Thursday, January 28, 2010

My roommate

A few weeks after moving I noticed a lizard in my bathroom one night, but he quickly scurried out the window. I named him Steve and we've been co-habiting pretty peacefully. He's recently been in the open more lately, I think because it's actually chilly at night, and today I found out that he spends his days on the wall behind my bookshelf. Oh Steve.

In other news, we've had fishballs (they're like meatballs but made of fish and horrible) for lunch and dinner for at least 3 days now. I think someone made too many but no one in my family eats them so they just keep being reheated. Awa (project partner) got offered a job working with an American NGO but she needs to practice her English so, before IST, she and I are going to work on that.

Otherwise, nothing too exciting!

KO

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A grab-bag of a day

In the land where you could wait for hours for a meeting to start, even though there was a start time, my mood often changes in an instant. I swear I wasn't this irrational at home but something about Senegal has put me and fellow volunteers (Jackie blogged about it a few days ago... yes we read each other's blogs....) on an emotional roller coaster.
I didn't have much planned for today - with the Magal coming up people are all over the place so having meetings is kind of difficult. I spent my morning responding to letters from my World Wide Schools class (more on that another time, and thank you class for all the letters!). Lunch was generally uneventful, reheated chicken, rice, and onion sauce from I think two days ago, and I spent the beginning of my afternoon annoyed at my host dad. I was annoyed for a stupid reason, I've had a head cold/allergies to something and today he told me I shouldn't drink cold water because that's making my stuffed nose worse, it was the general super patriarchal-ness of Senegal that had me peeved.
Around 5pm, I set off to meet Awa, the work partner I gushed about in The Dating Game blog. She lives across town so it's about a 15 minute walk. Today walking there I got yelled at probably more than I have ever in Bambey; they were hissing, yelling Toubab, yelling "madame," yelling about how pretty I was, making kissing noises... everything. I spent the whole walk fantasizing about turning around and just screaming, "WHAT? WHAT DO YOU WANT? WHAT GOOD DO YOU THINK BEING THAT RUDE COULD POSSIBLY DO YOU?" But, alas, I have not yet hit the possibly inevitable breaking point, and I kept walking. Right before I got to Awa's I gathered myself and tried to get out of me "freaking'fracking'Senegal" mood.
Spending time with Awa is my oasis in the desert. We didn't even really talk about the project, just about life in general. We hung out and it was amazing. I really like my host family but it's so nice to have someone relative to my age (she's Noah's age, actually) to hang out with. I've heard the warning that finding Senegalese friends is hard for some female volunteers because you're at a different point in your life as many people your age, which is something I've found to be sort of true - except with Awa. I could continue for hours but I'll leave it at: when I told her that I didn't really like kids (which Senegalese AND some Americans respond negatively to) she agreed with me! She agreed that, though she'll want kids one day, she doesn't want them now and they're annoying - it was amazing! Oh, also, she bought me shoes, I didn't ask her for anything but she said she was in Touba and thinking of me and wanted to buy me shoes! She's so nice!
I walked home in a really good mood and when some 40-something year old woman asked me for money I was able to just laugh it off. A few blocks away some girls that always greet me, by my name, asked me to come over and read to them. They're probably 10 and they had some French homework so I made them read the story for a little then I read a few lines.
I got home around 7:30 aka MARINA. I think I've mentioned it in passing but Marina is my guilty pleasure. It's a Telemundo soap opera and it is SO good. I'll go into more in detail another time, but it revolves around Marina and her recently ex-husband Ricardo, their real son Cheuy (who just found out he was their son - everyone thought he died at birth), their adopted daughter Patricia (who's been kidnapped to a Houston hospital by her real mom who then told everyone she died - Patricia has an unnamed illness that's actually being treated). Of course you can't forget Fredirico (who's in love with Marina and about to marry her) who schemed with the very evil Veronica (who's about to marry Ricardo) to break Marina and Ricardo up. ANYWAY. I was sitting with one host sister who was tuned into another soap (Toubillon de Passions) as my host mom told her to tell the other girls Marina was on... turns out the plan was to watch Marina on one tv in our "living room" so Awa (not the project partner, but a host sister - it's a popular name) could watch the other show on the other tv. It was soap opera heaven.
After Marina was dinner (green bean sauce and bread) and I came upstairs because I didn't want to watch a show in Wolof.
Now I'm off to bed for a few hours before watching the State of the Union.

