Monday, March 22, 2010

Dafa tang. (It's hot)

It's hot. But odd enough (because we haven't had rain since December) it's humid. We've had some pretty bad sandstorm-y things (mostly the air is filled with sand to make it seem hazy) so that might have something to do with it.

In work related news, I went to the middle school today and got my list of scholarship winners. Some of the girls have really outstanding grade (far above their classmates) and I'm really excited to start working with them. I also officially proposed a business club and an environment club (continuing with my ancienne did). Because of "Easter Break," yeah it's a 95% Muslim country, they're out of school for about two weeks and everything that got started today will be re-started the 18th. The principal at the middle school is really excited to work with me. He answered all of my questions about the Senegalese school system (it's based on the French system and I didn't really understand it until today). He also asked about the sustainability of the projects we're about to start and was a little bummed when I said I was only planning on being here for two years but really happy when I explained that I would replaced. People have been really nice to me but it's exciting to find a great work partner!

Tomorrow I'm going to the University to further discuss the camp... it's an important meeting so hopefully it happens and it goes well!

Seriously... it's so hot. I don't understand. Oh - the basil plant my parents sent is growing nicely! I'll have pesto in no time (aka about 10 weeks).

KO

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fool me once, shame on you.. fool me...

... can't get fooled again! Yep. My hair's braided. Again. Senegal 100,304,213 v. Katherine 0. This time Miriam took about 4 hours and braided a million, tight, tiny, braids. I'm trying to figure out how long I have to leave it in for. If I was Senegalese these would be in for about two weeks... I'm thinking two days tops. Other than have my hair braided, nothing really happened today. There was a HUGE Senegalese wrestling match (I think the championship). Not surprising to Senegalese culture, there were about four hours of show and the match lasted 30 seconds tops.

I really wish I had more to report but unfortunately the last few days have just been hanging around and preparing for the next two. Tomorrow, I'm going to the middle school to hopefully get things moving with a scholarship as well as two clubs. If I have time in the afternoon, I'm going to go to the University to (hopefully) organize things for the girls camp (much more on that to come). If I don't have time tomorrow, then I'm going there Tuesday.

Dinner was rice, beans, and "unfit for human consumption" dried fish so I'm making Magictime (http://www.magictime-intl.com/) dino mac and cheese.

KO

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

At least I tried...

The meeting at the middle school went really well but I'll save that for another day because it's all talk currently (we'll see Monday). Afterwards I went to the Pre-School armed with spirit, crayons, and stickers. There was the general TATA FATOUUUUUU rush when I got there and we played "touch the white person's hand" for about 5 minutes. Then break was over and we went to our own classes. They'd put up a fabric barrier between the 3 year olds and 4 year olds so I only had about 25 kids to wrangle. Of course someone else came in and got them rilled up by having them dance around then left me with no instructions. I sat them down at tables, gave them a piece of paper and a crayon each. There were about 5 beautiful minutes of calm... before the storm. I started giving stickers to kids who had finished and then I'm pretty sure a riot broke out. Kids wanted different crayons, wanted to break the crayons, wanted stickers, wanted to hit other kids, etc... It devolved into kids screaming GIVE ME GIVE ME GIVE ME GIVE ME and laughing at me when I said "what do you want?" or "why?" or "wait a minute." Then the started hitting me and that's when I gave up. I took the crayons away, everyone got one sticker (which they put on their foreheads), I gave them their backpacks, and I peaced out about 10 minutes early. There are pictures up that show a nice progress of this class from calm and coloring into chaos. I hate to admit it but I think I hit my breaking point with those kids today. I wish there was something I could do but the "bad" (hitting, etc) behavior is already ingrained in them at 4 years old (and I mean "bad" as in a cultural standard I'm not willing to work within). I'll probably keep going back because I hate the thought that I'm giving up on something but it just puts me in a bad mood the rest of the day and isn't worth it.

After preschool I went to the post and got a package from my parents full of food to make for my hfam... pictures will come when I make it, as well as one from Amy and Colleen who seem to know everything a girl needs in Africa (beef jerky, swedish fish, and plastic dinosaurs which are now creating a little diorama in my room). I also got a card from Rita that joined the wall of adorable dog cards she's sent me and a letter from my Grandma. Thanks for the love from America everyone!

I also got my new table delivered today (aka the carpenter two houses down carried it over) and it does make my room a lot cleaner.. so.. thanks parents (real ones, not Senegalese) for that suggestion.. as stubborn as I am, I'll admit.. you were right.

