December 30, 2010

sweet nectar of life.

My current MO is "I do what I want". I was sitting in a botique talking with one of my friends when the man that works with my village watertower walked in. I proceed to demand why he has not invited me to climb the water tower yet.
I regularly demand outlandish things. One, it helps my psychological health. This culture is what I call a "give me" culture. It's not considered rude to say something like "That's a pretty bag. Give it to me."; or if you come home with a pack of cookies all of the children will swarm with hands out stretched saying "give me". It is exhausting. I combat it by regularly demanding that people give me ridiculous things like cows, herds of goats, and I've been known to walk away with a baby or two. Next, I get some fun experiences out of asking for wierd stuff. Enter the water tower.
After I shamed him into not inviting me to climb the water tower, he said let's go right now. Um okay! I scramble up the inside of the 100meter owl infested tower and sit on the top to see miles around my little village. It was awesome!

Keeping with the water theme let's flow right into my next point. I've always known that water is life giving miracle juice, but living in Satan's asshole has burnt the reality of just how precious water truly is to existence. My village ran out of water for two days and life was miserable. No water means no showering, minimal drinking, no watering garden, restricted washing of hands and butts (remember no toilet paper), and no washing dishes.

I know the exact amount of water I use every day.
1 bucket for shower with hair washing
1/2 a bucket for drinking/ teeth brushing
1/2 a bucket for "toilet paper"
4 watering cans for my garden
2 buckets of water to cook lunch for my family of 20
1 bucket for washing all dishes

While I dream of the day when I can again stand under running water showers, I want to remember how precious water is and continue to be aware of my water use.

December 08, 2010

Birds taste better


I recently headed to the North for Thanksgiving celebration with some of the other Senegal volunteers. It was a beautiful celebration; and since we slaughtered our own dinner, made headdresses, and shared weird parasites with one another, it was probably as close as I can get to the original Thanksgiving.

Just traveling up to the Futa (northern region) was an adventure. My friend Emily, living in a neighboring village, amazingly set up what we thought would be smooth travels through the bush. Her dad, we'll call him Fat Cat to protect his identity and let you in on his character type, regularly makes the trip from her village to the Futa to transport goods between markets. He assured us that he would take us from her village to our desired destination in the Futa. Done. Let's go.

Well...we end up waiting in the village for Fat Cat until around 11. I live in Senegal, my life is waiting. No big deal. We, myself and five volunteers, climb into the back of a pickup truck and form a giant spoon pile. Compared to usual travel in Senegal, this is pretty high roller. No urinating goats, crying babies, or stinky Pulaar milk, just the 6 of us and one overwhelmed Senegalese guy starring at the amazing stars as we cruse through the bush. Perfection.

We pull into a random Pulaar village, Irai, around 3:30am. At which point Fat Cat says, "Get out. We spend the night here." Without questioning we pile out of the car and plop down onto dirty pieces of foam spread over the floor in a woman's bedroom. We nap for three hours then Fat Cat informs us that this is where he is leaving us. WHAT?! Oh, and he wants more money for our "tickets".

I have no effing idea where we are and I can count the number of Pulaar words I know on my fingers. Not okay. Fat Cat assures us that there is a car that goes from here to another random village, then from that village to where we intended on going. This wouldn't be terrible, but in Senegal "ci kanom" (in a bit) can mean anything from 5 minutes to the next rainy season, usually closer to the latter.

A packed truck and a rocking bus ride later we make it safely to our destination!

The Thanksgiving feast was beautiful, alas we were without a deep fried Turducken. We ate mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, pies and killed 5 chickens and 2 turkeys. The process of slaughtering, de-feathering, cleaning, and cooking a bird was intense. The delicious convenience of genetically modified, giant breasted, frozen Butterball turkeys has my gratitude.

Post Turkey day the trip home was even more ridiculous. We were instructed by Fat Cat that we needed to meet him in the village he abandoned us in at afternoon sharp. We climb in the back of a crowded truck to begin our trip. Every bush village we pass adds people. Not to mention, the further into the bush we get the amount of luggage per person exponentially increases. I now have a bucket engulfed by my ass, cutting off the circulation to my legs that are woven around a sack of rice and three laundry buckets. A nine year old child is on my lap.
The driver ends up trying to screw over the white kids. The pass is 1000cfa, the white kids are told to pay 1500cfa. Our local language skills, sharp eye and constant vigilance bring this to our attention. Options are: pay the extra dollar, throw a fit and make a scene about equality and racism, obviously name dropping Rosa Parks for the irony.

