06 August, 2010

Wet season

My recent bout with illness(es) have left me a few kilos lighter. Now my child sized Holister jeans I brought from America hang off my behind and requires a belt to keep it respectable. We're fully into the rainy season which means a few things. Most of Senegal has transformed from a dusty sahara-like dune complete with sickly dry barren trees, to beautiful lush grasslands. This also means the spread of disease including infections, malaria, and all sorts of nasties bred in standing water. Nowadays when I bike around town it feels like I get a steam facial since I'm covered with humid sweat by the time I reach my destination. It's kind of cool, I think it clears my pores but I can't tell since I go days without seeing my reflection in a mirror. Yes, the wet season is lovely...especially from an air conditioned office in Dakar with high speed internet.

29 July, 2010

Village life in the big city

A while back my computer died on me. One too many power surges zapped my charger...and now I spend my siest (the three hours after lunch when everything closes so people can nap away the afternoon heat) reading any printed literature I can get my hands on instead of watching reruns of Golden Girls on my computer. So, I will be out of commission for a while until this problem is regulated. I will also probably build a wealth of knowledge of very random topics from all the reading I now do in my spare time.

In other news my family is moving to a new house. In true Senegalese style, we are moving in before the house is actually finished. So it resembles less of a house you and I are accustomed to and more of a hobo squat shelter in Watts. Exposed brick, cement and dirt floors BUT we'll all have doors, alhumdulilah. No power and no running water for now. In West Africa, it is possible to be a villager in the city.

11 July, 2010

After much wear and tear, the chain on my bike snapped. So, I've been walking and sweating, a lot more than usual. Clandos (unofficial shared "taxis" that drive around town) are pricey for a PCV budget.

There's African saying that goes "there are only two kinds of people who walk in the mid-day sun, the lunatic and the white man". Enough said.

I'm not good at taking a lot of photos so this is the best I have of the Kedougou adventure until I snag some more from others:


Mary, mentally preparing herself for the ride back.

And on an unrelated subject...I took this pic the other day in response to people who don't understand how I sometimes mistake the roaches for mice.

06 July, 2010

Happy 4th

I spent the 4th of July in Kedougou, a lush beautiful GREEN region of Senegal near the Guinean border 500 kilometers from my site. We made the 13 hour journey for the annual independence day bash held by PCVs. BBQ. Beers. Dance party. And a 3 hour bike ride turned 8 hour detour off the trail and lost through the fields and grasslands where the air was scented by wild mint and fresh rain. All in search of a waterfall. I was nearly charged by a cow I mistakenly made too much eye-contact with. My ankle is swollen from falling off a bike while riding side-saddle in the dark. All-in-all I had a wonderful holiday and I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate our nations independence than by lighting off Chinese fireworks and dancing to Lady Gaga, in West Africa. God bless America.

Photos to come. But for now I will leave you with this:

My lovely host brothers wish you a happy independence day.

30 June, 2010

Relieve me, Rain

It’s hot. I’m sweating profusely as I write this. Any part of my body that touches almost instantly forms a pool of greasy sweat. So, the space where my neck meets my face never gets a break unless I continually look up at the ceiling. My cement room bakes during the hot season and turns into a sauna right before the rains. What about windows, you ask? I have two. One is a window into the storage shed next to my room. The other is 10 feet from the ground, next to the ceiling. It mocks me as I look up at it from my bed every morning. Birds have begun nesting in it so pretty soon it’ll be covered with twigs. The birds wake me with their sing song chirps. It makes me feel like Cinderella, except the mice chew through my clothing instead of hemming me a ball gown. And they don’t dance.

Today my supervisor walked out of his office with a downpour of sweat on him. It looked like someone threw a bucket of water at his face. A very large bucket. I don’t think Africans ever get used to the heat. They just deal with it. Like they do the swarming flies, mosquitoes, and roaches, buses that leave and break down at the will of Allah, and a slew of mechanical problems that Americans solved before the industrial revolution.

The rainy season is here and provides relief from the suffocating West African heat. But it hasn’t rained at my site yet. I’ve been waiting patiently because as they say, in Africa, the clock is always half past 12. I still don’t know what that means.

