Sunday, December 25, 2011

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Its my favorite holiday! This marks my third Christmas ever away from home, and while I am pretty much ready to get back to the states in a few months, its been a nice vacation here! Even now, at the Peace Corps office in Dakar, Im looking out the window at palm trees waving around in the sunshine, with the Atlantic spanning endless blue in the background...and I can hear Christmas carols wafting up from the Christian center next door. Last night, a few other volunteers came to the office where Im staying (nice air conditioned rooms and TV) and I cooked up a bunch of french onion soup with plenty of Gruyere cheese on top. I also made scones, and we drank champagne while watching the extended Lord of the Rings movies : )

After the second movie, we got dressed up and set off in a cab to downtown Dakar, where there is a massive cathedral. Fireworks were being set off all night throughout the entire city, which tends to happen on every holiday. There was a mass at 10pm in French, which was an interesting and moving experience. The Senegalese drums were, of course, broken out at one point during a carol. After two and a half hours of mass, we decided to head out early. We were some of the last non-senegalese people left. I have no idea how long the mass went on for, but all ceremonies here tend to go on FOREVER.

Anyways, today we're watching Christmas movies, eating a Bouche de Noel, and having peppermint hot chocolate. I have a box of gifts from home, including Cheez-its, which are almost gone already : D Plus the Game of Thrones books which is all I plan on doing for the next week or so.

Im really excited for the new year. I will have officially completed one full year living in Africa, and will go into 2012 knowing I get to come home as an RPCV! This has been an amazing year, and an amazing experience overall (and will continue to be probably). I have no idea where the next year will take me. Im hoping grad school, but who knows? Fingers crossed. Since I probably wont be posting again before New Years, Ill put up my resolutions here. Merry Christmas everyone! I'll be calling America soon. Happy New Year as well, and if you are reading this, I hope to see you in 2012!!

Resolutions:

1. Get home in one piece.
2. Get my cat home in one piece.
3. Get into grad school or find an exciting job.
4. Set up two new sites here in Senegal.
5. Bake a LOT of good food once Im back in America.

Should be do-able : ) Back to the Christmas movies!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Drunk Baby is Powered by Cheese.

In Senegal, this hot and dry land of infinite frustration, PC volunteers are sometimes driven to rely on the small things for emotional relief. For example, I brought my cat into Mbour today to be fixed, and couldnt get them to start the surgery until I had been hit on relentlessly by the 4 male employees. Infinite Frustration. At times like that..I miss America. But, luckily, a lot of other things make up for it.

My younger mom had a baby last week, and they named it Buree. I didnt even know that was a name. In French, Buree is one way of saying Drunk. They call it Baby Buree. Drunk Baby. I came into the city and when I left, my family asked for a gift of baby clothes (they always ask for something or other, with about a 25 percent success rate) and I hadnt really planed on getting anything. Until I saw a baby shirt emblazoned with the phrase "Powered By Cheese." I would have bought that at any cost. So, watching the baby buree being carted around in a powered by cheese t shirt should provide some comic relief over the next few months : )

When I told my Senegalese family I was taking my cat in to get an operation, my older mom completely lost it. I havent heard her laugh that loudly and uncontrollably since the great "toubab tries to do laundry by hand" incident of 2010. People in Senegal dont get operations unless theyre deathly ill. So...the fact that I was getting an unessecary operation for my CAT was totally incomprehensible.

Oh well. Time to go get the cat and hope he survived, and hope I dont have to get hit on AGAIN. Also, my dad filled out a customs form for a care package valuing the contents at 25 dollars. So when the post office charged me an extra 2500 cfa for the package, which is ridiculous, I asked why, and they pointed at the customs form. Logic there? Zero. I still had to pay for it. This country, sometimes...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pippin Came Home!!

My cat in village ran away last week. He is now, apparently, back. Im in Dakar, but have been calling my host family every day to ask. All of the cats in Senegal kind of look like they came from the same litter, so I have my fingers crossed that my family isn't feeding a random different cat every day by accident.

After everything that has happened here, the cat, my flip-flops, and my ipod are the only things I still own. I like the cat the most, and Im so glad he's back : )

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Oh. My. God.

I probably shouldnt be posting right now because I havent slept in like four days and am feeling pretty anti Senegal right now, but luckily I handwrote a post about a week ago when I was in a better mood, so Ill try and type that up, hoping the electricity doesnt cut out! For the record, I havent slept because these past four days have been Tabaski, Senegals biggest holiday, where tons of people Ive never met come to the village, and the amount of laughing at the white person speaking sereer, and being hit on by strangers, that ensues is bothersome. It is nice to see people that work elsewhere and come back to the village though, like my sisters who are pretty cool. The reason Ive been so stressed out, though, is that this year they rented out a generator to BLAST terrible music from a spot about twenty feet from my room, thus the not sleeping, and we eat nothing but sheep, oil, and pasta for four days. I didnt plan ahead and stock up on snacks, which was obviously a huge oversight on my part. Trust me. You dont want to know what day four of leftover sheep parts in a country where refrigerators dont exist might include. My cat wouldnt even touch it. I took a video on my ipod of what can only be referred to as a meat clothesline. You can probably imagine it, but if youve ever seen viscera hanging next to laundry out to dry and realized how similar they look...you would understand why I have sworn never to eat sheep again. Not knowingly at least. I have been surviving on white bread and lollipops. Oh, and my phone was dead the whole time so I didnt have my usual channel of sanity to tap into. Everything is back to normal now, though, so I am looking forward to a nice, long, nap followed by like twelve hours of sleep. Then tomorrow I will try and get back to work on grad school apps. OK, heres the happier blog post! Fair warning, I cant find the apostrophe, quotation marks, or parentheses, on this keyboard.

And, with my hands poised to write, real life just hit me in the face. I just found out that my Papaw had a stroke this morning, Ill try to find a way to call home, apparently he is resting comfortably. I dont know details, so I wont write anymore. Ill still go on with this other post, though, more as a distraction than anything else. Then Im biking home and going straight to sleep before I can hope to deal with anything.

K, here goes: On my evening walk today, I was listening to the latest This American Life which was about middle school. One 7th grader who had just moved to a new town was explaining how hard it was because in middle school, people care too much about who is cool and who isnt, and its difficult to make friends in that environment. He mentioned that in kindergarten, however, you can basically just walk up to anyone and say hi, want to be my friend?

I remember being in that same situation when we moved from California to Michigan when I was going into 6th grade, and I think my family was worried, or, well, concerned, about how I would do with it. However, I loved 6th grade. I vividly remember standing in Mrs. Levys math classroom straight through lunch while she graded papers, just to watch the snow falling through the window. In Santa Cruz, we used to drive out to Tahoe to ski every year, but Id never lived somewhere where snow could be a daily occurance. Everyone else trooped off through the hallways to the cafeteria and I was rooted to the spot, thinking it was like magic, standing in a snow globe. Beanie babies were cool then, I used to have friends over to trade, discuss our collections, and gossip about how attractive Leo DiCaprio was in Titanic, which came out that year. I also used to disappear for entire afternoons with my Nature Notebook, sitting in the wetland behind our condo watching Canada Geese arrive, build nests, and raise little goslings. Id never seen a Canada Goose before. I also used to watch and draw frogs laying eggs, tadpoles sprouting arms and legs, crawling out of the water and hopping around, and then disappearing when ice started forming on the pond.

