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 : )