Yup, I'm actually doing it. I'm taking the plunge. Starting August 12th I will be in Senegal working as a Small Enterprise Development Volunteer with the Peace Corps.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Damn I'm old. My only consolation is that Matt is and will always be older than me! I've been a terrible blogger over the past week because I really haven't had power. We've been having power for about one hour per day and last night was the first time my family has had water since I arrived back in Senegal. I'll recap recent happenings later, but this post is dedicated to my twenty fourth birthday and my wonderful friends who helped me celebrate!
As my age is steadily increasing, our time in Senegal seems like it's going to gone in a flash. In the spirit of limited time, my friends and I have created an end of service bucket list. There are still so many things we want to do, people to visit, and places to see that we really do need to schedule things to make sure we don't miss anything. One of the places on our bucket list was Lac Rose. Located on the coast just 18 kilometers from Dakar, Lac Rose is a pink colored lake. While locals collect salt and there's a very sad artisanal village and a bunch of campements ("hotels"), Lac Rose is a pretty anti-climactic place. Here is the incredibly short wikipedia article in case you're interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lac_Rose. I really don't mean anti-climatic in a negative way since we had a great time, but it's a pink lake so once you've looked at it you've seen all there is to see!
Wednesday morning a group of us convened in Thies for lunch as we waited for Tamar to make her way off her island and all the way up north to us! After cramming a bunch of supplies for our 24 hour trip into my back pack we headed off to the garage to find Tamar and negotiate a car. We picked up Jackie on the side of the road and off we went! It takes about an hour to get to Lac Rose, but when you accidentally go to the wrong side of the lake (and ridiculously enough the road doesn't wrap all the way around the lake so if you turn the wrong way you have to backtrack) it takes a little longer. When we arrived at our campement/ hotel Les Chevaux du Lac or Horses of the Lake we were pleasantly surprised. We picked the campement because it had the most ludicrous name and was the cheapest, but it was awesome! We ended up staying the grand lodge which was a two story room with more than enough space, beds, and a western style bathroom. It was really nice.
After cheers-ing to our great digs and our little vacation, the hotel proprietor summoned us for the main event of the trip: horseback riding. This is not a joke. We went horseback riding for my twenty-fourth birthday in Senegal. Epic. I really can't describe how cool and hilarious the experience was. It's one of those moments that I'm sure I'll remember forever because I was with my friends, horseback riding in Africa. We met our guide Mousa who helped us get on our horses and was our tour guide. He was great and got a huge kick out of the fact that we couldn't stop laughing and taking pictures of each other and that we spoke Wolof.
The ride was awesome. We left the hotel and walked on a path through a bunch of really nice vegetable fields. Erin and Emily were in heaven talking about how nice the produce was and how well the farmers had laid everything out. The rest of us business volunteers tried to figure out what kind of vegetables they were! Even at five minutes into our ride I was having trouble. Horses are supposed to be very intuitive and sense the concerns of their rider. While I was all about horseback riding, I was definitely still a little scared and my horse was having none of it. She literally did not move. I would kick her, nudge her forward, and plead with her to no avail. If we did move we moved so slowly that we were always far behind the group. It was fairly funny and just to add insult to injury Mousa had to lead me and my horse 95% of the time!
After the looking at the fields, Mousa took us through his village and introduced us to his wife. It was at this point Jackie had a lost in translation moment. Mousa had told her that he had just married his wife three months ago, but Jackie heard three months ago as in a child was born three months ago. This created a slightly awkward situation when Jackie then asked if his wife was a man or a woman. But, Mousa's wife was lovely and after a brief meet and great we continued our adventure. None of us knew just how close we were to the ocean so when we saw the water in the horizon after the dunes it was pretty cool. Jackie actually knows how to ride horses so she and Mousa galloped along the beach as the rest of us tried to have our horses follow any directions we tried to give them!
Horseback riding was awesome. It was a really fun thing to do and a pretty unforgettable experience. The night was far from over as we continued to hang out in our room, have an amazing couscous and chicken dinner followed by a delicious torte, a couple of night caps in a tree house, and then a rousing dance party in the room to cap off the night.
Yesterday we got up and had breakfast before taking a walk around the lake and starting the trip back to Thies. A quick return was imperative because an important holiday for one of the Muslim brotherhoods is on Monday and transportation will start to become an issue. We dropped Jackie off on the side of the road again and then the rest of us continued to Thies for lunch. After lunch Tamar and I headed back to my house and greeted my family who were all excited to wish me a happy birthday. Ahmed was obviously eye-ing my bags for any sign of a cake, but he'll just have to be patient for a few days. For the past week Thies has been a barren wasteland devoid of water or electricity and since it was my birthday Tamar and I refused to sit in the dark and stare at my family (although there does seem like there was a birthday miracle since we did have power!) so we got all dressed up and went out to a wonderful dinner at Massa Massa.
Thanks to my friends in Senegal for an awesome trip to Lac Rose and to everyone back at home who post on my blog, wrote on my facebook wall, or sent me an email! It really made my birthday! There are a TON of pictures documenting our horseback riding adventure in the "Softball Season" album. I've also started to get worried about not having pictures of everything in Senegal so there are also a bunch of pictures of the garage in Thies and the route to Lac Rose. Enjoy and thanks again for the birthday wishes!
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)