Then, however, seventh grade arrived. They shuffled us around, and I didnt really know anyone in my group of classes anymore. Luckily, yearbook and art class came along, and I learned to use Photoshop and my Moms ancient Pentax SLR camera which I still have. I wanted to be Cool, though, so unfortunately, instead of hanging out with the people I really ended up liking, the ones who got into computer games and programming, the unabashedly smart kids, basically, I decided I needed cooler friends, and wore the same rotation of tommy hilfiger and bebe shirts pretty much every week. I wasnt cool, but was happily in denial anyways. I also decided, at some point in there, that it was necessary for me to become a cheerleader. Anyways, crushes on real life, non movie star, boys began, and awkward dances started occuring every month. The first time I danced with a boy, I didnt know how, and remember in excruciating detail as I, in my Gap shirt with a rhinestone cat on the front, put my arms around his waist. His arms were also around mine, and as we awkwardly moved in small circles, I would periodically come around to see my friends furiously gesturing for me to move my arms up to his neck, which I mistakenly took as encouragement, and Im pretty sure I even gave them a thumbs up at one point. I dont think I ever talked to him again after that...haha.

Then came 8th grade. In CA, at the small private catholic school I had attended, the 8th graders were Kings and Queens. They had been there since pre school and reigned over the student body kingdom for a year before entering a mysterious thing called High School. In Novi, MI, though...it was terrible. Gossiping, judgement, what clothes everyone wore, ie. hormones, all hit their boiling point. At that point, I really should have just gone with it and just hung out with the uncool people I actually liked, but hung on stubbornly to some nebulous idea of how to be popular. I got bangs, terrible idea, got a highlighter yellow puffy ski jacket, and wore fluorescent white eyeshadow every day, which looks GREAT on redheads.... : P

Luckily, my family sent me off to the Pacific Northwest for Outdoor Adventure camp that summer, where I learned that there was a lot more to life than worrying about which lunch table to sit at, and that I love hiking camping etc. I still wanted to be a cheerleader, though, since my fixations run pretty deep. I mean, Ive wanted to be a PCV since that summer and here I am. I got on the team, entered high school, continued running track, hurdles at that point, and realiwed that nobody really cared about what everyone else was doing anymore. I quickly fell into place, eventually quit the cheer team, started the outdoor adventure club, worked backstage on plays, was in french club, worked for the newspaper, and ran track all four years. I got a 4.0, got into University of Michigan, and have basically had fun nerding out ever since.

What I want to express, though, is that one of the best things about Senegalese culture, as well as volunteer culture, is that its just like kindergarten. You can walk up to anyone and they are automatically your friend. Senegalese people love talking and just hanging out, and volunteers understand each other and support each other in a way that is unparalleled in the US. Not to undermine friendships at home, I just wanted to say that the ability to be open and supportive towards anyone is something we could all use a little more of in our lives, and something I think Ive learned to do well here. This is where I would insert a smiley face but I have no idea where it is on this computer. Oh well, thanks as always for reading!

Longest post ever, whew. Love you all, wish me luck with the grad school apps and say a prayer for my Papaw! Oh, and ignore spelling errors. Im not editing this, Im going home and going to bed. At one in the afternoon, hehe.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dear Admissions Committees, Please Forgive Me.

Hi everyone, you havent heard from me in a long time. Not for any particular reason, except that things just seem pretty normal here, and you probably don't want to hear about what Ive been having for lunch every day (oily rice and fish, in case you are actually curious). On a daily basis my emotions can be found somewhere along the spectrum of overwhelming love for this country, apathetic contentment, and an almost manic desire to run to the airport and hop on the first plane home. I wont lie, Im excited to have about 5 months left, but am not looking forward to that end date too anxiously. Currently, Im trying to figure out what to do with my life when I get back to the US, besides the obvious: kiss the ground the second I get off the plane (dont worry, I've spent the past two years building up an immunity against all germs), eating everything in sight, drinking a lot of good draft beer and coffee, fishing for real fish in real rivers, and wearing sweaters. Big, soft, comfy, sweaters.

Anyways, what prompted me to finally update this here blog is the fact that Im actually supposed to be writing a statement of purpose for grad school. I have a vague idea of what I will write, and am slowly working on an outline. However, I wish there were some way I could express to the admissions committees who will eventually see me as one more black and white piece of paper in the pile, just how animated of a situation is necessary for me to wrangle that sheet of paper into existence in the first place.

I am currently sitting in a regional house, one day before halloween. All of the appliances somehow managed to break around the same time, so three of us are all squashed together at the one desk in the house where we are trying to get stuff done with the few machines we do have. I am attempting to type up a professional and convincing essay for potential grad schools, while the monitor flicks on and off due to the volunteer to my left who is messing with electrical wires in an attempt to get the phone to work, while he shouts out the window in Wolof (a local language). The volunteer to my right is working on her halloween costume, and trying to coax a very stubborn printer into printing out a picture of a handgun. The gun has thus far deigned only to come out as either the size of a paperclip, or too large to fit on the paper. Another volunteer behind us is trying to get a fan to work so we wont all die of heat stroke, but the already heavily duct-taped blades and electrical cord are making that difficult. I am drinking coffee that someone made using salty sink water instead of filtered freshwater (which is delivered weekly to the house by a man on a donkey drawn cart) so my coffee tastes like a vaguely hazelnut flavored ocean. Another volunteer just entered the picture looking for a permanent marker, which means a lot of drawer wrenching and slamming, thus rocking the computer monitor back and forth.

There is also a random full sheet of paper lying next to the computer that says, in angry red letters, "PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE!" I have no idea why. The halloween preparations mean that a few lady gagas are wandering around the house, there is wig sewing, shoe coloring, and glow-painting going on. Last night I turned a corner to face a fully masked Storm Trooper. I do have a mario costume put together, but have decided not to travel the 5 hours to get to the halloween party in the interest of having some peace and quiet. As much as that can be achieved in Senegal, at least.

I know I will be an excellent grad school student, and that I am ready to work hard for the right program. I have extensive experience, speak a few languages, love aquatic science and fish almost to the point of obsession, and would be happy to move anywhere to attend a good program (as long as its not in africa, though, sorry). Compared to the people in america, though, or in research stations around the world, with air conditioning, fast internet, career advising services, and coffee shops where one can liesurely write a stellar essay while drinking espresso and eating a chocolate muffin...how can I possibly put together a successful application???

But I will. Somehow. So, I'll stop blog posting now and get back to the somewhat functional madness. Wish me luck : /

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire.

I finally got back to my village, ready for a solid week of just hanging out, spending time with my family, and reading until the end of Ramadan, when I will get back to work. Sadly, it was not meant to be.

Apparently, while I was gone, there was a massive rainstorm, and my entire room flooded. My mom and brothers went in there and piled everything on top of my bed, and my mom moved some of the stuff to her room in big rice sacks. If youve ever experienced constant muggy/rainy weather, then you know how quickly things mold. A lot of my books, bags, and clothing literally disintegrated. There was also a large moldy dead thing in the corner that I made my brother remove for me. As I found out last rainy season, Im allergic to the mold, so the rash spreading up both of my arms has pretty much taken over my entire body in the last 24 hours. Luckily, my family is amazing, and they told me to just sit, relax, and deal with it tomorrow. So, since they had taken off my mattress and sheets, and everything I own was piled on my bed, I just slept in my moms room. I would have started cleaning out my hut today, but I had to come into Mbour to get a new phone, which was much easier than I expected! I was also able to find some medicine for the rash, so hopefully that will be taken care of soon.

