Monday, January 31, 2011

I found internet! Read my blog.

Hi Everyone! Exciting news all around. This is a long post, but probably the only one for a while, so read at your leisure. First of all, I made it safely back to Senegal and suffered only the mildest of cultural traumatization while transitioning back to village life. Ive been spending pretty much every afternoon wandering around and listening to episodes of “This American Life,” which is actually really fun.

While on one of my walks, two random guys around my age decided that I needed to pay attention to them and started walking with me, being obnoxious, telling me to “be at peace, we don’t want to interrupt, how are you enjoying your walk, do you have a husband? Really we don’t want to interrupt, but how are you, do you love me? etc,” the usual. Not being in the mood to deal with it I stopped, shot them the most disdainful look that I could muster, turned around, and walked purposefully into the closest building...a school compound that I’ve never visited before. I’ve been meaning to, really, but have just been lazy. Turns out, that moment may have changed my entire service! I have been trying to set up a school garden in my village, but we don’t have a wall, or a convenient water source, or motivated teachers... but the new school (1k away from me) is a magical wonderland just waiting for me to start a garden and Environmental Club. They have a fenced in area, a school wall, a robinet, a basin to hold water, motivated and french speaking teachers, and even a cement chicken coop. All they need is someone to organize it! I cant wait.

In other news, I wrote a couple of articles for our volunteer newsletter. Ill put in the first one on here. I also decided to run for a coordinating position for SeneGAD, which is the country wide gender and development program. Elections are in a couple of weeks, I’ll let you know what happens! And speaking of things coming up soon, it is time to tell you about WAIST. The West African Invitational Softball Tournament. It is basically a huge get together for all volunteers in Senegal and neighboring countries. We are split up into softball teams based on region, and each team has a theme complete with costumes. This year the Kaolack team (mine) will be ballerinas. I will be sure to put up pictures afterward. There is also a talent show, photo contest, huge all night party, and we are all really excited! It’s an excuse to see people who live far away, other volunteers I only see every 3 or 4 months. I cant wait!

In other plans, I have Star Wars valentines that I will be handing out in a couple weeks, and am doing a radio show along with some of the other Sereer speakers on the 14th. Morgan and I will be having fancy sunset dinner and wine on the Kaolack house roof to celebrate our total lack of viable romance options here in Peace Corps Senegal. I think its going to be really fun, actually : )

OK, here some pictures from village, as well as the newsletter article I wrote. I hope youre all doing well, and am already getting excited for a family Mediterranean cruise this summer. Happy February, and since I wont talk to many of you until then, Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Random Photos:

Laundry Time

Steve's Birthday Burger


Dakar Traffic Jam

Mantis of some kind

Flower of some kind

Kids at the Yekini parade, wearing Yekini crowns

Sabaar (article) and photos:

Out of Site, Out of Mind.

A phenomenon known as "Site Guilt," generally follows us PCV's around when we leave our villages to partake in the regional house or Dakar high life. It usually manifests itself as a nagging in the back of our hungover minds as we turn on a 5th consecutive episode of Glee, pop open a cold Flag, and thank Allah for elastic waistbands while starting in on that second bean/egg/mayonnaise/sauce soble/french fry sandwich. We tell ourselves, "Hey, I'll go back to site tomorrow, this time with the best sariche ever," right before we re enter the sloth cycle until the entire regional house clears itself out in a collective surge of motivation. We show up at our sites a week later toting a 150cfa bag of beignets, compliments of that guy shouting at our alham window.

However, I've been out of site for a few weeks now, and am happy to report that site guilt does NOT follow you to America. It doesn't have a passport and probably gets cut off somewhere around Bermuda as you down that second bottle of free champagne. Sorry, sparkling wine. However, some vestiges of Peace Corps life have definitely crossed the pond with me over this holiday vacation. A total lack of self restraint, for example. It's hard to convince yourself that you don’t, in fact, need that gigantic piece of cake because, hey, you won’t have the option of cake for the next year and a half. Better to eat it now while you can. I want two years of America concentrated into a one month span, and I'd say it's going quite well so far. Embracing gluttony is a lovely thing, but is definitely best reserved for the holiday season. It would be hard to maintain as a lifelong thing (financially and physically) and really....what other choice do you have when surrounded by Christmas buffets? I know we've been out of the US for a while, but it was still shocking when I came home to find out that cookies have, in fact, learned to talk! I look at them and all I hear is, "you live in Africa...eeeeat meeeee..."

