Saturday, February 27, 2010

Amazing Race: training

I think I've shared this before, but in June I'll be going to Ghana to take the LSAT (you can't take it in Senegal). While the LSAT is an exam that needs a lot of preparation it's turning out that going to Ghana requires about the same level of work. A few days ago I tried to by my ticket online but, given that I don't have a Nigerian credit card, I couldn't pay for the flight... we're flying Virgin Nigeria. I called the office and was told I could pay for it this weekend in person in cash. I verified a few times that the office would be open this weekend (yes, but only for 3 hours so make sure you're here between 9 and 12)!
Last night Alyssa and I hopped in a cab and made our way to Dakar. We got Korean BBQ with some other volunteers and had an AMAZING meal. After BBQ we went back to 6 (the regional house) and snuggled up to some Jersey Shore (the Dakar regional's show of choice).
The next morning we got up, showered, ate breakfast, and I called the office to get directions (as she had told me to do)... no answer. Crap. I called again... no answer. I called again... no answer. That's when it hit us... it was closed. Not open. Of course. About this time Alyssa proclaimed, "our luck will turn around at 10! let's wait." So we watched some more Jersey Shore. You can guess what happened at 10am.
We decided, because the office was closeish (we'd been given the neighborhood) to the garage we would check before we left. After being driven around and around we finally just got out of the cab. As we were walking down the street we saw a woman unlocking a travel agency door (not Virgin Nigeria) and accosted her. As soon as I said, "where's the Virgin Nigeria office" she said "they're closed today." We got the directions anyway and walked over to the office to see for ourselves. Yep. of course. closed. But! It was on the way to the office that I think I found my life's calling... I was walking through the streets of Dakar with a backpack on, and as we spotted the office, felt accomplished... AMAZING RACE.

Yep, Alyssa and I spent the rest of the trip back to Thies talking about how good we would be on the Amazing race after we finish our service. Eat something "gross"? YUM. Rainstorm? CLEAN! Sleep on the ground? COZY! Our only downfall would be our utter inability to handle cold.

So, in case I can't get to Ghana and take this test, I now have a fall back plan!

In other news, the SED kids are the only people left at the center (our training is a few days longer than everyone else) and we had a cute movie night tonight. We watched 500 Days of Summer and ate popcorn... it's like one big sleepover, minus the mosquitoes and the group projects we have to work on tomorrow.

KO

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

ugh oh.

Last night was HOT. I realize that I JUST posted about it being cold but winter is over. Demba, the guy in charge of the training center told us that winter is over. The heat is here to stay. He even went on to say, historically, short winters lead to early, hot, rainy seasons.... yay.

In other news, training is going really well and I'm pumped to get work started!

KO

Monday, February 22, 2010

Unfit for human consumption

Training has been going really well. I wish I was less tired and able to do it more justice in blog-form but I've been learning a lot. I'm excited to get back to Bambey and get started on some of the project ideas I have (but I'm also excited for some of the upcoming sessions). Two blog-worth things have happened since:

1. We had a USDA person speak to us and he told us that there was no way EVER Senegal could export the dried fish that we eat almost everyday because it's "unfit for human consumption" yay!

2. A few days ago we were all sitting around the training center in the morning wearing EVERY piece of clothing we had... it was FREEZING! As we were all shivering, Jackie turned to me and said "you know, it's probably 70 degrees." Oh Africa.

