Friday morning before the weekend started I had what will hopefully prove to be an amazingly successful Junior Achievement meeting. Kether, who works with a lot English teachers in the area, gave me the contact information for Ndeye, an English teacher she had worked with before who teaches at the Lyvee Technique. Kether gave Ndeye an absolutely glowing recommendation and it was a recommendation she totally deserved. After a rough start to the meeting which involved both of us waiting in the restaurant for a long time because we somehow missed recognizing each other, Ndeye and I had a really good meeting. I'm looking for a Lycee Technique teacher who is interested in creating a Junior Achievement club with me. Unfortunately Ndeye isn't interested in team teaching with me, which was my dream, but she is interested in being a faculty liason, attending the classes, and helping me with the set-up. All good things.
A Junior Achievement book of her own and the students' final projects from last school year helped me seal the deal. Ndeye is going to talk to the principal to make sure he approves her working with a club like this and then we will hopefully start meeting more regularly. Lycee Technique is still not in the full swing of the school year. Only about one-third of the total student population has actually started school and all the students wont have started until after Tabaski, which is November 17th. Ndeye doesn't want to start until after Tabaski which poses a problem since Thanksgiving is the next week, then the All-Volunteer Conference, and then the artisan expo. And then AMERICA. The students also have a three week break for Christmas so I have a bad feeling that the club can't really be up and running until January. Hopefully working with Ndeye, who speaks fantastic English, will work out and JA will be awesome, even if it does start second semester.
After my meeting I met up with almost everyone in the Thies region and headed to Mbour for lunch and a return trip to Warang for more liquor tasting. The lunch I had in Mbour was unbelievable. Even though we all had to order three times before the waitress got it right. I think it was the best meal I've had in Senegal and that it passed the ever talked about test: would this be good in the US? Calamari sauted to perfection in garlic sauce with tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and freaking amazing fries will always be good. The liquor tasting was just as fun the second time around especially since I was with a bunch of people who had never been before. Let's just say that the proprietor remembered us from last time and gave us another great tasting.
Before we knew it we were back in a sept-place, ingredients for Mexican food in hand, and speeding toward Dakar. That is until we hit Rufisque, a always traffic packed suburb of Dakar, where we sat for an hour or so breathing exhaust fumes. By the time we got to Dakar we were too tired to prepare our Mexican feast so I made some great cornbread and we called it a night. Saturday morning we made our Mexican fiesta for breakfast which was delicious and then went to the baseball field where we were thoroughly embarrassed by American school teachers who didn't even have enough people for a full team. An amazing bbq featuring delicious hamburgers saved the day.
This morning everyone at the regional house enjoyed Halloween goodies bags courtesy of my mom before we headed out for brunch and the homeward journey. Ahmed was extremely excited to see me when I walked into the compound today since I had promised him candy and presents for his birthday before I left. Although completely exhausted it was obvious that there would be no sleep for the weary until Ahmed received presents and candy. I taught my entire family how to trick-or-treat. I stood behind the kitchen door and made each of them knock and say "trick-or-treat" in order to receive a delicious mini Twix bar my grandma sent me! I also gave Ahmed some Play-Doh that's been sitting in my room for a while. He absolutely loved it and the whole family really got into it!
I think it was a great weekend had by all. Now all I need is some sleep!
And new pictures are up. Check out the "Softball Season" album.
It's becoming trendy in Senegal not to answer my phone calls. This morning neither Dioss nor his mom picked up so I decided to stay at home and get some work done. Usually when I have a lot of computer work to do I go to a restaurant in town because whenever I'm in my room my family thinks I'm sleeping and therefore a complete waste of life. This morning I put the final touches on the artisan expo location, worked on the artisan expo grant and the promotional material, and replied to emails that have been sitting in my in-box for forever, but my family still asked why I slept so late. Ugh. I did feel very productive so I was OK it their lack of understanding. Although they can hear me when I talk on the phone so I'm unsure how they can possibly think I'm sleeping. Because I didn't go anywhere this morning I had the chance to sit around with Deenba for a long time and now almost feel like I'm in the know.
Deenba and I sat around cooking and cutting onions for much of the morning. I took the opportunity to grill her about Jeenaba's upcoming nuptials. Evidentially baby daddy is quite well off because he's going to Mecca this year for the hadj. Going to Mecca is an unbelievably big deal. There is no experience in the US I can equate it to. He'll be gone for a month for the pilgrimage and when he comes home everyone will throw him parties because it's an honor to have someone who has gone to Mecca at your house. He can also add "al-hadji" to his name signifying he has been to Mecca. Jeenaba had told me that they are going to get married after Tabaski, which is a week before Thanksgiving, but after Tabaski means at least December or January since her fiancé will be in Saudi Arabia.
Since we were talking about weddings I took the opportunity to ask Deenba about her boyfriend and when she gets married. Please read the following conversation reenactment knowing that I always try to be a strong, badass, independent woman here and try to convince my Senegalese female friends around me to delay marriage and go to school for as long as possible. Deenba isn't going to return to school, but she doesn't need babies while her boyfriend has a part time furniture upholstery job.
Me: Jeenaba is getting married soon. When are you going to get married? Deenba: When are YOU going to get married? Me: I'm still a child not for a long time. Deenba: I'm still a child too. You are older than me. When are you getting married? Me: I don't want to get married until I'm 30. Deenba: Yeah, I want to get married in a year too. Me: How old do you think I am? (in an extremely exasperated tone) Deenba: Twenty-eight or twenty-nine. Me: No. I'm only twenty-three. Deenba: Well, I'm still younger than you. Me: (shaking head in despair, knowing that I can't win)
Seriously, I do not look like I'm pushing thirty. I'm going to chalk it up to the fact that she can't tell how old toubabs are. Or at least I'm going to pray that's what's up!
The other big family event of the day was the discussion of Ahmed's birthday. I wrote about his birthday last January because that's when Khady told me it was. Nope. Actually, it's October 30th and they are planning a real party for him including cake, friends, and music and I'm a terrible person and am going to miss it. I was so upset yesterday that I had to call my mom in the States and all of my friends for emotional support. I thought they were all going to tell me to come back for the party. Ahmed is my fiancé after all. They reminded me that most Senegalese parties are anti-climatic, it might not actually happen, and that since all of his little friends will be there Ahmed wont even care if I'm there. It's me that will care. I thought my family would be so upset with me, but when I told them they totally didn't care. Still feeling unbelievably guilty about leaving my BFF on his birthday I offered to buy ice cream for the event, which I did this afternoon. I also promised Ahmed presents and all of my Halloween candy on Sunday. He seemed fine with the trade. My absence for candy and presents? Yeah, he totally took the bribe. I still feel badly though!
Other than hanging out with the fam' I did end up getting a hold of Dioss and his mom this afternoon so I stopped by both of their houses to check in and talk about artisan expo before going to buy Ahmed two gallons of chocolate ice cream. I'm such a pushover.
