought about the room and it's therefore backwards and doesn't work in the room. I suggested moving the television so that the room makes slightly more sense, but this idea was rejected outright as ridiculous since moving the television is far too difficult. Having a chaise jut out into the middle of the living room is obviously much better. After all the furniture is in the living room my host dad calls back and tells the boys that he wants the new furniture upstairs and that furniture brought into the living. This created general mayhem and lots of complaining. I thought it was a done deal since dad had laid down the lay, but my mom called him back to rip him a new one and to explain that she wanted her new furniture on display. Instead of sitting on the new furniture everyone has decided to admire it from a distance and move all of the old furniture into the the hallway where they sit on it to behold the new furniture and watch TV. I'm interested to see how long it will take for people to really use the new furniture.

This afternoon, after the furniture excitement, I headed over to Dioss' to check in. His exposition was the first weekend that I was in Ghana, but I got to see some video that he took and he told me that it went really well. He may have some prospective buyers in Dakar and a television station came to do a little story on him. Dioss was happy with the event. In the ten days that I was gone Dioss has also completely changed his mind about getting married and wants to do it right now, which oddly translates into me getting married right now as well since I'm getting older by the minute... this is coming from a 37 year old Senegalese man who hasn't taken a first wife yet. He did introduce me to his girlfriend who I'd never met before. She's very pretty, well spoken, and tall (much taller than him). She has a marketing degree and works for some type of book publishing company marketing their products. I really like her because she gets angry at Dioss for not being a good business man and is all about us working on accounting. Now that I know where she lives I'm definitely going to use that knowledge to my advantage.

I am feeling pangs of jealousy, not that I'm not the only woman in Dioss' life, but that a French college student is trying to help Dioss and his artists' association. Her name is Pauline, although it's "really mean and ugly French girl" in my head, and I'm supposedly meeting her tomorrow. She's an art student in France and has to do a two month internship during the summer and she somehow found Dioss' group. From what I can tell she's promising the moon, the stars, and a boat load of money. She wants to make a website for him, which is totally fine since I really don't think it's that great of an idea in the first place, but I am against her doing everything for him. She'll make a website, put it on her resume, and then it will fall into disrepair because she's not going to teach Dioss how to manage and keep it up. Dioss obviously likes the idea of her doing the website herself more than the likes the idea of us doing the website together. She also is going to create a paper catalog for the association. I'm interested to see if she really does all of this and where she gets the money.

What else is ridiculous at my house?
1. I just discovered that Deenba put Hannah Montana stickers on her phone while I was gone.
2. Khady's weave is larger than her jayfunday (good work for huge butt).
3. Ahmad was given a pack of ten cookies for dinner and my mom and Khady are now screaming at him for not being able to go to bed.

Shirley - Thank you so much for the card! I have a whole collection from you! It's great.

Debby - Who is a PCV who served from '91-'93 in the Thies region. I can't even imagine what Thies was like 20 years ago and it was great to get your letter. Thank you.

Leigh - Last but not least. Your package was amazing and I've been listening to your CDs all day. You are the best and you and Sarah are prominently displayed in my room! You're the best. Thank you so much.

The pictures from Ghana should be up. I'm having technical difficulties, but if you click on the WAIST to Ghana album and follow it to picas webalbums and scroll to the end you should find the pictures. Let me know if it worked.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Being "trapped" on vacation isn't nearly as exciting as being on vacation and by yesterday Katherine and I were both at our wits' ends with Ghana and with not being able to get home. After one last trip to Dynasty Chinese restaurant, our visits needed to end - waiters were recognizing us, and waisting more time at the hotel we'd already checked out of watching yet another soccer game we arrived at the airport four hours early for our flight which was already two hours earlier than our original flight should have been.

