Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shake It, Shake It...

Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

Many moons ago when Matt was visiting Senegal he became transfixed with the idea of a Polaroid camera. Ahmed and the children of my neighborhood didn't need educational materials, or shoes, or other necessities...they needed a Polaroid camera. In Matt's defense, kids do LOVE having their pictures taken. And taking pictures here is a production. Small children and screaming and grabbing at you and pushing their way to the front of the group of children so that they are front and center in the picture. Once the picture's been taken it's imperative that everyone seems themselves on the screen of the digital camera and that we rehash the picture. Oh yes, that is you on the side... this happened 1.3 seconds ago. During Matt's trip we did have one particularly memorable photo session when an entire family stopped us on the road and demanded an impromptu photo shoot complete with smiling adults, sobbing children, and stray dogs.

Upon Matt's return to the States, the idea of the Polaroid stuck with him and he got me a Polaroid which traveled across the country to Katherine's boyfriend's office and then with Katherine across the Atlantic and to Senegal. I must say that I've been delinquent in bringing the Polaroid out mostly because Senegal and I haven't been getting along lately and I knew that it would be a hit. I had no idea how much my family would love the camera. To say that it caused a ruckus would be a vast understatement.

Today when the power was out I was trying to do some reading, but Ahmed was having none of it so, I grabbed the Polaroid and the madness ensued. Ahmed was immediately intrigued by a new camera. The boy is a ham. He was shocked when a picture magically came out of the camera, but then infinitely disappointed when there wasn't an image, only a glossy white finish. Invoking the infamous Outkast song, I told him he needed to shake the picture and it would appear. This was all too much. He went insane. As the picture started to appear Ahmed darted inside the house, shaking the picture the entire time, running around showing everyone the magic picture.

Pictures in Senegal are generally reserved for special occasions and snapshots are not the norm. Therefore, people are usually hesitant about having their pictures taken when they aren't dressed to impressed, much less on a Sunday afternoon when everyone looks like a lazy scrub. Ahmed's excitement generated interest and before I knew it there was a line. My mom loved the the camera, process, and resulting picture so much that she made Ahmed go upstairs and take a picture of my host dad to show him how cool the camera was. This is the best picture I have of my mom and myself:

There are a bunch of other pictures, but they've been commandeered. I hope that I can at least take pictures of them because some are really funny since Ahmed was the photographer.

It wasn't just the girls and the little kids who showed interest though. Baye and Petit (Jeenaba's older brother) were adamant about getting their pictures taken. They saw the pictures later in the day and sent Ahmed to my room and to get me and the camera so they could have their own pictures. The whole picture taking experience was pretty funny. Everyone was really in to it. I also like that they thought they looked better in these pictures than regular pictures; I'm pretty sure that's just a case of instant gratification.

After a while I had to put the camera away to conserve film. I definitely want to bring it out at least once when Ahmed has little friends over and show it to Dioss because I think he would really like it. Matt was right! The Polaroid was a huge success. Thank you so much for providing me with such a fun afternoon activity!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Glimpses of America

The past couple of days Thies has been full of American visitors and it's been great. Erin's parents are here and Tamar has a friend in town and I have willingly participated in their Thies experiences.

Yesterday, after a morning spent hanging out around the house, holding babies, and continuing my virtual job search, I headed across town to the Catholic bar to meet Erin and her parents and Emily for a drink. Erin's parents spent two days and two nights night her village which makes them total champs and they were just incredibly nice people. Exactly who you would expect Erin's parent's to be.

Today Tamar who has a friend visiting from the States as well as Erin and her parents were in Thies. I started out the morning walking through the market with Katherine trying to find fabric. Katherine's tailor Matar has finally perfected what Katherine and I like to call "the Tory Burch" tunic and we're having several made before we head back home. I'm also hoping he can turn a tunic into a tunic dress... we'll see what kind of clothes I come back with after Jazz Fest! I found two different fabrics that I really like. One went back with Katherine to go to Matar and I kept one in Thies in the hopes that Khady and I can work on making a really cute dress together at her tailor's.

Katherine and I went to Bon Marche and picked up a delicious picnic lunch (read: massive amounts of cheese) to share with Jackie at the center. Tamar and her friend arrived in Thies from Dakar early so the five of us ate lunch together before heading back out to the market, a nice visit with Mme. Ly, and a beer at Pamanda's.

As I was walking home from the center after a long day I got a text from Erin inviting me to Chicken Dibi. Well, a dibi invite is fairly impossible to refuse. I didn't want to go home because that creates a whole fiasco when I want to leave again for dinner so I decided to sit at Les Delices and wait for them. Most of the way to Les Delices I get a call from Erin saying they're going back to the center so I turn around and walk all the way back. I circled Thies at least twice today. A big group of us ended up going to the speakeasy by the center for a drink before dibi. The speakeasy is really stepping up their game, which, I assume, is in no small part due to Peace Corps Volunteer patronage. Anyway, they have a fence now which separates their house from our shenanigans and two bathrooms. Why do I mention the two bathrooms? Because one door says "uriner" and the other says "cacas." Classic. It seriously made my day.

Chicken Dibi never disappoints. I hadn't been in several months and it was great to go back. It's always so delicious!

Seeing people from the US is always great. They look so clean and shiny and are so happy to be experiencing Senegal. It also gives you a little glimpse into life back at home and almost makes you feel like you aren't missing too too much. What brings America even that much closer is what Tamar brought us from Dakar. Currently sitting on my desk is my COS packet. It details much of what I will learn at my COS conference next month: how to wind down your service and readjust to the US of A. Lets just say I don't think I'm going to need too much help getting back into the swing of things Stateside. But, things are starting to get real. We're getting down to the wire and home is within site, which is currently making things that much harder. The next 7.5 weeks are going to be insanity.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Best Game

Last night I had a complete mental breakdown over a flashlight. Yes, a small piece of plastic with a battery that shines light. I sobbed in my bed, in the dark over a flashlight. It was sad. Senegal is really getting to me. The power was out last night and I had already eaten dinner so instead of staring (but not seeing) my family in the dark as we sat in silence I decided to go to my room and read in bed. The time was 10:35pm, not a weird time to go to bed. My door was closed, I was in my PJs, and I was enjoying a nice fashion magazine. Awa bursts into my room and demands the flashlight so she can heat up dinner for the rest of my family. Yes, it's not abnormal for them to eat at 11pm. I hesitated for a second since I was in bed reading, but in a blink the flashlight was out of my hand and I was having a temper tantrum in my bed.