KO

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

There comes a point...

Tonight as I was waiting for dinner to be brought out, I played the game I play every night. As dinner's being prepared I like to list foods that I wouldn't mind eating, they have to be Senegalese foods, and I try to make the list as long as possible. It sounds masochistic but it helps when something is put out and I think "that was on the list!" or "at least isn't not lek!" So, tonight I was sitting on the mat watching my second favorite imported soap opera and thought to myself, "I wouldn't mind eating..." but "beans" was the only thing I could fill in. I'm nearing my breaking point - I don't know how much longer I can stand 2 meals a day of Senegalese food.

Luckily, if I ever suck it up, I can explain to my host family that I'm just going to cook for myself (which I might do tomorrow for dinner if I get to the market in time to buy lettuce). Also, soon enough I'll be at training and, though it's Senegalese food, it's dinners are never rice-based (which is where my problem lies). We ended up having rice, beans, and smoked fish which I can always shovel down enough bites to play the hungry card (even though I might be the only volunteer that doesn't mind the taste of smoked fish).

But life in Bambey is keeping on. Matar's hard at work on 9 capes for WAIST; I had a great time going to the market and buying 18 meters of fabric.

Oh! And I learned there are a million places I can watch the State of the Union live tomorrow (well, Thursday for me). Even though it'll be around 2am, I still want to watch it.

Enjoy the State of the Union!
KO

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tata Fatou!!!

When I started at the preschool, the kids were told to call me "Tata Fatou." I'm having a hard time defining "Tata" but it kind of means any woman who's in charge of you. Typically, it means "aunt" but it's also what kids call their dad's wives who aren't their mother. For example, I call my host mom here "sama yaya" ("my mom" in wolof), if I were to ever meet my dad's second wife I would call her "Tata whatever her name is." It can, however, also be used in place of "miss" or "ms." for young kids.

Even though I'm not going to the pre-school as regularly now, my original goal is being met. Now instead of getting "TOUBAB TOUBAB" when I walk down the street, young kids (even those not in the preschool) call me Tata Fatou (they heard kids in my class doing it). The older kids, those too old to use "tata" just call me Fatou. Even though it's weird to walk down the street and have choruses of kids singing my name, it's way better than Toubab.

The other day I was sitting with my host sisters and hfmom. We were sitting on the mat just hanging out and I happened to be sitting in eyesight of the door. All of the sudden my chorus started up "Fatou!!" "Bonjour Fatou!" "Fatou ca va?" Even though I was a little embarrassed my hfmom and sisters got a KICK out of it. After letting it go on for a little bit, my hfmom got up and said something to them in Wolof and they left. This isn't the first time it's happened, but usually Youssou's home to chase the kids away (I told you he's a punk).

Otherwise, things in Bambey are pretty normal. I got exciting mail today including letters from my grandma, letters and a magazine from Amy, my Illinois primary ballot, and a HUGE pack of letters from a French class in California that I'm corresponding with and they're also writing to a French class here.

The rest of the week is pretty uneventful, just getting ready to go to IST and wrapping up loose ends here/trying to secure projects for when I get back.

KO

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In Senegal, birthdays come with good food!

Today's Alyssa's birthday so to celebrate, the volunteers around Thies came in for lunch. My Thies day started when I met Jackie at the garage and we ventured out to go to the bank and buy fabric before meeting up with everyone. About an hour later (and after purchasing some excellent fabric) we met up with everyone at a bar the volunteers in Thies found. Because of the amenities and hospitality in Bambey, I wasn't really stir crazy to get out, but it's always great to see other volunteers. Sure, our conversation usually revolves around the same topics (who's asked to date/marry you? sickness? peace corps gossip, etc.) but it's so nice to speak English and just have a break, for a few hours, from Senegal. After about an hour at the bar we headed to Chicken Dibi!