We walked into the airport and my heart stopped. The Virgin Nigeria flight to Dakar was not on any of the flight monitors, while flights that were supposed to take off after ours were posted. Trying to contain my emotions until we spoke with someone, we approached the Virgin Nigeria desk where a man told Katherine that the flight was cancelled. It was a joke, but not a very funny one and we settled in to wait after being chided by the Virgin Nigeria people for missing our original flight. Sorry that we missed a flight when we arrived early for the time printed on our tickets and the time listed online. Our bad. The flight on Saturday actually took off before check-in would have even opened for the time publicized for the flight.

After having our luggage "searched" by "security," but not after flashing American passports, we weighed our bags on an actual scale and were given a piece of paper with how much our bags weighed to give to the final ticket agent. Surprisingly at the check-in desk there was a large group of Senegalese women who had also missed the flight on Saturday because it took off over three hours early. Who would have thought? When I was finally checked in I had to lug my bag to the conveyor belt as a male Virgin Nigeria employee watched me struggle as he did nothing. On to customs and more security...

I hate flying and therefore appreciate yet still complain about the long waits in American airports. Now that I've flown in Africa my annoyance is laughable, but I still plan on complaining about the US system when I return home. The first step is to show your passport to customs and be asked a million questions that's less than the billion questions everyone else has to answer since I'm an American citizen. Fortunately, the Accra airport offers great distractions while you wait with their absolutely amazing anti-drug signs. These are paraphrased, but you'll get the idea:

1. Don't leave your baby's bag unattended because if you do someone will slip narcotics into their stuffed animal
2. If you swallow you're narcotics to get them into the country they will burst in your stomach and you will die. (This message is accompanied by what is apparently the arm of a deceased person and someone going through a pile of intestines.)
3. Don't traffic narcotics, you will get caught, and you will do hard labor. Hard labor for ten years is not fun.
4. Dufry (read Duty Free)

Once through that leg of security we did some duty free shopping and watched Brazil take on North Korea while hypothesizing about the lives of the North Korean team. To get on the plane we have to walk through another set of metal detectors and have our bags scanned, but you can't do that until your flight is called and it's impossible to understand Ghanaian English over an airport loud speaker so Katherine and I camped out as close to security as we could to make sure and not miss anything. Once through that, another woman checks your passport again, asks you more questions and then you are finally allowed to sit down and watch the completion of the soccer game. Shockingly, our flight left late and started boarding just seconds after Brazil beat North Korea. Coincidence? I think not.

Sitting waiting for the flight to board we overheard a terrifying remark: that our flight was not only going to Dakar, but also Banjul, which is the capital of The Gambia. Katherine and I looked at each other in horror and asked a flight attendant which city was first. She assured us Dakar. This made absolutely no geographic sense, but we're used to things making no sense and desperately wanted her to be right. Obviously, she was wrong. As I was fastening my seat belt the captain came in over the speakers on the plane that we would be going to Dakar via Banjul. I almost projectile vomited all over the the person next to me because I was so upset and in disbelief. No where online, on our tickets, during check-in, on the flight monitors that didn't have our flight on it anyway did anything mention going to a completely different country than our intended destination. After almost three hours to Banjul, almost two on the ground in Banjul, and then the thirty additional minutes in the air en route to Senegal we arrived in Dakar. I never thought I would be so happy to see Dakar. We aren't the best of friends and it was such a relief to see the statue and breath in the pollution; I can't even describe it.

An absolutely epic Alyssa v. taxi showdown later we arrived at the Peace Corps regional house in Dakar to find beds! All I was hoping for all night was that I didn't have sleep outside on a mat and that dream came true. The house was empty, the water hot, and the familiar stench of the house even seemed welcoming. Katherine and I got to the airport in Accra before 5pm and were finally in bed in Senegal at about 3am. A couple of hours later we were up and headed to the garage, eager to get back to site.

My family thought I had gone AWOL even though I called them multiple times with updates, so I created quite the ruckus when I walked in exhausted and filthy. Deenba gave me a huge hug, Khady told me I needed a shower, but was happy I was back, and my mom even came downstairs before lunch to greet me and kept saying that she didn't believe her eyes. Once Ahmed returned from school he put himself in a chocolate induced coma from the gifts I brought back for everyone.