Yesterday I found myself far too apathetic to do anything productive much less write a blog post. Today was better. I forced myself out of bed and out on a run. I ran past one of my host brothers, Baye Gaye, on the way back and since he usually doesn't get up until lunch time had no idea that I usually run at the crack of dawn and was obviously perplexed as I went by. It was fairly entertaining for me. With one major accomplishment under by belt before 8am I was ready for more.
I'm still trying to figure our my new boss. She fairly obviously doesn't like me very much, but still wants me around. Problematic. I arrived at the office and spent a while greeting everyone I knew and then sat down to wait since boss lady hadn't arrived yet. When she did arrive she completely ignored me after I greeted her and went into her office and shut the door. No problem, I brought a book and magazine. I know the Boy Scout's have already trademarked it, but Peace Corp's motto should really be "Always Be Prepared." This is the situation I had imagined before I left my house so I sat down to read a New York Magazine article about "Emerging Adulthood," and how 20 somethings are taking longer to find real jobs, take on responsibility,and actually become adults... sounds vaguely familiar. I sat in the middle of the office greeting people as they came in and reading my magazine for over an hour and then went and sat with some people in an office for another twenty or so minutes while they ignored me. After finally seeing almost everyone I knew come and go, I walked in Mme. Aida's office and asked if I could do anything for her. When she said no I left. A perfect day at the office. I felt a sense of accomplishment because I actually went to the office and made an effort and at the same time no one dragged me to a formation to be the token toubab.
After lunch I wanted to continue my "get out of the house and be productive" trend, but that was foiled by the fact that no one wanted to work with me. I'm usually one of those people who can focus and get everything done when I want to. It's very difficult to get things done when most of what you do is teach and consult and those people don't want to do anything. Neither Dioss' nor Madame Ly's phones were on this afternoon, even though Dioss and I had agreed to meet, and it was WAY too hot to walk all the way across town not knowing if they would be home. So, instead I played with Ahmed and did computer work.
Today marked the first Thies lunch in forever, which wasn't also a meeting for the girls' camp. We all convened at Croissant Magique, yes that's Magical Croissant in French, and had a nice lunch together. It was Clare's, the new Urban Ag PCV in Thies, first lunch and she got to meet some new people which was cool. The lunch also served as an opportunity for Katherine and I to take some pictures for the artisan expo. Successful lunch.
After lunch Emily, Clare, and I headed back out to the women's group that Emily and I visited last week. I'm really starting to like the women. They are all very nice and seem really motivated. They also appear to have everything together, almost too together. This is a well established women's group in Thies which has close ties to Dakar and has done tons of formations through my office in Thies and has had a lot of support in the past so it's a little worrisome that they haven't take off yet, but hopefully with the three of us working with them from every angle they can make some real progress.
The thirteen women we meet with are part of a much larger organization of women which is in talks to rent a plot of land to do some micro-gardening. While Emily and Clare got to go on an adventure to go see the land, I got to stay behind and talk to some of the women about calendars and financial planning. Whaa whaa. Everyone knows I've always been the cool one... As I said last week, the treasurer knows what's going. They have almost 100,000 CFA tucked away under some bed, which is great. The only scary part about that is Tabaski, a huge holiday, is quickly approaching the week before Thanksgiving. A ton of money sitting around means they will most likely use it to buy goats, onions, potatoes, and clothes. I know they've worked really hard to save this money so I proposed saving 25k to use after Tabaski so they wouldn't have to start all over again. Supposedly this is going to happen. I also suggested they tuck away a certain percentage of their dues each week to use as capital investment and emergencies. This was also met with general agreement.
The women are very open to direction, almost too open. They really want me to tell them what to do, but after two meetings I don't have a good picture of what they've done or where they want to go. I am worried they really want to work in food transformation with the goal of exporting the goods to Europe and the US. That is a very lofty and fairly unrealistic goal for 13 women just starting up. I hope that the three of us PCVs can help them create realistic goals and then help them get there without straight out telling them what to do. I'm going back next Monday to really work with the Treasurer and do a group planning session. It will definitely be interesting.
Other than that I tortured myself by reading restaurant menus online. I don't know why I do it, but I can't help myself!
The artisan expo is finally starting to take some shape. Katherine and I headed into Dakar yesterday to meet with a possible venue. Since it's inception, the Atlantic Club (aka the American Club), the pool where we hang out in Dakar, has hosted the event and as Katherine and I found out yesterday - they know way more about it than we do. The two of us were nervous about getting our point across, explaining that we don't have solid numbers yet, and myriad other issues. I had called and harassed the poor events coordinator every day this week to confirm that we did indeed have a meeting, but all of this was unnecessary because they totally have everything under control. It was obvious Saliou, our contact at the American club, already knew all the details and we had a five minute meeting in which he ran down the list, told us the prices, and requested that we give him at least a week's notice on the final numbers. The meeting was almost scary in it's efficiency.
Securing a location for the Artisan Expo was definitely the the catalyst for my trip to Dakar, but the lure of softball was a powerful secondary draw. In order to prepare for WAIST, the West African Invitational Softball Tournament, in February, the Dakar region PCVs play in a weekly league. When I say prepare, I mean it. I spent the several hours after my meeting and before the game sitting by a pool eating a delicious chicken wrap and having a couple of cold beverages. And then, just to keep our strength up, Katherine and I shared a delectable plastic container of nachos between the sixth and seventh innings, obviously accompanied by beverages fitting a softball game. God Bless America (and the US Embassy who runs the field!). The game was a big one. We went up against a team who we have a lot of history with from this past WAIST. The team is a Senegalese team who actually PRACTICES and doesn't imbibe any of the said beverages the Dakar region team was having. A few amazing plays combined with dumb sheer luck and a whole lot of trash talking led the Peace Corps team to a 3-2 victory. For the record, I make a mean second baseman. To show how serious I was I even brought my tennis shoes all the way from Thies instead of going the usual barefoot route.
Addition to my holiday wish list: A children's baseball glow. Embarrassingly enough my hands are too small to close regular gloves.
After reveling in a our win we hit the showers and then headed downtown. There were two highlights:
1. Katherine and I have found a new restaurant in Dakar and had an amazing Thai beef salad. 2. We went to a club to go dancing. The crowd: 10 PCVs, 5 young, American ex-pats we know, 6 Indian businessmen, 3 Senegalese men who followed us into the bar. After over an hour of the PCV crew being the only people on the dance floor and belting out the lyrics to Akon and Lady Gaga songs, the DJ put on the "Slumdog Millionaire" theme song. Before we even recognized the song, all of the Indian businessmen had already hit the dance floor and started rocking it. It was beyond amazing and no description I write here could possibly do it justice.
This morning Katherine and I woke up after potentially the best night's sleep I've ever had at the regional house and ate a delicious brunch downtown accompanied by ice cream before heading out. I then jumped in a sept-place headed for Thies where I almost died from dehydrating even though I drank 1.5 liters of water on my 1.5 hour trip back. It is so hot today. I arrived back at home looking like an absolute disaster. My ever loving mother promptly told me to go take a shower before I greet her. I then spent most of my afternoon sitting around reading and trying to convince Ahmed that the delicious watermelon I brought my family as a gift was as sweet as candy. He refused to believe me until I showed him that you can also spit watermelon seeds across the yard. A small victory for Alyssa and fruit.