I don't think I can accurately convey the amazingness that is Chicken Dibi (try as I have and will) but what was even better about today's Dibi was that it was open for lunch! (They usually open around 6pm which is too late for those of us who have to travel back to site.) Alyssa and Emily had asked them to open special for Alyssa's birthday and they were more than happy to (not to mention we consumed almost 5 whole chickens). After sticking some birthday candles into Alyssa's chicken, the meal itself was a blur of amazing food (and probably more protein than I've eaten the rest of the month combined). But that wasn't the end of it! Alyssa, Emily, and a USAID worker in Thies had made a cake! But, this is Senegal and it isn't that easy to bake a cake (to perfection) when there aren't ovens, instead these ladies created a double boil on a stove and then cooked it in that. The cake was perfectly moist and taught us all that you don't need an oven to make a cake!

The trip back to Bambey was a little long, but I was full and thus happy. I'm back to the pre-school tomorrow!

KO

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dreams do come true!

Today while I was running I thought to myself, "I would LOVE to have a salad for dinner." Then, because I'm me, I imagined all of the salads I might want to eat: chopped from Portillo's,maybe a Caesar, or, best of all, a wedge with blue cheese or thousand island (It's been a while since I've had a really good salad). After my run I hung out with my hf and we talked about Martin Luther King Jr. a little, mostly about how today is a holiday (then my hfdad lectured me about America yeah...). Finally dinner came and I knew it was going to be good because it had bread on the side. When my hfsister took the lid off the plate it was SALAD! Yes! It was amazing and glorious!

Other than that today was mostly uneventful with "homework" for my training in February. I'm going back to the pre-school tomorrow.

KO

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Football

Like most kids in the US, I played park district soccer and when I stopped, I lost all interest in soccer. Most Americans, or so I think, don't really watch professional soccer. Sure, some go to games, an maybe even more tune in every 4 years to watch the World Cup but we have so many OTHER sports, let the rest of the world have soccer, we'll keep real football.

To all of those non-believers out there, take it from an American abroad - soccer rocks! I'm now a fan of the foot! Before I give you my reasons, let me first say the bi-annual African Cup of Nations is going on (Senegal did not qualify). Now,

A Few Reasons, in no particular order, I Love Football (yes, I now call it football - mostly because that's the French word):
- All you need is a ball and an open space to play so almost anyone, no matter how "underdeveloped" can play the game
- You don't really need anything to "train" for it (most people here run to "train") and so you can hang on to the dream of being a pro for a little bit longer than with other sports
- There actually are successful professional players from around the world
- Africa Cup games are on every night so, even though I'm missing my favorite soap opera, I'm also missing all of the bad ones
- I think it's fun how into the games everyone in my host family gets
- It gives me something to talk about with my host family (you might be able to understand how difficult it is sometimes to have small talk because we're from such different backgrounds... except when it comes to football)
- It gives Youssou and I something to talk about
- Today Youssou asked me if, when he was a profession player, I would come back and watch his games

Now that I've professed my love for the sport, I'll end with two different thoughts: #1. The US is bidding for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup. #2. The main thing I DO NOT like about soccer is that, in the streets, only men/boys play and watch - women aren't involved.

So, World Cup games start around June 12th I think, get ready to cheer on the US (Senegal, again, didn't qualify) or whatever team you want!

KO

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Youssou

If I've told you about Youssou before I probably called him "my punk cousin," which is a description that fits him, but I'm coming to know the intricacies of Youssou. His background is a little hazy to me, to start with, he's somewhere between 8 and 12 (my ancienne said he was 12, the other day I thought he told me he was 8). The story I got from my ancienne, who didn't know him that well either, was that he's my hfdad's nephew (again, relations are really extended so who knows how far out) and he was just too wild for his mom (who I think she said lives in Dakar) to take care of so my hfdad took him in. Everyone in town likes to tell me what a bad kid he is and that he doesn't listen to anyone which is kind of true, kind of not. As the youngest member of the house and the only boy, it's his job to go get everything. If we need something from the boutique, he does it; if my hfdad needs someone to open the "garage" doors so his car can come out - Youssou, and everyday he fills up the water bottles we've used so they can be frozen for the next day. It should be noted, before I go on, that the other 3 "kids" (aka the high school girls) also have a series of chores, but back to Yousou.