I do have good news, though! In a random burst of intelligence, I hung up my bag of electronics, checkbook, letters from friends and family, and passport right before leaving my village, so none of it was affected! Also, Pippin is fine, which is way more important to me than all the stuff that got ruined.

Anyways, I thought Id write a quick note on one of the many strange things they do here in Senegal. This morning I had to withdraw money from the bank (where I have been going for the last year and a half, btw)and the woman behind the counter was adamant that the signature in their computer did not match the one I had signed on my check, and thus refused to give me money. The same signature was also on my passport, bank ID card, and the back of the check...ridiculous. So, after I made it crystal clear that I would not be leaving without my money, and was glad to wait all day holding up the line, she gave me a post it note and made me sign it over and over again while I looked at the one in their computer system until it was exactly the same.

When I studied abroad in Switzerland, a similar thing happened. I walked into the post office, and went up to a counter to pay for a package. The teller looked at me like I was crazy, and just pointed to a machine that dispenses numbers for waiting in line, about 50 yards away. She and I were literally the only people in the building. I walked over, got my number, she hit the button to officially call me over, and I went right back to the same counter where she was perfectly friendly and happy to help me.

Yeesh.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Life Explosion.

During training, they advise us not to write blog posts when we are not in a good mood, or are in the middle of a frustrating situation. Lately, I've been waiting for the clouds to roll back and reveal a shining happy Senegal so that I might write an optimistic and charmingly clever blog post, but no such luck. So! Im just going to dump all of my problems onto this here blog because that's obviously the most logical and responsible thing to do.

First off, my journal was stolen, so I will be cataloging events on here in hopes of remembering them in the future. To begin, I went to the regional house for a live radio show that another volunteer and I do monthly. For some reason we now have to do it at 8pm, which meant walking around a residential area of Kaolack at night in a rainstorm hoping to find a cab. And when you think rainstorm...don't you dare imagine a lovely dark sky, the smell of spring, and the sound of rain falling on a tin roof,all being enjoyed from a porch with a mountain view where you are wrapped up in a soft blanket sipping hot chocolate with a dog by your side and perhaps an attractive man who is baking you a pie at the moment, but will come sit with you in a minute when it's done. No. Think, river of trash and mud that has just reunited with its best friend, the city-wide flooding sewer. Add in the fact that there's no electricity, so I could have literally been stepping in anything. I may not have actually seen any rats using trash as lifeboats, but I wouldn't have been surprised.

The next morning, I got a ride to Tamba, our neighboring region, because I have little work to do at my site during Ramadan, and am interested in seeing a project that other volunteers have been doing on Malaria prevention. Along the trip I managed to blow out a bike tire, for which I had no replacement, and had to beg another volunteer for her bike for the rest of the trip. Later, I was biking with another volunteer when we got separated, and some guys approached me and stole my backpack. Camera, phone, external hard drive, clothing, chess set (ok, I guess that makes sense, they probably get bored watching cows all day), and my journal which obviously they are now going to read, and post all of my deepest darkest secrets on facebook.

It was not an enjoyable experience to say the least, but, things happen, and at least Im fine! Luckily I had my glasses on my face, and my ipod in my pocket. Those are the two things I care about the most. And my shoes...which were on my feet. To be clear, this was a freak occurrence. I've never felt unsafe in this country, and everyone has been super helpful about getting me to the right authorities, lending me money, etc. The best part is that we have boxes of clothes in the regional houses where people put stuff they don't want anymore, and we can buy them back to raise money for SeneGAD (gender and development). By some freak chance, ALL of the clothes in all of the senegad boxes fit me. I now have cuter and way more clothes than I did before the incident.

Anyways, in the middle of this whole ordeal, the cutest puppy in the world wandered into the regional house and started following me around. I fed him and gave him a name and a collar. When I left to take him back to my village, though, we put him in the back of a peace corps car in a big basket that was tied and duct taped shut. We got to another volunteer's site to drop her off, and I went to check on the puppy...gone. It somehow managed to get out of the basket and jump out of the moving vehicle. Id say Im sad, but it must have been a pretty dumb dog for that to happen. So, puppy, I miss you, and love you, wish you all the best, and hope you are still alive somewhere. Oh, and I'm mad at you for abandoning me. Jerk.

Now, I am in Tamba, trying to decide how to manage my time this week. My family is worried about why I have been gone so long. I tried to explain, but mostly my dad was just mad that I am not there (not sure why?) but I could really use some time to relax for a day now that this is all taken care of, and I will no longer have easy internet/etc. near my site (no computer anymore). I have started looking at grad schools and am really excited! Its time to start getting organized, and officially apply in a few months. I also offered to help install new volunteers this week, which is two hours closer to where I am now, than my site is. I miss my family and my cat, though. Either I will go back to site tomorrow, or be gone for even another week trying to get my stuff back in order and help install the newbies.

Lastly, and yes I know this is TMI, I must have amoebas or something because Im running to the bathroom like every ten minutes. I don't know how I'm supposed to travel like this. Yeesh. So, most ridiculous week ever, I still need to get it all sorted out, but I did get to see a lot of people I hadn't seen in a long time, which was amazing! And, the Tamba house is quiet, clean, has a functional house computer, projector for movies, and super cute house cats. I think Im staying here for the day at least. THANK YOU all for reading! Life is insane here right now, but, as always, everything is fine overall : ) Have a good day!

I know this is random, but I am including a picture of my own personal Happy Place. North Carolina in the fall. This is the type of image that pops into my head when I need a mental escape (like when my puppy falls out of a friggin truck). The Happy Place also frequently involves waterfalls, fresh blueberries, coffee, and/or warm raspberry scones.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Didn't it Rain.

Rainy season is officially here! While my memories of last rainy season (July-September) are one big blur of long, muggy, hot, itchy, mosquito-ey days, I am super excited for it this time around. I had forgotten about the cold thunderstorms, the beautiful sky before and after a rain, the tadpole puddles, and the drastic transformation of the landscape from a sandy wasteland, to an all-out awesome jungle. There are gorgeous birds everywhere, I don't have to go to the well for water as often, and I can now plant beans, corn, okra, bissap, and moringa in my yard with little to no maintenance required!

Anyways, I've spent the past couple of weeks helping with nutritional gardening seminars in the Kaolack region. I also spent a week visiting another volunteer at her site, which was really fun : ) But, once again, I'll let photos do my talking. Enjoy!

Clouds before a storm:


Weeding the yard with a hand hoe:


The Seereer Delta, amazing saltwater/mangrove swimming spot:


Morgan's hut, and dog, Tiya (which means Peanut):


Gardening tournee:


My closest neighbors, and the awesome French ppl who own a pizza place in Mbour:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

BEST VACATION EVER.

Recipe for having the most fun humanly possible:
1. Spend a year and a half in a small african village where you are perma hot and bereft of any and all lucrative dining options.