16 June, 2010

I know I've taken a slight hiatus from this blog. I've only posted a few times since coming to Senegal and by now no one is reading this but the most devoted and peace corps staff. At the suggestion of my amazing friend, D, I'm going to put this thing in use again as an attempt to not drop off the face of the earth, which, I thought was the definition of living in Africa. D- you are full of gems of wisdom and I wouldn't have gotten this far in my service without your insightful suggestions. Drowning Wolof children in my douche. Laughing at my cousin who didn't have one dollar so he could go to the dentist. Kidding. Of course.

A lot has changed in the last 10-months. Most of which occurred in my head. Nearly a year in-country and I now feel like this is my home. I listen to mbalax songs on my ipod. I can sit sedentary for hours at a stretch. My English has noticeably suffered. I can't enter a room without talking about how hot it is outside, greeting each person, or praising God.

A few nights ago as a train went by at 3am, I jumped out of my mosquito net and sat perched against the wall of my room. In my sleep-walking state, I thought the train would enter my room and surely run over my bed, so as a safely precaution, I got out of bed and waited. Slowly I woke up, realized what I was doing, and went back to bed. Residual effects of paranoia-causing malaria medication? I wish I could say this was the weirdest thing I had done in my sleep.

I'll leave you with a conversation I had with a random man who showed up at my garden yesterday. He is apparently my new fiancé. Translated from Franco-Wolof:

Fiancé: Hello, how are you.
Me: I'm well. Have you passed the day in peace. How is your family.
Fiancé: Well. Peace only. Praise God.
Me: Praise God.
(Repeated a handful of times)
Fiancé: Where is Diallo?
Me: He went out.
Fiancé: Where are you from?
Me: America. I live here now. I am a volunteer.
Fiancé: Do you have a husband. What is your name.
Me: Yes. He's at home. Sofie (my African name).
Fiancé: Do you swear on your mother and fathers heads and in the name of God you have a husband.
Me: Well, I cannot do that because I am not Muslim. God would not like that. But, yes, I have a husband.
Fiancé: You do not. I would like to be your husband. My name is Juules. I hope in the future I can pass by and we will create a home. A home for Sofie and Juules with many children and a big house. I will pray to Allah for you to take me.
Me: Well, my father requires a dowry if you want to marry me. A cow.
Fiancé: (....hesitation....) I don't have a cow. I have many goats and chickens. But I will search.
Me: It's Chinese tradition.
Fiancé: I will pass by in the future and we will make our home.
Me: Don't forget the cow.
Fiancé: Not a problem.
Me: Praise God.
Fiancé: Praise God.

(Update: he came back today at the same time to let me know he is searching for the cow.)

24 November, 2009

Driver's ed

My work partner is very amusing only because he doesn't mean to be.

Nearly each morning I bike over to his office and most days I'll get taken from meeting to ceremony to lectures. I use the term taken because 90% of the time I have no clue what's going on or where we're going. I listen for the "on y va" (let's go) and I follow diligently. On a good day I understand more than half of the things he says to me (after several explanations), and since the meetings we attend are in Wolof and not French, I understand on average one word from every two sentences spoken. That's not a good statistic. At times I feel like I'm Indiana Jones, deciphering hieroglyphics. Sure, my life is less exciting but I do ride around in ancient vehicles, flight off creepy crawlies, and spend the majority of my day trying to decode the language here as if the Pearl of Allah depended on it. But I digress.

My work partner comes off intelligent and mindful.

Until he gets behind the wheel.

Then he turns into a cross between a 16 year old practicing on a learners permit, and a 5 year old who stole they keys to dad's truck. In the last month since I've been shadowing him, he's run his car into the ground driving through several sand piles (which, afterwards, another female volunteer and I pushed the car in our dresses), he's backed it into posts, driven the door into the side of a wall, and has nearly ran us off the road more times than I can count while trying to answer his cell phone driving. It's extra humorous/disturbing that his ring tone is a prayer call. The car has broken down a number of times and once, it broke down in the middle of the national road and we just sat there in the dark. He also insists on driving through huge potholes that could be wells, while flying down the road. He, like most Senegalese, lack any social awkwardness. So it's hilarious to watch his reactions when he makes these driving mistakes. Usually, he brushes it off casually...as if nearly driving off the road was like discovering he wore mismatching socks. I guess in Senegal, both hold the same amount of seriousness.

To his credit, during our first journey out of town, he made sure I used my seat belt (at the time I thought he was joking...so I laughed inappropriately). He then attempted to buckle his for 10 minutes before realizing it was broken. So after that, he just drove with the belt across his lap but not bucked to anything. Oh, Africa...