Wednesday, June 1, 2011

JA Commencement

Last night I went to sleep on the wrong side of the bed because my Aunt Numbe decided it was super important for her to ask me for a piece of paper and a pen at 10:45pm, after I had already locked my door and gotten into bed, and several hours after the power went out. This morning I woke up on the wrong side of the bed because we had no water. There was literally no water in the compound and I really wanted to take a run. Usually the lack of water would just generally upset me and then I would relent, run, and then walk back to the center and take a shower. Wednesdays always pose problems because I have Junior Achievement and I always have things to take care of at the last minute.

Realizing that not running was going to make me more angry, I went and concocted a plan to get water. The plan is not creative or inventive since there's only one way to get water when it's not coming out of the spigot, but it was taking matters into my own hands. Still dressed in running clothes, sweating, and red in the face, I grabbed a basin and headed to the neighborhood well. At the well I was greeted with blank stares and jeers, but remained undeterred. After almost 45 minutes of waiting, being mocked, and being cut in line it was finally my turn. Victory. A nice girl helped me lift the basin to my head and I got home without spilling too much, but since it was 9:30am no one was awake to help me take if off my head. I had to push the top of our 50 liter tank off with my hip and then pour the basin into the big tank. The clattering of the metal top of the tank brought the girls out of the house and they were incredulous at my initiative/ ability. In order to really show my discontent about the water situation, I filled a bucket to shower with and then took the rest of the water I pulled, put it in another bucket, and locked it in room. Probably not the most mature move, but totally satisfying.

One of the reasons I was worried about timing today was today was the final day of JA and we were supposed to hand out certificates. The certificates were order eons ago and were supposed to be in Thies last night. No deal. I called Talla this morning and he was able to get the certificates here and I stood on the side of the road as he drove by and stuck the certificates out of the window. This was humorous mostly because Awa saw me both pulling my own water and waiting on the side of the road in order to receive a giant stack of paper. She thinks I'm really weird. With certificates in hand I ran into my room, sat down, and wrote in all of the students' names, the date, and the course.

I finished the certificates just in time to jump in a cab and go to Bon Marche to buy all of the treats for the graduation party. For the second time in a day I carried things on my head Senegalese style. I had a giant box full of cookies and pop on my head walking down the main street of Thies. I'll let your imaginations come up with how that looked/ the reactions that I received. Fortunately, Kerry fed me snacks and lemonade as we waited for Talla and his friend to arrive before heading to the Lycee Technique.

I've previously aired my grievances regarding certificates in Senegal. Today was my worst nightmare. With everything that's been getting under my skin lately this one just really dug in. As soon as we walked on the premises teachers were making sure that we had certificates not only for our students, but special ones for them as well. Over and over and over again. Luckily Kerry and Talla were there to keep me calm and keep things in perspective because otherwise things would not have gone well. I spent my morning making sure the certificates were perfect. They were in order according to project group, attached to the attendance sheet so that no one could come up and say that they attended class, but didn't get a certificate. I was already frustrated with the certificates because last week the head teacher told me that I had to give a certificate to every single student listed on any of the attendance sheets instead of just the students who had attended at least 50% of the classes as I wanted. I just don't understand how the certificates are special if everyone gets one or how giving them out like candy reinforces anything positive. It also takes away from any feeling of accomplishment I might have, which I realize is selfish.

Today after all of the speeches, the students' presentations of their business ideas, and awarding the winning team a bunch of cookies, the teachers went through my perfecting organized certificates so they could reorganize them in exactly the same way. Apparently, I forgot two students. What actually happened is that two students came to the last day of class so they could get certificates, which I was forced to give them. I think this just cheapens the entire process and underlines why there is so much complacency in Senegal.

That all being said, Junior Achievement is now over, or, at least, the teaching part is now over, which is one more thing to check off my list! I think the class went well and hopefully the students learned something. Kerry and I definitely learned a lot which will help other PCVs teach JA better in the future.

Tomorrow I am off to Mar Lodj, Tamar's island, and next week it's off to the races with Jazz Fest, COS conference, and the new stage of SED PCVs all coming in rapid succession!


  1. Alyssa,

    Happy June 1st! You are so close to being home! Enjoy your time on Mar Lodj! I've been reading your last few posts and I would have had temper tantrums and probaly cried a lot more than you have. Hang in there!


  2. I so enjoy the image of you with a basin on your head simply because it is soooo bad ass!