Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rain Showers

Motivation is becoming a major problem. No one around me has much of any and it’s dampening my desire to do anything except lay around the house reading or seek refuge at Les Delices. When I have a million things to do I’m able to quickly mark things off my list, but one I have one thing to do I delay and procrastinate and generally feel sorry for myself. This is how I thought today was going to turn out and most of the day was highly anti-climatic, but this evening was fabulous and one of the times that you check yourself and remember why you’re here and why it's such a cool experience.

Coming home from an afternoon at Les Delices with Katherine, Elizabeth, and Jackie, who are all in town, I was forced to take a cab because it was raining. This totally made my mom's and Khady's day because they are appalled by how much I walk. They think I'm insane to walk across town in the sun every day all day and constantly tell me to take cabs. I actually think Khady takes it as a personal affront to our family's social status and blatant displays of wealth that I walk instead of take cabs. So, my being forced to take a cab totally made their day. It probably also helped that I got soaked waiting for a cab and was a complete mess walking into the house.

To dry off I sat in the kitchen and watched Awa make one of my favorite dinners. Grilled fish that almost has a Cajun flavor to it. Last night's dinner was even better because Jeenaba made this mango slaw/ salsa that was absolutely delicious. It was just grated mango with vinegar and salt and pepper, but it was delicious and a great departure from usual so I really talked it up in hopes of getting it more often. While I was watching Awa cook, Khady and Jeenaba were outside in the pouring rain trying to collect rain water since our spigot hasn't worked in 6 days. They kept yelling at me to come and take a shower with them. I thought they were kidding. They weren't. Once I saw Khady soaping up I knew they were serious and I ran to my room to undress and come and join them.

The house was divided into two. One side for the girls and the other for the boys. Khady, Jeenaba, and I stood in the pouring rain under the gutters of our house with our lower bodies wrapped in skirts and naked upper bodies taking a shower together and laughing. It was absolutely amazing and a kind of unforgettable experience. Showering half naked, during a lightning storm, from water pouring off my room while laughing with my hosts sisters was an experience I'm never going to forget. Was I clean after this shower? Probably not. Was it safe? Hells no, I was showering during a thunder and lightening storm. But, it was priceless to see Khady and Jeenaba bent over in laughter as I was sudsing my hair.

That was yesterday (no power to post last night). Today started out pretty much and much the same as yesterday. There are a ton of other PCVs in Thies right now in preparation for the English camp I'm going to take part in next week and for the gender and development meeting that's taking place this weekend so a bunch of us decided to go out to chicken dibi for dinner, which was obviously delicious and amazing... no matter what Jackie claims about the imitation chicken dibi she found outside of Dakar!

The most interesting part of my day today was after chicken dibi and the bar and back at my house. As I was getting out of the cab I saw a ton of people all dressed up streaming down the street and I wondered to myself who had a part. The answer? My family had a party. What? Yeah. I left late this afternoon and told everyone that I had friends and town and was going out with them, would eat out, and would be back later. Not a single person in my family thought it necessary to tell me that we were hosting a huge party. When I returned tonight I found hundreds of plastic chairs strewn about the courtyard, DJ equipment, streams, plastic plates, and an exhausted looking Deenba cleaning up. I asked what had taken place and she told me that her boyfriend's brother had had his wedding reception at our house. Then she asked me why I didn't come. It's much, much easier to attend functions when you know that they're happening. I attempted to explain this to her to no avail and then had to re-explain it to everyone else in my family when they asked me the same question. It didn't dawn on anyone that when I told them I was leaving that they could have in turn informed me that we were having a massive party. Oh well. I completely missed the party, but helped with the clean up and now everyone's asleep. It's kind of a win win, although frustrating, situation for me!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Absolutely positively nothing has been going on the past couple of days. I've been hanging out around the center because the Health/ Environmental Education stage is having IST right now and Jackie and Katherine have been doing Gender and Development workshops for them. I've been "helping" and escaping the madness that is my house. We've also been going out to lunch because we're all suffering from extreme ceeb block, the serious malady which causes inability to consume oily rice. People are already talking about Ramadan and preparing for the month long fast by not doing anything or talking about how they're not going to do anything. Dioss told me point blank that once we're done with the card shipment he's not going to do anything. Today something finally happened... we ran out of water and I started to feel like crap. Great combination.

For the past couple of days we really haven't had any electricity. Suprisingly, I take the power outages much better than my family. If it's daylight I sit and read a book (book suggestions needed!), if it's night time I got to bed. Both of these activities totally confound my family. When they see me reading they've taken to saying that I'm sleeping. I'm obviously not sleeping while sitting erect in a chair flipping the pages of a book, but when I point this out to them is irrelevant and extraneous information as they've already decided that I'm sleeping. Everyone else is either actually sleeping or complaining that we're missing the latest episode of Marina. A side note about "educational activities." I busted out a puzzle of the US that my mom sent me today to play with Ahmed because he's driving everyone up the wall. I make everything a game for him and a competition so it's fun. Ziabata comes up and tells Ahmed he's studying as I shoot Ziabata my look of death. Ahmed turns to me with concern in his eyes and asks me if we're studying. I lie to his face and tell him we're playing a game. Now back to when we lose power at night. When it's dark at night and there's nothing to do that is a sign I should go to bed. This is utterly ridiculous to my family who openly ridicules me for going to bed early as they wait for the power to come back on. I know the power never came back on last night because my fan never turned on so my hot box of a room conspired with my overly hydrated body to create a lovely pool of sweat for me to wake up in this morning. This may sound like, and probably is, a lot of complaining, but I can honestly deal with the power outages. They really don't bother me and I can always go into town if I have to have electricity for some reason.