The thin, thin line between family member, house guest, friend, and meal ticket is really getting to me. Everything is getting to me. I am a trusted confident and babysitter one minute and asked for additional money (I already pay A LOT) for food the next. My gas tank, matches, and other personal effects are taken because I shouldn't care right? and then I'm treated with respect and eat with my dad. I can't pull water, but I can't ask for water to be pulled because there isn't any. I want to be a normal adult so badly. Crying in ones bed in the dark doesn't usually denote maturity, but I did get over it just not before letting fly a string of profanities into my pillow.

Everything is driving me crazy and in my slow devolution back to my easily aggravated state of PST, I'm attracting crazy. Yesterday I was walking down the street when a man walked by me and pretty much gave me a noogie and tried to pull my ponytail out. Why? No idea. I started yelling at the top of my lungs at how terrible a man he was and pointing at him so that the busy street pull of people could see him. Or today when a man had to grab my arm to tell me that he needed a beautiful second wife like me. You are creepy. Stop. Not to mention all of the men on the street making kissing noises. A word to the wise: toubabs are not deaf; I'm ignoring you. And people are just catching on to this. As I was walking down my street today boys my age were making lewd comments and I was ignoring them, but when small children run up and want to shake my hand and ask questions I always take the time to talk (children are our future after all). The boys just started commenting on the fact that for some magical reason I somehow hear the nice children, but don't hear them. Who would have thought? There was also a boy who hit me with a clot of dirt shot with a slingshot. Lets just say that his mother wasn't too pleased with him after I literally dragged him to her and explained what happened. I seriously need some crazy repellent.

After my exhausting day of artisans yesterday and my general annoyance with the vast majority of Senegalese men, I was dreading Junior Achievement today. Especially because Kerry is out of town so I was flying solo and had to teach The Best Game. The Best Game is pretty much the Game Of Life and teaches basic finances and calendar planning. It is a no fail business lesson. Everyone always loves it. I planned to meet all the teachers in the teacher lounge 30 minutes before class so I could explain it to them. A terrible process to be sure. So, I was ecstatic when one of the teachers knew the game and wanted to teach it.

In The Best Game groups make paper hats which they then sell. The teams need to figure out that they have to take the risk to produce the hats in order to generate profit and be successful at the game. I spoke with the teacher before class started about giving quick instructions because we wanted the students to figure things out for themselves. It's best when one team epically fails and one team does well so we can discuss the differences in strategy. 47 minutes later, after I had written a journal entry, planned out the next week on my calendar, and texted back and forth with a few people, the teacher finished his explanation of the game. This is not a joke. He literally took 47 minutes (I timed it) to explain the game/ give away all of the little tricks and tell the students exactly what to do.

I know that I was personally bored to tears and even some of the other teachers came up to me to discuss how it might have been better to let the students figure things out. Regardless, everyone really enjoyed the game and hopefully learned something. I had cookies for the winners so they were pleased. We only have one more week of class! Next week is final presentations and certificate time! Things are winding down...

Because I've been having a rough 10 days I thought I deserved a reward, even though I had lunch with the girls yesterday. Since I couldn't reward myself with what I really want (some friends and family time in the best country in the world), I had to settle for the next best thing: dairy products. A giant block of cheese really made me feel better today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Artisan Association II

Today featured two big events. The first was totally fun and the second, slightly annoying, but overall effective.

The Thies/ Dakar region finally has our very own Health/Environmental Education PCV and today was her inauguration lunch. Lisa was thrown into the deep end since almost everyone was able to attend and when we all get together it's hard to stop us for even a second to do introductions or explain anything. It is a special kind of bond when everyone can talk at the same time about myriad topics and start in the middle of stories and we all understand everything.

I've been eagerly anticipating today's afternoon event, the artisan reseau meeting, for several weeks. The meeting marks the second formal meeting of the association and also provided me with a forum to speak directly to the artisans instead of over the phone where we've all suffered misunderstandings and miscommunication. The association meeting started at 3pm so that the artisans had the majority of the day to travel to Thies and so that the PCVs could meet to discuss the Jazz Fest and other artisan things over lunch and perhaps a beverage or two to take the edge off.

When Katherine and I arrived at the center about 15 minutes before three 3pm I was stunned to find several artisans already ready, waiting, and mingling. Madame Ly threats regarding timeliness seem to work for some... they definitely don't for others. After a brief powwow with Talla to go over the main points of the meeting we were ready to start.

I was very pleased with the turnout. An artisan for PCV was present for each artisan attending the St. Louis Jazz Fest and one artisan from Kaolack who isn't even going to the Jazz Fest also came, which I thought was a bonus. I have to admit that I have been hoping that a female artisan from Kaolack named Ndeye would drop out. I'm not impressed with the plethora jewelry and weird cloth things she makes and it's just harder to coordinate with someone further away, but she's fantastic and deserves all the credit in the world. Katherine and I imposed fairly difficult restrictions on her about money for Jazz Fest, getting to the PCV in Kaolack in a timely fashion, plus she will have the greatest costs getting herself and her goods to Kaolack. She's been up to the challenge and is a very sweet woman. Ndeye is obviously hardworking, entrepreneurial, and independent woman. All that being said, there are still only two booths and seven artisans. It's going to be tight.

We discussed how there is only a limited amount of space that the artisans have to share and about the importance of at least attempting a somewhat cohesive look for the tables. After a long and drawn out discussion about space we finally got how to break down the costs of the tables. Since there are two tables and seven artisans, we were thinking one table of 3 and one table of 4 with the 70k price tag split amongst the artisans at that table. At first the artisans were going to split it evenly, but they finally figured out that they should split it amongst the table members. This lead to an infuriating discussion over who would be at each table led by Katherine's tailor, Matar. It was very important to him that he and his boy posse of Demba (Alys' leather worker in Mboro) and Mamadou (April's woodworker in Diourbel) be the three man table. I don't really know how this conversation spiraled out of control since no one was against Matar's idea, but it did. I just hope that the artisans don't freak out when they actually see the booths. We told them the exact dimensions and kept reiterating the small space and that people (aka Mme. Ly) can't bring all of their usual stuff. I'm expecting disaster, but we'll see what happens.