At the beginning Youssou drove me crazy, he refused to speak to me in French and would resort to just yelling whatever he was saying that I wasn't understanding. I felt like he was always making fun of me or at least staring at what I was doing - he didn't understand me at all and wasn't cutting me slack. Now that I'm not so nervous about everything and my Wolof is coming along, I'm starting to realize that Youssou doesn't speak French. He's actually learning some basic phrases in school right now and I can tell because he walks around saying things like, "in the morning I get up. I shower. I go to school." When I ask him questions in Wolof he responds and gives me a long answer too. Whenever he sees me out for my runs he always calls out, but not in a mean way. He's also started asking me everyday that I don't see him while I'm running if I went for a run and then he tells me if he went for a run, played soccer, or did both (he wants to be a soccer player).

When Oliver, who has the same Senegalese name as a famous religious figure, came to visit Youssou FREAKED out and practically fell in love with Oliver. He was "helping" Oliver put air in his bike tires and trying to do everything he could for Oliver while ignoring Thomas and me.

Youssou is a little different than most Senegalese kids I've seen however, but I think he's just more independent than they are. He dances around the house all the time and is almost always yelling or dancing. I'm worried for him because I don't think he likes school which usually translates into him not doing well. (I could, and hopefully am, wrong - I've never seen his grades). Overall, I really like having Youssou around because the household is older and pretty quiet in terms of Senegalese, especially Wolof, houses and Youssou always brightens it up.

One final Youssou story: I got packages from my parents today and some Fruit by the Foot was included. I took down a roll for everyone that was here (hfmom, 3 hfsisters, and Youssou) and gave everyone their roll. Right after I gave Youssou his he had to go run some errands for my hfmom. When he got back he was really excited and told me, "Fatou, that was amazing! It was so good! Look (and held up half of it still rolled up) I saved some for tomorrow! It was so good!" Oh Youssou, you're a little punk sometimes, but nowhere near what I thought.

KO

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Happy 5 Months!

It's been 5 months since I landed in Senegal! It both feels like it's gone so quickly and so slowly. As I sit eating tuna and hot sauce out of the tuna bag (tuna and hot sauce is actually really good even though I don't think Noah knew that's what I would be doing when he sent it), I can't imagine that it's really been five months since I went to dinner with my parents and Rita and got on a plane. But then when I think about my peace corps friends, I can't believe we've only known each other five months, or, even crazier, my host family I've only known for 3 months! I'm sure the entire time I'm here time will continue to fly and crawl depending on the day. Even though it really doesn't feel like it, it's been a busy five months!

KO

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Dating Game

I left New York thinking I was also leaving behind the "typical single girl" life and was wrong.

A few days ago I got an email from another volunteer who explained that his work partner knew a woman in Bambey who I might want to work with. I immediately called her and set up a meeting for this evening. Before my meeting, I showered, did my hair (combed it so it could air dry), and debated which outfit I was going to wear (I wanted something serious, but not too serious, Senegalese, but not mocking). We were supposed to meet at 6pm in her neighborhood so as I walked over I rehearsed what I was going to say. How would I introduce myself? Would I ask a lot of questions? Let her talk? When would I try to make my exit? Finally, I got to the meeting point and gave her a call, she said she would be right there. A woman walked by, "Are you Awa?" I asked in Wolof. No... okay.. Eventually, she came around the corner and we met face to face. On the way back to her house we chatted about the basics. Once at her house I met her family and then we got down to really talking. I don't want to reveal too much now because I'll be heartbroken if it the project stops but I will say that she floored me with how well thought-out her plan was. She answered all of my questions and was ready, minus funding, to go. Then came the sticky part, I had to explain to her that I didn't have funding but that we could work together to find it, but she already knew that! As I left to get home before dark she extended an open invitation to her house and said that I should consider her my second family in Bambey. The scene that was playing in my head is typical in any musical: the lead character meets someone amazing and breaks into song while, usually, the ensemble dances and sings behind. I walked home on air!