The much more annoying missing utility is water. We haven't had water since Sunday and we finally ran out of our stash today. Some member of my family has been staying up all night, every night since Sunday waiting for the water to turn on to no avail. I've actually been waiting for this day because I've been interested in what happens when we have no power. I now know where the closest wells in my quartier are. They are no close. Deenba and Awa picked up huge tubs and told me grab one and follow them. Khady screamed at me from the balcony that there was no way I could carry a whole tub and that I should take a 10 liter bottle. At the well I discovered that all girls past the age of 10 carry tubs and not 10 liters so everyone at the well had a good laugh at my expense. And when I say everyone I mean the 20 other women and girls that were waiting in line to pull water from the well located in someone's compound several blocks down the street.

By the time it was our turn to pull from the well, Deenba and Awa deemed me too weak and slow to pull the water, which was probably a correct assumption, so they tag teamed it. We were also the last people to pull from the well because by the time we were done none of the ropes could reach the water. I actually couldn't see the water looking down so it must have been quite a distance. I was allowed to help Deenba and Awa get the tubs of water on top of their heads before I picked up my 10 liter to follow them home. The whole way back Deenba was giving Awa a hard time for not being able to walk fast with the water on her head and that she was spilling a lot. Awa was born and raised in Thies and therefore had a spigot. Deenba grew up in a village and only moved to Thies last year to be a maid for my family. This little incident just reminded me that it's all what you get used to.

Note: The making of this post featured one naked 4 year bursting into my room, a pause for dinner, an hour blackout, the light bulb in my room exploding (I'm fine and I'm shocked at how much brighter my room is with a new light bulb!), and a handful of pistachios.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Hairy Situation

Now that my family has a computer it seems like we are starting a tradition to call Cheikh, the brother who lives in Spain, every Sunday after lunch. Fortunately, today no one made me talk to him over Skype which is really hard to do, but I was a topic of conversation. When it was Khady's turn to talk I was sitting with her and my mom outside when Khady started talking about hair extensions. One of my favorite things about my family is their ability to talk about me like I'm not there. They know that I understand the vast majority of what they're saying or can at least catch the drift of a discussion so when they blatantly talk about me in front of me I find it rather amusing.

Since I arrived my family has been talking about Cheikh coming home before Tabaski, a major Muslim holiday that takes place around Thanksgiving. It appears as though this actually might happen or at the very least everyone in Senegal is starting to create a wish list of European goods. Khady's obsession is real hair extensions. She's asked me several times if I will cut off my ponytail and give it to her when I leave, which is fairly awkward, but I've been able to kind of avoid the topic. As my hair has been getting longer she's become more persistent and I've had to just tell her that I want long hair. Today she's talking to Cheikh on Skype and as I'm sitting next to her so tells Cheikh that I'm refusing to give her my hair so he absolutely must buy her real hair extensions before he comes home. I found this hilarious especially since she mentioned me multiple times.

That was the highlight of my day. Other than the lengthy discussion of hair extensions I cleaned my room and entered a war of attrition with Ahmed over the left over candy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Ahmed is all about whispering right now. It's part of his constant and mostly successful plot to rule the family. He's 4 1/2 years old right now and is all about the telling little "lies" to get his way. Little taps on my door let me know that he's attempting to break in and he usually has a very important message from my mom or Khady for me. At first these messages seemed likely and were often true. Calls for meals, requests for phone chargers, demands for matches were all believable. Ahmed is a smart one and soon learned to pray on my trusting nature and our friendship. Soon my mom and Khady were telling me, via Ahmed, that I was supposed to buy everyone ice cream for dinner or that it was urgent that I come and watch the first 12 minutes of The Lion King. Most of his requests are carried out through whispers so no one else can hear him as he tries to pit one family member against another and not get caught.

Today's campaign featured a usual request: candy, which brings me to today's shout outs!

Thank you Shirley for the letters (one today and one yesterday!) they always brighten my day and are much appreciated!

Shout out to the entire Kogelschatz family for an amazing package. THANK YOU!!! All of the reading material looks great and the Cliff Bars and salty snacks have already been devoured or added to my stash! The candy you sent along created the backdrop to most of my day...

The power was out from a few minutes after I woke up to 4pm, which left a lot of time for sitting around. I made my trip to the post office and then stationed myself in the living room with my latest book. When lunch was served I was brought a plate of eggs because it was the one meal I absolutely cannot stomach, but the special treatment always makes me feel terrible, especially since I continuously plead to make my own lunches, so I sent Ahmed back into the kitchen with the plate and told him I had a reward for his services.