So, in a few weeks when they roll me onto that plane and heft me back to Senegal...sure it will be hard to say goodbye again, so I’m doing my best to enjoy every possible moment of US time while I can, which, let's face it, isn't difficult. Because really, when will we ever have the chance to just sit around all day, cook whatever we want, hang out with our favorite people, and enjoy a total lack of responsibility ever again? Unless you count being unemployed. I would tell myself that when I get back I'll do more work, be a better volunteer, and make up for all of this time at home. But, again, there is no site guilt in the US of A. Unjustified vacation can truly be a wonderful thing. So, enjoy that time at home, love your vacations for all they’re worth, and trust that you will be just as good of a volunteer when you get back…maybe just slightly more rotund. Which will only make you that much more popular in the village.

Oh, and you can't forget Goal Three of Peace Corps. Fine wine and the joy that comes from a plate loaded down with holiday goodies can really improve your conversational skills. People actually want to hear about Peace Corps, and the longer you tell them about Senegal, the longer they keep serving you food. I rest my case. Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Break's Over.

Well my vacation is ending in about 45 minutes. After that it's back to the grind...sitting on the beach, swimming at the American Club, planting gardens, painting murals, and playing with kids. Such a hard life. Anyways, I am terrified of flying over the ocean (for no real reason, I guess it's no different than flying over land) but after Im done with Peace Corps Im moving back to North America and staying put. Maybe there will be some good movies at least...

Anyways, here's a Christmas morning picture to say goodbye! I'll talk to you all in Senegal, when I have a chance to get online. ttfn.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Alright Senegal. Im coming back.

Once again, it's time to leave the land of luxury, and go back to showering out of a bucket and eating with my hand.

A couple random things, I am all packed and trying to sleep, but it's not happening. I decided to watch Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa to prepare for my journey tomorrow. I also watched Sound of Music before studying abroad in Switzerland. Typical : ) Im wondering, though, why they felt the need to call it Escape to Africa, when Madagascar is in Africa already. Escape to Continental Africa just doesnt have the same ring I guess.

Anyways, I find myself in exactly the same position I was in 10 months ago, thinking: What in the world shall I pack to leave for Senegal?

Luckily, this time it’s not as big of a deal since most of my stuff is already over there. However, there is limited bag space and Im determined to make the most of it. When I first left for Peace Corps, I threw whatever seemed useful into my bag, not very intentionally. The result? I showed up without a single skirt or tanktop, and a lot of useless crap, basically. So, I thought Id share my lessons with the new people who are preparing to leave in a couple months, as well as give the rest of you a glimpse into my suitcase. You know, in case you ever decide to spend two years in a West African village...
Useful/wonderful things:
*Extra money. Like one hundred dolla billzzz. You aren’t used to living at village standards yet, and will probably have forgotten a lot of stuff. You absolutely don’t need extra money, but having some was awesome. That way you can buy things in Thies to bring to your site.

*Craft supplies. Lots of them. They will come in handy. At some point.

*A French press if you like coffee. I have a cheap glass one from target, but I think REI makes unbreakable ones for camping. Which is pretty much what you’ll be doing for the next two years.

*A netbook and a hard drive.

*A digital camera. Duh.

*Good Liquor. Even if you don’t like drinking that much, its not available in Senegal, and is nice to have at the regional house. Over two years, somebody will surely appreciate it.

*A pocketknife and duct tape.

*Toiletries! Like, nice smelling body lotion and shower stuff for when you want to feel like a real person.

*A sewing kit. Just a little one.

*A light saber. Anyone could be a sith lord in disguise. Especially the Wolofs.

*A heavy blanket or sleeping bag. It does get cold at night. Sometimes.

*A bathing suit, or two.

*A quick dry towel. They are lovely.

*Costumes. ALL costumes. Wigs, petticoats, sparkly jumpsuits, whatever.

*Entertainment. For example, paint by number kits, crosswords, puzzles, books, etc.

*Settlers of Catan. I would really like you to bring that. With an extension pack. And then make sure you're placed in the Kaolack region.

Things you really don’t need:
*Too many clothes. You will acquire a ton of them here, and you can get pretty much anything made.

*Instant coffee, a la nescafe. There is plenty of it here, trust me.

*Vitamins. Med will give you enough Prenatals to grow a baby the wholesome way.

*A blowdryer. Africa is a blowdryer.

*Socks. Unless you are Chris Peterson.

*Enough pens for an army. I came laden with enough pens to last me two years. I don’t know why I thought Senegal wouldn’t have pens. They do, they most certainly do.

*Candy for kids. Just don’t do it...all they eat is sugar anyways.

*You can leave your palm oil, your dried fish, and your plain white rice at home.


*Toilet Paper. I mean...come on.

Ok thats all I can think of right now! Im not sure Im a good person to take advice from, though, since I am heading back with half my backpack taken up by a gigantic pink petticoat (WAIST here I come!) which my sister decided to buy for me in lieu of depositing the money into my bank account a few years ago, thank you, lindsey...and a piece of Zingerman's Hummingbird Cake for my site mate. mmmmm. That may not survive. I might eat it en route.

Ohh, Im going to miss you America!! Goodbye! See you in 2012.