What have I missed in Senegal?
1. Apparently one of my host cousins, Ziabata, and our quasi-maid Awa got married. No one ever tells me anything. It happened on Thursday was all the description that I got. I suspected that something was going on since they were always in his room alone together and no one said anything. I will write more about this as I learn more about it because right now I have no idea what's happening.
2. My family bought a brand new 30 inch Samsung flat screen television so they can watch the World Cup. Obviously. Since the World Cup was on all day today (I can already tell I love watching matches I've already watched), I did confirm something that makes me very happy. I had been wondering if my family would attempt to sign the Coca-Cola song that I've mentioned in previous posts and fail miserably at it. Let's just say it's more than I could have ever asked for.
3. Today was my Senegalese mom's birthday, which means we have chicken for lunch. It also means we have lunch at 4pm because she wants her chicken specially prepared, but since it has to be specially prepared she has to supervise and she doesn't like to come downstairs until at least noon. It was delicious though and I think we're having chicken again for dinner. Not a bad homecoming.

PS. All of the pictures from my Ghana trip are now up! Check them out.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Where In The World?

We are still in Accra. This is not a joke. Last night we watched most of the US v. England game (go USA) and then headed to the airport almost 3 hours early. That wasn’t nearly early enough because our flight left over 3 hours early and without us. When we arrived at Accra international airport it was an absolute zoo and I noticed that our plane was already boarding. Katherine and I had previously talked about getting to the airport early because we were actually catching a plane that originated it’s flight in Lagos, Nigeria and was going to Dakar with only a quick stop in Accra. While this original plan was a good one, what we didn’t know was that flights in Africa change times quiet frequently and can even leave hours early. I’m fairly sure that random airline flights are the only things that ever leave on-time let alone early on this continent. As Katherine runs in front of me at the airport, I already have sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.

At Virgin Nigeria’s check-in desk they inform us that the gate closed over an hour before we actually arrived and that the flight was already in the air. After several minutes of condescending and belittling comments, a man took us to Virgin Nigeria’s ticketing desk where they tell us that the flight often changes to a time 4 hours earlier than it was supposed to take off. The best part of this whole interaction was the fact that the man and the woman at the ticketing desk fully expected us to know that the plane was going to take off hours early – just because it normally does. In case any of you were wondering, with my extreme fear of flying I like to fly around Africa in my free time and therefore know when flights generally take off hours early.

My first question was why if the flight generally takes off early do they print a much later time on the ticket. This question was obviously unanswerable. We also asked how many people generally miss the flight, the ticket agents responded that it happens all the time. Really? People miss flights when the time printed on the ticket is 4 hours after the time that the plane actually takes off. Obviously we’re in panic mode as the Accra airport is jam packed with people, we have no hotel room, and everyone thinks we are going to be back in Senegal today. After learning visiting every ticketing office that is open at the airport it appears as though we have two options; this is after I laugh out loud at the third option. The Virgin Nigeria people wanted us to fly to South Africa in order to stand by on a flight to Dakar. They wanted me to travel to the country that is hosting the World Cup and then hope that I could get a stand by ticket. At that point I thought I was walking back to Dakar.

The other two options were only slightly less laughable. Option one was to buy a completely new ticket from British airways that flew to JFK in New York City and then fly all the way back to Dakar. While this flight was incredibly tempting, there was absolutely no way that I was going to step foot on US soil and then return to Africa. The second option was to return to the airport early in the morning and attempt to get on a Air Ivoire flight to the Ivory Coast, which then fly on to Dakar. All I want at this point is to be back in Dakar (obviously this was a dire situation since Dakar and I are not the best of friends), but it was not to be since once we checked back into a hotel I learned that US citizens need a transit visit even to fly through Ivory Coast. We needed this visa before a 9 am flight which is impossible and you can’t buy a visa in the airport in Abidjan, so we are still in Accra. This is probably the vacation from hell.