The prize was a candy confection from my package and this is where I made my fatal mistake. My cousins sent me two sugar candy bottle things and I gave the Ahmed the choice of blue or red thereby inadvertently telling him that I had two wondrous candies from the US. There is no more perfect union than Ahmed and candy and his ability to consume sugar literally turns my stomach. He was absolutely thrilled with the candy which looks like a bottle and twists off to revel THREE different types of candy. Giving him a lollipop that could be put in more sugar was his coming of the messiah. He showed everyone in the family and constantly took the thing apart and put it back together. He also ate the entire thing over the course of the afternoon... then he started bugging me for the second one by accosting my while I was reading and whispering in my ear that he wanted the other candy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

This Actually Happened

I thought today was going to be stressful and potentially embarrassing, but it just ended up being mayhem. Two days ago Dioss, I think, asked me out on a date. What I do know is that he told me he wanted to take me out to dinner and then a "nightclub" that plays live music. When he first initially asked me I tried to be very Senegalese and noncommittal in hopes that he would get the drift and not bring it up again - that is if he even meant the outing to be romantic in the first place. Yesterday he texted me that he was excited to go out Saturday night. This obviously pushed me into full fledged panic attack mode since I now needed an excuse that would illustrate that I didn't want to go out with him while not hurting his feelings, embarrassing him, and/ or hurting our friendship/ working relationship.

After calls to Katherine and Tamar and worrying about it all day, I was nervous going over to his house today. I had nothing to worry about. He claimed that he forgot that he was hosting 10 French teenagers for the weekend as part of a summer program and that he was busy now. I further hedged and said that I forgot I had promised Jackie that I would visit her in Pout. It was all very strange. Who knows what his actual intentions were, I'm just happy it's over and it's apparently not awkward. What was awkward? Speaking in Wolof with Dioss and his friends while scantily dressed French teens painted in his atelier. Odd.

This was the most normal part of my day.

My family has been having ridiculously late lunches recently and today was no exception. We didn't have lunch until 3:45 and I spent the hours proceeding lunch reading in the family room while big Ahmed and Deenba slept on the floor since we didn't have any power. This was all very normal. When Jeenaba finally called us for lunch Deenba and I got up to get stools for everyone and Ahmed remained on the floor. Deenba tried to rouse him and he blew her off and once we were all waiting for him at the bowl my mom starting yelling at him, he still didn't come. It turns out he was in the midst of a diabetes attack. Ahmed finally made it to the bowl and just sat there while everyone else stared in silence and my mom screamed at him to eat. He didn't eat he just moved the rice around which sent my mom into a furry. Then he passed out at the bowl.

The house descended into chaos. Instead of immediately going to the hospital, Deenba ran for sugar which my mom tried to feed to Ahmed but he refused to eat it. Again, instead of going to the hospital my mom just screams at him that if he doesn't eat the sugar she's going to call the doctor. He manages to eat a few bites of rice and a sugar cube and makes it to the couch to pass out while everyone is yelling at him to eat more. Next step? Ahmed must have a mango.

The only ripe mango on our tree is really high up so while my mom stands pointing at the mango she wants Deenba and Awa connect two pieces of re-bar together with an old t-shirt. I'm sent to back into the house to get a chair to stand on. Deenba gets on the chair with the 20 foot piece of re-bar in hand while Awa holds the bottom of the re-bar and the chair. I'm attempting to keep little Ahmed out of the ensuing disaster so we watch from the kitchen window. All of a sudden Deenba falters a little bit and uses one hand to support herself allowing the re-bar to slip. It's slips onto the power line going to our neighbors house.

At this point I start having a massive panic attack and start screaming at Deenba to drop the re-bar because it's touching a power line. My screaming sends Ahmed into tears and scares Deenba who just stands there still holding the re-bar. As cool as a cucumber, my mom turns to me and explains that the power is out so nothing bad can happen. I'm beside myself and am 99% sure that someone is going to die. So I grab Ahmed and we leave to get ice cream. Everything else had been so logical up until this point that I just went with the flow and that's the first thing that came to into my head. We had to walk to several boutiques before finding something that Ahmed wanted so by the time we got back the re-bar had been removed from the still intact power line and all of the women were watching big Ahmed sleep.

Once I was sure that everything was at least stable I made my escape. I had already made plans to meet Emily for a drink after she watered her garden so I made our way to Emily's favorite drinking spot to do some work and remove myself from the chaos of my house. I was walking my very familiar route saying hi to all of the children I usually see when a teenage boy decided to call me the bad word for white person and throw half a bucket of water at me. Fortunately the water hit the side of my body that my bag, carrying my computer, was not on so there wasn't really any damage done, but it was unpleasant none the less. I told him he was rude and a bad person and asked to see his mother, which only brought on hysterical laughter so I cut my losses and moved on. Oddly this incident didn't upset me too much... probably because the rest of the day had been so utterly ridiculous that getting water thrown at me was just par for the course.

Luckily, the restaurant provided electricity, internet, and alcohol, which can fix almost any situation. I also know I'm going home to chicken for dinner after which I'm going to hide in my room and pray that nothing else too out of the usual happens before bed time!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Back on Track?

Dioss' atelier was filled with small children covered in paint this morning. He's been hosting a bunch of French high school students recently, but today he had little kids and it was obvious that he'd met his match. My walking in the door was his signal to leave the mess and the children with their nanny and Issa, his friend and business partner, and to retreat with me into the main house to sit in front of a fan and talk about bank accounts. When faced with small children Dioss is much more open to discussing routing numbers and the like. I may have to take advantage of this weakness and start bringing Ahmed to my meetings with Dioss!

