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.


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.