A lot of time during a Peace Corps service is spent in dark, literally and figuratively. While I've had electricity fairly consistently lately, this didn't help me illuminate, in advance or even after, the reason for my trip today. For the past week I've known that there would be some type of Junior Achievement event today. Some type of event being the operative phrase. Earlier this week I learned that the event was in some small village, far off the road, between Ngeye Mheke and Louga and that a PC vehicle would come and pick me up at 9ish am. My ability to go with the flow has astronomically improved over the past 20 months.
Fortunately, Jackie was my partner in crime throughout the filming of the JA special last month as well as today's activities. Since Jackie lives a couple kilometers outside of Thies, closer to Dakar, she was also the person who called me to say that the car was actually on it's way. Now, in the car, with Jackie we discuss how we have no idea what the day's plan is. We picked up Kerry and then the fedora wearing Talla Diop and then gossiped for a while in the back of the car before we started questioning Talla about the reason for our journey. Talla didn't really know either and was only attending because the woman in charge of Junior Achievement asked him to.
The plan all along was to return to Thies in time for lunch. Being the seasoned PCV that I am, I knew that that was never going to happen, but I wasn't prepared for what was going to happen. Talla, Kerry, Jackie, myself, and two other men from Dakar arrived at the village's communal building where we sat with a bunch of important men introducing ourselves, eating beignets, and then staring at each other in silence. The staring continued while more and more people kept piling into the room. The silence was broken when Jackie moved her chair and knocked over and shattered for coffee cup. For some reason this was hilariously funny, if not funny in this post.
After an hour of sitting in the room waiting for more people from Dakar to arrive while residents of the village waited ever so patiently in a packed and hot room next door, Talla started to get antsy and asked to start the meeting while we waited. It's a good thing we started this process because it took FOREVER. The head table meant for all of us ended up being the entire length of the room and was then still too small because it had over-sized chairs behind it. So, we went back and forth and back and forth across the packed room. Tripping over people, getting in everyone's way, sweating, and trying to sit in order of importance. Jackie and I attempted an escape by graciously declining stairs for standing only room in the hallway to no avail.
Twenty or so minutes after the musical chairs started we were finally all seated. That is until the rest of the delegation from Dakar arrived and the entire process started over again. Once everyone was seated and the meeting began I started to zone out. I couldn't help it. The redundancies of the meeting, the sweltering heat, and all of the people taking cell phone video of me started to take it's toll and Jackie and I became a pair of slaphappy toubabas. This continued for an eternity - over 3 hours in total.
The event was to introduce Junior Achievement to this village and the meeting discussed the pros and cons and let the community air their concerns. There was absolutely no point for Jackie and I to be there. We were pointed at twice as the two PCV toubabs in the room and that's about it. I am still not use to Senegalese meetings where agreement is shown by saying the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over again and I don't think I ever will.
Almost eight hours later the car dropped me back off at my house and I collapsed in a heap and then made myself lunch...at almost 5pm. Hopefully my presence was appreciated although, I'm pretty sure it didn't make a difference.
All I wanted was a quiet evening, but that didn't happen because... Mami's home! She waltzed in sporting jeggings and a GIANT bow in her hair, instantaneously got in a fight with big Ahmed, and then called all of her girlfriends over for dinner. This upset Jeenaba because Mami wanted her to serve them in her room, which in turn infuriated Awa because Jeenaba wanted Awa's help with the extra cooking even though Awa was doing the dishes. I silently hoped that it didn't mean that my mom would cook dinner since we all suffered that terrible scenario last night while holding Abdou and officiating over coloring time for little Awa and Ahmed so they would be quiet and stop driving me insane. All in a day's work.
Messy, but Warm
8 months ago