Division of tables and costs lead to what I knew would be the most frustrating part of the meeting: dues collection. I've been singing the praises of the women from Kebemer (cloth bag makers who don't have a PCV) because they are well organized even without a PCV and really know what's going on. At the last meeting I was pleased that they wanted to head up the Treasury because I thought they could handle it. Turns out, they don't actually write things down when keeping track of dues. Excellent. I ended up writing everyone's financial information on a giant sheet of flip chart paper so the treasurer could re-write it and all of the artisans could be sure that no one was getting cheated and that everyone was paying the correct amount. The amount of back and forth this necessitated was amazing. There was also a huge discussion over whether dues paid by members not attending Jazz Fest would be going to pay for the event. Lets just say that the idea of a communal pot and the true idea of an association has not quite taken hold yet. The money issues were solved as best they could. PCVs are still out money that they fronted, but I'm prepared to play bad guy at Jazz Fest to make sure that everything balances. Talla was instrumental in getting the money issues understood and solved. We couldn't have done it without him.

Amanda, the third year based in Dakar who works with the West African Trade Hub and who connected the reseau with the gallery owner in St. Louis, attended the meeting to explain the gallery. I was really happy she could come to explain the level of quality, creativity, and professionalism the gallery owner demanded so there was a separation between myself and that aspect of Jazz Fest. Especially since I didn't want it to appear that Mme. Ly was receiving special treatment since she will be exposing at the gallery and I'm largely seen as the PCV in charge. She did a really good job and I hope that she inspired the other artisans to take a look at the gallery and think about how they can improve their products so they could potentially exhibit in a gallery one day.

Three hours after the meeting began Talla, the artisans, and the volunteers were getting restless and we were done. A couple of minutes after most of the artisans left and I was sitting around with Katherine and April, Mamadou and Demba arrived. Three hours late. They were flabbergasted that the meeting was already over. Fortunately, Matar was still there and rehashed the meeting for them because I was too exhausted at that point to explain everything, again.

The meeting was definitely a success. I feel much better knowing that everything has definitely been relayed to all of the artisans and that there were no communication problems since Talla was there. I know that there are going to be problems with transportation, lodging, food, and space in St. Louis, but now that those problems have been presented and are out in the open they are no longer my problems; they are the artisans problems. Hopefully everything will go well. Now, my only St. Louis challenge, until the actually event, is to convince Mme. Ly that she absolutely cannot bring her giant/ ridiculous amount of product. Good luck to me

Monday, May 23, 2011

When Things Become Normal

One of my stagemates wrote a fantastic blog post that describes my current state of mind. She put it much more eloquently and nicely than I could have. Her name is Maya and here is the link to her post:

I love her term "The Hangover of Adventure." I'm trying to think of something stronger/ worse than a hangover because that's what I'm suffering from.

Since all of the little things are really starting to get to me again (I was asked for my sunglasses 7 times today), I've been spending more time at the center because it's quiet and I can think and be in peace. I've also had a ton of computer work to do, which is much easier to do when I have a reliable source of power, which the center's generator provides me with.

Things are starting to get quite hectic with the artisan expo for the St. Louis Jazz Fest. I cannot wait for it to be over. Working with artisans has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my service and definitely the most quantifiable, but all of the money issues and all of the phone calls are getting to me. So, so, so many phone calls from artisans. The meeting is tomorrow and I think we're going to have pretty good attendance. Whether or not they come baring dues and are ready to discuss St. Louis logistics is still up in the air. I've been working on the flyer to promote the gallery. We're hoping to get some banners printed up as well.

Here's what the flyer currently looks like. And don't critique my French; it, undoubtedly, needs some editing.

I haven't been spending much time at home because my family is driving me insane and trying to force feed me intestine stew. Intestine stew is a perfect example of "The Hangover of Adventure." It used to be interesting, I tried it, it's edible, but why would I eat it now? Awa is still pregnant although, she seems increasingly unhappy about it, we have a new maid whose name is Adama, and Ahmed is being a little terror.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Over It

The past couple of days have not been good day. I have been busy which is good since a large part of my frustrations in Senegal have come when I have nothing to do. Jazz Fest is starting to become insane and I'm really looking forward to the Artisan Reseau meeting on Tuesday so I can hopefully transfer some of the responsibility and planning over the artisans. Junior Achievement is going well since we actually had class this week and I've already procured the materials for next week's class and read over the instructions for the class so I feel prepared. I'm also occupying (maybe stressing a little bit!) myself with finding a job, getting my pictures in order, and preparing myself for the final stretch of my service and all of the tough goodbyes which I know are just around the corner.

Before Peace Corps Senegal I was fairly tightly wound (some might say I still am) and frustration used to send me over the edge. Frustration in not being able to understand a school subject, or frustration with traffic (oh my, I hope this has eased since my next permanent residence is known for traffic), or just general frustration that was putting me a bad mood. Peace Corps has been so good for me. I've learned to let go and to sit and not do anything and know that's OK. My ability to be patient has increased a million fold. Creative problem solving is something I'm actually good at now. Small children don't send me running. I'm much less quick to anger. I've learned to adapt. All of this has been part of the transformation I've experienced from dealing with and struggling with the every day realities of Senegal.

At the 2 month mark (during PST) everything bothered me and I could barely deal with it and I wanted to go home. At the 6 month mark I was begining to understand that things are truly different here and that I had to accept and adapt. At the year mark I came to understand why Peace Corps is a two year commitment and I hit my stride. (My friends and I had a blast at the amazingly successful girls' camp and the Artisan Expo almost tripled 2009 sales). At the 18 month mark I started to realize the end was near, created a laundry list of things I still wanted to do and accomplished, and became a "senior" in the Peace Corps as a member of the next stage who is scheduled to leave; I realized I had made it. At 21 (almost 22) months I'm freaking over it.

The little things that I've spent the past almost two years learning how to ignore and let run over my shoulders are back...with a vengeance. I've moved well past anger. It's not anger. It's frustration and a sense of "why?" Or, SERIOUSLY!?!?!?!

Yesterday my family made a lunch that I'm not a big fan of. I will definitely eat it, just not a lot. It's obvious that I'm not the amazing shrinking woman and my family knows that I have my own snacks which I eat in my room, just like they do. Well, around lunch Jeenaba came into my room with eggs, a little salad, and bread. I thanked her and thought that our interaction was over. She sheepishly looks at me and says that my mom would like me to pay her for the lunch. I was dumbfounded. I didn't know how to react and I knew if I did react it would involve tears, profanity, and general inappropriateness (another thing I've learned: to keep my mouth shut). After eating the meal (even though I wasn't happy about it), I went into the house to explain for the millionth time that if I don't like something I will make my own meal. All of the women started chiming in that I'm a terrible cook and that the food isn't good. It's good to me. I don't like all of their food just like they don't like my food. Well, that argument fell on deaf ears as usual. I can't even really think about this situation without becoming enraged so I've decided it's best not to delve into the psychology behind this episode...especially since I pay my family an exorbitant amount each month for my rent, food, and water and electricity (which I never have).