I chose the lesser traveled third path. I did a little dance number. Looked kind of like a line dancing chicken. Works every time. I walked away without paying a cent.

We meet up with Fat Cat to find giant sacks piled three feet higher than the top of the cab. Goats are in bags tide to the back and approximately forty chickens are hanging tied upside down along the sides. Nice. We scramble up the steep grade, barely able to stay seated while the car is parked, only imaging the ninja like skill required to not fly off once we are hurtling down the bush roads or ducking to avoid a thorny branch in the face. Oh and Fat Cat wants more money for the inconvenience of letting us scramble up the side of his over packed car.
We crash into one bush village and the men on top with us start screaming ndyiam and ndox, meaning water. Next thing I see women are scrambling around their compounds to bring their plastic drums full of water. The first thing I think of is how far they had to go to fetch that water and how precious it is. The second thing was what kind of new parasite I am going to get. As I am half way through drinking this water, the car lurches forward again. The man beside me tears the cup from my mouth and flings it back in the direction of the village. I am thirsty, shocked and once again brought to the hysterical giggling of never truly understanding this weird place.

Amidst the potentially drama filled moments where I could have easily gotten mad, I found myself laughing. I was safe, I mean 'ish', and in good health. In the scheme of things what really else matters? No sense in getting mad; it doesn't change anything. I am learning more and more the uselessness and even harmfulness of frustration and anger. I am far from a zen master, but I have a feeling when I re-enter the world of everything, America, not much will be able to "get my goat" (Thank the lord that "goat" will be figurative. Goats are currently the bane of my existence.)





Thank you Emily for the beautiful photos!

November 22, 2010

Old Meat.

I have experienced the equation for world peace.

One of the volunteers in my region recently had her 25th birthday. We hosted a dinner party at our house and invited the Missionary family and the JICA volunteers (Japanese peace corps type). Picture this: Japanese and Americans laughing over a plate of Italian food speaking in their only common language (Wolof) in Senegal. World Peace.

Last Wednesday we celebated the Islamic holiday, Tabaski. The day commorates Abraham's sacraficial offering of a lamb in place of his son Issac. I was told for weeks leading up to the holiday how great the day is, every house kills a sheep and eats all day. I figured it would be something like Thanksgiving. Nope.

I am all for eating of tastey animals. Seeing the slaughter process doesn't make me queasey; in fact, I think since I eat meat I should know how it gets to my plate (of communal bowl). However, I was not ready for the massive bloodshed of Tabaski. My family compound killed 2 sheep, we had a lot of meat. My neighbors slaughtered SEVEN!! I went on a run after Tabaski and found piles of sheep innards decorating the bush. We ate the leftovers for three days after the slaugher. By the third day the meat had the tender, burn-by-the-sun, aged flavor. I quite enjoyed it.

I had a "this is Peace Corps" moment. Yesterday, I was riding the 35K into Linguere. About 10K out of Linguere my tire blows out. So, I toss my bike on my back and start walking. Peace Corps.

October 28, 2010

'Merica



I recently returned to village from a two week glorious feast of America's finest. I saw my wonderful friends and family, traffic that moves with laws and stops at lights not flocks of goats, and the gluttony of our food warehouses called grocery stores.

Saying goodbye to America was tearful; making the conscience decision to trade in heated, running water for bucket baths and my western throne for the squatter took more than a few deep breaths.

My shower is on the left. My toilet on the right.



I brought back to Senegal ten newly acquired pounds, jars of peanut butter and gifts for the village. Thank you to everyone that gave bags of goodies. My village is over the moon with their shinny new jewelry and toys. Barkedji is also very in support of finding a cure to breast cancer (thanks Donna); the bright pink key chains have become a status good.

Bubbles from the wedding are a HUGE hit with kids and adults alike!

This is my "grandma" wearing her new jewelry and huge smile.


My little sister sporting her new, fun glasses.