Today's day featured three distinct states of being...
Yesterday while I was trying to stay awake at the child abuse formation I wrote Matt a letter. Today's goal was to mail it. I had a couple of errands to run so I threw the letter in my bag and headed off to the post office. After a quick trip to the bank and to the toubab grocery store, I entered the post office and had a public tantrum. The same mean man who refused to sell me stamps a few months ago was working and he didn't even greet me as I approached the booth. I handed him the letter and told him that it was going to the US of A. He took the letter, looked at it, and thrust it back at me. He absolutely refused to sell me stamps because one corner of the envelope had evidently rubbed up against a small speck of dirt in my bag and had caused a stain. The stain was small, not even close to the address, and was on the back of the envelope. Obviously, this letter is unfit to be sent. I asked him if it was a joke because I just found the entire thing so ludicrious. He told me he would not send the letter. I then switched tactics and told him I just wanted to buy stamps - oddly in the same amount that I knew the letter would cost. Nope. I then completely lost it and went on a Wolof rant for everyone to hear. It included such exception phrases as "are you joking," "this makes no sense," and the piece de resistance: "this is why nothing works in this country." This last exasperated phrase was hurled at the post office man's back as he left his booth and went into an interior room to ignore me.
Rage isn't a strong enough word to describe my emotion. I was fuming. It's his job to sell stamps. Why the hell would he care if my letter doesn't make it to it's destination because it has a stain? Capitalism, just sell me stamp. This little episode took place in the "letter/ Western Union" portion of the post office. I exited this building and went to see my friends in the "package" building where I told them that the stamp man was being very mean to me. They completely agreed that he's mean and they agreed to sell me their stamps, which are only supposed to go on packages, but they could make an exception for me. They are great. Shout out to Ana and Shirley for the letters! Thank you!
At this point I was in a good mood because in a childish fit of spite, instead of just leaving my letter with my package friends I returned to the letter building to mail it in the box directly in front of the mean stamp man. Vengeance. The rage soon returned when some school boys lobbed a rock over the fence of their school and it hit me in the head. It was a small rock so it scared me more than anything so I tore into the school compound to find a teacher who really couldn't have cared less. At least I tried.
Totally unrelated: We had eggs for lunch. Excellent.
Emily and I have had intentions of working together for approximately a year and have just gotten around to actually putting that plan into action. For the last several months Emily has been working with a very diligent and motivated women's group on micro-gardening. They are very interested in parlaying this into a money making activity. Today Emily took me to the women's meeting place to talk about how I could get involved with the group. The leader, Sabelle, is very dynamic and knows what she's talking about. She's also one of the most open people I've met in Senegal and really wants guidance. Sabelle seemed open to all of our suggestions and they already have an impressive accounting system in place. They need to better define their organizational structure and understand that now that they have money they need to invest it in their projects, not keep it in a box under the treasurer's bed. Emily and I are going back on Monday to have a meeting with all of the women. It's sure to be a catastrophe, but hopefully it will be a productive catastrophe and we will have a date for a future meeting.
After meeting with the women's group, Emily and I picked up the new PCV, Clare who is an Urban Ag PCV, at the center for dinner. Emily and I had planned a "dinner party" with Kether at her apartment since she actually has a kitchen. We made absolutely amazing bean burritos thanks to salsa and nacho cheese from America (thanks mom) and creme fraiche that we found at the toubab store. Kether has two roomates who are JICA volunteers, Japan's Peace Corps equivalent, and Kether has a Senegalese boyfriend so it was a multicultural affair to say the least. The concept of a burrito had to be explained in the language franca which was Franglish. An excellent evening overall even though we all suffered from a food coma after way too much Mexican food and some casual drinking.
I returned home to find my family eating diner, at 11pm, and watching a DVD of TLC music videos. There could not have been a better ending to the day.
This morning I felt a lot better so I decided to take a run, hilarity ensued. I run right when I get up to start the day and I'm usually gone before most people are awake in my house and return when Deenba is just coming outside to start sweeping. Sometimes I see Ziabata or Awa getting ready for work in the morning, other times I just let myself out and then come back. It's routine now so when I came back to the house a little after 8am and found the front door to my compound bolted shut I was a little confused. A confused toubab is very, very funny.
First, I stand in front of the doors repeatedly trying to open them. No luck. Second, I peer through the keyhole, which isn't operational we use a deadbolt, and see that yes the deadbolt is locking the door. Third, I vainly try to open the door again. Fourth, I again stand in front of the door as people in the street start to notice and laugh at my dilemma. Fifth, I realize that no one is hearing me knock so I go into my neighbor's compound. Sixth, I scare the living daylights out of the little girl who is terrified of me. She started wailing, obviously. Seventh, I walk through their compound to yell over the wall at Deenba that I'm locked out. Eighth, Deenba arrives laughing hysterically at the door to let me in. Ninth, she doesn't let me in and instead hands me a giant bag of trash to take to the street since I'm already dirty. Tenth, I return to my compound where Deenba continues to laugh and me and tell me that we have to lock the door now because my mom is scared of visitors. And that's how you get into your compound when you're locked out.
It took me hours and hours, the vast majority of the day, to piece together why my mom was scared of visitors. It was the Senegalese roundabout way of telling me she was afraid of death, a visitor who struck in the night. Ziabata's mom died early this morning. Obviously no one told me this and I had to ask a hundred stupid questions about the days events before Deenba realized no one had told me and let me in on what was actually going on. From what I can piece together Ziabata's mother, who I didn't know because she lived in St. Louis (a city north of Thies), died late last night/ early this morning. Ziabata who has been working in Pout came back to Thies and my dad was called on his commute and came back to the house to make the trip to St. Louis. My host mom and dad, Ziabata, and Awa all got into my dad's truck and headed off to St. Louis while I was going about my normal day completely in the dark. And I was apparently locked out of my house so that death didn't strike again.
While I was still blissfully unaware of the turmoil my family was experiencing this morning, I proved that I really am a masochist. For some reason, unknown even to myself, I went back to the formation on child abuse that started yesterday that the people in my office planned. I have no idea why I went back. I knew that my only purpose was to sit there and be a toubab, which is exactly what I did for over three hours. I also wrote a couple of letters, texted a bunch of people, and read 50 pages of a book. It was painful. I really wouldn't have too big of a problem going to formations where I could be remotely helpful such as anything to do with business or common sense. I definitely don't have any experience with child abuse in Senegal, nor do I want to. I am proud of myself that I didn't completely lose my mind during the formation and I hope that I earned some more brownie points with my new boss who barely acknowledges my existence.
During the formation I was fantasizing about all the wonderful things I could have been doing during this time. All of these fantasies were just a figment of my imagination because when I tried to put these plans into action I was met with a bunch of voicemail messages. Shout out to Katherine for being the only person in the nation of Senegal I called today who actually answered her phone. The principal at Lycee Technique, I'm fairly certain, is ignoring me which means I'll have to hike out there next week to get a meeting. Dioss is being ridiculously elusive and maddening and his mother is terrible at answering her phone. Since I didn't know if anyone was actually home, I stayed at home and helped Deenba around the house. No one helps her when my mom isn't around to yell at other people.