Back to my homestay in Thies!
KO

Saturday, February 20, 2010

WAIST

This post is a little overdue but I’ll try my hardest to remember everything important… all the same, it’ll be worth checking Alyssa’s, Jackie’s, and other’s blogs to get more stories.
WAIST aka West African Invitational Softball Tournament has different meanings to different people. For some of the teams it’s a time to hang out with other ex-pats and play competitive or social softball. For the Senegalese teams it’s a time to show their softball skills. For us Peace Corps volunteers it’s a time to get out of site, hang out, drink, eat amazing food, wear costumes… and maybe play softball… let’s just say we put the “social” in “social league.”
Everyone had been assigned to live with ex-pats in Dakar and I was with Alyssa, Tamar, and Jackie in my boss’ basement. Upstairs were Aaron and Christine a young married couple who started their service in Mauritania who are generally awesome. Nicole, our boss/host, made us lasagna Friday night and we had a really cute family dinner. After dinner we headed to the Viking, one of the only bars in our Dakar radius. Afterwards we went to another bar and danced the nice away.
Games started Saturday morning. I met another volunteer at 8am to ump The Gambia v. Mali Peace Corps teams. No one gets as costume serious as the 5 PCSenegal teams but both Mali and The Gambia had matching shirts. My team, based on where my site is, had our first game at 10am and we showed up in full force. Our theme was “Wrestlers” or “Corps de la PAIN.” Alyssa, Tamar, Jackie, and I had decided to be sort of American Gladiator-esque with stylish black capes and names based on bad things that can happen in Senegal (Jackie = The Fever, Alyssa = The Rains, Tamar = The Sandstorm, KO = The Heatwave). Our game was against the PCSenegal team from Kolda who had a great showing in their “country club” costumes. By the end we won the game and moved on to our second game. We played Mali that afternoon and the game got a little heated with Mali’s heckling but we ended up coming back in the last half inning to end the game in a tie (we play based on time).
One win and one tie down, the rest of day 1 was hanging out by the pool. That night the Marines hosted a party at their house and SeneGAD (gender and development) had a date auction and we raised quite a fair chunk of money and ended fairly early.
Day two we started with a game against Kolda again in the morning and, by that time, we were the only PCSenegal team with any hope of advancing to the final rounds, so Kolda forfeited to give us more points. Instead of playing a real game we did a mix of softball/football/wrestling/general running and had an AMAZING time. The second game was against a Senegalese team that was WAY too serious. They ended up beating us by just a few points and it was a bummer to end on that note. After games were over everyone took over the pool. Not ones to miss our afternoon naps, Jackie, Alyssa, Tamar, and I set dinner plans with Elizabeth (a friend at another homestay) and went back to get our beauty sleep. After about an hour of internet/napping time, we started getting ready. With the music playing and everyone figuring out what they were going to wear it was like being home… except for the fact it’s February and I wore jeans and a tank top without a jacket. That night was the Oceana party which, from what I’ve heard, sounded pretty infamous. Oceana is a scuba school that hosts a monthly party (go figure?) but for this one night a few PCVs plan a big party for everyone at WAIST… but mostly the other PCVs (less so the embassy workers).
But! Not to skip ahead…. Before Oceana we met downtown at Caesar’s the only place (that I know of) in this country you can get fried chicken. Modeling itself as a knock-off KFC, they serve pretty good food and we all enjoyed our “Kentucky wraps” aka fried chicken wraps. Happy stomachs full we left to meet other friends and head to Oceana. The party itself was fairly tame, even though we all have seemed to pick up the Senegalese habit of staying out until the earlyish hours of the morning (one of my friends said he got to his homestay as the cook was starting breakfast, another said there was coffee already made when they got home). My homestay friends and I left early for the group at 4am but I stayed up talking to people online until morning prayer call (around 530).
Monday was a good day to hang around from the night before but we eventually made it to the fields to watch PCVs from The Gambia beat an Embassy team (I think) to win the Social League Championship. After softball… back to the pool then another afternoon internet/nap/get ready session. Monday night was the final “WAIST Banquet” put on by the official planners of WAIST (from the Embassy). We had Indian food and there was a raffle (in addition to unlimited drinks which, in a country where a Coke is expensive and you’re not supposed to drink the tap water, unlimited is AMAZING). After the banquet there was a screening of an incomplete short documentary about the ongoing competition between a Senegalese team and the Mauritania PCV team (which, unfortunately, only showed up as a handful of “refugees” because their program has been shut down due to safety reasons). Post-Banquet we had the “after party” that was an adventure in cultural exchange! The Senegalese team that won the competitive league opened up the dance floor with some really stellar moves including the macarana and LOTS of hip thrusting. As one volunteer pointed out it was completely the opposite of what you see in America, instead of a whole bunch of girls and one guy it was about 13 guys and 1 girl (and no one was dancing with her she was on the edge). After the Senegalese team really broke it down (look for the pictures) we decided it was time to reclaim what was ours (the dance floor… not softball talent) and eventually won the dance off. After a few hours of dancing and talking about (but never) jumping in the pool we all said our final goodbyes to WAIST 2010 and went back to Nicole’s for the last time.
Tuesday morning we did a final load of laundry (in a machine! It’s amazing how much cleaner your clothes get) and had sushi (so good!) before getting on a bus with everyone else from my stage to come to Thies. Training started Tuesday night and will continue until March 3rd/4th (I’m not sure which day I’ll be able to get back to Bambey).
WAIST was so much fun and such a great stress reliever (I’m sure especially for the village volunteers who live ROUGH). Even better, I still get to hang out with all of the people that came with me… at least until the Agriculture kids return to site next week and the SED kids go back to site on the 4th. I’ve uploaded WAIST pictures (they should be in a new slideshow) and you can see how well my friends and I dress up (in costume) as well as clean up (or try to).
KO