While at home a common question was 'what kind of work are you doing?'. A simple question that turns out is incredibly difficult to answer. I usually responded with 'I plant some trees and vaccinate some babies' which is what I do, but it doesn't begin to really explain what we do a Peace Corps volunteers. I recently had my Action Plan actualization meeting. I gathered my potential work partners and respected community members to discuss my long term work plans. Gardens, tree planting, hand washing and girls education are some of the main bullets on my plan. The meeting was helpful for the check list oriented, time frame American in me. It also helped to clear up that my purpose in the village is not to vomit money.

After the meeting looking at my tangible work goals I felt a sense of validation. Some days that I spend laying around on a mat in a pool of my own sweat I wonder if I am actually doing any good here. Having a tangible set of projects, with the community's blessing, went alone way to reassure me. Then my Seneglese mom rocked my perspective.

She told me that while I was in American my little brother came up to her and said, "Mom, today Fama (my local name) has been gone for one week. So, she will come back in one more week, right?" Wow.

I want to change my answer to the 'what have you been working on' question. I have been building a home and making friends worlds away from what I know.


This is my mom with her new grandson.

September 16, 2010

I am in Love.

Say 'ello to my little friend. Isn't she perfection?


I rescued her from some horrid children who thought it was okay to play football with her. After falling in love with her I introduced her to the family. They, like the majority of Senegalese people, were not so keen on the idea of my new adpotion. In fact, I learned that April, the volunteer before me, kept a dog for a few weeks. Until one day the family took the dog to the field. It never returned...I was bound to protect my new best friend.

I brought the pup to our Regional House in Linguere as a replacement for the dog that had run away. Again, people really dislike dogs here. In order to get a spot on the car I put the dog in my shirt and told the driver it was my baby. Things got a smidge odd when she started barking at the chickens that were also riding along.

I named her Helen Keller, clearly. At first I thought it was because she was both blind and deaf, turns out she's just dumb. If only Annie Sullivan were around to train her, my life smells of dog urine. I'm not sure if that's a step up or down from the usual ode de goat poop.

August 30, 2010

Rama-Don't get it.

I have reached the half way point in Ramadan, alhamdulillah (Arabic phrase meaning "Praise God" that can and should be used in any and all situations)

I decided at the beginning of Ramadan that I wanted to try and observe the fast for the experience of it and solidarity reasons. I figured Ramadan was just a buffed up version of Lent, of which I have had many years of training, and over a million people around the world are doing it. How hard could it be?

Here's the one unambiguous rule:
No eating or DRINKING while the sun is up.

I ignore the no drinking water. I tried it for a day and vetoed living in the desert with dehydration hallucinations for a month. So, I started by only half observing the fast. Still, food is the cornerstone to my positive, approachable personality. If I am late for a meal I get a little cranky. So, going from sun up to sun down with our eating is intense.

The routine of the day begins with the call of the mosque at around 4:30 am, signaling the women to wake up and start preparing the morning porridge. The next call is around 5:30, telling everyone to wake up and eat the milk and cous-cous porridge. Then the final morning call around sunrise, to make sure you've finished eating for the day. After a short crawl out of bed to sleepily stuff porridge in my face, I go back to bed until a more respectable hour like 8.

The morning is "productive" time. The heat doesn't make you want to weep pure salt tears yet and you have a little energy from your early morning porridge. So, this is when chores are done, laundry by hand, sweeping the sand courtyard, filling the water pots for the children to drink, going to market, and gardening.

My garden is awesome, by the way. I extend a challenge to anyone interested in "La Guerre de Jardin". Your improved variety seeded garden vs my desert miracle. I secretly ate the most delicious, breaking Ramadan, self grown watermelon in my bathroom. If only my spinach and carrots would sprout...

Around noon life stops. It's to hot to do anything and the early morning porridge calories are gone. Now it's time to sprawl around in the shade. Suggested activities include napping, watching leaves, talking about how hot it is, talking about how hungry you are. I have done lots of Ramadan reading. One of main topics of conversation in the village is the difficulty of fasting. I have gotten mad street credit for my fasting.

Around 6 the women start to prepare the break fast and dinner. The mosque calls around 7:30 to signal that we can break the fast. Breaking fast is deliciously patron. I pack my gurggling stomach with cold water, bissap juice, dates, coffee, yogurt and bread with a different daily spread. It is a break fast feast.

Everyone that fasted heads to the mosque, leaving me and the children (kids, nursing mothers, sick and elderly aren't required to fast) to do yoga. The family returns and we eat a giant delicious dinner around 10:30. Immediately after which I pass out, half food coma half sleepies.