2. Take two weeks of vacation, fly to Rome, and meet your grandma, sister, uncle, brother, dad, and stepmom, all of whom you're super excited to spend time with.

3. Spend three days in Rome eating, walking like 12 miles a day, feeling like a real human in real clothes and makeup again, getting a haircut, buying nice things, and wearing yourself out seeing as much as possible in a short amount of time.

4. Travel to a GIGANTIC cruise ship with aforementioned family, get on, and go straight to the buffet that will be running 24/7 for the next week of your life.

5. Eat and drink everything you want all week with total abandon.

6. Somehow end up losing a pound for all of your gluttony, as a result of being back in civilized places where you are not forced to eat oily rice and fish all day long, and where there are fun activities available!

We had an amazing trip, and spent a ton of time just hanging out, playing chess, playing card games, going to events on the boat like bingo/trivia/concerts/ice skating shows, going ice skating and rock climbing, playing putt putt, going out dancing or to the casino at night, and sitting by the pool or visiting ports all day. We traveled from Rome to Sicily (which looked like Hawaii up around the volcano!), then Malta, Turkey, Crete, and spent a few days just sailing and looking out at gorgeous islands.

We were supposed to go to Athens, but went to Malta instead because of riots. I took one look at Malta, decided it looked too much like Africa, and spent the day at the pool/buffet with my little brother who was also more interested in expanding his waistline than his cultural horizons. There was sushi on the buffet one day, and I made myself a sushimountain. But, in general, every minute of the trip was a lot of fun, and we saw all kinds of amazing things, so I wont even try to recap all of it! I'll just put up some photos instead!

One last story, though, I was in the Rome airport ready to head back to Senegal, and looked around for the check in counter. Among all of the orderly lines, people quietly leaving each other enough personal space to go about their business, and stylishly dressed stick thin women/gorgeous men...one particular check in counter stood out like a sore thumb. Mine. It was an all out shouting shoving Clusterf*** I knew I was headed back to Africa the second I entered the fray. Home sweet home : )

It was hard to say goodbye and head home to Senegal, but things are back to normal now that Im safely in Dakar. When I came back here after going home for Christmas it was hard because I had been at home for a while, but the cruise just felt like vacation since it wasn't home for any of us there. Nobody was ready to go back to work, but thats the way it is! It's nice being back, I have a lot of work in front of me, and a busy couple of months coming up. Im really excited for this "Home Stretch," of nine months, where I dont plan on leaving country, and hope it will be enough time to get my projects all wrapped up. I know from experience that the time is going to fly by (well. Except for August, which is Ramadan, which is hot and muggy and sans-food) so I'll need to stay on task to get everything taken care of here, as well as start planning life when i get back. This fall I will be applying for grad schools, looking for a summer job, and planning a trip for the end of my service!

That's all for now, enjoy the photos!
(in no particular order)





























After traveling for 24 hours to get back here, I sat down and took a picture to express exactly how I felt at the moment. Exhausted, hungry, and none too excited to be back in the oven that is senegal. After some sleep I jumped up, energized, in a good mood, and ready to go, but I thought I would document the moment anyways : )



Thanks for reading!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Day in the Life, and Sappy Reflections.

If you read this whole thing you get a prize!!

People often ask what a typical day here is like, which is hard to answer because, while things dont exactly change much around here, so many random things are always waiting to jump out at you that every day is unique in its own obscure way. Since yesterday was a nice relaxing Sunday, I'll just recap it in order to give you a quick glimpse into the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal.

The sun came up around 6:30am, waking me up since Ive been sleeping outside for the past 6 months or so (though I got rained on at 3am the other morning and had to make a mad dash into the hut, so that might be coming to an end soon). Normally I would have stayed in bed to read for another hour or so, but in a random surge of motivation, I decided to get up and take advantage of the cool morning air by going on a run. I got dressed and ready to go, but couldn't find my socks anywhere. I only have one pair, because who wears socks in Africa? I tore apart the room, and then eventually went out in the compound and asked my mom if she'd seen them. She went into her room and pulled my bright green socks out of her dresser, along with a random other sock I'd never seen before. For the record I dont think I've ever seen a Senegalese person in socks. They were all freshly cleaned from the last time she did laundry (an all-day-long process which involves washing clothes by hand in big plastic buckets). She was keeping them until I brought her my "other sock" because she was too embarassed to bring me three socks because that obviously wouldn't make any sense. That whole ordeal took about an hour, so I finally put on my two socks and went on a half hr run through the baobabs, which was beautiful! After getting back I pulled water (walk w a bucket to the well, drop a different bucket on a rope about 10m down to the water, then carry the bucket back on my head Jungle Book style), bucket bathed, and got back in bed.

My brother re-woke me up around 10 by shouting for me to come to the door of my hut, and offered me fresh Beignets (fried doughnut holes, SO GOOD) that my mom had just made for a wedding. I dragged my mat out into the backyard, french pressed some coffee, and had a banana/beignet breakfast, then read for an hour or so.

Around 11 I finally got up and went out to the field to work on a tree peppiniere (nursery) in our family's garden. Rainy season will be here in about a month, so the trees will need to be big enough by then to outplant around the village/schools.

After coming home to hide from the 1pm sun, I sat with my family under a tree and broke out my new Chess Practice book, and basically played chess against myself for a couple of hours (dont judge me) while trying to keep the kids from eating/otherwise destroying the chess pieces. We ate lunch, rice and fish out of a huge communal bowl on the ground, around 3pm, after which I retreated to my hut to watch 30 Rock for about an hour. My laptop holds about 4hrs of battery, so I have to ration out TV time : )

Around 4 I walked over to another village I'm working to set up as a new site for a future volunteer, and got some forms signed/sat through a couple of LONG meetings in Wolof which I didnt understand at all. Luckily, when I left, they gave me a huge bag of freshly picked Mangoes, so it was totally worth it. I then went on a bike ride until the sun went down, took another bucket bath, and sat with my family until we had dinner around 9pm.

I went back to my hut, shut the door, made a cup of hot chocolate, and sat on my mat in the backyard looking up at the stars. The moon set early so the night sky was gorgeous. I called another volunteer (because its free!) and we talked until my hot chocolate was done and I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore. I got into bed, saw a shooting star, and was passed out asleep by 11pm. Fin of journee.

A couple of years ago in Hawaii, I went on a backpacking trip w a friend that landed us down at the beach. I remember one moonless night we sat looking over the ink black water, where the stars were seamlessly reflected right across the horizon. A shooting star flashed across the night sky, a perfect mirror image blazing in the water below, and we both made wishes. Even though it's bad luck to say your wish out loud, he asked what mine was, and I said "I wished that no matter what I do or where I end up, that I can always find a way to be as happy as I am right now." After a minute or two of silence, he put his arm around me and said with total confidence, "I know you will."

I know this is crossing the cheesy/sappy/annoying line, but, I see shooting stars all the time and they always fill me with warm fuzzies, because they remind me that no matter where you are, or what's going on in your life, it's easy to find happiness if you carry your joy around with you. Not to say that things don't go wrong all the time, or that it's bad to feel sad, angry, upset, etc. but knowing that overall a sense of humor and some unshake-able self love can float you through just about anything, makes all of those difficult experiences roll right on through. Either that, or I'm just horribly naive and/or stupid.