Two last things from today: 1. My host mom was prepping dinner (lekk which is the porridge and yogurt awfulness) and two people walked in and she muttered under her breath "right before dinner..." You have to understand hospitality is a HUGE thing in Senegalese culture to the point where it is ridiculous. If someone walks in, unannounced, surprisingly, right before dinner, you have to feed them even if it means someone in your house isn't going to eat that night. I hate to preach about what's "good" or "right" but with meals that take hours to prepare (because you're working over a fire or, at best, one burner) that's really hard and annoying. It was so awesome to actually hear my host mom say something about it, even if it was just to me.
2. I was chilling in the kitchen right before dinner and Youssou said, "hey Fatou, you know what's under the gas (burner that I was standing next to)?" "No, what?" Then he walked over, moved it, and a mouse ran out which scared me and he found hilarious. Turns out 12 year old boys are 12 year old boys no matter where you are in the world. Also, it's nice to know that he feels like he can joke with me, even though it wasn't really nice, it was a familiar thing to do.

Tomorrow might be an adventure as I try to get my residency card renewed (Tamar already had problems with this).

KO

Monday, March 15, 2010

Going to the mosque and we're gonna get married!

Today started out as a pretty average day, pretty much I had one thing to do in the morning and one to do in the afternoon (that's kind of sad but whatever). I'm embarrassed to say today was my first day at the middle school; in my defense it's in a really weird place and pretty much outside of town. I met the principal who though I was my ancienne (no offense taken). After correcting him, we scheduled a meeting for tomorrow "at the same time" (neither of us looked at our watches) because he was in a meeting. He seems like a really great guy and I know my ancienne worked with him so I'm hoping he becomes a pretty steady work partner.

Afterwards, I decided to head to the market and buy green beans because it was 11 and I'd left the house at 10:30 and my next "meeting" was around 5. On my way to the market I decided to stop in and say hi to my friend the 1st assistant mayor. I sat down and we chatted about my training and then he launched into, "so explain this compost project you're doing." The "compost project I'm doing" is actually something my ancienne started and I've been asking just to see if people are still interested... well he's VERY interested. I managed to run through pretty much everything I remembered about the compost project in Joal (the APCD - my boss - had started it a few years ago when she was a volunteer). He took notes and then explained it back to me to make sure he had gotten it right. Next, he decided I NEEDED to meet the president of all of the women's groups, who I've met before but not really officially, and found someone to take me to her house as well as the treasurer for the women's groups. The treasure wasn't home so we moved on to the President. Even though her son/nephew (?) was in the room (and spoke French) I managed to explain myself in Wolof and understand what she was saying back to me! She said she's going to call a meeting of the board for me.

Then I went to the market to buy my green beans.

I got home a little before lunch and was hanging out with Miriam. I thought I'd ask when Fatou (my older hfsister who goes to school in Dakar) is going to be back.
"April 1st I think."
"Ok. Cool."
"She's getting married."
"WAIT WHAT?"
At that point my host mom came out to join us and Miriam informed her that I didn't know Fatou was getting married.
"oh. yeah. You were in Thies I guess, we forgot. She's getting married on the 3rd." as in... 3 weeks.

On one hand, I can see...maybe... how it would slip your mind? We're all here, and she came and told us and we just forgot that you weren't here... BUT COME ON. Don't you think when I walked in the door you would say FATOU'S GETTING MARRIED!!

Nope.

The marriage will be interesting and I'll take lots of pictures (I'm getting a new outfit I've decided).

The second half of the day I visited Awa (the entrepreneur who I really like) and said goodbye to her for a little bit because she has a job working with an NGO in the Southeastern part of the country. Her family is always really nice to me and Oussmane (her husband) offered to help with any projects I have in the future, so I'm going to go over there even though she's out of town.

Pretty much though, the entire day was overshadowed by the almost-surprise marriage. Oh Senegal.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Package and A Hair Appointment

Two night ago I ran into the post office guy on the street and he told me that I had something at the post office, so the next morning I stopped by. A family friend had sent me an amazing box full of stuff great stuff, including stuff for the preschoolers. She works with preschoolers, as well, and had sent me an email with advice that really helped. Now she's armed me with tools, including 4,000 stickers! Thank you Camilla!