It's an odd feast-famine cycle that has made me gorge myself both in the morning and at night, both cases followed by sleep. The time in between is filled my very minimal activity. Very odd existence.

Confessional
Last Thursday I found the one Catholic in my village. I now go to his house everyday for lunch, Hallelujah. RamaDONE.

August 12, 2010

rAMAZadan!!!


Special thanks go out to the fabulous Eva and Ellen, young girls from the missionary family living in Linguere, for my wonderful mail. It truly brightened my life!!


An American in Senegal cooking Italian food = World Peace

Today marks the first day of RamaDEATH, my spelling might be slightly off, the Muslim month long fast. You wake around 5am for coffee and bread then don't eat or drink anything until 7 when fast is broken. My plan is to try and follow the fast, or at least my version. I'm not going to eat while the sun is out; however, I have no intention of going without water. We'll see how long i make it. It's only be Ramadan for a few hours and I am already hungry...

Before Ramadan I wanted to cook a tobab, Wolof word for white person, meal for my family. I chose spaghetti. A classic, tasty and above all easy meal to prepare over a fire or gas. I went to the market in the morning to wrangle up the supplies. Having never cooked a meal for a family of 15 before I had no idea the quantities of supplies to get. I told my market lady friend that I was making dinner and the next thing I know she was sending children to fetch me cloves of garlic, onions and delicious MSG seasoning cubes. Shopping for kilos of onions and sacks of meat made easy!

When I returned to Barkedji I brought a soccer ball for my brother. I gave it to him with the stipulation that he had to "pay me" for it by helping me cook dinner for the family. My reasoning is because everyday I watch the girls of Senegal cook, clean, study, and try to squeeze in time to be a kid; all while the boys lay around playing caps. By no means do I aim to change the culture, but I do and will continue to do things to show how amazing the females of Senegal are.

Things were going wonderfully. Myself and 5 of my siblings (three of whom are boys) were chopping onions. I was feeling pretty proud of my cross-gender sensitization work. Then my uncle scolded the boys saying "Boys don't chop onions. Go watch the soccer game." Oh...Take two.

The end product was no where near Mike Albright's slow roasted, savory spaghetti, but sitting around the bowl with my family giggling as we awkwardly slop spaghetti around with our hands, made the experience rich delicious.

A burrito bowl is next on the menu.

BTW my camera is broken, so I apologize for the lack of visual aid. I'll do my best to paint pictures with my words.

August 02, 2010

single emo tear.

I just returned to my region after three weeks of In Service Training. As I have almost been in Senegal for 5 months, I feel I am getting pretty good at the art of Senegalese indirect communication. You be the judge:

As I mentioned I just got "home" after being gone for at least three weeks. This is a photo of our mail cubbyholes. Guess which one is mine.
That is all. I will write another post after I piece together my broken heart with the stickers sent in a letter to my friend.

July 22, 2010

Filthy.

My friend and fellow volunteer was recently spotlighted as the front page story in her home town newspaper. The article was packed with photos, quotes and witty one liners about Senegalese culture. The only thing missing was a call, email or letter to my friend informing her that this was going on. Apparently, the newspaper stumbled across her blog and found all they needed for the two page “African Adventure” expose.

This got me thinking, suppose the Louisville Times perused my blog? Do I really want the greater 303 area to know that I own a personal poop scrapping stick? I’d rather not. So, I made the conscience decision to write a respectable blog that tells of all my positive development work, cultural exchange and the numerous lives I am touching. Then last night happened…

I am currently out of my village and in the big city, Thies for my In Service Training. I am staying with the family that hosted me during my first 9 weeks in country. My first night back in the home stay was a glorious boost to my Wolof confidence. This family dealt with me when all I could say was “I’m full” and “I go to bed”. Now I return with an arsenal of compound sentences, a Wolof proverb or two, and the ability to actually get food into my mouth when eating with my hand and not just throw rice onto my lap! I tell you this so that you understand my over inflated self confidence and will bare witness to just how far I fell.

Later that same evening.
I walk across the compound to the cement block used as a shower. Naturally it’s dark and the power is out; so, I can’t see anything and am focusing all of my energy on not dropping my pagne. A bucket half full (notice I still have my cheery positive attitude at this point) of water is sitting right next to the water faucet. I assume that someone just bucket bathed and only used half. I proceed to fill the remainder of the bucket.