One of the best ways I have of gauging my mood in this country is how I feel about butterflies when I see them flying around (bear with me, where I'm going with this is slightly less gag-inducing than it sounds). If I'm in a bad mood, I look at them and immediately think, "How can anything so delicate possibly survive in this country of sandstorms, car crashes, kids who delight in killing kittens, and just overall natural tendency toward destroying...everything?" If Im in a good mood, though, I see them flying around and think, "Hey, Senegal really is kind of pretty..."

OKAY. Thats my sapfest for the day! All Im trying to say is that after a year I've figured out how to be easily happy here, and I think it's something that will stick with me for the rest of my life (inchallah). Next time I write I'll come up with something more entertaining, or perhaps even responsible and work related, to write about, I promise.

Hope youre all enjoying some warm weather in other parts of the world! Because we sure are here, ha...ha... : /


Oh! And 3 last pieces of news:

1. My sitemate just got a fancy new telescope for her roof, along with a star book!

2. Steve and I found a conveniently located amazing burger place that has PUNCH CARDS. As in...you buy 10 goat cheese or camembert hamburgers for about $4 each, and you get an 11th one free!!!

3. This morning I got like a million more ant bites, I still dont know why this happens to me, and am going straight home now to take benadryl/ibuprofen and pass out. Im definitely not in a good mood, and writing this post kind of made me cringe a little bit, but whatever. I wrote it in my notebook yesterday when my mind was in a much better place.

Anyways, thank you for reading, as always! There's not actually a prize, but, if you read this whole thing, then you must be as bored as I am, and we're clearly soulmates : ) And maybe you'll get lucky and I'll send you a little plastic army guy, 3-D glasses, or a "changes color when you put it in milk" spoon from the bottom of a cereal box.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Wedding is Over!

While living without electricity can often be...inconvenient, I do constantly thank my lucky stars that my village doesnt have it. The Senegalese tend to use electricity for a few specific purposes, including blasting arabic "singing" from megaphones, running Wolof TV programs which, as far as I can tell, just consist of more yelling but complete with awkward visuals, blasting Akon until 5am, and for lighting up things that really dont need to be lit up. Sadly, though, somebody rented a solar panel for their wedding, which took place about 5 feet from my backyard, and blasted, "Allo, ALLO, Allo, allo, ALLOALLOALLOALLO!!!!!" for three days straight. Im not sure why they do that, but give someone a microphone in this country, and they will "sound test" allllllll day long. I was relieved when, on the third day, they randomly decided to switch to Phil Collins music. The hysteria of not sleeping for a few nights, compounded by the sight of people dancing their traditional dances to Easy Lover, left me in a fit of giggles. But, thankfully, the wedding finally ended and now we are back to peace and quiet. Alhamdoulilahi.

Ive been quite busy lately and am working on three big projects as the school year is winding down. Classes end June 10th. On the 12th Im helping out with a bed net distribution, doing a radio show on the 13th, and then muraling a campement with some of my neighbors in exchange for a free pirogue ride through the mangroves, and then heading up to Dakar for the CRUISE. Im so excited.

Thats about it for news! I saw a chicken running around the compound the other day with a bra trailing after it, after somehow getting tangled in the laundry. Yesterday another chicken had an entire headful of weave stuck to its foot while it ran around. I find these things entertaining.

Ta ta for now!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Becoming Sexist.

The following interaction exemplifies your typical Senegalese male:

Yesterday I rode my bike into town to buy snacks, and on the way out, I had to ride in a small margin on the side of the road because of traffic. There was a 20 something year old guy walking directly towards me, with all the space in the world to move out of my way. I would have had to ride into traffic, or off into the sandy shoulder to make way for him. Of course, being male, he decided he had superiority in this game of chicken, and since there was literally nothing I could do (and because Im basically done with trying to accomodate anyone of the Wolof persuasion) I ran straight into him. A head on bike/sai sai collision, which I won. Obviously he was angry, but what did he expect? Next time...try being respectful and move. I also got called Honk Nonk like 5 times, which literally translates to Red Ears, and is extremely offensive, think the N word in America or Mudblood in Harry Potter. I dont even get called Toubab anywhere near my village, so honk nonk so many times in one day was a LOT.

Anyways, about 10 minutes later, a kid was biking in front of me, when he made a split second decision to turn without looking. I didnt have time to stop, so I ended up jacknifing him and we both went flying off of our bikes. I looked at him and yelled, in Serere, "You dont know how to bike! You are not smart!" It wasnt exactly threatening, and hearing myself yell in Serere I started laughing, and so did he, and everyone was fine. I doubt he learned anything though. The only thing I learned...keep wearing my helmet, and just stay in Louly from now on. Ill give someone else money to go buy me snacks.

To conclude a year of being open to this culture, I can safely say that if someone offered me the option to only interact with females for the next year, I would accept in a heartbeat. Ive had enough of this male dominance thing, be it a casualty of Wolof culture, or byproduct of living in a primarily Muslim country. Someday someone is going to say (inchallah) "Sarah, I Love You," and my reaction will be to cringe and/or visibly shudder. Not to mention a marriage proposal...I might involuntary slap some poor future boyfriend in response.

Thats all for now! Things are going well, as usual, and its still hot : ) Cruise next month, woohoo!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Murals!

I spent a few days last week visiting my friend David in his sereer village. In exchange for endless cookies, clif bars, coffee, oatmeal, chocolate, and beer (he has a bar IN his compound) I spent the time painting his hut as part of a major room makeover. He lives in the Sereer delta, which meant that to get to his site, we got to take a ferry : ) Much to our surprise there was a guy with an ice cream cart, so we got ice cream cones on the boat. We spent a few days painting, swimming, biking around, and it was a lot of fun! Here are some pictures of the murals:







On the way home, I got a ride with another David who was traveling around with a film crew from Dakar, working on a documentary about the life of a volunteer. On the ferry ride home, we got to wear some sweet lifejackets. Senegalese people in lifejackets...best thing ever.



That’s the extent of my news for now! I wrote a grant for funds to build a school garden, as well as take my EE club on a field trip to Botanical Gardens in Mbour. The money came in yesterday, which means lots of work over the next couple of months. But, for now, I am in Dakar for my year-in medical checkup, so if you need me, I will be sitting at the pool waiting to see if I have tuberculosis.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

How to Stay Entertained for Two Years in a Village.

One question many volunteers must face at some point during their service sounds a lot like this: 'No electricity, no internet, no tv, no homework, no beer, no kitchen, no wide avenues to stroll along, and no other individuals around who speak english...how the eff am I going to stay entertained for TWO years???' Some of us take up a new hobby or skill such as juggling, playing an instrument, reading technical manuals to become an expert on some random thing, or biking aimlessly for 5 hours straight. Some may invent games, like the 'describe your ideal sandwich and build it in your head' game, some people read romance novels, some draw cartoons, some fill up water balloons and sit in the middle of their village throwing them at people, and some make lists upon lists during the hours of the day when it is just too hot to get up and do anything.