Head cold hell still controlled my life this morning when I woke up, but I attempted to press on. That is after I woke up, talked to Matt, and then went back to sleep. The only reason that I finally got out of bed was that Jackie and Alys were in Thies for the morning and were getting breakfast together. I attempted to skip out of the house quietly, but Jeenaba caught me and we walked part of the way together. She was taking little Abdou to get some vaccinations. I was already late to meet up with Jackie and Alys because I couldn't get out of bed and Jeenaba and Abdou made me even later, but he's adorable so it was OK. Abdou still hates being carried around on Jeenaba's back so she commanded me to walk behind her and adjust Abdou every 30 seconds. Sometimes I moved his head to the left, sometimes to the right, and then I would move him up and down on her back while she tightened the wrap. People on the street looked at us with expressions of complete and utter confusion as well as bemused smiles. Fortunately our paths diverged and I continued on to my breakfast date.
My plan was to eat breakfast with the girls and then stay at the restaurant and get some computer work done. I can get absolutely nothing done in my room right now so I thought a change of pace might help, but after sitting and staring at Jackie and Alys in a complete daze I realized that work was futile. Instead of listening to my body and returning home I piled on the self guilt and decided to go to the office. My new boss, Mme. Aida, promised to call me yesterday to tell me about the formation that may or may not be taking place today. That obviously didn't happen, but in my attempt to be nice and for her to like me I decided to stop by. The last person was leaving my office and heading to the formation - he dragged me along. Terrible, terrible idea.
The formation was held at the Red Cross, but was sponsored by an NGO through the Department of Children and Family. Yeah, not my forte. I arrive on the scene with another man from my office at 11:30am. I sit down next to one of the women I really like from the office, Mme. Geuye, and ask her what's up. The formation was supposed to start at 9am and the NGO still hadn't shown up. Women were getting angry. I understand that patience is a virtue, one that I have been working on since arriving in Senegal over a year ago, but I truly think this type of patience is overrated. Amazingly the women only complained, not a single one of them left. I was foaming at the mouth after waiting for thirty minutes. It's ridiculous what people put up with her. I wanted to stand up and lead my own formation about demanding change, but that would take not only physical strength, but also mental faculties, neither of which I had at this point. An hour after I arrived the NGO finally showed up, over three hours late, a thirty minutes of introductions ensued before we broke for lunch and I escaped to my house.
Back at home I fell asleep on the couch waiting for lunch and then ate two spoonfuls of ceebu jenn before falling into my bed to sleep for the rest of the afternoon. Colds suck. Once I finally made an appearance around 7pm after Ahmed banged on my door, my mom asked me to go on a walk with her. Little did I know the walk was to the tailor's where she berated him for not having her clothes done. Definitely entertaining. Now, I'm going to go back to bed and hopefully wake up in the morning magically cured.
Skyping with my Aunt's second grade class is always a pleasure. They are third graders so their questions allow me step back and actually attempt to explain this crazy experience to people who haven't been here, haven't been reading my wildly entertaining blog, and who have no idea what Africa is really like. It's pretty much preparing me for my reality in when I come home for Christmas! Yay! There are always questions about food, the bathroom, my family, the weather, poisonous animals, but every time I speak with them there is at least one questions which is either hilariously funny or incredibly thought provoking, sometimes it's even both. Today it was a profound question and hit on an issue that I think a lot of PCVs struggle with. I know that I definitely struggle with it and the fact that I'm currently embroiled in my mid-service crisis isn't easing the subject.
The Question: Are you considered an adult in Senegal.
By American standards I am an adult. Or at least in that weird "young adult" category of no man's land. I went to college where I survived more or less on my own, or at least away from my parents, and graduated on time with a degree that isn't totally an completely worthless. That's generally a sign of success. Now, most of my friends live in fabulous American urban centers where they support themselves and live on their own. I like to fantasize that I would be living a very similar and self-sufficient life if I wasn't living in a concrete bungalow in Senegal. They are adults. They pay their bills, they go to work, the drink alcohol, and they no longer live under their parents' roofs. It's all good.
In a weird way, although I've definitely grown and become amazingly self-sufficient and self-reliant, I've regressed. I live with a family, my new family, who maintains my security and feeds me my meals (they also potentially do my laundry, but hand washing is really hard!). They also think I'm beyond completely incompetent. Not only can I not cook Senegalese food or clean anything to their satisfaction, I'm also a single woman. No husband. No children. By their standards I'm really not an adult. Even though I pay my family for rent and food and have a "job" I'm still a child. I'm sure that my toubab-ness and deplorable language skills have something to do with this, but lack of freedom is difficult.
I'm 23. I'm supposed to be living the life. Exploring and pushing the boundaries. I'm in the Peace Corps that is obviously accomplished, but at the same time I feel obligations toward being at home to eat with my family, to explain what I'm up to and where I'm going, and just the confines of communal living that I would most definitely not be feeling at home. It's a strange and difficult to balance. I don't think I explained it well to the girl who asked the question and you're probably confused by my ramblings as well...
Other than talking to my aunt's class I've been battling a terrible and evil head cold which apparently attacks PCVs whenever the temperature dips below (gasp) 80 degrees. I did force myself to go see Dioss this morning which caused me a whole other headache that I'm not going to get into now, but since then I've been trying to ignore Ahmed. Although I look terrible and everyone concurs that I have a cold, all he can see is that I didn't leave this afternoon and therefore should be playing with him.
NewsFlash: KHADY HAS STARTED WORKING OUT!!! I don't know much about it other than an entire post will undoubtedly dedicated to this subject in the near, near future.
The mid-service blues/ crisis or whatever you want to call has has hit. I'm not having a crisis of faith or acute homesickness, but I am suffering from a complete and utter lack of motivation. I really don't want to do anything and that's just making me all the more angry at myself. In an attempt to remedy this feeling of general malaise I set off for my office this morning. I haven't been to my office since before Ramadan and the past few times that I went it was chained up and no one was there.
I think that I mentioned that Diof, my Senegalese government sanctioned boss, moved to another city and to terrorize another PCV. The weird thing is that Diof and Mme. Aida apparently just switched jobs. She was in Tivuouane and came to Thies and he was in Thies and went to Tivuouane. I don't really care because I don't have to deal with Diof anymore. This weekend I finally came around to the idea that I should potentially try to meet my new boss. I would just like to state for the record that she hasn't tried to contact me either. Regardless, I caused quite the stir walking into the officer. Mme. Aida was holding a meeting with the staff so everyone was all together when I walked in. While most people greeted me nicely Mme. Aida, the new boss, immediately started chiding me for not coming to see her earlier. I apologized and tried to move on. This is the problem...