Last night we were able to check back into the same hotel that we had been staying at, but they kicked us out this morning after we saw the two other returned PCVs who now work for NGOs at Ghana who laughed at us for still being in Ghana after we attempted to leave. The best part about the entire ordeal was that there was a Nigerian man in the lobby of the hotel when we got back and he told us that he misses flights all the time because they leave early. He apologized for his country, but all I wanted was a stiff drink. Finding another hotel was surprisingly difficult. We had the Peace Corps Ghana guide and the vast majority of hotels listed in the guide only had rooms for one night and we’re not getting out of here until Tuesday night. AHHH!!! Finally, we called the hotel connected to Champs, the American sports bar chain that we’ve already visited on several occasions, and they could put us up for the rest of our stay in Ghana.

While I’m sick to my stomach that we’re still here and all I want to do is go back to Senegal, I did get to experience my second World Cup play in abroad and the World Cup in Africa is pretty awesome. It’s amazing to see the continent’s solidarity and the importance of the game. We really don’t have anything like it in the United States. The super bowl pits two American teams against each other, just like the Stanley Cup and the World Series and the NBA finals. Even the Olympics, when watched in the US, don’t hold the same, universal, rabid excitement that the World Cup holds abroad and especially in Africa as it’s hosting the games for the first time.

Champs is obviously an ex-pat hangout, but the excitement and desire to win and the general importance of the game was palpable in the bar. The noise was deafening, the music blaring, the stupid horns sounding off directly in my ears, and it was just a really cool experience. Everyone wants Africa to win. The Ghanaians really want Ghana to go far in the tournament, but the Nigeria, South Africa, and Cameroon games are watched with almost the same fervor. When Ghana scored the game winning and only goal of the game, the bar absolutely erupted. Everyone was hugging each other, dancing around, free drinks were flowing, and you felt like you were a part of something greater even if you are not.

Another interesting note about the World Cup are the songs and advertisements that are being shown in Africa. I’m not sure if they are the same ones as in the US. While Shakira’s Waka Waka song is the official anthem of the games, people here aren’t too happy that a Columbia was given the honor for the first games played in Africa. Plus the song is just plain weird. What has stepped up to be the unofficial anthem of the 2010 World Cup? The song from the Coca-Cola commercial. It is played more often than Akon in Senegal, which is playing a lot; although, I do have to say that it’s pretty catchy. You should check it out on youtube if the same commercial isn’t playing in the States.

Friday, June 11, 2010


The rose colored glasses are beginning to slide down my profusely sweating nose here in Ghana. Nothing that will rescind my previous statements about all of the greatness Accra has to offer, but I'm ready to get back to dysfunction that I quasi understand and local languages that I know for sure I'm getting ripped off in.

The morning started out hilarious enough. I had just got out of the shower and was standing in my towel brushing my teeth when the sink faucet came completely off in my hand. I call Katherine into the bathroom as a fountain shoots from the sink. As I'm trying to control the water from spewing everywhere Katherine calls the front desk. She returns to help me and when we hear a knock at the door Katherine attempted to run to open the door and slipped on the water almost killing herself. A maid calmly came in and turned off the water. Obviously the water controls behind the sink don't actually control the sink, the knobs behind the toilet do. This was at approximately 8am. We left for the entire day and came back at 4pm to no progress. At 4:45pm two men come to fix the sink at 6:30pm we finally have water back in our room and a working sink.

After the initial sink incident we headed out for Accra's main garage to catch some public transportation out of the city to a nearby beach village. The garage is huge and trying to find the correct trotro, the Ghanaian version of a sept-place or Alham in Senegal, was not an easy task. The garage is actually on two sides of a highway so we went back and forth over the pedestrian bridge a few times before finding the correct car and being given the seat of honor/ scariest seats in the car - the front seat. Trotros are what I would categorize in the US as a "raper van." In the US they would usually be white and are van that one would haul things around in. Here, they have several rows of seats. Katherine and I both thought they were more comfortable and that we had more room in a trotro than in a sept-place back in Senegal.