The catalog is still in limbo because the funding hasn't come through yet and it's very hard for Dioss to multi-task and think about exporting his cards. He's obsessed with the funding even though it's out of his hands now and all he can do is wait. Pauline having to leave in early August just adds an extra layer of stress to the situation. I actually ran into her this afternoon and she didn't seem overly hopeful about the funding arriving in time for her to see the finished product. Fortunately it seemed like Dioss got some sleep over the weekend, probably because it's been so nice and rainy, and we had a good talk about opening the bank account and next steps for the cards. Hopefully the bank account will be open and ready for business by the end of the week and I'll have samples of the new market scene cards he's creating. That would be an incredibly productive week and put us on track to meet our deadline at the end of next month.

From Dioss' I ran into town to meet Katherine and Jackie for lunch. They were in town doing some banking and I caught wind that we were having one of my least favorite lunches so I took the opportunity to hang out with my friends and not get harassed by my family for not liking fish balls. The three of us conjectured about the Peace Corps, gossiped, and planned our Christmas vacations home like only we can. Once they left I stayed to do some computer work I've been putting off. It was a surprisingly productive afternoon so when I came home I helped peel sweet potatoes in a corner while pretending to be Scar...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rain, Rain Come to Stay

The war versus ceeb has started again. I slacked off in my exercise routine, but intense boredom has led me back to the track and I'm feeling good. Half of the battle of exercising is the harassment I endure while doing it. Heckling, constant demands to greet people, and the like are all excuses not to go out. I've discovered that riding my bike or walking to the track provokes many less responses than running so that's a start. I've also made some friends at the track. If I get there early enough there's a really nice and cute old French woman, there's also some Senegalese women around my age who get there really early. The men have been surprisingly nice as well. They always greet me and then we all get on with our workouts. Not one of them has asked me if I'm married. Refreshing.

This morning when I got up to talk to Matt it was still pitch black and was obviously going to storm. I decided that I would go for a run anyway... "because it's not THAT bad." I was wrong. By the time I arrived at the track I knew I had made a terrible decision. I saw the usual guys there and they asked why I had even left my house today. Good question. They told me to go home before it started to pour. This was the first time they asked where I lived and when I told them they started laughing at me. This was a situation when I knew to follow a Senegalese person's advice, just like following the local bike trail in Kedougou. Senegalese people have an amazing sixth sense for weather. Anyway, the group of guys told me I didn't have a prayer of making it home without getting rained on. I started a nice paced jog back, but by the time I got to the main road there were zero people outside and the wind was blowing so hard I felt like I was making no headway. I started sprinting while trying to scrape sand out of my eyes. I'm not sure I've ever run that fast. I was actually slightly concerned for my safety because the weather was not messing around. Fortunately I made it back with 10 seconds to spare, but by the time I turned my key in the door it was monsooning.

The rain was an absolute blessing. The past three nights we've had no power and therefore no fans and my room is hot box. I've been waking up in a pool of my own sweat which I haven't done since PST and just not sleeping well. Everyone in my family is smarter than me and therefore saw that it was going to storm and continued to sleep. I gave myself a sponge bath in my room and took a nap in the cool that the rain brought. It rained the entire morning. It was great. I napped, read, attempted to do work until we lost power again, and enjoyed a quiet morning without feeling guilty that I had absolutely no interaction with my family.

By noon the rain had subsided from monsoon into occasional bursts of precipitation for the rest of the day and my family was finally starting the day. We ate lunch at 4pm. I called Dioss who still hasn't opened the bank account and is super stressed about the funding for Pauline's catalog. He usually invites me over regardless of what he's doing and he didn't which means he's exhausted and completely overwhelmed. I'm going over tomorrow whether he likes it or not. So with no alternatives I read almost all afternoon. My host dad did bring Ahmed some new toy dinosaurs so I played with those for a while too.

The rain has brought back one of my arch nemesis: crickets. There's at least one in my room that I can't find. I plan to wage war for several more minutes until I surrender, but it's still cool because of the rain so I want to get into bed!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Lingo

When Katherine and I were in Ghana the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers at our hotel could obviously tell we were American by our accents, but they knew without a doubt that we were PCVs by the topics of our conversations and all of the ridiculous acronyms we use on a daily basis. I joined Peace Corps knowing that I would be learning a new, local language, but PCVs also learn to speak in "Peace Corps," a distinct language unto itself. I can only imagine how bizarre and incomprehensible and potentially gross (we talk about bodily functions far too much and too liberally) our conversations must seem to an outsider. To compound the Peace Corps language phenomenon you add an intense need to discuss anything and everything that's going on, speculation about what we will do at the end of our service, and the all important topic of obsession: food and our conversations may not only be weird, but also rather dull.

I mention all of this because Tamar's friend Theresa is here and I've spent the past couple of days with her, but also with Tamar and Jackie and we definitely spent a lot of time rambling as PCVs do while I assume Theresa attempted not to die of boredom. Today we went to Keur Moussa the infamous location of the Catholic monastery that makes goat cheese and various fruit wines. We had a lovely picnic which included sausage (mom, Jackie thanks you!), bread, and cheese. Sitting in a gazebo on the monastery grounds we were serenaded by the monks as they conducted mass, but we didn't attend - instead we talked the PCV talk. I had a wonderful time. I just hope Theresa did as well. The grounds are very beautiful and, at least for me, it's always nice to get out and drive around and see different towns and villages.