When trying to woo me, do not point out the fact that the increase in the temperature has brought back my acne. Seriously, how terrible at flirting can you be? This prompted me to leave the post office without responding to the question and without saying goodbye. Also, how many times do I have to tell everyone that there's no way I will ever be a second wife.

With my frustrations mounting and my inability to eat ceeb for lunch, I left my house this morning and headed to the center for some quiet time. I didn't need anyone to tell me that I am sleeping when I'm sitting up-right with my eyes open reading a book. I didn't need to be told that the cleaning job I did wasn't good enough. And I didn't need to be told that I can't cook/ can't do anything in general. I can ignore the racial slurs, proclamations of love, and honking cars. What I can not ignore is a large man standing right in front of me. There's a part of the sidewalk on my way to the center where the sidewalk narrows so it's just one person wide. A man stood up from a chair and stood on this part of the sidewalk with his hands on his hips so I couldn't pass and had to walk in the street. When he confronted me about walking around him I lost it. Let's just say my tirade ended when he called me racist and I walked away.

I'm so over all of these little annoyances and instances of disrespect, or thinking that they can get away with it/ are entitled to it because I'm white. After two years a lot of people around Thies have at least seen me and know I'm not a tourist, I wish this brought me a little respect. I'm over the homesicknesses of America, I'm past missing my family and friends (it's way beyond that), I can survive another two months of ceeb. All I want is a little respect.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

We Had Class!

Yesterday we actually had a Junior Achievement class. Miracle of miracles. It didn't look too promising when Kerry and I arrived at the Lycee Technique and the teachers' lounge was locked, but we were able to secure our materials box from one of the secretaries which really happens because she's never there so, before class started we were at a draw. Then the room where we usually have class was locked and there's obviously only one key and the person who had that key was not at school that day. Never fear we will squeeze fifty people into a tiny room with not enough chairs. I'm actually not going to complain about this part since it was a tech room so it was air-conditioned to protect the electronics!

The class actually went really well. Unfortunately, since so many classes were cancelled we've had to combine several classes in order to fit in everything before our June 1st graduation. Yesterday's class was about marketing which was supposed to be two classes so the students could conduct a short market research survey. Kerry went to the Lycee on Monday to drop off the market survey, which the teachers were supposed to distribute to the students. This didn't quite happen, but we still had a good discussion about what market research is, why it's important, and how to conduct a survey. At this point Kerry and I are doing very little teaching. We prepare the lesson plans a week ahead so the Lycee Technique teachers have a chance to look them over. Two teachers have really stepped up and do the majority of the teaching with Kerry and I interjecting some information or explaining an activity.

The majority of yesterday's class was dedicated to the students writing and performing television commercials for their business. One was great, but I thought the other two missed the mark since they didn't really have anything visual or catchy. Definitely something to mark in the lesson plan: must have visual if doing a TV commercial. Next week I'll be flying solo and teaching a finance game that's a lot like The Game of Life. We'll see how that goes. Hopefully the teachers and students will catch on quickly and like the game!

Yesterday afternoon Kerry and I hung out at Les Delices talking about JA and enjoying some electricity. On my walk home I was in my usual walk mode: iPod on, looking straight ahead, and pretending to ignore everything in front of me. When a car keep honking at me as I walked down the street I ignored it. Cars honk at me a lot and I could tell it wasn't a Peace Corps car so there was no reason to turn around. Finally the car pulled in front of me and park. The car/ person I had been ignoring for over a block was my host dad who was trying to be nice and give me a ride home! Oops! He thought I had my music playing really loud, but I explained that people honk at me a lot so I just ignore it. He seemed to understand the explanation and not think too much about it. My mom definitely enjoyed the story when we got home and my dad told her my mistake!

Today was a fairly chill day. I did some work around my house this morning, which always invites criticism from my family since they still think it's impossible for me to do work in my room and that I'm always sleeping when I'm in my room alone. Yes, this is still frustrating me. This afternoon on my way back home from the Peace Corps center I saw two girls get into a huge fight in the middle of the street. One girl was accusing the other of stealing her boyfriend while at the same time screaming that her boyfriend is homosexual (a very derogatory name to be called in Senegal). It was really intensse. The girls were straight up fighting in the middle of the street and one almost got run over by a car when the other one pushed her. It was quite entertaining, if not infinitely dangerous for the two girls involved. Definitely the most interesting part of my day.

Now, I'm waiting for dinner, which I have confirmed is chicken. My mom proclaimed an hour and a half ago that we were going to eat "early." It's now 8:45pm. The wait is on.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I have a severe case of Senioritis.Yesterday I couldn't motivate myself to leave my compound. Today, I left the compound, but wasn't happy about it. Everything is a struggle. Interacting with people who are not in my family: struggle. Pretending to like ceebu jenn: struggle. Feigning interest in the discussion of power outages (we had one hour of power between 12 and 1 and it just came back on at 9:15pm) while staring at the ceiling: struggle. Dealing with the new heat wave: struggle. Thinking about anything other than the countdown to America/ life in America: struggle.

A complete lack of desire to do anything, other eat ice cream in a climate controlled setting and think about the America inspired playlist I'm making on my iPod, consumes me. Actually one other thing does take a lot of time and attention...

Personal Ad: If you or anyone you know/ can contact wants to hire me in the greater Los Angeles area, you will be my best friend forever and I will be forever indebted to you. Even job leads are appreciated.

There is a lull in artisan work until our meeting next week and only so much I can do for Junior Achievement when Kerry is awesome and has really taken the reigns/ we never have class so dreaming about the end instead of acting on the present is taking hold. I'm actually impressed I've lasted this long since a lot of my friends had early onset Senioritis. I'm so close, but yet so far and I know that I should be doing really awesome things, but getting marriage proposals, lectures on how American English and British English are so wildly different that I couldn't understand a Brit, and being called really mean names are getting old. These things don't even anger me anymore because I'm just really rude and walk away.