Some days I'm not as lucky as I was today with the "Peace Corps Dating Game." Sometimes meetings fall flat, or someone seems really great and then I find out a little more and they're quite the opposite. Everyday when I try to meet new potential work partners and most of the time I walk home thinking to myself "there are other fish in the sea." Occasionally, however, like in the dating world, you meet a great person and your hope is renewed.

To be honest, the lack of good project potential has been really hard on me. Some days it sucks to go home and think "well I talked to a ton of people and no one has any interest in my product (aka letting me try to help them)." Or, what's hit me even harder, "all they want from me is money that I don't have." All of that gets erased, though, when I meet people like this woman I met tonight. Maybe the project won't work - it's a pretty large scale project, but she wants us, together, to work on making it happen and I'm more than up for it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Riots and HFamily

I started out today running a little late and I made it to pre-school right on time for their snack. My jobs at the pre-school are a wide range of things, but I'm quickly becoming an expert "opener". Everyday the kids have snacks in plastic wrappers that they can't open and I'm always ready and willing to open them. At first the kids were nervous which I took to be regular "white-person" nerves, but it turns out sometimes the teachers take a bite of the kids snacks kind of as a tax for opening them which is why they were hesitant to hand treats over. Quickly enough, though, they realized that I wasn't after a few bites and consented to me as the go-to opener. During their break Ellen, the teacher for the 4 year olds, told me she had a meeting with the US-equivalent of a school board and I was to be in charge the whole time. My instructions were, "give some of them paper and let them color then write their names on the paper," which sounds simple enough but is not. The first problem was I don't know their names and they tell me different names each time I ask. Second problem was that I just couldn't bear to "choose" kids to color. And finally, I knew disaster would occur if 4 kids colored while 20 just sat and stared at me. The first two problems I quickly solved by sucking it up, picking kids, and not writing names on anything. The third problem I thought I would try a little development work... if you will.
A quick background note: I'm horrible with children. I don't know what they're supposed to be able to do or at what ages, so I've been consulting (via the internet) one of my old roommates (S.Low) who's REALLY good with kids. She informed me that 4 year olds should be learning numbers, letters, days, and really basic things like that.
Back to the story: I decided to start with numbers... something that's the same, written, in Wolof, French, and English. I had the kids sit on a mat facing the chalk board (while a few colored) and I drew a #1, #2, and #3 each time saying in French was they were. The kids were acting unruly so I tried to involve them: "Listen and repeat after me... one, two, three..." (this was all in Wolof and I was pointing to the board). Then I held up 3 pencils, "One, Two, Three," and I repeated it (with them repeating after me) a few more times. "How many?" I asked holing 1 pencil. "How many!" "How many!" "200CFA" where the answers I ended up getting with most of the class repeating what I had said and one kid giving me the price of a pencil. This unintentional game of "simon says" continued for about 10 minutes until I was able to get them to stop.

After a lot of pointing and speaking and writing I finally got them to at least yell guess "one," "two," or "three," when I drew a number on the board. There were a few kids who actually seemed to be getting it so I tried to encourage them especially. The little businessman who knew the price just got more and more annoying and started yelling out all sorts of prices (1000 CFA!!).

It was about 10 minutes (maximum) in that they started to get unruly so I had them stand up and we stretched to the ceiling then touched our toes a few times and did some jumping jacks as well. After that I asked them to make a line (in hopes I could get them to sit in rows not literally on top of each other) but that failed.

Around that point, with 40 minutes to go in the day, the teacher for the 3 years olds came in (the 3 and 4 year olds share a room) and decided it was song time. Which would have been really helpful if she did more than beat the drum and ask them to dance for about 5 minutes then leave me alone.