From Keur Moussa we went to Pout for some Pojangos of the non alcoholic variety. Pojangos get more delicious the more you make them because you learn just the right combination of yogurt and mango and today we even put bananas in! This is what I get excited about now! We all sat in front of the fan, today was one of the first fairly insufferable days, being attacked by flies and sipping our smoothies. After Tamar, Jackie, and I waxed on for a couple more hours about haircuts, food binges, and seeing family at Christmas, Tamar, Theresa and I headed back to Thies. I really hope that Theresa enjoys the rest of her stay in Senegal and that we didn't bore her too much!

My family didn't make any major purchases today so when I arrived back home people were actually interested in where I had been all day/ desperately wanted me to play Lion King with Ahmed since everyone else had lost patience with him. I played Lion King until I thought I was going to pass out from the humidity. It did rain this afternoon, but the rain only made things worse. Luckily things are cooling down a little bit now and I'm hoping to get a good night's sleep since last night the dog, roosters, and mosques went at it all night.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

New Computer

Sleeping in this morning felt like heaven after I stayed up so late this weekend in Dakar. It was made even better by the fact that I was so exhausted last night that neither the mosque nor the roosters woke me up! My family was also having a lazy morning so I slowly picked up and organized my room before I read a little and played soccer with Ahmed while we waited for lunch.

After lunch I learned that there's a new member of my family. A new computer. My dad debuted a brand new net book this afternoon and everyone almost had a heart attack. He had also purchased a wireless internet key so within minutes big Ahmed had downloaded Skype and we were talking to my brother Cheikh, whom I've never met and lives in Spain. Every single person in the family had to have a thirty minute conversation with Cheikh which was fairly difficult for me since the connection isn't so great and I was only getting every third word. I'm very interested to see how the computer will be used/ shared amongst my family and if it will only make appearances when my dad is home. Skype also helped me prove that my Senegalese family has perhaps the strongest family resemblance in the world. Cheikh and Baye could legitimately be twins.

It was just a big day of excitement because as soon as the computer died, we couldn't charge it because it didn't have power, Tamar and her friend from home came by to visit! My family absolutely loves Tamar and a new toubab is always interesting. Tamar and I showed her friend that menagerie of animals that live at my house as well as velociraptor before heading back to Massa Massa for some wine on the roof and lasagna for dinner! Definitely can't complain! Today was a pretty good day.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fun Times

Dakar, surprisingly, didn't produce the level of annoyance I was dreading and I actually had a really good time once we got there. Per usual I bought Jackie and seat in the sept-place and planned to pick her up in Pout. I was the first person in the sept-place so I obviously took the best seats for Jackie and myself. Three men approximately my age who were getting in my car told me that I had to sit in the back because I was saving a place. This is crap and everyone knew it. There are very strict sept-place etiquette rules and I was following all of them. Things devolved into an argument, which I refused to lose until I lost. One of the men picked up my bag, which was saving Jackie's seat, and threw it into the backseat. After screaming at him that he had absolutely no respect and was a terrible person, much to the amusement of the entire garage, I too climbed into the back seat and swore at him in English under my breath.

As soon as we left the garage I was worried about the car. We did make it to Pout to get Jackie, but after some off-roading in an attempt to circumnavigate traffic, the car broke down in the middle of an incredibly busy and congested intersection on the national highway. I gasped as semi trucks slammed on their brakes and I saw my life whiz before my eyes. After three of the male passengers pushed the car for several blocks as the driver pumped the clutch and we all prayed for the car to start, it kind of did and we made it to Dakar where the cab Jackie and I found to take us to the office also broke down.

The day, fortunately, passed without too much more trouble and I had a delicious lunch which made up for a lot. The main purpose for the trip was to have a camp meeting, which went really well. We did some reorganizing of the schedule and I'm really excited about my new role which will be planning the training day for our Senegalese counterparts. If you are interested in learning more about the camp or would like to help us found our endeavor, check out this link:

The camp meeting took place at our favorite happy hour place, which was followed by a new Mediterranean restaurant for dinner. The new restaurant was awesome and is definitely going to replace the previous favorite since the food is better and the service is head and shoulders above the old favorite. It was an extremely fun night, which only got better when we returned to the regional house to welcome the new volunteers from the Dakar and Linguere regions. I had entirely too much fun and stayed up entirely too late so I'm exhausted after another new place for lunch and a traffic plague ride back to Thies.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ceeb Block

I've been afflicted with a serious mental illness and it's called Ceeb Block. Katherine has been battling Ceeb Block for months so I feel luckily that I've only recently been dealing with this horrible malady. Ceeb Block occurs when one can no longer eat rice no matter one's level of hunger. I have always had difficulties eating when I'm hot and have never enjoyed eating outside much to my mom's and grandma's chagrin. Hot, greasy rice coupled with extreme temperatures and profuse sweating creates a highly unappetizing lunchtime situation. Even if I'm starving when I sit down at the bowl my hunger immediately evaporates when the bowl is uncovered and I see ceeb. I know I will regret saying this, but I'm actually looking forward to Ramadan when I can cook lunch for myself.

Almost nothing of note happened today. Dioss and I attempted to open another bank account and came up against several frustrating roadblocks, I went to see Diof since we had planned a meeting but he wasn't at the office, and I hung out around the house reading since we had no power so I couldn't type up any of the paperwork that I've been quasi avoiding.

The one exciting thing that happened was at the post office! I got a package and I also sat around talking for 1.5 hours so I could enjoy the air conditioning.

Huge shout out to the McKeowns for an incredible package! Thank you so much for all the magazines and everything else you sent. The magazines should definitely keep me busy for a while!