With the help of a very nice Ghanaian women we exited the trotro on the side of the road near the taxi stand that we needed to take to get to the beach. We got in a shared taxi with a couple other Ghanaian people and made our way to a beach town called Krokrobite. The towns/ villages we passed resembled those in Senegal and the roads outside of Accra are equally as bad. Everyone we've met in Ghana has told us to go to Big Milly's a backpackers' hostel on the beach, so we went. It was an alternative universe where Westerners come to see Africa and hang out with the locals. It was a very confusing place for me since everything seemed so fake. I didn't really know how to process it and Katherine and I pretty much used the hostel as an information hub. We did walk along the beach which was very pretty and I found cowrie shells washed up along the beach which was cool since they were huge.

From the beach we found another car to take us to the monkey sanctuary which came highly recommended. This was a terrible decision as the car couldn't seem to find a road that could take us there and once we finally arrived a Rastafarian man was the park "ranger" and tour guide. This had bad idea written all over especially when we saw a river full of naked Ghanaian men bathing, but we continued on under the illusion that things would improve. After a while in the jungle without seeing monkeys we asked to be taken back to the main road where we breathed a sigh or relief and took the next car back to the taxi stand on the side of the road and then the next trotro back to Accra. It was a harrowing adventure to say the least and definitely satisfied any curiosity or desire to explore the less finer things Ghana has to offer. We rewarded ourselves with another round of Chinese food while watching the South Africa - Mexico game.

We also made our last trip to the mall and saw The Green Zone with Matt Damon which was good. And now that we finally have water back I'm going to go shower and wipe all of the ocean water and juggle of me.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Shopping Continues

The shopping continued today as we checked out another of Accra's neighborhoods called Osu. Time Out magazine has Time Out Accra so we've pretty much been checking out all of the listings from the magazine. Today we really wanted to check out a store called Global Mamas because it's free trade and supposedly really cool. It did not disappoint. The majority of Global Mama's products are clothing and the quality and uniformity among the different samples was astounding. In the name of research I tried on as many things as possible and was shocked to find that all of the size smalls were actually the same size. None of the artisans that PCVs work with in Senegal are remotely near the level of the products we saw at Global Mamas. The marketing was also really cool and every product had a tag that was signed by the creator of the product. It's very interesting to see the artisan products here and how they differ from Senegal. I've spent probably 3 times more money in Ghana in three days than in the past almost 10 months in Senegal.

After shopping we did more shopping, also in the name of research. There's an artist co-op/ museum type place that has had various benefactors, the most recent being Kofi Annan. Like so many artisan products and ateliers that I've seen it came ever so close to being really cool. The building is huge, four stories, and right on the Gulf and filled with art from various Ghanaian artists. Everything is for sale and the products range from fine art to jewelry to clothing to children's toys. I enjoyed looking at everything, but there was absolutely no information about anything. The artists' names were next to their works, but no biographical information and the building was definitely in need of some repairs, some AC, and some water proofing. There was some really beautiful oil paintings on display, but the rest of the art I found fairly comparable to the quality of art that I've seen with Dioss going around Thies and taking pictures.

Tonight, we returned to Champs, the American sports bar chain, for trivia night. Although we got there an hour and a half early because the published start time is incorrect I did have chicken fingers and fries and free beer which made everything all better. We made friends with a Canadian couple and a British foreign service officer and made a valiant run at the championship. My incredible supply of useless knowledge came in handy as usual as I knew not only what color the sole of Christian Louboutin high heels are, but also the 59 year old golfer who came in second at last year's British Open, the Lady Gaga song Paparazzi, and that Selenium is not a radioactive element.