Now I am standing naked in a dark cement cubicle that smells like the bowels of Death preparing for my refreshing bucket shower. If you were to use a bucket of water and a large mug to shower, where would you dump the first cooling mug? Answer: Look up and dump it all over your face. I did this.

DIRTY WATER DIRTY WATER!! It took me a horrified moment to realize what was wrong. I used the bucket of vegetable peels and fish scales to bathe! Filthy. After dropkicking the food scrap water I stumbled out of the shower, blinded by disgust, wrapped in my pagne and covered in fish scales, only to mutter “I go to bed” to my hysterical family.

It was only after cleaning myself from my filthy shower that the whole situation became amusing. Oh life…

So long as I don’t act a fool, the next post might actually tell you a little sumtin about Senegal. But, no promises, that’s why I added links (down and to the right) to the blogs of individuals much more respectable than myself.

July 01, 2010

I'm a huge wierd-o

Yesterday I was crouched in the wrong position and missed the tiny poop hole I use as a toilet. Without a second thought I picked up the stick that I keep in my bathroom and scrapped my pile into the hole.

This got me thinking about all the weird things that I do now that will be unacceptable when I return to the States.
• I’d say keeping a poo scrapping stick in the bathroom is one example.
• I regularly pick my nose and am not ashamed. This sand carrying desert wind is brutal. I am constantly plagued by those hard buggers that hurt if you squeeze your nostrils together.
• I hiss at people to get their attention.
• I opened my jam jar to find that ants were enjoying the sugary lid. I rinsed off what I could and proceeded to spoon it straight into my mouth.
• Every household has a ceramic pot called an “ndal” where they store drinking water. A communal plastic cup sits on top of the ndal and everyone, family friends, random community members, and snot-nosed children, use the cup. When I first got to Senegal I was both filtering and bleaching my water. Just the thought of brushing my teeth with water not from my nalgene gave me diarrhea. After a few days in the Barkedji heat I was sucking down the snotty ndal water without apprehension.
• If someone asks me to do something that I have no intension of doing, rather than refuse, I agree, but slap an “Inshallah” (God willing) on the end of my agreement.
• My douche is my one sanctuary away from the constant "what is the white girl doing now" surviellance. I regulary retreat to my douche in order to crouch over and destroy a mango. I feel like Golum.

Please love me.

SaHELL

I learned to today that my region, just south of the Sahara desert, is called the SaHELL. This is no euphemism. I haven’t stopped sweating. Even the wind brings no relief, only burning desert sands that scratch my eyes.

It is difficult to convey the intense level of heat. Here is my attempt at painting a picture with my words:
• When I was in China I searched for months with little luck to find a scented candle for my room. This time around I came prepared. I carefully tucked a little fresh linen scented candle inside my luggage to keep as a special treat in my hut. Today, before it’s first burning, i accidentlly knocked it over and the wax flowed out like water.

• Everyday from around 11 until 3 the electricity, the water and the cell network stops. When i asked about it the answer i was given is “Dafa tang” (It’s hot).

• I drank 4 liters of water today…and still haven’t peed.
Hot season is like having your blistered sunburn slapped by burning whip inside an oven. Life literally stops from 12 until 4 because it is too hot to move. My fan has shot to the top of my prized possession list.

I’ve been in the village, Barkedji, for almost two weeks. It’s been good, rather odd, but good. During training every second of my life was planned and jammed packed with activities to prepare me for my move to the village. The moment the Peace Corps car disappeared into its trail of dust, leaving me surrounded by my pile of plastic buckets, everything changed. My job right now is to “integrate”. Right, so………

I am working on establishing some kind of daily routine, but I basically just walk around the village a lot. Here’s a kind of “typical” day:
I wake up around 6:30 because either the chicken that sleeps under my bed is screaming in my ear, or my 10 year old sister who shares/monopolizes my bed is kicking or suprooning me.
Then I try to do yoga. This is quiet the event. Children seem to appariate out of nowhere to watch me, the brave little ones will try and join.

By 7:15 I am covered in sweat and it’s too hot to continue. So, I do a quick final shavasana and head to my bathroom for a bucket shower. Every time I am excited for the cooling relief of the shower. Alas, the water inside my bucket is still warm from being cooked the previous day.