Tomorrow I'm off to Dakar for a camp meeting and to help fete the new stage! Sushi for lunch and Chinese for dinner! Obviously the entire meeting and party has been planned around food!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I finally caught up with Dioss today and it wasn't the magical meeting I had imagined in my head. In all likelihood Dioss will be exporting some of his cards to the US and I was so excited to tell him. I've been unable to meet with him the past two days because he's been in Dakar with Pauline trying to secure funding for the catalog for Dioss' artist association. They were supposed to meet with some minister on Monday morning, but ended up meeting with him Tuesday afternoon. Pauline is only here for another 3-4 weeks and Dioss is definitely worried that the funding wont come through in a timely manner, which means that the printing and the "launch party" for the catalog might not happen while Pauline is here. I'm only slightly familiar with this project and really have no idea about the funding side of it and Dioss is definitely worried he's going to have to finish this project alone. Hopefully this week and next week they can catch me up to speed with what's going on and/ or the funding will magically appear.

While Pauline is calling Dioss every five seconds about ministers, funding, and meetings, I'm trying to talk to him about bank account routing numbers and the importance of meticulous record keeping for this export deal. Dioss is obviously overwhelmed. Everything he wanted is happening at once and he can't take it in. I can't blame him. He's very unsure of the business side of his business. He's an artist and doesn't pretend or to be good at the accounting and marketing aspects of it. I had a huge to-do list of things I wanted to do with Dioss today. We need to make a key for all of the different types of cards and I wanted to go over some other things so I had lugged my computer and camera across town, but that obviously wasn't happening today. Dioss was just looking at me with a dazed look on his face.

I scaled back the agenda to the most important item on the list. Currently Dioss only has a credit union and we needed to research some banks to see which one he should open an account at. I told him I would go and gather all of the information and we could talk about it later, but he wanted to come along. I can't tell you how incredibly difficult it is to open a personal bank account here. Necessary items: equivalent of our driver's license, a $50-$100 initial deposit, 3 passport photos, one's most recent electric or water bill, and proof of some sort of income. It's a freaking maze. After taking his passport picture we parted ways and are planning to meet up tomorrow to hopefully open the account.

This afternoon I hung out at the house and was constantly annoyed by one of the little girls who lives next door. She sometimes comes over to play with Ahmed although she's probably around 10 and I really don't like her. I don't know what it is about how she talks to me, but it just seems mean spirited and she bosses Ahmed around. We've had power for going on 2 hours now! But, I've got my flashlight ready to help Deenba with dinner!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Desk Sounds Good

Avoiding a desk job right out of college was one of the myriad reasons I joined Peace Corps, but a 9-5 with a schedule and deadlines sounds oh so good right now. I feel like I'm in a weird limbo period. Now that school is over I don't have Junior Achievement, which previously took up a lot of my time and Dioss is very busy striking an impending and incredibly cool deal (more on this when it's confirmed) and is in Dakar all the time. People are already starting to talk about Ramadan, it's hot and humid, and I'm spinning my wheels coming up with new projects.

This lead me to the unthinkable today: I went to see Diof. Yesterday my big accomplishments were reading the entirety of To Kill a Mockingbird, going to the post office, and watching the Lion King with Ahmed. I felt like spicing things up today. Especially after Dioss called to tell me that he had to stay in Dakar again today so we couldn't meet. As soon as Dioss comes back we will embark on what could and will hopefully be a big, time consuming, and awesome project, but for now I'm playing Simba and Scar. So, I went to see Diof. I had already gone to the post office and chatted with my friends there (shout out to Shirley for another letter! Thank you!), gone to the grocery store, and strolled through the market when I realized that Diof's office was in my path home. Usually this would mean I would run past the intersection in an attempt to avoid Diof, but in my boredom I decided he might be up to something interesting.

I stopped going to see Diof during the winter because he wants me to be his office bitch. He would love it if I would come in every day and fix his computer, type up his notes, and accompany him around town, but that is not why I joined Peace Corps... even if it did seem almost tempting today. When I blurted out I was looking for a project he was only too happy to suggest that I travel with him to surrounding villages, but that's not what I want. I don't want to hang out with Diof and I don't want to leave Thies, as I am the Thies volunteer. I attempted to explain to him the type of project I'm looking for and we are meeting again on Thursday so we'll see what happens.

This afternoon I gave my room a thorough scrub down and then sat in the courtyard reading as my family sat around in silence because the power has been out all day. This evening I proved my prowess at holding a flashlight while Deenba cooked dinner. A day in the life...

Monday, July 12, 2010


Dioss stood me up this morning so I had to figure out something else to do. That something else took the form of reading half of To Kill a Mockingbird, going to the post office - shout outs to Matt, Shirley, and Katherine for great letters - and helping Khady cook lunch. Yes, that's right it was Khady's turn to cook again. Even though I peeled and cut all of the potatoes and one of her friends who was over cut all of the onions we still didn't eat lunch until 3:30. I don't really understand how it takes her that long, but the result is always fairly delicious so I can't complain. We had some good, grilled fish, onion sauce, and fries which was a blessing since I'm currently having a mental block against rice, but that's an issue for an entire blog post.

