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.


  1. So thanks to Leigh, i've been stalking your blog from the begining but have finally decided to comment and help you out in your time of need with some book suggestions:

    Egalia's Daugthers is a really good one
    The Alchemist
    The Tipping point

    Those should tide you over for a bit. Good luck with the rest of your service and hope you get water soon!


  2. Please, I am begging you, get some pictures of the well and the water jugs on your heads. I really, really want to see this. That Deenba is special!
    Alyssa, read stuff you otherwise wouldn't but should. Have you read Faulkner? All of Hemingway and Steinbeck? HOw about Ulysses? The Russians? Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky? I mean you have nothing better to do....keep your mind working. I will compile a more contemporary list for you in the next couple of days

  3. Alyssa,

    The big question is...could you have carried the tub with water? Hang in there, things will get better again. Also explain to Dioss that religion is nice but making making money is nicer.


  4. hmmm I recently read Elegance of the Hedgehog, Let the great world spin and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - I'd recommend all 3, espeically oscar wao!