I did manage to tear myself out of my compound today (mainly because we didn't have power/ I was starting to feel like a loser). This morning I went through the market and collected vegetable prices on a long list of vegetables for a project that Byron is working on and this afternoon I went to see Mme. Ly. Mme. Ly and Khady are awesome and usual and have some new necklace designs that I will post when I'm not too lazy to take pictures. Purchasing jewelry is a tried and true method of buoying my spirits so I may have indulged in some of Mme. Ly's newest wares, but it's all in the name of the Senegalese economy and getting Mme. Ly's stuff out into the public eye.

Back on the home front the main topic of conversation was electricity and how it makes no sense that the power comes on for one hour in the middle of the day when it doesn't help anyone. True. I've also started to notice that I am the "fly on the wall." All those times that you wish you could hear a conversation and not get noticed? Yeah, that's my daily life. My family knows I'm not a gossip (well, about their issues at least) or thinks I have no idea what's going so I got to listen to many interesting conversations today.

1. Jeenaba ripping her baby daddy a new one about not contributing enough money. You go girl.
2. Awa trying to explain to my mom that she can literally not taste how spicy the food is she's making because she's just that pregnant.
3. Awa and Ziabata talking about how Khady doesn't discipline Ahmed... at all. True.

That's about it for the Senegal rundown. Nothing too exciting, obviously, since I have Senioritis. I also swung by the post office and Shirley deserves another SHOUT OUT from another great letter! Thank you!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Food Crimes

A (food) crime against humanity was committed last night at my house. I'm still upset about it. I spent yesterday afternoon at the center using the power (the center has a generator so it was the only place with power yesterday, my house had electricity for less than two hours) and waiting for the new volunteers to return from Dakar where they had just sworn in. I try not to stalk PCVs on day one of their actual service, but desperate times call for desperate measures. The tally of artisans attending the expo in St. Louis next month is finally finalized and although the number is one too many and I'm hoping (I'm a terrible person) that one will drop out, I had all of the money ready to go. All I needed was a mule and that mule took the form of the new volunteer going to St. Louis. Jessica is really helping me out by taking the money to the SED PCV in St. Louis who will then take the money to Jazz Fest offices to reserve our booths. Complicated, but I'm confident all of the transactions will take place.

High off of my time with electricity and the money transfer I returned home to what I thought was a beautiful sight. Moroccan couscous was in the kitchen! I've been having major issues with almost all Senegalese food, which has been compounded by the fact that I never feel satisfied or satiated after I eat, so I was pumped when I saw couscous. It must have been the euphoria of seeing couscous that clouded my judgement and prevented me from asking what we were having for dinner because it was a truly, rookie mistake. Even though I was hungry I told myself not to snack from my stash and waited patiently in the dark for my delicious dinner to arrive. At about 10pm when I wanted sleep more than I wanted dinner anyway, I received gruel. Awa had turned scrumptious Moroccan couscous into lach aka gruel. I was so sad I had to call Katherine for moral support. There was nothing else to do but throw the gruel to the goats and go to bed.

Today was a really quiet day around the house because my mom and dad went to Dakar which meant everyone else did nothing. Literally nothing. The power was out so everyone sat in the rooms by themselves, which suited me just fine especially since I was going out for lunch. Brian was in town visiting his host brother who had club foot surgery in Thies so we went to lunch at Les Delices where we ran into a couple of other PCVs. It's always nice when people are in Thies and it was nice to get out on the weekend since I usually stay around the compound, which usually puts me in a not so good mood. Yes, I understand that problem is easily solved. Brian and I walked to Total after lunch to pick up some Sandras (ice cream) and then parted ways - I walked home and he went to the garage and back to Joal.

I spent most of my evening in the Dakar sitting on a mat with Abdou and listening to all of the women talk. I started yawning because I was zoning off and it was dark so Jeenaba started mocking me about going to bed early. She called me a chicken, which means "early to bed early to rise," since I went to bed at 10:15 last night. I would like to point out we had eaten dinner, we didn't have electricity and everyone else was lounging in the living room dozing. I take so much flack for going to bed "early." It is my family who are the abnormal ones as most of our neighbors and most other PCVs' families go to bed when I do. The going to bed early thing doesn't bother me anymore and I'm doing it again tonight!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Artisans 2 Ways

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

This morning Erin called to let me know that she and her friends from the US of A were out and about in Thies, wandering the market and soaking in the fabulous atmosphere in Thies. As the de-facto Thies tour guide I considered it my obligation and my pleasure to tag along. Erin's friends has only been in Senegal for less than 36 hours when I met up with them and they had already been out to dinner in Dakar, gone to Erin's village for a baptism, grabbed a beer at the Catholic bar, and spent the night at Massa Massa. This seems like a whirlwind tour, but it gets better because they came to Senegal via Nepal where they had gone for a friends wedding! They are literally circumnavigating the world in one trip! San Fransisco to Nepal to Dubai to Senegal and back again. I can't say I'm not jealous.

I've been trying to take a lot more pictures of Thies recently because I'm running out of time and I'm realizing that I don't have the mundane pictures of every day life/ every day Thies that I will most definitely want when I'm home so, walking around with Erin and her friends was a great excuse to take pictures. Walking around in a big group of toubabs also makes taking pictures less awkward or perhaps so awkward that it really just doesn't matter anymore. One of Erin's friends is an avid quilter so we visited a ton of fabric stalls and really looked at the patterns and different options which I haven't done in a long time. It was also nice just to actually look around since so often when I'm walking in Thies I have my blinders on and go straight to my destination. Having visitors that weren't my own helped me to slow down, enjoy, and really take in my surroundings.

The market was oddly dead for a Thursday so we were able to take our time, walk in a group, and we weren't harassed too much, which was nice. After checking out most of the fabric stalls in the market as well as all of the fruits and vegetables, we headed over to see Mme. Ly. Since it was only 11:30am Mme. Ly was still setting up. It takes the woman an eternity to get everything out and displayed the way she wants it. I was immediately put to work taking out all of the earrings, which was fine because I got to see Erin and her friends look through everything. It was fascinating to watch since the girls went straight for the designs and colors that Katherine, Mme. Ly, Khady and I have been working on. Mme. Ly and Khady noticed it as well and were happy that the colors I've told them about and that they've seen in the American magazines I've given them really do sell better than other models and colors. The girls were really happy with their jewelry purchases, even Erin bought a new design in a fabulous coral color!