Everyone eventually develops their own strategies, but my particular one finds its origins back in the 1980's. In 1987 to be exact, when a man named Alex from Vancouver, BC, apparently took too many drugs and decided it was high time he sat down and made a coloring book titled 'Whimsical.' After passing hands for a good 20 some years, it finally reached the one person bored enough to actually color the whole entire thing. Me. I spend many content hours listening to music and idly coloring the book. Here are some example of his fine, and somewhat terrifying, work.











Along with the coloring book, another important thing I inadvertently came by is a 5 year old beat up solar charger that the volunteer in 2006 brought with him to Louly Ngogom. It wont charge my cell phone or my laptop, but it WILL charge my ipod, which means that I can listen to podcasts whenever I want. If it werent for that, I would have no idea whats happening in the rest of the world, though I could tell you exactly who burnt their rice for lunch today in the village, and who wore what last night at Fatou's baptism. While listening to podcasts, I am free to wander around in the bush, searching for interesting specimens for my rock collection. I didnt mean to start it, but, well, here it is:



Readymade craft kits, my favorite so far being a Pirate Ship in a Bottle making kit, are especially fun. I also have some puzzles, lots of crosswords, paint by number kit, and a day to day logic puzzle calendar. Here's a small sample : )



Books are often the only entertainment option after the sun sets, since the bugs come out and its time to hide with my headlamp under a mosquito net. It doesnt even matter if there are any mosquitoes or not, because all bugs will divebomb your headlamp, and thus your face, which necessitates a protective net. I have been reading a LOT since getting here, which is really nice because I more or less gave up reading for fun all throughout university. I had so much academic reading to do, it was the last thing I wanted to spend free time on as well. I also spend a good amount of time fantasizing about life back in the US, often not intentionally, and have begun a fantasy cookbook of things that I will make when I get back. Its cathartic, since I come across recipes in Magazines which I cant actually cook right now, so at least cutting them out and putting them in a book feels semi productive :)



Having a pet is often more entertaining than having a TV back in the US, and its almost embarassing how much time I spend sitting in my yard, drinking coffee, and watching my cat. He's just so cute, and senegalese cats are strange. A lot of them sleep like this:



As far as staying motivated and in a good mood throughout the work day goes, quick ipod dance parties in our huts are a pretty important part of every Peace Corps Volunteer's service. Theyre a good way to get energized before another day of speaking another language, and navigating this crazy culture. Here's my current playlist:

Love Me Like You, The Magic Numbers
Get it Right Today, Joe Purdy
Lets Dance, David Bowie
Starstruck, Lady Gaga
Sway, Michael Buble
Beautiful, Akon
Psycho Killer, Talking Heads
Jessie's Girl, Rick Springfield

Of course, the best way to stay entertained is to get out in the community, hang out with people, do whatever theyre doing, and just generally be available. There's also work every day during the not so hot hours, to take up most of our time. I can honestly say that though I have spent many hours not particularly doing anything, I accepted long ago that this would get boring, and have therefore never felt especially bored. Boredom implies frustration and a desire to be doing something else, but Im pretty much at peace with the fact that there will always be very little going on here, and thats totally fine : )

Oh! And one last thing, I just finished working with two other volunteers to set up a website (im trying to learn some computer programming in my free time) for the kaolack girls camp. There are still some errors, but im excited about it. Here's the address, and Im pretty proud of myself for successfully making a link to it...like I said, Im learning:

Girls' Camp!

Ill leave you with this semi sarcastic list to further illustrate activities that 2 years in a hut could potentially drive you to:


1. Take advantage of free calling to phone up other volunteers and tell them about what the donkey in your compound did today...for an hour.
2. Time how long you can hold your breath for every so often. Chart all progress.
3. Consider what might happen if you were to use that epi pen Med gave you.
4. Paint nails. Wipe off. Repeat.
5. Daydream so completely that you forget where you are.
6. Sweep your yard.
7. Take a nap...again.

As always, thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Perfect Weekend.

Us volunteers spend the vast majority of our time living in villages with no electricity, running water, or entertainment outside of shelling peanuts and making fun of how fat someone's mom is...again. So, when we leave site, we need to make the most of it, which is exactly what I did this past weekend! Some of my favorite things in life are biking, fishing, cooking, hanging out at the beach, listening to music, and just sitting around with good people. I got to do all of that : )

On Friday morning I woke up early and went to Mbour. I picked up my bike and set off on a ride to Popenguine, a veritable beach paradise. It took me about an hour and a half, and along the way I picked up mangoes, peanuts, guava juice, frozen yogurt, and other amazing snacks. Im reading "Grapes of Wrath," and spent a good hour or two during the hottest time of the day sitting under a tree, snacking, reading, and drinking lots of water. This country is perfect for biking because you can buy water everywhere, there are sandwich stands and snack stands every kilometer or so, and if you get too tired and just cant keep going, you can stop right where you are and hop in the next bus that comes along.

Anyways, I arrived in Popenguine, and rode straight to a gorgeous restaurant on a cliff that looks over the ocean and serves cold beer. Between the flowering vines, steep streets leading down to the water, donkeys, and white buildings, it looks just like a greek island. Grapefruits are in season right now, so I sat down with one and did some crossword puzzles.

I hung out there with the Popenguine volunteer as other people slowly started showing up. Volunteers from Kolda, Kaolack, Dakar region, etc. all came up for a fishing weekend! We spent the night on Kelsey's (the popenguine volunteer) roof, wrapped up in burritoes of sheets and all huddled together because it was, surprisingly, freezing cold. So, like...70 degrees. Brr. We all ended up moving down to her room which, by the next morning, looked like this:



We got up early and got bean sandwiches, which is always fun. You walk around asking the random sandwich women what they have in their bowls. It ranges from beans, chick peas, onion sauce, oily macaroni, spicy tuna mush, and all costs about...50 cents.
After sandwiches we headed down to the beach and hung out waiting for the boat to leave! Here's the crew:



Once in the boat we motored out to a calm spot and dropped our lines in. Here in Senegal you fish with a line attached to a wooden paddle. No rod, bobber, etc. In a fit of over excitement to catch a fish, I pulled the line too hard and cut my finger. We decided to have a competition to see who could catch the most fish. I caught the first fish, which was the strangest looking creature ever, but that was the extent of my victories for the day : )



Last time I went fishing, I caught a lot of bright pink and orange fish. I called them lisa frank fish. I have no idea what kind they were, but they were tasty. Its a lot like Hawaii, where there is virtually no limit to which fish you can catch and eat. In Hawaii we used to catch and fry up fish that people pay hundreds of dollars to buy for their saltwater aquariums. I dont know what we were catching all day, but in the end we got about 20 some fish of three different species. Every time someone got a fish, it was really exciting. Here are some photos : )





After getting back to shore, we headed to the beach house we rented for the night, and started cleaning the fish. I made tortillas while someone else made salsa. I spent the afternoon in my bathing suit, listening to music, cooking, hanging out, and looking out over the ocean. It was pretty much perfect. We ended the evening with games on the porch, and fish quesadillas. We had way more fish than we could finish, though, so the next morning we got up and I threw all of our leftover ingredients together and made fish chowder. It was surprisingly good. More pictures!









Eventually we all got our stuff together and headed out. Steve and I had a nice lazy bike ride back to Mbour, about 30 kilometers, and met up with the new group of trainees that just arrived. We recovered from our 1pm bike ride by eating ice cream.