After a quick breakfast of Celestial Seasoning tea, brought from America and quickly depleting (cough care package cough), and bread, it’s time to start my day. I literally walk around the village. I tell myself that I am working on “mapping” the village, which I am, but really I just wait until something pops up. Since I am new in town, and it’s rather hard for me to blend in, I get called by people all the time to come over for a conversation. By 1:30 it’s time to head home for lunch.

From lunch until around 3 everything is closed for afternoon tea and rest time. It’s too hot to do anything except lay motionless in a pile of your own sweat. By four I try to peel myself off the mat and usually garden or head back out into the village. Once the sun goes down, the TV gets dragged into the yard and everyone is glued to it. The other day we watched WWF with Arabic subtitles. What is my life? We have dinner around 9. I try to read or study until I fall asleep around 10:30.

I have a daily planner that I write everything I did that day to track my activities. Here’s my list from Friday March 28:
YOGA
Went to the market to buy peanut butter
Greeted the Chief of the Village
Talked with the School Director
Ate a mango in the douche. HEAVEN
Studied Wolof notes
NAPPED
Talked with Awa.
Big Day!!!!!!!

May 16, 2010

I need love.

PCV Ann Marie Albright

BP 79
Linguere, Louga Region, Senegal
West Africa

Par Avion


I officially swore in as a Peace Corps Volunteer and move into my village tomorrow. Bummm bummmm bummmmmmmmmmm See you in 730 days!

May 11, 2010

Two months in Senegal!





My two month anniversary in Senegal. I am going to regale you with some of my cultural observations.

The dissonance within Senegalese culture baffles me.
I can’t show my knees or talk about changing gender roles, but here is how my sister greeted me the other day:
Are you finished? How did you study? How are your friends? How is your vagina? Did you spend the morning in peace?
WHAT?! Bizarre.

Ode to Man Jellies
Remember those really uncomfortable plastic shoes that were popular for girls aged 5-8 during the early 90s? That’s the craze for grown men in Senegal. It’s beautiful. Picture this:
A growth man standing alone in the African bush with a scowl on his weathered face and a massive machete draped casually over his shoulder. Then your eyes drift to his feet, Man Jellies! I giggle every time.

Ceeb u jen is Everything.
Lunch everyday consists of a giant bowl of rice with a few fish and boiled vegetables placed on top. The process of actually eating in my family is quite the event. At least 12 people sit around the bowl, which means I am usually reaching over and through coughing, runny nosed children. The men folk and I get to eat with spoons; the women and children eat with their hands. Amazingly, I have avoided explosive diarrhea.

One night, after learning comparisons in language class, I told my uncle that I could cook ceeb u jeb better than him. Next thing I knew I was cooking lunch over an open fire for 20 people. It was the talk of the village for days.

IF, Inshallah, I pass my language test today, I will be sworn in as a Volunteer on Friday. That means that the time of summer camp, language class, speaking English and seeing white people is done. I will be in my village, Barkedji, on Friday. And so it starts...

April 07, 2010

Barkedji--More to Love

While I am still useless in Wolof, my language skills have progressed to at least advanced novice. I learned how to say "I'm living the dream". I also know how to say "I can't marry you because you're ugly"; I feel I am well on my way to Intermediate low. Various insults have turned out to be incredibly useful, because this is how most of the conversations in the market go:

Asalamlekum Hello.
Malekum Salam Hello.
Naga def? How are you?
Maangiy fii I am here.
Naka waa ker gi? How is your family?
Mungiy fa They are there.
Noo tudd? What is your name?
Yacine la tudd Yacine is my name.
Am nga jekker? Do you have a husband?
Amuma jekker. I don't have a husband.
Lutax?Dinga sey ak man. Why? You will marry me.
Begguma sey ak yow ndaxte danga dof ak amoo xalis. I don't want to marry you because you're crazy and don't have enough money.

It's crazy for me to think that I stumbled off the plane a month ago, knowing zero Wolof. Now, I can express my needs, tell jokes and insult ridiculous marriage proposals!


I just returned to Thi├Ęs from a 5 day Volunteer Vist, or more informaly called "de-mysting". I went to the village I will calling home for the next two years, Barkedji. Check the link on the right for our presentation of the region, Louga. It is both entertaining and an accurate representation of the region. Wish me luck and areas of shade.

