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!


  1. Alyssa,

    What ended up being the winning business idea? Do they receive some assistance in attempting to start up the idea?


  2. ah cockroaches! good work fending them off, man.