Although I really don't like Diof, after I definitely broke out of his grasp he let me do my own thing. I wrote the reports he liked me to give me and we would chat for a little while and I would promise to come in more to chat, which we both knew wasn't going to happen. It was a nice set-up. The PCV in Tivuouane now has to deal with the fact that Diof wants reports all the time. I now have to deal with the fact that the PCV in Tivuouane hung out at her office all the time. That was her social scene. My social scene is definitely not my office it's Dioss and his boy posse or my family. Problems. Mme. Aida immediately goes on and on how I'm supposed to come in every day and help with computers. This is not happening. I agreed to come to a seminar which may or may not be happening on Wednesday so hopefully we can iron out this whole working relationship thing then. Even though the meeting didn't go exactly how I wanted it to I still feel good about going and making the effort.
My other goal for the morning was to make contact with the principal of the Lycee Technique to talk about Junior Achievement. No luck actually speaking with him although he does have several voice mails, which he probably wont be able to understand, from me. I did make JA progress in a surprising way this afternoon. I had a catch-up session with Kether and Emily this afternoon and Kether was very helpful. She works with a USAID funded program which trains teachers. She therefore knows a TON of teachers in Thies and is going to contact the three English teachers she knows at Lycee Technique to see if any of them would be interested in doing JA with me. This, if it works, would be amazing for reasons including, but not limited to the fact that the teacher would speak English, JA might actually become a sustainable program, and I would have someone to help me navigate all of the bureaucracy at the high school. Fingers crossed this will all happen.
Last Saturday I made myself a delicious salad for lunch. Lettuce and tomatoes are just coming back into season and although they are still fairly expensive I treated myself and then ate it in plain view so that my family would see it. My mom and sisters commented on how vegetables are coming back, but that they are still very expensive. So imagine my surprise when my mom walks in late this evening with a bag full of lettuce and tomatoes. It was so nice of her to buy veggies especially since I'm one of the only people who eats them. It was really, really nice and I kept thanking her in order to show my gratitude and lobby for more vegetables!
I would like to point two things out: 1. It rained today and 2. OSU lost. Both of these were highlights to my day. The fact that it rained almost all day was fabulous for a couple of reasons. First, it's really nice and cool right now. Second, and more importantly, I got to rub it in Deenba's face after she gave me a hard time all day yesterday that the rainy season was definitely over and I was crazy for thinking that it could possibly rain again. I kept asking her to help me do things outside while it was raining because she kept refusing to acknowledge that it was raining. She kept making up excuses about why she couldn't help me outside. She needed to get something for my mom or a stir a pot or pick up the baby, but then the truth came out. It all comes down to one thing here: hair weaves. When Deenba finally admitted that she couldn't go outside because her weave would get wet I knew I had won and I savored the victory.
When I woke up this morning and I also discovered that OSU lost (yes, I know that my team did too). What a great feeling. I sent a mean spirited text right off to my fellow PCV who actually likes the Buckeyes. I will now openly admit that I'm rooting for MSU to win the Big Ten Championship although I have full faith that they will figure out a way to mess this amazing opportunity up for themselves.
Other than giving Deenba a hard time and being mean to an OSU fan my day was pretty boring. My family was fairly subdued because of the rain and our power strobe-lighted all day, which is more annoying that if it's just cut all day.
Tomorrow I will attempt to get Junior Achievement up and started. Wish me luck.
It looked like it was going to rain all day today. I was convinced that it was going to rain. The sky was overcast and a cool breeze blew all morning, but when I told Mami and Deenba that I thought it was going to rain they burst out laughing at me and told me that the rainy season is over. Obviously. For the record, it rained two days ago. This just proves how amazingly clueless and stupid one can sound after living in a country for 14 months. Although I haven't been at home in over a year, today marks my one year anniversary of being a Peace Corps Volunteer. I swore in as a volunteer one year ago today. I would assume it's quite a shock to most people, including myself, that I'm still here.
So what's happened?
Another rainy season has apparently come and gone and I now speak enough Wolof that my family today compared me to a Senegalese woman on TV who they claimed had spent too much time in France and now speaks Wolof like a toubab - they meant it as a compliment, that I now speak good Wolof. Or at least that's what I'm pretending they meant. Although I still struggle with guilt about not spending enough time with my family and leaving site and being unbelievably bored by sitting around watching terrible Wolof television, that pain is also subsiding. The last time I was in Dakar I only had one complete meltdown at a taxi driver and today walking around in Thies I actually took a little boy into his compound so we could tell his mother together that he called me a terrible name. I'm sure she didn't care, but I sure felt good about it. I also ran an entire mile after the men's soccer team took the field next to the trap and started to cat-call me. That's perseverance.
The past year has also been a time warp. It's crazy. Matt recently made the mistake of thinking this was the first year that we were both out of school. Nope. That was last year. The days can definitely drag, but the time seems to fly and the new SED and Ag volunteers are going to start to install into their sites on Monday. Don't worry the welcome party planning started weeks ago.
The strange passage of time will no doubt continue as I attempt to navigate and plan, as much as that is possible to do here, the next and last year of my service. Next week I'm going really get on the ball with the artisan expo, which will hopefully be the biggest and best ever, and Junior Achievement, which hopefully wont include another class of 50 discontent recent grads. The past year was unbelievably difficult and amazing. I'm sure the next one will be just as frustrating and rewarding. Congrats to the the Fall '09 Stage! One year down, one to go!
I finally tracked down Dioss this morning at his brother's house. While his brother's house is much closer than mine and therefore convenient, it is also near Madame Ly's house who obviously stopped by and the front is open to the street so little kids kept stopping to gawk at me. The meeting wasn't at all productive, but it was interesting. Dioss has been gallivanting across the western coast of Senegal re-supplying different businesses that sell his cards and trying to secure funding for the catalog that has been in the works since early summer.
The catalog is driving me a little bit insane since I don't think it's a very good idea and he could be spending his time on much more important things like accounting and deciding if he wants to do product development with the woman who imported his cards to the US. I'm still unsure what the purpose of the catalog is and who the intended market/ customer is and where he's going to distribute the magazine. I became even more confused today when I was telling Dioss about our plans to market the upcoming Peace Corps artisan expo and it totally blew his mind that I was going to put fliers and brochures in the nice hotels, restaurants, and embassies around Dakar. Where exactly was/ is he going to put his catalog? Mysteries.
The "meeting" was more like a meet and greet since there was a constant rotation of what I like to call "boy posse" streaming in and out as well as random family members stopping by. After a couple of hours I went with Dioss' brother, Baye (who could be Dioss' identical twin except for being even shorter, having facial hair, and an extremely raspy voice) to the post office. There, I got a letter from Shirley! Thanks Shirley!
The rest of the day I spent at home with my family. Nothing too exciting is going on around our house. I'm ready for people to start moving out because it's really crowded. I don't know when Mami, Petit, and Baye Gaye are planning on leaving, but it should probably happen soon. Ahmed and I spent the afternoon coloring and trying to repair a miniature play bow and arrow. I also attempted to explain to him that the reason why the little girl from next door cries every time she comes into our compound is because she's scared of me not because she misses her mom.