There's only one place to go after Mme. Ly's and that's to Dioss' atelier. We walked into a picture perfect scene of Dioss listening to old French music (quite loudly I might add), smoking a cigarette, and checking out Facebook on his computer. It just doesn't get any better than that. A member of his boy posse was working on the backgrounds of cards and cleaning brushes. Classic Dioss. Through a conversation with Erin I learned that Dioss is originally from a village near Erin's village where he has a field. I immediately called him out on the fact that there's no way he actually attends to his field. The man loves his shoes WAY too much. He didn't even put up a fight and conceded that Erin is a much better farmer than he is, but that the two of us should go visit her. I'm making sure this happens because I'm pretty sure that I feel more comfortable in a village than Dioss does and I want to see him squirm!

This fantastic morning was capped off with a delicious lunch at Massa Massa. I was in a great mood after grabbing a Sandra (the cheapest, most delicious ice cream available at the Total station) with Erin and her friends and then parting ways with them at the post office. Shout out to Jo Ellen for sending "end of service" supplies to get us through the next two months. I'm ridiculously excited for the Rice Krispie treats. Everything is safe in sound in Thies! Everything was great...

And then... the ugly side of dealing with artisans reared its ugly head. The St. Louis Jazz Fest expo is turning into a logistical, monetary, and emotional nightmare. The artisan association is just in it's infancy and there are still lots of problems and issues to resolve. Compound this with the fact that Katherine is working with fairly unhelpful people in St. Louis who are organizing the expo and we have no idea what's going on. Earlier this week Mme. Ly and I called all of the artisans to see who wanted to attend the expo and since then Katherine and I have been figuring out a way for a group of PCVs to advance the money to pay for the expo since the money is due before our next artisan meeting on May 24th. To say this has been a challenge is an understatement and things went from bad to worse tonight when I thought that we would have to get three tables and not two. I feel terrible, but at this point we're hoping that one artisan drops out so that there will be three artisans at each booth. Hopefully in the future, the association will have more money and the artisans will be communicating better with each other so that sudden death situations like this don't materialize, but for now things to be under control. That is... under control after Mme. Ly and I sat on the floor of her house, the dark, as she called artisans and told them they had to have their money for the expo to their PCV by 12pm tomorrow. We will see what happens!

New pictures of Thies are up in the "Cape Verde" album.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's Getting Closer

Today Jackie, Alys, and Katherine were in town and we had lunch with a couple of boys from the Health/ EE a year into their service. It was nice to see everyone and hang out a little bit. This morning Jackie, Alys, and I walked Thies and took some pictures for the Insider's Guide, a project eco-tourism PCVs have been working on to promote different sites in Senegal. But, the main event was lunch where we started talking about the end of our service.

Talking about COS (close of service) has been a topic amongst my friends since approximately day 3 of PST so it's not a new topic. The topic is now at hand and that's what makes it so different. Katherine, Jackie, and I have been specifically planning our departure from site for quite some time because we want to do it in high style, but when Katherine starting talking about it today reality set in. I started getting really emotional and I know it's only going to get harder. It's very weird to think about actually leaving even though I'm so excited to go home. I don't want to leave my two little boys and the daily, ridiculous interactions that I have with my family.

With COS quickly approaching, there are still a lot of things that I want to get done. I have work projects like JA and artisan reseau things that I want to tie up before I leave and there are personal projects like getting all of my pictures in order and re-reading my blog for all of the terrible spelling and grammar mistakes that you've been putting up with for the past 21 months. My blog. Oh my. I started reading it today and got through five posts. It's going to be hard. I've already started crying and in blog time I haven't even left the center for the first time and met my family in Tivuouane. This is going to be a disaster.

Anyway, I did do other things today than talk about/ think about leaving. After lunch where we did discuss artisan trials and tribulations with Alys, Katherine and I went to visit Mme. Ly who was selling at the training center today. It was the trainees first Mme. Ly experience and Mme. Ly made bank. Mme. Ly and Khady immediately started rattling off what they had sold once Katherine and I sat down. They knew exactly what was selling, what they needed to make more of, and the popular colors. I felt especially good about the colors since I've really pushed them into the neon colors that are popular in the States right now. They were obviously pleased with the results and Katherine and I were really excited that they were keeping track of their inventory and evaluating their work, what was selling and what wasn't.

Once we were done looking at all of the new beads and earring designs Khady had made, I walked Katherine to the garage where we parted ways. At home, I walked into girl central. All of big Ahmed's female classmates were over making chicken dinner spectacular for a school event tomorrow. The courtyard was literally packed with teenage girls butchering chickens, cutting onions, and pacifying babies after they started crying at the sight of me. It was insanity and big Ahmed was obviously nowhere to be found since he's guy.

The best part about today was seeing my friends and getting their pictures from The Gambia which are now up in the Cape Verde album. Check them out!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Odds and Ends

I've been a delinquent blogger! I'm sorry! Here are the updates.

A couple of days ago I was walking one of my normal routes through Thies when I see a group of little kids who are beside themselves with excitement. They've spotted a toubab. As I approach them from several blocks away they get more and more excited. Giggling and pointing starts as do blank face stares when I greet them in Wolof and start shaking their hands. Then, one little boy approaches me with his arms outstretched like he wants a hug. I ask him if he wants a hug in French because I have no idea what the word is/ if it exists in Wolof. He definitely didn't understand since he was 2, but he kept staring at me with huge eyes and his arms I hugged him. The little boy didn't know what hit him. His eyes bugged out of his head. I asked him if he wanted to cry, he said yes, and then he started crying much to the amusement of the grown women watching him. It was pretty funny. I doubt he'll ever approach a toubab with arms outstretched again!

As for the children in my house...
Ahmed is really sick which means I'm enjoying a little peace and quiet and that I'm avoiding him because I don't want to get sick.

Little Awa is as annoying as ever, but seems to gradually be taking the hint that I don't like it when she pulls my skirt up or tries to open the door while I'm in the shower. At least we're making progress. Additionally, the staph infection in her armpit seems to be going away which is good because she was in pain and it was really gross.

Abdou is still really freaking cute and is a little fatty. Abdou being a huge baby is especially comical when his mom, Jeenaba, holds him since I look like a giant compared to her. He refuses to crawl, but loves to scoot around and hold himself up on tables and try to walk before he falls and starts crying.

The future baby has yet to arrive. Awa looks absolutely miserable and is huge, but I have no idea when she's due. She's also craving spicy food. Really, really, really spicy food. She cooked lunch both Saturday and Sunday and all of the boys refused to eat it because it was too spicy. She claimed she couldn't even taste it while slathering on extra hot sauce. I thought it was pretty good ceeb. If your taste buds are burned off due to spice you can't really taste anything, which, in this case, is a good thing.
* Update: We just had dinner and it was SPICY! After big Ahmed, my dad, and I ate my mom pulled me aside to ask me if it was spicy since my dad didn't eat anything. I told her it was as fire lept out of my mouth. She shook her head and scurried off because if I thought it was spicy there was no way any of the boys were going to eat it.