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Passports and Taxis

We're back in Thies! The big softball tournament starts this weekend but before we're learning how to plant gardens. It's been fun digging around and actively learning but there's been more going on than that.

Alyssa and I realized we need to QUICKLY apply for our visa's to Ghana to take the LSAT in June but to do that we would need our passports. For Alyssa, who lives in Thies, it's easy for her to run over to her house to get her passport. For me, however, it was a little more of a challenge. I left right after the last session yesterday. I made it to the garage by 6 but there were legitimately NO seats left on the Alham so I was the first one on the next bus. 40 people (and an hour) later, we left Thies. Finally, at 9:30 we pulled into Bambey. I can now say that I can get around Bambey with my eyes closed because the power was out and it was PITCH BLACK. A few minutes later I was greeted whole heartedly by my host family (especially my host mom). After a few minutes collapsed on the mat, they brought me dinner (which was salad, onion sauce, and bread - awesome). After dinner, because the power was still out, I brought my candle downstairs to light off of theirs and distributed some valentines my parents had sent (my host family really liked the candy). Nee Fatou invited me to drink tea with them but I was EXHAUSTED and to get back to Thies in time for a 8am training I knew I was going to have to leave early.

Not surprisingly, I woke up later than I wanted to, but my host dad came to the rescue and took charge. At 6am we were speed walking to the national highway just was an alham pulled away. He was not foiled, however, and he started to wave own every passing car. Only a few minutes later, a taxi stopped. Even though most Wolofs are loud, my hfdad is the exception, he switches to "disappointed grandpa voice" and the conversation went like this:
Mor: She's going to Thies.
Taxi: I'm going to Dakar.
Mor: you can go to Thies.
Taxi: ok. 1500cfa
Mor: 1000cfa, she has to get to school
Taxi: get in.

It was amazing! As we sped through the breaking dawn, I thanked my lucky stars that the trip that took 3.5 hours the night before took only 40 minutes. I made it to the training center in time to shower and have plenty of time before my morning garden-making.

I now have my passport and am ready to try and get my visa!

More gardening tomorrow!
KO

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Magal

I should be giving this post more energy but I can't talk about the Magal much more. Long story short the largest holiday for the largest sect of Islam (the Magal, the Mourids respectively) was yesterday/today. It takes place in Touba which is about 50km northeast of me. People come from all over the country (and I'm told the world) to go to Touba and the only real way to get there is through Bambey. There are definitely benefits (our main road was re-paved, there are people spending some money in town) but sheesh the traffic and crowds! Everything pretty much shut down to allow people to go. Depending on the person and the responsibilities trips were varied in length. Awa, one of my work partners, went for the whole week (she's staying with her parents in law who live in Touba), my mom and sisters went for a few hours, a few days before; my hfdad for the actual Magal. We've had people traveling through our house (staying for lunch only) for about a week. Now that the Magal's over, I'm expecting those same people stop by on their way home.
Even though nothing's going on, it's exhausting. Sheesh.

Other than that, nothing too exciting. I'm heading to Dakar this weekend to watch the Superbowl (technology is amazing), then the Thies for a month of training.

KO