Dioss is MIA. I called him this morning and he told me that he has been very busy and was currently on his way back from Mbour and that I could come over this afternoon. I called him back this afternoon and he was still on his way back from Mbour. Mbour is less than an hour away! I know that I haven't been around in a while because of the girls' camp and then being in Dakar for mid-service, but it's really annoying me that he's not around because we need to talk about the artisan expo and leather bookmarks for Leslie. Hopefully tomorrow.
I did get to see Dioss' mom and dad who are quickly becoming my favorite people in the entire world. Dioss' dad, Samba, is a great painter and can talk about nothing. We'll be talking and all of a sudden I'll realize that I have no idea what he's talking about and that I've totally zoned out for the last hour. He's an incredibly nice man though and I like how he gives me a tour of his work studio every single time I come over. Samba always speaks to me in French which is a little weird and extremely confusing since his wife/ Dioss' mom Madame Ly only speaks to me in Wolof and it's really hard to go back and forth. Madame Ly is also extremely nice, but really knows her stuff and is a great sales woman. She wanted to tell me all about a terrible expo she was just at and how much better the one I'm planning will be. I hope that wasn't a thinly veiled threat...
Madame Ly is still doing a really good job with her accounting. She started writing down totals, like bracelets 5000CFA, instead of how many bracelets and how much they each cost, but I believe we've rectified the problem. And since she actually presents me with a notebook that she has already written her sales down in (instead of Dioss who writes things down from memory while I'm there to appease me), she's way ahead of the game. She's also writing the cutest biography for herself for the artisan expo. I love it, but it's also taking her weeks and weeks. Go figure.
I saw Madame Ly in the afternoon and ran errands in the morning since Dioss is no where to be found. Other than that I wrote "Senegal" in bubble letters 12 times so that Ahmed could color the letters in and give one to each member of our family/ everyone who was at the house at that moment in time. I also read an entire Foreign Policy and New Yorker magazine.
Additionally, today marks the 50th anniversary of then Senator Kennedy speaking on the steps of the Michigan Union about service to the US. His speech served as the foundation/ inspiration for the Peace Corps. Go Blue!
Check it out: http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=about.fiftieth
PS. Hail! to the victors valiant Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes Hail! Hail! to Michigan The leaders and best! Hail! to the victors valiant Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes Hail! Hail! to Michigan, The champions of the West!
Court is being held outside my bungalow tonight. And by court I mean both Jeenaba's and Deenba's boyfriends are over. Deenba and her boyfriend are hiding behind a sheet which is drying on the line and Jeenaba and her baby daddy are sitting on the bench directly in front of the bungalow. This makes moving around tonight extremely difficult. I like the give the girls a wide berth when their boyfriends are over because it's the best part of their day. They shower after slaving over dinner and put slutty clothes and pounds of make-up on for the hour or so they get to hang out and not respond to someone else's orders. I don't want to get in their way or interfere with their whispered conversations. This was the plan until I tripped over a teapot in the middle of the compound and spilled the giant bucket of water I was carrying for my bucket bath. Oh well, I did have the best intentions.
Today was also the last day of training for the new SED/ Ag stage who arrived in August. They Swear-In on Friday and officially become PCVs instead of trainees. Very exciting. It also means that I will have survived my first year as a full fledged volunteer on Saturday. Crazy. And that I will have been living in the bungalow for a year next Tuesday. Insanity. It is very weird how time flies and drags here. For the new soon to be volunteers' last day of training we had a "project fair" where a bunch of PCVs came in to the center to explain projects and the trainees got to attend the sessions they found most interesting. I presented Junior Achievement again with Elizabeth and then helped Jackie present on the girls' camp. I think that both went well and that the camp idea is really going to spread throughout the country, a lot of people seemed interested.
Afterwards, Erin, Elizabeth and I made a run into town for bread and cheese for dinner before we all went out to the Catholic compound to celebrate the end of PST.
Today was originally going to be one of those days when if you don't have anything nice to say you shouldn't write a blog post, but my family really turned it around. There are some days when I curse Peace Corps Senegal for making us live with families while PCVs in other countries get the freedom to live on their own in apartments or houses throughout the village, but obviously there is a flip side and sometimes it's nice to have a crazy family waiting for you to get home.
Me: (walking into the compound obviously in a foul mood and sitting down) Deenba: You look upset. Me: Yes, people were very mean to me today and called me bad names. Deenba: Doesn't that happen to you every day? Me: Yes. (laughter)
Little Abdou is almost a month old now and this evening was the first time Jeenaba strapped him to her back. I think that this usually happens right away in villages, but Jeenaba has been leaving him in the middle of various rooms in our house on a cushion under a mosquito net. To say that he prefers his cushion would be a massive understatement. Before today I had never really heard Abdou cry hard or get really upset. Well, he does not like being tied up on Jeenaba's back and he let everyone know it. He wailed for hours as she tried to calm him down and help him adjust to his new environment/ a position he's going to be in a lot.
Jeenaba is a good mom. She dotes on Abdou and is really good with him, but Deenba is like the Baby Whisperer. She's amazing. She will just put her hand on the baby and he will settle down. When Deenba strapped Abdou on her back he was happy as a clam. This is not to say that Deenba has a knack with all kids because she and Ahmed do not have the best relationship. It's mainly because Deenba doesn't like Ahmed get away with a lot of what he's accustomed to getting away with, but regardless she can't settle him down.
As Jeenaba is struggling with Abdou on her back everyone turns to me expecting that I'm going to be the next one to try. I do not want the first child to be strapped to my back to be a tiny infant so I claim that tomorrow I'm going to carry around Ahmed. He thought this was the most fabulous idea ever. Everyone else thought it was absolutely ludicrous. They laughed and laughed. And then they told me that I'm carrying Abdou around tomorrow whether I like it or not. I must learn to carry a baby on my back for when I have one. Obviously.
Today was supposed to be the day when I got back into the swing of things in Thies. Things never go according to plan. My top priorities were seeing Dioss and his mom, Madame Ly, to talk about the Artisan Expo and to check in on their progress. Neither of them answered their phones which makes it extremely difficult to check in. Dioss may be avoiding me since I told him that his mom and sister were kicking his ass at accounting, but school also started today and he usually teaches an art class on Monday's so I'm going to give him a pass. With my work on my big project impossible today, I headed out to do some errands.
First stop was the photo printing place to get some more pictures of the girls camp. There I received the worst pick-up line I've experienced in 14 months in Senegal. And I quote: "You are a beautiful child. We should hang out sometime." I don't think I need to explain how this was incredibly creepy on multiple levels. The best part was that we were packed into the photo place almost shoulder to shoulder and this guy was in my age range. I attempted to ignore him and when that didn't work I attempted to worm my way out of the situation nicely and when that didn't work I resorted to calling him fat, ugly, and poor in front of the twenty other men in the shop. That finally worked. Pictures in hand I headed off to the post office!
I didnt' know it, but it was apparently "social security" check day so there were literally hundreds of older men waiting at the post office for their checks to arrive. So many men in fact that a tent had been erected outside so the spillover people didn't have to sit in the sun. This meant sheer and utter insanity inside the post office, which made mailing my letters extremely difficult. It also meant that after elbowing old men to keep my place in line and to prop myself up against the counter so someone would finally see me I was drenched in sweat and looked like a wild woman. Luckily, the power was actually working so when I discovered that I had TWO packages waiting for me in the other room I spent a blissful hour to talking to my friends and getting my packages! This was after I ran into Emily, another volunteer in from down south, and the Peace Corps secretary all picking up mail at the post office!