They were having beach day, so we sat around and talked with them about peace corps, went swimming, and had a really fun time. I like meeting all of the new people because theyre excited about being here and have so many questions and ideas. Ive ben here for long enough that it doesnt feel like Im in Africa, or a volunteer, or any of that. It just feels normal, and its nice to be reminded that this is an adventure, in a way, and that its not the norm to sleep on a cot in your backyard, speak a random language, and eat fish and rice every day : )

After beach day, I turned on my ipod, biked home, about 15k, and was happy to see my family. My cat was sitting at the door to my hut waiting for me and it was super cute. I turned on Wait Wait Dont Tell Me, laid down on my cot, and fell asleep looking up at the stars. It was such a great weekend, and now Im at the training center helping with sessions for the new group of trainees, and will be back in village soon! Im excited for the projects I have underway, and as soon as school gets out for the year in June, I am flying to Rome, meeting up with my family, and going on a mediterranean cruise. Woohoo! If you need me...Ill be at the buffet.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

So Cute.

More updates soon, but just wanted to put this up : )
Im going fishing this weekend, I'll add pictures if I catch anything good!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Project, "Sarah Owns Poultry" is Epic Fail.

In grade school when everyone went around sharing their favorite animals, I was that kid interjecting "Cuttlefish, Marten, or Genet," among all of the cats, horses, dolphins, dogs, etc. Thank you, Wildlife Fact Files. I have always wanted to see two animals in my life, one being the Hellbender Salamander, which Rachel and I saw in Summer 2008 in Pisgah National Forest. The other is a Genet Cat. That goal may or may not have been met last night around 3am.

The reason we all keep chickens in coops here is that something the Sereres in my area call a "Mbafall" will come around and slit the chickens throats. I half believed them, half thought they were talking about the ever present vampires/genies/random malicious spirits out to get us all. Well, this time they were right (Senegal 1, Yama 0). I was awoken around 3am by a bone chilling noise and subsequent struggling sounds. By this point I only had one guinea fowl because the other one escaped, which has been a source of entertainment for everyone all week. Every time we saw it, the entire village turned into a football team, chasing one birdlike ball, sprinting side to side with their arms held up in the air, running in formation...but we never caught it. So, anyways, Im in bed, jolted out of a dream, and start scrambling around for my glasses, headlamp, and cell phone w/flashlight. By the time I get it all together and get myself untangled from the mosquito net, everything is ominously still.

I saw a mound in the corner of my yard (after checking to make sure my kitten was a ok) and approached it, knowing that I was not going to like whatever I saw. It was one of the guinea fowl lying still, and I couldnt see its head, so I grabbed a rake, half shielded my eyes, my imagination running all over the place from vampires to hyenas, and slowly flipped the bird over. Throat slit, empty eyes, lolling neck. I was not going back to sleep any time soon. If ever. So I barricaded myself in the hut, turned on a podcast, and colored in my coloring book. Eventually I peeked outside again and saw two points of light shining back at me. I would have been scared out of my mind, I mean thats always creepy even if its your housecat, but a lightbulb went on in my head...its some kind of cat! A cool African cat. The options...Genet or Civet. Totally harmless for people, and it was obviously pretty small. Also, the fact that it didnt just go around indiscriminantly slitting chicken throats and not returning to eat them was somehow comforting. Something preying upon fowl I understand, something just killing them for no reason...GENIES.

So, I was kind of sad, but mostly think its cool we have a random kind of noctural cat here. I had planned on bringing the guinea to Marys wedding next weekend as a gift anyways, which would have been cooked up for us, so I wasnt emotionally attached. I still havent told my family, though...I am never going to live this down. Here is what a Genet looks like btw:



OK, secondly, THANK YOU Rachel and Ms. Bertolini for the amazing care packages!!! So much fun stuff, and it was really really nice. Getting anyting in the mail reminds me that the real world exists, and fills me with warm fuzzies : ) Thanks again!

Lastly, today the teachers are on strike, which I was (irresponsibly) happy to realize, because I woke up this morning, had my coffee, read the Silmarillion for a while, and it was so nice all I wanted to do was go on a walk. I never want to work here, all I want to do is wander around, talk to people, listen to music and podcasts, and just hang out. According the my ipod pedometer, I am averaging about 16,000 steps a day. Ive been working a lot in other villages, and walk around in my free time, so it adds up to like 6 or 7 miles.

Most people go on COS (Close of Service)trips after their two years. Like Ive mentioned, Im planning on living in Boston w Morgan for the summer, and well see if I get grad school/job after that, but, before going to Boston, I want to spend a month doing one of the following:

1. Hiking the Appalachian Trail. One month of straight up walking around in the gorgeous appalachian forest.
2. Biking down Hwy 1.
3. Going back to Switzerland for a couple of weeks and backpacking around there.

I know its not for a long time, but for now, Im pretty sure Ill end up doing some of the AT unless people are enthusiastic about going as a group elsewhere : ) We'll see! All 40 of us finish at the same time, so there will probably be a lot of ideas. The AT just sounds so awesome, though.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen...Meet My Baby Dinosaurs!

Spoiler Alert: Here's the end of my story before it even begins, I have my camera back, I have a healthy kitten in my hut, and I have two lovely Guinea Fowl safely in a coop in my backyard. But all of that was in doubt this week.

First of all, I returned from WAIST with no hope for the camera or my ID, when another volunteer called and said the bartender at the party found it. No idea what happened, but consider my faith in humanity officially restored.

After getting back to site, I decided to finally get some Guinea Fowl, which I have been meaning to do for about a year now. Im planning on staying at site for a good chunk of time, and so figured this was a good opportunity. I could have gotten chickens, but, well, Guinea Fowl make cooler noises, and they look like dinosaurs. Some people think theyre ugly...but I find them charming. Amanda came to visit during all of this, and we named them Priscilla and Quincey. See what I mean about the dinosaur thing?



So, I went into Mbour and spent an hour or so with a random guy who translated everything to Serere for me while I negotiated prices and navigated the bird market which is an overwhelming place to say the least. They have everything from lovebirds to ducks, to, well, Guinea Fowl. I finally settled on two, a male and female, and was handed them tied together by the feet. I walked down the street with my upside down birds on a string when I came across a guy pushing a cart covered in giant clippings of a plant Ive been meaning to collect for the school garden. He was doing trimmings for a hotel, and very nicely offered to cut up a bunch for me to plant. He even took all of the thorns off! I also had to buy groceries, so by the time I took a taxi to the garage, I was juggling two flapping birds, an armfull of wet clippings, two bags of groceries, and was covered in dirt from all of this.

I got home to find that my kitten was missing. Totally disappeared. I felt so bad!! Everyone kept saying he would come back, but my mind was teeming with horrible scenarios, so acting on Amanda's brilliant idea, I offered the kids two hundred cfa, like fifty cents, to anyone who found him. We ran all over the village, flushing out under people's beds, asking about cats, and I barely escaped being beaten with a stick by an old blind woman who thought I was a little kid looking under her bed. Eventually I went home and left the kids to it. I was brought random kittens all day, and turned them all down which was heartbreaking, but finally a terrified child showed up holding a squirming Pippin upside down by the tail at arm's length. Kids are terrified of cats here. I gave him the 200cfa, and sent him on his way. Im the worst pet owner ever, but Pippin seems to be recovering just fine...