One reason why it likely takes Khady so long to make lunch, especially now, is that Ahmed is out of school and we have no power. Usually he would be placed in front of the television with some old Tom and Jerry cartoons and left to his own devices. Now he wants someone to play with him and lavish him with attention. That's my job. No matter where I am in the compound I periodically hear someone screaming "go greet Jeenaba," and that's my que to find Ahmed and distract him for a while. Lion King is still forefront in his mind and everything that can be stood on is now Pride Rock and most of what he "says" is in roars. I'm currently trying to convince Ahmed that I am a much better Nahla than Scar, but he begs to differ so I'm stuck laying in the corner looking angry.

This afternoon I met up with Emily in town to do some work. We did work for a little while until the generator at the restaurant ran out of gas. Since we were both trying to do things involving internet we gave up entirely and eavesdropped on two American men's conversation until they too recognized we were American and asked us to join them. It's always fascinating meeting other Americans to hear their perspective and experiences in Senegal. These men worked for Northrup Grumman and were fairly interesting. What I realized during our conversation was the complete and total lack of any filtering or censoring Emily and I did. Usually when I speak with another American it's another PCV so that day's bowel movements, weird infections, and other gross and odd topics that aren't discussed are fair game. Fortunately, Emily and I had already discussed the odd rash on her legs, but I suddenly caught us talking about catrat.

Catrat for those of you who don't know is the giant, cat sized, rat that lives at the regional house in Dakar and has become our defacto mascot and, unfortunately, sometimes sleeping companion. Both of us were casually talking about catrat without even realizing how incredibly odd that would be to other people. In Peace Corps we all create a little world with a secret language, unusual social mores, and downright bizarre references. I'm fairly certain that I can maintain a normal conversation with people from home, but talking with other Americans here the line is blurred.

After they payed for our beers I headed home to make sure I wouldn't miss dinner. When I got home there was a group of Senegalese teenagers around my door. I greeted them and asked them why they were just standing in the street. They obviously didn't know me because they asked if I knew the house and the mean dog well. I laughed and said I lived here and bravely led the way into the compound as the boy held on to my bag in fear. Sure enough Misha, our dog, came running and barking to see who was there, but calmed down when she recognized me. In a strange way it felt like such a victory. It felt like I really belonged, if only for a second.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

World Cup Miracle

Since I've moved into my house in Thies we've only had water during the day on major holidays. Apparently the World Cup is a major holiday. The women in my family were beside themselves with glee that we had water all day. My mom kept talking about how early she was going to go to sleep since we filled all of our water reserve 10 liters during the day and people could get water from the tap for bucket baths. This was a big event at my house. Another gift: we also had power all day! It was pretty awesome.

Having power all day meant everyone watched television all day. As I was zoning out while attempting to find the humor in a Wolof movie, Ahmed came to get me and whispered he had a surprise for me. I was intrigued because usually he just demands candy or for me to pretend to be a plane so I followed him into his room. There, he showed me one of the new DVDs Khady bought him. It was Lion King! I was way too excited to watch Lion King. I told him Lion King was one of my favorite movies and I went to buy us a pack of Biskrem while he put in the DVD. My Sunday afternoon activities now consist of having a cuddle date with a four year old. Nice. Lion King was fantastic as were the dances Ahmed made up to accompany all of the musical numbers. He was quite disappointed in my ability to mimic his moves so I was relegated to sitting on the bed and purchasing snacks. The rest of the day he refused to speak to me and would only roar to get my attention. We'll see how long that lasts.

This evening's television entertainment was obviously the World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain. My family was all about Spain because that's where my oldest host brother, Cheik, whom I've never met currently lives. As usual I become emotional involved even though I really didn't care who won. My family thinks I'm ridiculous when I watch sports and I think that I'm part of the entertainment for them.

Now it's pouring rain which is a relief after an overcast and very humid day. I'm going to bed to prepare for a big day with Dioss tomorrow.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


This post has been a long time in the making. I've only just recovered from the trip and it appears as though the power plant that supplies Thies and the surrounding area has completely stopped working and we've had power for maybe 1.5 hours a day, which also means minimal if any water.

So here it goes...

July 1st
After confirming everything with our sept-place driver which was obviously much more difficult than I could have possibily imagine and even included PC staff members at the center calling me in a panic that I hadn't yet called the car company, I successfully directed the driver to my house, in Wolof, for a dry run. This day also including my family telling me every chance they got that I was absolutely crazy for taking a bike to Kedougou - they didn't even believe when I told them I was going to ride my bike to a waterfall, that was just too much. Per usual I also left my packing to the last minute which meant that I had to pack in the dark since we didn't have any power.

July 2nd
We wake up at 4:15am and the sept-place driver arrives on time at 4:30am. The best part was that my dad was up and getting ready to go to work while we were loading up the car. He was the only person enthused and interested about the trip and didn't think that I was absolutely crazy. The first lesson I learned about early morning travel in Senegal is that although businesses may advertise themselves as open 24/7 this is blatantly untrue. The driver needed gas right away and the first two gas stations we went to were closed even though there were gas station attendants there who would talk to us, all the lights were on, and their signs said 24/7. Fortunately we made it to the next big town outside of Thies and one of the 3 24/7 gas stations was open.