Oh, artisans. Katherine and I have been working on the St. Louis Jazz Fest exposition which is coming up on June 9th. We are having equally frustrating experiences. Katherine has been trying to get information from the people actually organizing the event, which has been a nightmare. Just last week they set an exorbitantly high booth rate for artisans and now expect payment next week. This information sent me into panic mode because it was my job along with Mme. Ly to call all of the artisans and remind them that they have to pay their dues, we have an upcoming meeting on May 24th, and that we need a bunch of money if they want to go to St. Louis.

Calling the artisans is always interesting. Nicities are always exchanged and then Mme. Ly puts her Madame President demenor on and lays down the lay. Unfortunately, even after Mme. Ly has told people what's up I'm not confident that it's actually going to happen. I need confirmation people are coming or not coming because this is an expensive event and myself along with some other PCVs are going to have to front money to make it happen. It's also frustrating that the reseau isn't running better and that I still need to do a lot of hand holding, especially when there are artisans who understand that the PCVs need to start stepping back.

I'm still working with WATH and the gallery in St. Louis who might host some of the artisans during the Jazz Fest. By the end of the week I'm hoping to have a lot more answers.

Junior Achievement
Kerry and I are still plugging away at Junior Achievement, writing lesson plans and planning PST sessions for the new trainees. Hopefully we will actually get to teach a class this week since the past two weeks were cancelled otherwise it will be very difficult to finish before exams starts and the school year is theoretically over.

This evening I thought we were about to have dinner so I was forcing myself to sit and watch the Wolof soap opera that makes me want to die. Dinner was obviously far, far, far away from happening, but I did see the most amazing thing. While two female characters are sitting on a bed talking, the camera pans the room. There's a chair and table, but the walls are bare except for...a Teletubbie hanging on the wall from a nail. NO JOKE! It was amazing and I couldn't stop myself from bursting out laughing. The best part was that it was the purple, gay, Teletubbie and that it was hanging from the nail by it's purple, triangle headpiece. Classic.

Also, shout out to Shirley for another awesome letter. You rock! Thank you.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cheese Me

It's been two days since we got back from The Gambia so, it's been two days since I was able to eat whatever I want whenever I want and not have to think about it. Just for the record, we did not eat local food one time while in The Gambia (if you don't count chicken sandwiches which are delicious and the only thing available at ferry crossings).Food is starting to become a real issue since even the smell of ceebu jenn is currently provokes my gag reflex. The past two days have also been bad meal days, culminating in today's lunch: Yassa. Yassa and I have never liked each other.

Now, I'm never the girl who doesn't like to eat something because it's unhealthy. I actually get angry when Matt buys ice cream that isn't full fat, but Yassa pushes me over the edge. It has no nutritional value and it's just not good. Yassa is white rice covered in onion sauce with some fried fish on top that have been sitting in the onion mixture so have by this point lost any fried delicious they may have once had. The vast majority of PCVs like Yassa. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it. White rice - fine. Onion sauce - well, we haven't been getting along for a while, but it's better than other things. Fried fish - fine. But that's it. There's nothing else. And I can no longer bring myself to eat it. Today lunch was really late so I was sitting in the living room, waiting, and reading a magazine. My heart dropped when I saw the Yassa. I sat down at the bowl, picked up my spoon, and put the spoon into the rice to take a scoop, but I just couldn't do it.

There was no place to hide so while my spoon was full of rice and hovering above the bowl I made the decision that I am indeed a big girl. I put down the spoon, announced that I wasn't hungry, and then ran away as my mom and Awa shouted after me that I don't like Yassa. You are one hundred percent correct my friends; I do not like Yassa. Fortunately, my family can see that I'm not the incredibly shrinking woman and that I do find food when I don't eat what they're having so their persistence that I eat is diminishing. After my triumph over Yassa, the only place to go was up so I went to Bon Marche bought a giant block of cheese and an apple and gorged myself on these delicious snacks in my room. Having control over my diet is without a doubt one of the hardest aspects of Peace Corps for me and I'm so excited to go back to the States and eat whatever I want.

Before I could go to Bon Marche and acquire dairy products and fruit, I had to go see Mme. Ly. The woman is a saint. I just love her to death and she and Khady always make me feel better. They were their usual, chipper selves and we had a good talk about the St. Louis Jazz Fest and some other upcoming events. Madame Ly also let me know that she and Khady are almost done with a big order they just received last week. They really know how to work hard and they even had some new styles to show me today!

Even with a giant block of cheese resting comfortably in my stomach I'm still hungry so let's hope for something good for dinner!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Gambia: Travel, Travel, Travel

Day 1: Easier Done Than Said

After a night spent spooning and talking to Katherine, we had to wake up early in the morning to start our sojourn to The Gambia. Right off the bat we had some good luck with the sept-place immediately filling up (amazing luck with transportation was the theme of the trip) and we were off after I had an awkward conversation with two of the men in our car who chided me for not being able to speak Puular since one of them didn't speak Wolof. From Thies we absolutely flew to Kaolack where we had to switch garages and find another car to the border of Senegal and The Gambia.

I slept almost the entire way in the car (sleeping is a great talent of mine) so I was ready to schmooze with the customs officials once we got to the border. This was a good thing since we were there for a couple of hours waiting for some guy to return with our passports and new visas. Although having the customs officials tell me what scent of incense they would burn for me if I came to their house, was more than a little awkward, they did really help us out with our travel plans. The original plan was to cross the river at this point and travel on the south side of the river to Georgetown, our destination for the night. Fortunately, the customs officials told us the southern road is terrible and that it would be a much better idea to not cross the river and head east on the north side of the river. They were right. The road was in perfect condition and stick straight. The driver could have put the car on cruise control and taken a nap if he wanted to.

We arrived in Georgetown in the late afternoon, hours before we thought we would actually arrive. The only hiccup was exchanging money which proved to be slightly difficult since banks which offer 24/7 services were closed (and their ATMs locked) and the one bank with an accessible ATM was broken. Go figure. We were able to get some Delasi (Gambian currency) and once we arrived in Georgetown we hopped in a little boat and forded the river to McCarthy island, where, with the help of two guys who found us on the boat, walked back and forth across the island until we decided on a campament to stay in.