I later clipped the guinea fowl's wings, and no I dont have any idea how this should be done, but did it anyways and it seems to be working. I also rigged up the most jankety chicken coop ever, which also seems to be working out fine.

However! Last night I went on a long walk and came back to find that the guineas has gone MIA. My entire family mobilized in a parade of flashlights to search my yard, hut, village... they were literally jumping over fences to get into locked fields, including my mom who was wearing a wrap skirt and a baby tied to her back. We couldnt find them anywhere. We went back for dinner and everyone was making fun of me, as people are wont to do here, about not being able to keep track of anything. I was sitting there explaining that I should never be allowed to have children because I would just lose them, when pippin chose that exact moment to wander away right under my nose. I didnt even notice. Finally someone was like...hey...Yama...your cat's escaping. Oops.

I decided to just call it a day and went into my room, sat down on my bed, and was scared half to death by a flurry of wings and squawking. The guinea fowl were on my bed, blended in with all the various crap I keep on there. I sleep outside so its just my storage space. Nobody in my family even noticed them! Needless to say, I started giggling uncontrollably before putting them back in their coop. Which, btw, is made out of a trunk covered in advertisements for canned tuna, and held together with duct tape..

Today I woke up with three healthy happy pets. I will write about work stuff later, because a LOT of exciting things are happening and deserve their own post. Also, Im at a cyber cafe and cant believe electricity hasnt cut out yet. Im writing stream of consciousness, so ignore the typos I dont have time to edit!

So. In summation:

1. Everything is going wonderfully and I have three lovely pets.
2. Guinea fowl look like both dinosaurs and random bed objects.
3. I must never, ever, be allowed to have children.
4. If I do ever have children, they will all have to be tattooed with an, "if found, please return to..." message.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dakar is trying to destroy me.

I am pretty much constantly walking a tightrope of tolerance for Senegal. Sometimes I find myself strolling happily along, downright loving this country. But other times I fall off into "what the eff am I doing here?" territory.

I will write a more thorough post later, but for now, here's a quick WAIST recap! All volunteers were set up with homestays, ie people nice enough to take us in for a few days, and I hit the jackpot along with three other volunteers. We are staying with a USAID worker named Meg who is amazing. She has her own apartment, a pool, a wii, nice tv, wireless, and an amazing kitchen. I woke up this morning to chocolate chip french toast with whipped cream, and a hot cup of freshly french pressed coffee : )

WAIST was an amazing couple days of wearing my enormous tutu, playing softball, seeing friends, going out at night, and just generally having the best weekend imaginable. Here is a Kaolack team photo : ) We were ballerinas.



However, when it comes to being in Dakar, its like being in an entirely different world. Not always in a good way. Far from my comfort zone and "safe place" in the village, I am just another white person as far as all Senegalese people here are concerned. So, in the span of three days, I managed to be subjected to all of the following things:

1. Guys doing maintenance on a telephone pole who decided to lift up a cable right as I walked past. I wiped out completely and it really hurt.

2. After wiping out I was solicited for sex no less than 10 times, and was shouted at by every senegalese guy for the next 100 yards. By the time we got to the bar where everyone was going out...I was pretty much in tears and convinced the girls I am staying with to just go home with me.

3. During a mid day swim in the ocean, I forgot my lessons learned living in Hawaii, and didn't pay enough attention to the rocks. I stepped on a sea urchin, and brushed a couple with my legs. The spines come right off and are currently, painfully, still stuck in my body. I got the accessible ones out, but the rest are too far in there. The guy I was swimming with got a thousand times more than I did. It looked like the most painful thing ever.

4. Last night was the biggest party of the year for peace corps senegal. I was being responsible and had my money/ID/camera all in one pocket. There was basically nobody there but other volunteers (like...200 of us) and when I went to take a picture, I realized that it had all disappeared. My brand new camera. Sometimes it can be so disheartening to live and work here, and realize that no matter how much you become a part of your own community, the minute you leave, you still have things stolen, you still get marriage proposals, and nobody takes you seriously. As a woman at least. Im really really sad that all of my pictures are gone. From home, and all weekend. I cant imagine another volunteer took it, so I assume it was someone on staff at the venue. From now on, I wont even bother owning nice things in Africa.

5. If stepping on a sea urchin wasn't enough, I was in turn stepped on by one of my friends (accidentally) and have a nasty gash on my toe from it. There is also a crater of skin missing from my pinkie toe where I slipped down the most uneven narrow dirt stairwell to ever exist. But, it wasn't just me. Everyone is sore and injured from 3 days of softball and partying. We were a rough looking crew sitting around the pool today. I think bedraggled is a good adjective for...everyone here at the moment. There are multiple pairs of crutches being passed around. Luckily Im not at that point yet...

OK, but, good news should be shared as well. I am currently wearing a fleece, comfy stretchy pants, and drinking a cup of mint tea. Instead of going out to yet another party tonight, I had dinner with some friends at a restaurant which overlooked the ocean. We watched the sun set, drank white wine, and had fresh mussels, clams, and shrimp. Best seafood ever. It was really nice : ) Dakar has been fun and exciting, and great to see everyone, but I cant wait to just get back to my family in Louly, sleep in my backyard, hang out with the kitten, and do some good hard work gardening every day. ahh, village life. Plus, I have a lot of books Im excited to start reading.

Goodnight! And thank you for reading, as always. Its my family and friends at home (as well as here) that really keep me going/happy with what Im doing. I know life is hard wherever, and mostly I just feel lucky that even though this experience comes with a lot of random frustrations...its still a life changing, amazing, fulfilling, opportunity : )

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Compost, Yassa, Gardens, and a Kitten.

Random news:

1. I caught the French tourists in action with my new camera! This is a picture of how they save the world by giving the kindergarteners candy. It has become an almost daily occurrence.



2. On beach day a couple of weeks ago, Steve showed up with a kitten for me in his backpack. I named him Pippin, and he's SO cute. Here he is in Jen's lap.



3. School directors in other villages around Louly heard about the gardening project Im starting, and have begun calling/randomly showing up in my compound (totally socially acceptable behavior here)to get me to work with their schools. They don't even need funding, they just want me to help train/organize : ) Here's a picture of a garden we laid out, and the one bed I taught them how to "double dig," which is a soil improvement technique. If all goes to plan, the beds will all be dug by the time I get back to village, they will have put up a millet-stalk fence, and we'll be ready to plant veggies!




4. Steve and Jen (my two closest neighbors) came to spend the night on Friday. We did a composting lesson at the school, and then ate a TON of Yassa Poulet for dinner. And 6 bags of cookies for dessert! The kitten attacked the bowl after we finished.






5. Somebody bought the twins overalls. Its pretty much the cutest thing ever.



6. Yet another example of why Senegalese males are perhaps the most annoying species on the planet: I was walking to the market, and a 20 something year old guy was running around like a sheep dog simultaneously trying to herd a hysteric full grown bull to the market (im terrified of cows here) while hitting on me at the top of his lungs. I couldn't get away from either of them! Totally harmless, just obnoxious. Jeez.

Thats about all for now. Things are going really well, and I am working on a more entertaining blog post for later when I have better internet : )