March 23, 2010

my nemesis.

My first night at my Senegalese homestay:
It was somewhere between 2am and 4am. I'd been pseudo sleeping all night; most likely because this is my first time trying to sleep inside an oven. I found a swatch of my foam "mattress" that wasn't soaking with my sweat, and drift into a malaria drug induced psychedelic dream. That's when my nemesis strikes.

The most horrific cry rips me out of my sleep. I wake up malaria med high out of my gourd, tangled in my mosquito net, panicked at the shrill scream of a dying creature. I jump out of bed, still attached to my mosquito net, into a pool of water leaking from my water filter. Welcome to Senegal.

Only a week later and I feel pretty savy. Now I know that the nightly death screams are simply the nay of my nemesis--the donkey. I know how to make a joke in Wolof, how to eat meals from the communal bowl, and most importantly, bathroom etiquette where there is no toilet or toilet paper.

I am back at the training center in Thies for the next two days. It's a lot like summer camp except instead of arts and crafts time, we learn to make mud stoves. Then I head back to my homestay village, Tassette, for two weeks. I love my village time. It's an amazing way to learn the language and really integrate into local culture.

Right now I have the capacity of a three year old. I do a lot of "Lii lan laa?" (What's this?) to learn. As predicted, my first word was hello, which proved incredibly difficult because greetings in Senegalese culture are a mini dialogue. Next, was "thank you" and "I don't understand". I wasn't exactly blessed with the physical characteristics of a social chameleon, blending in is not my strength. So, naturally, my next word was the word for white person, "tubap". Three weeks til fluency. Inshallah.

My name:
While I was in Kenya I was called "Emily". Thailand it was "Amery"; and China it was "Ann". Rather than go by a broken version of my name, I was given a Senegalese name. My neighbors dubbed me Aida. I felt like by giving me a name I had made it "in". They wrote me a little name tag so I wouldn't forget my new Senegalese name. I went home giddy and proud. I was so excited to announce "Aida laa tudd" (My name is Aida) to my host family.

My excitement was not shared. My family immediately started talking over one another. One of my sisters took my name tag and scribbled out my name. What?! Apparently, giving a name is a big deal. Naming someone is an honor, and one that my family did not intend to let the neighbors do. So, an hour of acting out a "What is your name?/ My name is.." dialogue followed, ensuring that I would not be confused about my TRUE Senegalese identity. My name is...........Yacine.


Enjoy running water and your next cold drink. All my love!

Yacine

March 02, 2010

i wish life was a musical

Today marks day 500 since I officially submitted my application to join the Peace Corps. It has been a long process with lots of mixed emotions. After every step in the process, I couldn't help but start making mental packing lists for my inevitable departure. Around day 200 I started to realize that an actual invitation to serve was like the proverbial carrot, always dangling just outside my reach. To use the Peace Corps slogan, life was calling. I couldn't, and PC clearly advises you not too, wait around any longer. Time to go teach in China!

Days after I accepted a position teaching English in Taizhou, China with my BEST friend Kate, Peace Corps called to talk about country placement! Lovely. I withdrew my application from active consideration and went on to have five of the most awkwardly amazing months I could have expected.

Now on the other side of my "that was so weird..." China experience, I am getting ready leave for Senegal. "Getting ready" is code for running a lot of unnecessary errands, saying goodbye to people and running water, and watching trashy day-time television. Really, I'll do anything to avoid packing--my one nemesis. I even went on a run today. Gross.

If only life were a musical. I could hit a few high notes and woodland creatures would flock to help me. I'd finish packing, and my catchy little number, in minutes. Alas, without the assistance of my furred and feathered friends only one item has made it into my bag. Valentiena's hot sauce. Not only a delicious additive, but I am convinced it will serve as a priceless defense against mysterious Senegal gastrointestinal issues.

Yep, just me and my hot sauce living in Senegal for 27 months. Although, I don't know where, another Peace Corps carrot I suppose. My assignment is to serve as an Environmental Education Extension Agent. The first nine weeks are training in Thies which includes lots of language learning and skill building. I imagine it's also "try-outs". A time to assess your sweet skills and what kind of environment you can handle being placed in. I watch Bear Grylls, bring on the Bush.

I'm going to go turn on and off the lights for a while. I'll do my best to update this with tales from my PC experience. Thank you for being in my life!