Thank you to Ma for the early, but still great Halloween package. For some reason Senegalese people really love Halloween and think it's a really important holiday in the US so I'm excited to give out the candy to my family and especially Ahmed on Halloween.
Shout out to my parents for another amazing package! My mom sent along a baby outfit for little Abdou complete with a box, tissue paper, and wrapping paper. It caused house wide chaos to say the least. I brought out the present after lunch when everyone was around and gave it to Jeenaba who was so overcome she didn't know what to do and gave the package to Mami to open. It was actually opened by Khady who grabbed it from Mami's hands, but regardless... Once they saw they outfit pandemonium broke lose about how much they love my mom and how much they love me for telling my mom that Jeenaba had a baby. Then everyone needed to hold the baby clothes up to themselves to show how cute they thought it was and how much they liked it. It was then decided that Abdou would wear it tomorrow after receiving a proper bath so he would look nice all day. The best part about this whole scene was the fact that the outfit had little animal ears on the hat. I attempted to explain that sometimes people in the US dress their babies up in different animal costumes or other costumes. Although one could barely tell this was a bear onesie this description failed to such an amazing extent that my family now finds me crazy even though I made this incredible gift magically appear. Oh well.
This afternoon I hung out with Elizabeth in honor of her 25th birthday. Elizabeth, Jackie, myself, and some other PCVs went out to Massa Massa for some wine and good food. I even stepped out of the lasagna comfort zone to a delicious meat and salad platter that I shared with Emily. It was a good night!
I finally arrived back in Thies last night after a ridiculously long and exhaust/ traffic filled trip from Dakar. I'm really happy to be back and just as happy that I'm going to be at site for a while. The last couple of weeks with the girls' camp and mid-service was rough. I like having my own bed, no matter how broken or uncomfortable it may be, and my own space. This is my home now so it's nice to be home. The only downside about coming back to Thies is Ahmed. Not to sound incredibly narcissistic, but he think I'm pretty awesome and wants my complete and undivided attention after I've been gone for a while. I think this trip to Dakar was especially acute since Codou and Khady Sow, the two little girls living with us since Ramadan, are now gone since school is supposedly starting back up.
Today, whenever I would try and hide for a little bit in my room would be met with two little hands sticking out from in-between the slats in my door. Softly calling my name while waving his hands, Ahmed tried and tried and tried to extract me from my room. To make matters worse Khady went to Dakar today so I was Ahmed's main source of attention and he wanted some attention. We held hands during lunch and then I watched him run around in the courtyard and then he sat in my room and stared at me and then I kicked him out only for this process to start all over again. He literally tapped on my door every 2 minutes when I was talking to Matt and I about lost it.
There was really no reason to be so annoyed with Ahmed since I really didn't do much of anything today. I just wanted a day of peace after being in the hectic regional house for so long. I did get a few things accomplished such as converting all of the video for the girls' camp so I can edit it. Hopefully there will be awesome video by the end of the week! I also cleaned my room, organized a little bit, and did some artisan expo prep work. December 11 seems like a long ways away, but I know it's going to come up quick.
I'm also starting to realize that the saying "It takes a village to raise a child," is actually true. Obviously I spend a lot of time with Ahmed, but tonight I also spent some quality time with Abdou. Jeenaba needed to run an errand so she gave Abdou to Awa who then needed to start dinner so she gave the baby to my mom who then wanted to take a shower so she handed Abdou off to me. Fortunately he either can't tell I'm a toubab or doesn't care because I have nice boobs so he was good and didn't fuss too much. Over an hour later Jeenaba realizes I still had her baby or finally felt badly for me and came to relieve me of my duties. He's currently under the bug hut I got him in the middle of our courtyard and no one else is outside. I'm watching him through my window.
Totally unrelated... I just downloaded and watched an episode of "The Amazing Race" which takes place in Accra, Ghana! Everyone should watch it! I'm currently in love with the two male, Glee club singers because they had quotes such as "I want my mom," and "I'm really proud I haven't peed my pants," while driving through African traffic!
Dioss' mom and sister are kicking his ass. Hard. Before packing my bags, again, I had a chance to go see Dioss' mom, Madame Ly, and his sister, Khady. They are two of the nicest people in the world and are way better at accounting than Dioss. I should probably say they are vastly better at writing things down since we are still in the early stages of bookkeeping. I was impressed that they split their notebook up into two sections so that the debits and credits were separated. It really looked like they had written everything down and they seemed really enthusiastic about everything so I hope that when I see them next week the good work has continued.
Unfortunately, I didn't have time to drop in on Dioss because he wasn't answering his phone and I gave two presentations at the training center on Tuesday morning before heading into Dakar. The presentations went really well. The first presentation was about the tournee I went on last year with Talla and what I learned from that experience. I don't know if people found it all too interesting, but the main event was actually Junior Achievement. My friend Elizabeth, who lives in the Kaolack, region came up to present about JA with me. She did the elementary school program while I taught at the Lycee Technique. It seemed like there were a lot of trainees who were interested in doing Junior Achievement at their sites which would be cool.
After spending Tuesday morning at the training center I met up with Katherine and some other PCVs at Massa Massa and then Katherine I hopped in a sept-place and headed to Dakar. We are here doing our mid-service medical exam. Making sure that I'm healthy, don't have any cavities, don't have TB, among other things has been utterly exhausting. We've also been having some fun saying goodbye to PCVs who are leaving, going to fun barbecues, and eating delicious food I can't find in Thies.
Tomorrow is my last day of medical tests/ when the doctors will hopefully tell me that I don't have TB and therefore wont have to abstain from drinking for the next nine months!
My family is happy I'm back, but only because they are sick and tired of Ahmed. Last night when Tamar and I finally rolled back into my compound looking a hot mess Ahmed could not hide his glee and gave us approximately 2 seconds to put our bags in my room until he started whispering "play" through my window. Ahmed's need to play only increased throughout the day as I tried to recover from the camp. Now that I've finally stopped I'm completely exhausted and all I wanted to do today was organize my room, nap, read, and have some alone time after a week of sharing a room and everything else. Ahmed had a very different game plan for the day.
The entire family hung out outside most of the day for two reasons: 1. our power was out and 2. there is no gas in Senegal. Not having gas means that Deenba started cooking over coals at approximately 9am and is just finishing now at a little after 9pm. She is amazing and a saint for everything she puts up with. With no power and no gas to cook with everyone took turns fanning the flames and sitting around aimlessly. I was allowed to fan the flames, but my more important job was playing with Ahmed so he didn't annoy everyone else. We played with toy cars, we played hide and seek (which is really not fun in a small courtyard when you can see everything), and we played a funny face game for what seemed like an eternity. Once the power came back on Ahmed and the other little girls at my house even talked to my parents on Skype. I'm pretty sure it was a ploy to get into my room and look for candy, but when they saw my cat Bubba on Skype they flipped out. They could not believe that my family in the US has a cat for a pet and that Bubba is as fat as he is. My fat cat was a major discussion point this evening.