Our first actual stop was in Bambey to pick up Katherine who was waiting for us on the side of the road. This is also where we learned that our driver, Ibrahima was totally badass and awesome, as he quickly disassembled her bike, threw her bag in the car and strapped her bike to the roof. While Ibrahima was doing this, I was attempting to sneak away from the road in the slowly brightening morning light to pee. I thought I had found the perfect location to pop a squat, but, as usual, I was totally wrong. In my slightly compromising position I heard an Alham public bus, turn off the main road. I thought to myself that there was no way it was going to make the left turn near my pee spot. I was wrong and approximately 20 Senegalese people saw me peeing behind a shack at 5:30 in the morning. If that doesn't start your day out right, I don't know what would.

From Bambey, the next large city is Diourbel. In Diourbel we turned south, heading to Kaolack, and it was like we turned right into a completely different world. As soon as we made the turn south things were green. It was an amazingly drastic change. It's only rained a couple of times in Thies, but everywhere just south has seen a lot of change so it was nice to see green and some animals that didn't look like they were going to keel over and die with the next breeze. At this point I passed out for a while and awoke in Kaolack where we picked up Elizabeth, who completed, our car and some delicious bean sandwiches for the ride.

The rest of the ride featured a lot of dozing, Ibrahima telling all of the police check points that we were on official business and needed our bikes (he really knew how to drop the PC name!), and trying to embarrass Tamar with fun facts her family sent me in honor of her 25th birthday! We were making unbelievable time to Kedougou until it started absolutely pouring. I was actually slightly scared for my life because I'm fairly certain Ibrahima couldn't see out the windshield, but I lived to tell the tale so everything is all right. About 85k from Kedougou, while it's still raining heavily, I see a blurry group of people out the window. I tell Ibrahima to stop and it turns out to be a great of volunteers who were riding their bikes from Tamba to Kedougou who were tired, freezing cold, and had ran out of water. We gave them all the water we had and the next day they did make it safely to Kedougou. I'm happy we took a car!

July 3rd
We stayed at one of the nicest campaments in Kedougou, which has a poll and is where all of the PCVs hang out on the 3rd of July eating Warthog sandwiches. Warthog sandwiches are something of a Kedougou legend and are actually quite deliciuos. I would have liked a little bbq sauce, but they were delicious nonetheless. Hanging out at the pool was a lot of fun. We drank, ate, and watched soccer.

July 4th
I was totally impressed by all of the Kedougou PCVs and the party they threw for the 4th of July. They put a ton of work into the preparations and it came off great. They roasted three pigs, made a ton of coleslaw, potato salad, beans, yummy dips, and cookies. The drinks flowed, music blared, games were played, and fireworks launched. A good time was had by all.

July 5th
Our last day in Kedougou was the day that I had really been looking forward to. Not only is Kedougou green and has hills that are almost the size of mountains, it also has waterfalls! Everyone always talks about riding bikes to the waterfalls in Dindefelo and how beautiful it is. July 5th wasn't exactly a good day for a lot of people after the happenings of the 4th, but Jackie, Katherine, Elizabeth, Tamar, Erin, Cj, and I got up early and headed out on our bikes. The road heading out of Kedougou is a nice red road and it's almost all downhill which tricks one into thinking that the ride is going to be a pleasant afternoon of looking at picturesque villages and laughing merrily. My ass will tell you this is not true.

Turning off the red road, we started to see the trail would not be easy. Roads that were once paved are now falling apart, have fallen in on themselves, hold pools of water, and are covered in slippery gravel. The going is tough to say the least. I can't possibly justly describe the ride. Everyone was sweating profusely, bleeding, and out of breath before too long.

A little over half of the way to Dindefelo we ran into an extremely difficult patch of "road." The "road" was actually a sand pit that extended for several kilometers and which reduced my thighs to Jello and my mental state to verging on tears. Everyone made it to a village called Segou where we split up into two groups. Erin, CJ, and I leading the pack and the rest of the girls following. The ride from Segou to Dindefelo was terrifying. A lot of it was down sharp inclines which were full of jagged rocks, gravel, thorny plants, and many other scary things. I'm definitely not a daredevil and I did not enjoy this part. I also didn't enjoy that fact that once we arrived in Dindefelo we discovered the 30 minute hike to the waterfall was more like an hour hike even taking out the time when we were lost.

Fortunately we persevered and made it to the waterfall which was spectacular. Everyone had told me the waterfall was beautiful, but it was much more impressive in person. We swam in the pool, took some pictures, and then turned around because we needed to leave quickly to make it back before twilight. Erin, CJ, and I headed back to Kedougou while the other girls waited for a car to come get them. I have to admit that when we set off on the return trip I wasn't sure I could make it. I didn't even really want to try, but there was no way CJ was going to conquer this challenge and hold it over my head!

Getting back into Segou was a challenge and only represented a quarter of the distance back and I really wasn't sure I could do it, but I kept going and I'm really glad I did. What I failed to mention about the sand pit part of the road was that we saw a Senegalese man riding his bike some distance from us on a bush path. In most situations I have learned to do as the Senegalese do because they know best so I have no idea why we didn't switch to that path in the first place. On the way back we did and it turned out to be the easiest part of the trip. The trip back turned out to take about 2.5 hours while the trip there took 4 hours. We definitely learned from our past mistakes. Erin, CJ, and I made made it back well before nightfall and the other girls followed several hours later.

I'm so happy we made the trip. It was beautiful and exhilarating. I'm also really proud of myself that I biked 80k in one day! Although I've barely been able to move or bend my knees for the past two day, it was well worth the effort and an unforgettable experience.

Pictures of the trip are up in the album "Kedougou and On," check them out!