Tomorrow we are going to attempt to venture out of Accra on public transportation!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Sex and the City 2 instantly made Ghana a hit, but today we found the Holy Grail. The plan for today was to navigate the big markets in Accra and see what we could find. As we were weaving our way past dried fish, vegetables, cooking utensils, mountains of fabric, and everything else under the sun I remembered something that I've looked high and low for in Dakar only to come up empty handed. Around Christmas time a group of us were walking around Dakar when we saw a girl carrying a bag made out of Barak Obama fabric. Obviously I had to it have it and since then have scoured Senegal for Obama fabric to no avail. The fabric selection in Accra blew my mind and it reminded me to look for it. We asked a few ladies selling fabric who at first laughed at us and then led us to a stall that actually had TWO different types of Obama fabric. After Katherine and I both did a victory dance and told the women who owned the stall how great Accra is we bought half of the Obama fabric they had in stock. Other than finding the Obama fabric which was great, walking through Accra's main market was amazing. The amount of different products, the quality of those products, and the way in which they display those products is significantly nicer than the comparable marketing in Dakar.

After the regular market we walked in a giant circle before righting ourselves and heading over to the artisanal market. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk around Accra except for the fact that there's about 150% humidity here and my clothes were stuck to my body. I don't know if rainy season was ever as humid as it is here in Ghana (I may just be blocking it out of my memory), but I do think Senegal is hotter. Even when we left I think that Thies was hotter than Accra. Sweating profusely and absolutely disgusting we arrived at the artisan market. Some of the stuff was nice and interesting, but the vast majority of the goods were generic African things that are all over Dakar and even Thies. It was definitely fun to look and barter though. Katherine and I both commented on the fact that we spent the better part of our day wandering around markets. If I had to do that in Senegal, A. I never would and B. I would be so frustrated that I would most definitely be in tears and driving myself mad. The joy of wearing rose colored glasses on vacation has definitely not warn off. Both of us are surprised at how calm and relaxed we've managed to stay.

By the time we realized what time it was lunch had come and passed and we jumped in a cab to head back in the direction of our hotel. One of the best seafood restaurants in Accra is on the same street as our hotel and we thought we should try it out for lunch since it would be cheaper and we would stick out less in our Peace Corps khaki capri uniforms. We arrived minutes before the kitchen closed, but had a wonderful lunch. I had a salad with prawns and avocados that was out of this world. There are avocados here as big as my head and I'm taking every opportunity to indulge.

Tonight we intended to go down to the beach and listen to some reggae music and get a bite to eat, but the weather had different plans. It started monsoon-ing just after we got back to the hotel and hasn't stopped. Our backup plan was to go see another movie at the Accra Mall. This too was a failure. We pulled out our rain jackets, grabbed an umbrella, and headed out in the monsoon to hail a cab. After becoming sufficiently drenched we found a cab. We got in, told him where we were going, he drove further away from our hotel, and then told us he didn't want to take us to the mall and didn't want to drive us back to the hotel. We ran/ huddled under the umbrella together back to our hotel where Katherine struggled to close the umbrella as a group of American NGO workers laughed at us from inside. We did look ridiculous. There really wasn't much left to do other than grab a delicious Ghanaian cider and call it a night.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Accra is awesome. We continued a little bit of exploring today after waking up and having another delicious breakfast at our hotel. Because today is Sunday and Ghana is a predominately Christian country most restaurants and businesses were closed today, but a Chinese restaurant with dim sum brunches on Sunday afternoon was opening and crowded. Almost all of our research about Ghana and Accra in particular focused on food, obviously, and dim sum was at the top of the list. Dynasty Chinese Restaurant is a great place. The dumplings and all of the other delicacies, especially the shallot pancakes, were absolutely delicious, but the operations of the restaurant was by far the most interesting part of the meal.