Then all hell broke loose. There were kids fighting and screaming and crying and dancing and generally being while. Shoes were thrown around the room and all I wanted to do was leave like all the other teachers had but I refused to give in! I started with the biggest fight going on. If I was a Senegalese woman I probably would have not cared the kids were fighting but if I did care I would have made them stop by hitting them. Sticking to my American, not Texas, ways, I decided just to separate the kids and try time out... fail. They thought it was a joke so they all started fighting hoping I would try and separate them. The other teacher came back in to beat the drum for 5 more minutes and leave. The second siege occurred and I thought I would fight back more creatively. I picked up the drum and started beating it - the kids started dancing a little. Then I started singing to the 3 year olds (the 4 year olds were just too crazy). I'm HORRIBLE at remember nursery rhymes and cliches so I pretty much made up the words to "twinkle, twinkle little star" and "itsy bitsy spider" but it calmed about 7 kids down. When the 4 year olds saw that something interesting (me singing, or trying to) was going on they rushed over. It was like the front row of a concert, they pretty much created a mosh pit and I was in the center of it.

FINALLY it was 10 minutes until the end and the other teacher came in to help me hand out backpacks and then the kids left (just as Ellen came back from her meeting). As we were all leaving I said, "see you Monday!" and got "what, you're not coming tomorrow?" as a response. I didn't know there was school on Saturdays (though, had I really thought about it, I could have figured it out) but I still don't think I'm going tomorrow. My eardrums are still ringing.

After pre-school I had lunch, did some LSAT studying, hung out with Matar, and went for a run. Today's run went pretty well: I learned there are some guys herding camels right outside Bambey (yeah! camels), and I got a thumbs up out of a car window. Oh, also, on my way to Matar's (before my run) some kids in "my class" saw me and actually called me by my name, not "toubab." Finally, right before dinner one of my hfsisters asked if I would come to her wedding if she got married (she's only in high school so it was asking if I would come back). I said I would try to, and then she asked if I would forget them all when I left and of course I said no. It's nice to know that even if I can't calm rioting children, the people I live with do care about me.

KO

Thursday, January 7, 2010

It's the thought that counts?

I'm not sure if anyone has handmade pirogies since Mrs. T's came on the market, but today I gave it my best. The first problem I encountered was with my gas, aka stove, aka gas tank that I know CANNOT be safe to cook on. It wasn't working right but my hfmom eventually de-assembled the burner and fixed it. Next, I made the dough which followed the recipe but could have used a little more flour. The potatoes took longer than I thought (and I didn't have cheese) so by the time they were done I was ready to be done with it all. Oh, also, I don't own a fork... mashing potatoes with a 3 inch camping knife is a little hard, but now I have even more motivation to buying a fork next time I see one. I ended up stretching the sticky dough between my fingers, cramping potatoes and (raw) onions (I was way too tired after about 2 hours of trying to make them, there was no way there were ALSO being sauteed) into the dough and mushing it closed. As much as they weren't the neat little tri-corner hats everyone's Bubba made them, they were the best I could do. My host family (probably lied) and told me they were good. Personally, I thought they were good, what's not to love about too much dough, mashed potatoes, and onions? They at least tasted in the ballpark of pirogies.

Sure, PCVs in the Ukraine probably enjoyed real pirogies yesterday, but we can't all be Eastern Europe volunteers. Also I'm sure if my dad's Bubba was living in Senegal, her pirogies would have turned out something like mine did...only maybe with neater corners.

Happy (late) 12th night!
KO
PS I would have taken pictures if my hands weren't covered in dough.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Back at Site