The campament was pretty nice and super cheap. We negotiated a boat tour with the men who helped us find the campament, took some much needed showers, and ate a delicious chicken dinner, and then went to bed... that is until the campament owner started hacking apart his door at 1am because he had lost the key.

Day 2: Apocalypse Now Field Trip

The first time we crossed the river to the island, Tamar fittingly referenced Apocalypse Now and the similarities between the boat we used and the boat in the movie. It is truly amazing that a boat made out of random pieces of metal fused together actually works.

The day before, the guy who was trying to persuade us into taking a boat trip with him claimed that we would see hippos jumping on a sand bar. While this image reminded me of Dumbo and gave us a good laugh, I gave hippos jumping on sand bars a 0% chance of happening. Grandiose talk. That's what it appeared to be almost an hour into our boat ride down the river. We had planned on going to Baboon Island, which is a chimp preserve, but time and money prevented that from happening so our boat tour was just through the river in the national park. The Gambia provides a much better chance of seeing wildlife than Senegal, but I was skeptical. Especially after seeing one very small monkey in a tree very far away and a small lizard that Tamar swears was dead.

Just as the four of us were about to throw in the towel and tell our guides to turn around we saw a huge family of baboons along the shore. There were probably thirty or forty adult male (huge!), women, and children along the bank. It was really cool to see. The baboons were running around and growling a bit, but we got to watch them for quite a while. We saw them again when we turned around as well. Totally satisfied with baboons sighting, I thought we were done. Then we came across the infamous sandbar... and there were actually hippos! And they were frolicking on the sandbar. I couldn't believe it. There was a family of hippos on the sandbar (which unfortunately was mostly covered in deep water), but we saw the dad jump out of the water while the mom and three babies swam around. It was pretty cool!

Extremely happy with the hippo and baboon sitings we turned around and headed back to Georgetown so we could catch a car heading all the way west back to Banjul, the capital. We got in the boat for our tour at 7:30am and literally did not stop moving in some form of transportation until after 8pm. It was a boat trip to a river crossing in a boat, to a sept-place back to Faraffeni (where we had crossed the Senegalese border the day before), into an Alham (terrifying scrap metal bus) to the ferry crossing, a ferry across to the south side of the river, to another scary Alham bus, to a garage where we got on a slightly nicer bus, which we road for over two hours on a dirt road, until we came up onto a paved road, and then, finally a taxi to the Peace Corps regional house. I have never been so dirty in my life, which is saying a lot since I've been in the Peace Corps for almost two years. It looked like I had murdered a swamp monster in the shower.

We celebrated our insanely long day with Chinese food. Banjul is more like Accra, Ghana than Dakar. The streets and buildings are nicer, but there's less of a downtown. The cars are nicer, their regional house is WAY nicer than ours, and cabs actually know where they are going...until they get stuck in sand pits on back roads like ours did on the way to Chinese. No worries, we pushed him out. I have now eaten Chinese food in four different, African, countries which I would call quite the accomplishment. If I had to rank them; Ghana, Cape Verde, Senegal, and The Gambia - although we didn't leave anything on our plates!

Day 3: The Big City

Banjul and Fajara are about as interesting as Dakar. Our first stop was to see the big arch in Banjul, which was a big arch. We did take a nice walk around the market and along the beach until we started getting harassed by some local "bumpsters," or men looking to sell sex. I have a masters degree in ignoring obnoxious inquiries and getting people to leave me alone, but the bumpsters in The Gambia are like nothing I've experienced. They just don't give up. If you ignore them they call you racist and if you engage well, then you have to talk to them and they don't leave you alone when you tell them to. Being followed by bumpsters killed the nice walk along the beach. The beach is beautiful though.

Since there isn't too much to see and it was a national holiday (May 1 is international Labor Day), we headed back south in a cab toward SeneGambia - a strip of bars and restaurants for lunch. We had really good pizza and even better cheesy garlic bread! The food in The Gambia (specifically, the non-African food options) are far superior to Senegal and not surprisingly food was a major part of our trip. With bellies full of pizza we returned to the regional house and chatted with some Gambian PCVs before going to a bar over looking a busy fishing port to watch the activities and the sunset. Mexican food was on the docket for dinner and then a drink at an Irish bar.

Not wanting to offend The Gambia by not showing it the same level of commitment we showed Cape Verde, we swung by Aquarius. Aquarius is THE club in SeneGambia, but even this infamous club can't rally a crowd on a Monday night after a three day weekend so we were the only people on the dance floor...literally. Eventually we gained a few other people, but we never hit double digits. I would say it was a pretty epic night and we definitely owned the dance floor while the American Top 40 played which was great. Aquarius was definitely a good time, but how do you know you probably shouldn't be at a club?

1. It's Monday night.
2. You are the only people at the club.
3. The DJ agrees to watch your purse while playing all of your requests...because no one else is there.
4. There is no line for the ladies room.
5. CNN is on the TV which is supposed to playing music videos for the dancers to watch. Instead, we watch Elliot Spitzer talk about Osama bin Laden.

Day 4: OMG We've Spent Over 24 Hours in the Past Three Days Traveling

With a solid almost four hours of sleep under our belts, we're up and ready to get back to Senegal. If you've ever wondered what it feels like to be in Dante's ninth circle of hell, I can tell you. It involves being crammed into an Alham (crappy bus) while on a ferry fording a river. Yup, that's the ninth circle. Being packed with four other people on a bench made for three while the entire things bobs up and down in the water on top of a ferry is the absolute worst way to spend a morning after you've been out the night before. Not fun.

Two hours later the ferry docks and our Alham doesn't start so some guys have to push it and we coast into starting the bus. Fortunately, it was a short ride to the border where we stamped our passports, used our last Delasi to buy presents for our family, and climb onto a charette (horse cart and yet another form of transportation) to travel through Byron's village to the garage. There Jackie and I were able to get a car directly back to Thies which was awesome, while Tamar and Katherine had slightly longer trips back to site.

It was a great trip and I'm glad that I got to see The Gambia (aka the country inside the country I've been living in for two years) as well as some hippos and baboons! You may be wondering where the pictures are. I hate myself and forgot my camera. I've been so busy taking pictures for Mme. Ly I left it in another bag! Yes, I am heartbroken. Luckily, Jackie, Tamar, and Katherine took a million pictures so check out their blogs and I will be stealing their pictures the next time I see them!