The restaurant was fairly full when we got there and the crowd was surprisingly diverse. There was another table of older American men, an Indian family, a French family, an Asian family, and most surprising to me a table of 20-something Ghanaian people. I cannot imagine my Senegalese family going to a Chinese restaurant. When they do venture to a restaurant they only order Senegalese food and will venture into the world of French pastries. They also absolutely hate everything that I make so it was fascinating to see Ghanaians at Dynasty. I've never seen Senegalese people at the Chinese restaurant in Dakar.

More surprising than the demographics of the diners was the service. There was actually service. Someone opened the door for us, another waiter led us to our seats, and a third waiter immediately came over to take our order. Katherine and I were totally caught by surprise as we usually have to beg, plead, and approach waiters ourselves in the sometimes futile effort of procuring food in a reasonable amount of time even in nice restaurants in Dakar. In Thies at restaurants where I know the staff the service isn't any better. A lot of the time it seems as though I'm terribly inconveniencing people by giving them business. The effort of taking an order or bringing my food once it's finally ready is just too much trouble. At Dynasty the waiters were attentive, they provided information about the menu, double checked they knew what we wanted, and most amazingly offered pertinent information that wasn't specifically requested. We were absolutely dumbfounded. It was great.

Another aspect of service that I'm now unaccustomed to is helpful taxi drivers. I've written many a rant about my dislike of taxis in Dakar because they always attempt to charge me a ridiculous fair and consistently lie about the fact they know where they're going. Cabs in Accra are approximately 100 times nicer than the vast majority in Dakar and they tell you when they don't know the place you want to go. This is revolutionary and it blows my mind. Trying to get back to our hotel we flagged down two cabs who didn't know our hotel, they told us, and we moved on instead of me having a complete meltdown in the back of a cab when they blame me for not knowing where I'm going. Isn't that part of the reason for taking a cab? The luxury of being driven somewhere in a city you don't know? Cabs also have seat belts here which is amazing.

Speaking of cabs, these cabs drive on roads that I would actually consider roads. Even in Dakar there are places where the roads are completely falling apart or where there are no paved roads at all and there are only dirt roads (read sand pits). So far we haven't seen anything like this in Ghana and all of the roads are really nice. An additional feature of travel that's nice are signs! Signs! They point you in the right direction and tell you where you are. They don't exist in Senegal, but they sure do exist here! There are signs everywhere. It's sensory overload. Next to roads I'm very accustomed to seeing trash piles and various discarded items along the road; there's barely any trash in the streets here. Awesome. There's also signs in grocery stores telling people not to use plastic bags because they are bad for the environment. Environment what?

I will use that to segue into grocery stores. There are a lot more Western style grocery stores here than in Dakar. Accra has several chains and we plan on going to all of them. Today we went to Koala (yeah, I don't get the name either) and picked up some great things since we have a full kitchen in our hotel room. Some ice cream may have come out of the freezer after we had take out Chinese food that we took home from Dynasty for dinner! Mmm mmm good.

Additionally, I would like to add the disclaimer that we have not seen all of Accra and these comparisons are just between Accra and Dakar since we haven't ventured outside of Accra. But, what I can tell you is that currently Accra is rocking my world. e

Saturday, June 5, 2010


We made it! I'm currently lounging in our hotel in Accra completely exhausted, but completely exhilarated and excited about the rest of our trip and what happened today and what I saw. Our flight didn't leave Dakar yesterday until 4am. That's right, 4am so we both stayed up all night until we got on the plane.

Events at the Dakar airport:

A few weeks ago when Jackie was saying goodbye to her mom in the Dakar airport she saw a wondrous sign that she told me and Katherine about. It just so happens to be the slogan for Virgin Nigeria, the airline we flew to Ghana. What is this slogan you ask? Virgin Nigeria: We touch all the right places. Hilarious right? The humor, even in my intense sleep deprived state, was not lost on me and I asked a Senegalese security guard to take a picture of me and Katherine next to the sign because it's really just too funny.