Since I returned to site there have only been, really, 2 things worth noting.
First, on the subject of new year's resolutions, a few friends and I decide we were going to fight the seemingly inevitable rice-belly most female PCVs gain. I've heard through the grape-vine that we "hot weather" volunteers are actually a little luckier and tend not to gain as much weight as other regions but all the same, when your diet consists of carbs with almost no fresh fruit or veggies, it's a struggle. To help, I've started running (not very far or fast, but it's a start). Even though I've only been doing it for a few days, it's really interesting each evening when I go for my run. I turn my music up loud enough that, while I can haer people yelling at me, I can't hear what they're saying (which helps a lot). Motivating yourself to run is hard enough in the heat (and I don't particularly enjoy the sport) but motivating yourself to do it knowing people are going to be laughing at you (it happens at least once everyday) is even more difficult. I do like the odd looks I get from the men out running and I've even taken to waving or giving them a head nod which is typically well received. Usually I run past the same group of old people who didn't say anything to me the first day (which I appreciated) so I've been greeting them everyday since. Today one of the people said back, "you're not running very far!" and everyone got a kick out of it when I said, "Slowly, slowly, I'm starting!" Hopefully I'll keep it up and people will stop thinking that it's SO weird (probably not).

The other thing that's happened recently is I became a pre-school teacher's aide/teacher. It started when I was on another unsuccessful quest to find the middle school in my neighborhood. I KNOW there is one here, I see kids walking home all the time (legitimately at every hour of the day - I have no idea when classes are), but every time I look for it someone gives me directions of, "it's over there." When I get "over there" I ask again and am told there's no middle school in Leona (my neighborhood). Though I didn't find the middle school I found a pre-school and decided to introduce myself. They offered to let me stay and help which I cashed in on considering everyone else has told me they would love to work with me but because I'm gone for all of February for Peace Corps training, they want me to start in March. The first day I sat in the yard while the kids crowded around me and either cried or touched my hands and then looked at their own to see if some of the "white" came off.

I went back to the pre-school today and actually helped, or tried. There are 3 classes of about 25 kids each, 3 year olds, 4 year olds, and 5 year olds. I worked with the 4 year olds today, who only speak Wolof. Their teacher had me working with one kid at a time (while the rest sat on a mat and stared at me) and teach drawing vertical lines. Luckily enough I know that "a line goes straight" (ask my parents for the story if you don't know it), so I was pretty good with that. After we finished it was snack time and each kid's mom had packed bread and chocolate spread and sometimes cookies for the kids. At that point I helped open cookie packets and sat outside with the teachers. After snack the kids had "play time" (I guess), mostly we all sat in a sandy yard and every time the kids started running around the teachers told them to be calm. There's one 3 year old who's just a brat, he hits people and when he realized that I saw him make another girl cry he started crying. He did something else bratty during break and the teachers turned to me and said, "he's going to be a criminal one day." And! break was over!

Afterwards I was told to pick 6 students (which I eventually made the teacher do) and watch them while they colored half sheets of printer paper with a colored pencil. Once a kid was done someone else rotated in - the rest sat on the mat. They kept trying to tell me things but my wolof vocabulary isn't suited (yet) for pre-school so the only thing I picked up was when a girl asked, "dem ngay pee-pee?" Not wanting to have to clean anything up I quickly sent her on her way.

Eventually everyone had finished coloring when I noticed I was the only adult in the room of 3 and 4 year olds. Stuck with what to do and no language skills to explain a fame if I could come up with one, I decided on the only thing I could think of...to teach them how to do jumping jacks. After that, I learned another lesson, when you get kids moving they only gain energy but I was saved by "song time." After that it was time to help the kids put on their backpacks and send them off.

I really want to stick with the pre-school if for no reasons other than kids are funny and some of their parents dress them like adults which I find to be HYSTERICAL. Other than that I'm just biding my time until training in February.

Oh! Happy 12th night everyone! Tomorrow (once I buy potatoes) I'm going to try to make my family pirogies!

KO

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Holidays!

Happy 2010 everyone! I hope everyone had great holidays and their plans didn't get too ruined by bad weather. My holidays were really great and, even though I missed everyone, other volunteers and I were able to put together a pretty great celebration. I'll try to tell all of the interesting parts but I apologize in advance for it being long-winded.