When hiding in my room became impossible (mainly because when Ahmed and gang burst in my room they saw all of the crayons and paper left over from the camp), I relented and threw a bumpin' crayon party, if I do say so myself. I would also like to note that my Saturday nights now consist of throwing crayon parties. Think that one over. Everyone was all about the crayons since it was one of the big boxes with the sharpener on the back and my party drew not only the little kids, but also Baye Gaye, which was hilarious.
Other things to note: 1. While I was gone someone built a chicken coup, which although quite large looks ridiculously small when some of the Jurassic Park-esque chickens are in there. 2. I finally learned the baby's name; it's Abdou and he's way cuter now than when I left.
The bus hired to take girls home arrived at 10am today so right after breakfast we had to start the closing ceremonies. Each girl received a certificate of accomplishment and a group shot of all the PCVs, Senegalese counterparts, and campers. They were really excited about the pictures and the certificates and several of them were crying as we were reading off names and giving final instructions. It definitely felt good to get some emotion out of the girls. For me, it's very difficult to gage Senegalese people's reactions to things. To an American it seems like they don't show a lot of emotion so after a week of hoping the girls had a good time, tears finally showed us that the camp was a great experience for them. I really hope they took away more from the camp than just a week away from their families, chores, and cooking. I think they did. Everyone was exchanging contact information with their new friends and was really sad to see camp come to an end.
I'm really happy that we did this for the girls and that they had a great time, but I'm also really happy it's over. We are all exhausted! We sent the girls and the Senegalese counterparts off on the bus and we stayed to have a small celebration for ourselves, debrief about the camp, clean up, and pack up. This is when hilarity ensued.
Katherine had two charettes, horse carts, meet us at the university for all of our baggage. She took one to her house and the rest of us took the other one to a random tree on the side of the road to pick up a bus headed East. We put all of our bags and three volunteers on the charette and the rest of us walked behind the cart has Jackie held her speakers in the air playing really loud music as we all sang along. Needless to say people were staring out their car windows at us. At one point the horse finally started to do something more than walk so the four of us not on the charette were left behind. This is when we saw a bus flying toward us. We took off running down a dirt track parallel to the road in order to catch up to our bags and get on the bus. We looked ridiculous. The best part was that Jackie held on to the speakers the whole way so when we arrived at the bus we were all panting, sweating, and trying to sing along to Rhianna. Classic.
The bus was even more fun. We continued listening to loud music on our speakers and singing along to Tom Petty, Paul Simon, and other road trip classics to the mixed amusement and annoyance of our fellow travelers. Near the end of our trip two giant Senegalese woman came and sat next to me. They were dressed in full Senegalese finery and looked great. To say that I looked like a scrub is being far to generous after sweating all morning, cleaning, running down a red dirt road, and having already sat on the bus for an hour. These women started hard core dancing with me to completely inappropriate rap songs. It was epic and something that I can't describe here on my blog. It was the absolute perfect way to end the camp. Another amazing memory.
I want to give one more GIANT shout out to all of the people who donated to and supported the camp. We couldn't have done it without your support! I've also uploaded close to 400 pictures from the camp in the "Kedougou and On" so check those out and I will upload hilarious videos as I edit them! Thanks again!
I have to admit that I thought this day was going to be a flop. I was really worried that the girls wouldn't be interested in learning about business and that the sessions wouldn't be hands on enough, but it was awesome and the girls had a really good time and were engaged the entire day. The PCVs did an absolutely awesome job; I was very impressed.
We started out the morning in our usual fashion: the girls doing yoga and me having a confrontation with the kitchen staff. All good. Then the PCVs leading the day held a session on what types of businesses exist in Senegal and that maybe it's not such a good idea to open a boutique right next to the other 93847593874 boutiques in your neighborhood. The girls were surprisingly interested in this discussion and everyone wanted to participate which was great. After that session we played a game called The Best Game. An NGO created the game specifically for West Africa and the game takes you through a month of family financial planning. At the beginning of the month it's necessary to take out a loan to start off, which you have to pay back at the end of the month, and then there are "Life" cards which each team has to take one of each week. All the cards are some unexpected catastrophe which forces the family/ team to pay out a lump sum of money. The team makes money by making little paper hats and wisely putting money in the bank. When we learned this game during PST all of the PCVs hated it, but Senegalese people love it and it's an excellent teaching tool because the girls really saw how necessary it is to save so that you don't have to take out a loan every time something bad happens. They really enjoyed the game especially when other teams had to take a "Life" card and had something bad happen to them!
After lunch we had two, great hands-on sessions. We taught the girls how to make Neem lotion, an anti-mosquito lotion made from leaves, and lip balm. They LOVED the activities. We finagled a giant gas burner and bowl from the kitchen staff and the girls grated all of the soap necessary to make Neem lotion and stirred the concoction. Then they got it all over themselves while they tried to put it in bags, but they really liked it and want to make it at home so that's all that matters. Along with the Neem lotion and lip balm session we taught them how it's important to think about costing before you fix a price for your product. I'm not too sure they took home this lesson since they were far more interested in the lip balm at that point, but regardless, the day was a total success.
Tonight's evening activity was a talent show or in French a "spectacle" and it was quite a spectacle to say the very, very least. We told the girls on the very first day of camp that we would have a talent show the last night and they took this information VERY seriously. Each day they practiced for at least an hour so we had skits on early marriage, the environment, and various other subjects that we had discussed at the camp. These were exceedingly involved and long skits, which the girls absolutely loved and which the PCVs struggled to understand. The best part of the talent show was the signing. One girl was absolutely amazing! Her first song was Beyonce's "Halo" which was very well sung even if she didn't quite have all the English words down. What came next was beyond my wildest dreams. In perfect Spanish she sang the theme song to "Marina," the soap opera that my family loves. Tamar, Katherine, and I almost had heart attacks because it was so awesome. Us PCVs also did a ridiculous dance to Jay-Z's "Forever Young" which no one found as funny as we did.
We ended with cookies and fireworks (which I'm not going to detail on my blog but if you're a pyro you can email me about because it's a good story). And then we let the girls stay up as late as they wanted to while we went to bed utterly exhausted.
PCV Alyssa Titche Corps de la Paix B.P. 957 Thiès, Senegal West Africa
* Make sure it's "Par Avion" by Air and that there's a sticker * Please put insurance on packages and even letters because customs officers will rip open both looking for goods and cash * If you are amazing and sending me a package write "Religious Materials" or "Personal Products" on the outside to further deter customs officials, also it is best to buy a flat rate box to reduce the custom fees I have to pay on my end! * Number your letters so I know if I'm missing one as mail will probably take 2-3 weeks to get from you to me
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Wish List: Goodies, Treats... and Necessities
100 Calorie Packs
Jiff Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter
Mixed CDs (Leigh and Alex sent one and it was AMAZING)