12am - arrive at the Dakar airport
1:30am - we finally clear security, and although we had to check our bags, we are pleased with our progress
2am - I'm fairly delirious and want to sleep. A Frenchman sat down next to me. I failed to see that he was carrying a small dog even though Katherine pointed it out to me and then almost peed my pants when it barked right next to me.
3:20am - we finally bored the plane
3:30am - we are both passed out on the plane
3:50am - we take off from Dakar, the lights are off in the cabin and practically everyone is sleeping
4:15am - we hit cruising altitude and the cabin lights are turned on and... dinner is served? Yes, Virgin Nigeria gave us a choice between chicken and rice or fish and potatoes at 4:30am. I wanted to shoot someone.
5:30 - service is finally over and I'm "sleeping" while freezing in the plane
5:45am - the cabin lights are finally turned off
5:45-6:15am - the fasten safety light is turned off and on approximately 1 million times and it seems necessary for the head stewardess to tell and the sleeping people about these developments
6:30am - the cabin lights are turned back on as we approached Accra
7am - touch down in GHANA!!!

After barely 2 hours sleep in 24 hours we're off the plane and through customs. Our hotel was late to pick us up and our room wasn't quite ready, but we did get to enjoy our free breakfast which included toast, eggs, fruit, cereal... it was amazing. Also in the hotel restaurant was another PCV from Mali! We all introduced ourselves and by the time we were all done gorging on breakfast our room was done and Katherine and I took a much needed shower and a power nap before heading to heaven. And by heaven I mean a Western style shopping mall!

I have read all about it and even heard first hand accounts about this mall, but I always thought it was too good to be true and that I would be disappointed. Not true. THE MALL IS AMAZING!!! It has a huge book store, Puma, Panasonic, a nail and hair salon, Apple, Western style clothing stores, a store like Kmart, and a grocery store that is nicer and better than Casino in Dakar. Needless to say I was in awe and in love and after a chicken lunch at a food court even happier. Obviously, this trip is "Alyssa and Katherine go to Ghana," and as such will represent our fabulous personalities. What did we do this afternoon?

WE WATCHED SEX IN THE CITY 2!!!!!!!!!! This is not a joke. The mall also has an amazing and brand new movie theater that has new American movies! While Sex and the City 2 is perhaps even more terrible than the critics have described it, the experience of sitting in a dark movie theater with popcorn in hand was almost more than I could handle. It was awesome and we're probably going to go back and see all the movies that are currently showing.

Now we're back at the hotel and I'm completely exhausted and need to go bed so I can discover all the other wonderful things that Accra has to offer!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Away We Go

Today was my last full day in Thies before my trip to GHANA!!! I'm so excited... other than for the facts that I'm traveling even closer to the equator and it's already the rainy season in Ghana. Before I left I realized that I had to do a few things like clean the absolute mess that was my room and buy snacks for my last Junior Achievement class which is the day after I get back. Other than that I have been packing and trying to make sure I don't forget any forms of documentation or anything else important. Katherine also told me that our hotel has a BLOW DRYER! which totally changed the toiletries I need to bring!

Get ready for an amazing blog post and millions of pictures when I get back!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Shaving in the Courtyard

Today I had a great morning. I woke up and it was really cool and overcast and our quartier was oddly quite, which was a nice reprieve since something was definitely wrong with the mosque speakers at 5am this morning. Call to prayer sounded more like nails on a chalkboard. I'm not sure if it was some obscure holiday or no one felt like getting up and moving about, but no one came out of the main house until almost 9am so I sat on a bench in our courtyard and ate my cliffbar in peace, very relaxing.

This afternoon I Skyped with my Aunt and her class and we talked about how well the atelier went. I'm happy that the kids were able to see the project come full circle and Dioss and I are planning to do more ateliers either after my trip or when school starts back up in the fall.

Favorite moment of the day without a doubt goes to Khady, who makes my day on a fairly regular basis. I walked into my compound after running around this afternoon and found Khady sitting on a bench, topless, shaving her armpits. We then discussed how she had to give Ahmed a bath and that he was going to start crying.