I went to Dakar right before Christmas because I had chipped 2 teeth during PST and needed to get them fixed. For the most part my time in Dakar was generally uneventful, I watched some Degrassi (thanks Mom) and spent a lot of time at the Dentist. He was closed, however, and he needed to see me immediately after the holidays but luckily I was joined by friends and we did Christmas right (albeit a few days late but when it's 80 degrees what does it matter). Tamar and I made cinnamon rolls one day, we all helped make a feast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and pancakes. Alyssa's mom (thank you!) had sent things for tacos so we had that, we had Chinese food, green bean casserole (thanks to Elizabeth's mom), lasagna and a ton of other food. Overall it was an amazing few days of eating (pictures are up). We also too the time to actually get to know Dakar. While I'd been around the city a few times, none of us had the time to see the sites so that's what we did! One day, I had my dentist appointment in the morning and they met me afterwards, we went to Goree Island. Goree's the last point slaves were brought before being shipped off. The island is beautiful and full of French architecture (look at the pictures). After walking around Goree for a little bit (and getting a discount because we're recognized as residents) we decided to get back on the boat and kill some time before dinner (fried chicken). The first stop was a dockside bar that several volunteers had recommended. It was pretty fun and the beers were cheap so after a drink each (look for the two pictures of happy volunteers with cheap beers) we left to go to another bar for happy hour and then on to fried chicken. The fried chicken was AMAZING and we sat around a table at the regional house eating it family style just to make it even more like America.

Another trip in Dakar was to the top of the hill where the lighthouse is which provided another set of beautiful ocean pictures. Even though I don't get to see the ocean in Bambey, I LOVE being in a Peace Corps country that isn't landlocked. Yay Senegal! We also went to the French cultural center for my birthday, I had an amazing steak and everyone else got burgers with Brie or Gruyère (maybe the best meal I've had yet).

The final two big things I can think of are that one day we got ice cream (again look for the pictures) and one of my flavors was "Obama Cookie" which is chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookies crumbled in. The other is that after about 8 appointments my teeth are back to normal!

We decided to meet a large group of people up in St. Louis to celebrate the new year. On the ride up we saw camels! So after getting there we spent most of the first day hanging out and went to the actual island of St. Louis (the city is an island in the river and the land around it with part of it - where we were staying - on the ocean). On the island we stumbled into a city gathering of sorts and, from what we could tell, it was this "fake lion" thing Jackie had seen in Pout. The short verson is a guy dresses up like a lion and if you don't have a ticket (which you could have bought before hand) they find you in the crowd, take you into the center, and pretend to attack you (Jackie had a ticket and still got sand put in her hair in Pout). After realizing that's what it might be we decided to leave before the festivities started (we didn't have tickets).

The next morning we saw the island to check it off the list. Overall I would say it was nice but nothing super special as far as history goes (we were too cheap to buy tickets to the museums though). Afterwards we hung out on the beach (even though it was cold) and started preparing for new years. A beautiful feast was made (I'll have pictures as soon as Tamar posts them and I can steal them) including beef, shrimp, fish, cheese and bread, and roasted pineapple. Once we'd all finished eating (the feast was cooked over real charcoal on the hotel's grill and Ethan used palm fronds as utensils because, aside from pocket knives, we didn't have anything). After eating a few of us decided to head to the island to spend midnight and it as an amazing decision. This midnight was spend with friends, dancing in the streets of St. Louis (with everyone else) to drums all singing "Happy New Year Africa" (in French of course). It was one of those ridiculous, "wow I am in the Peace Corps," moments and it was something we all relished because who knows the next time we'll have a New Year like that (maybe we'll be visiting home next year like most 2nd years)! The rest of the night was danced away (not on the streets though), and we got back around the time for morning prayer call (enough time for it to be 2010 on the East Coast).

This morning we woke up and started the epic journey home. For me, I had to go to Thies and then get in an alham to Bambey, then be moved to a bus finally getting home around 6pm (no real complaints, though, I'm close compared to most of the other people).

Even though it wasn't at home, which was sad, I feel like I had an amazing holiday. Not only was I distracted enough to not be sad about missing everyone but I also was ready to get back to site by the end of it. I think that'll help carry me into IST which will be, most likely, my next overnight trip out of Bambey.

Happy 2010 everyone!
KO