In other news, the hot season is here and looks like it's staying. Because of this, everyone's kind of lounging around. I spent part of this morning hanging out in Matar's shop watching him sew (he's so fast)! On my way home, I ran into two hfsisters on their way to the market and decided to accompany them. Miriam was getting her hair done (relaxed, I think?) so we all hung out. The hair-guy was... interesting. He had music blaring and was rocking a cut off white undershirt tank top that was on backwards, not to mention a studded belt and jeans. We were there for a while because there were some people in front of Miriam in line. In the mean time the guy talked to me in English, "You're American?" "Yes." "Do you like to go out?" "No." "never?" "Never." "Do you want to go out tomorrow?" "I can't."
He also asked Ndaiye (who was wearing a red-cross shirt) if she was Red Cross. She said no, and then he asked her if he took off his clothes if she could give him a shot. Creeper.

Nothing too much is going on the rest of the day, I'm filling out some paperwork for Peace Corps and staying in the shade as much as possible.

OH! Also, the new stage is here. The best way I've heard it is Peace Corps is like high school/college: you're a freshman, then sophomore, then junior, and finally senior. Right now my stage has moved on from the "freshman" to the "sophomore" part! Also, today's our 7 month Africaversary.

Now it's just time for constant hydration and avoiding the sun!
KO

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

100km in 2 days

Yesterday around 7am I left Bambey for Thies... on my bike. The ride to Thies wasn't too bad and I had the sun at my back which made it easier. As soon as I hit Thies, however, it was hitting a wall of pollution. Unfortunately I got a little lost but eventually Alyssa found me and we went back to her house. After a refreshing gatorade (provided by my outstanding host), I took a bucket bath and we ate an AMAZING lunch. Then, of course, we watched some Gossip Girl. A little later we met up with Jackie and had Chicken Dibi. Unfortunately after dinner my dehydration (totally my fault) hit.

Alyssa and I got up this morning and, even though everyone in her house thinks I'm crazy, I got on my bike to get back to site. The way back was a LOT harder than the first time. It took me about 30mins longer and I got burned on my forearms. No matter, it was a good trip and I'm glad I did it.

The rest of the day was just continuous re-hydrating. Tomorrow I'll get back to work!

KO

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bikes and Braids

I really enjoy Sundays in Bambey. There's almost nothing going on and it's nice to just hang out (not like I don't do enough of that during the day). At one point during an afternoon of Senegalese music videos and tea, I helped Youssou fix his bike (now I think I need to teach him how to ride it). And then, the inevitable happened. Miriam was braiding my hfmom's hair and asked if she could braid mine next. I have been firmly against this from the beginning for a number of reasons, mostly because 1. it looks ridiculous and 2. I've been told it really hurts. Today, however, I finally gave in. Miriam's always been so nice to me and I could see she really wanted to. It didn't end up hurting that much and, thankfully, it started undoing as soon as she was finished. Sure, I looked ridiculous, but who was around to see me?

I also managed to fix my own bike (this air pump is hard to work with) so I might be riding to Thies on Tuesday and back on Wednesday... who knows, we'll see how I feel. Tomorrow I'm off to the women's training center to see if I can finally gee these classes started!

ba suba,
KO

Saturday, March 6, 2010

2 "red ears" make a right?

Let me start by saying this is my 100th post woohoo! Now back to Senegal:
Since I got back to site I've been trying to really hit the ground running. Near the end of training our APCD said something that made a whole lot of sense, basically most volunteers spend so long trying to figure out what to do (for good reason) that by the time stuff starts working, the two years are up. So, instead of being caught without pants in a year and a half, I'm hitting the ground running. I'm sure I'll make a million mistakes along the way but I'm not really the patient type.

Today's agenda was all about schools. On my way to the high school this morning, some guys who were supposed to be paving a road but were just sitting under a tree called me red ears... always a great way to start out the morning. At the high school (they have Saturday morning class) I talked with the principal about starting a business club (it would be or would be similar to Junior Achievement in the US). He seemed interested but who knows if he'll follow up like he said. Next I went to the University of Thies to try to get stuff rolling for a summer camp (it's a long story that is, currently, just a project idea) and no one was there (not surprising). I then went next door (literally) to the University of Bambey (not to be confused with the University of Thies) and oh my. Sometimes I have "is this Senegal?" moments, and that was one of them. It's a real college campus! The walking paths are labeled things like "peace" and "knowledge" there's even a campus map! I don't want to get ahead of myself with this camp, so I'll just say that I talked to someone in administration and things are looking good. He also gave me the phone number for the student leader of the "students in free enterprise" club, so I might check out their meetings to keep working coming!

This afternoon I went to check in on one of my ancienne's Michelle Sylvester scholarship winners. The scholarship, which I'm trying to do this year, helps pay school and book fees for a few top female students in the middle school.On my way to meet this girl some annoying brat kid called me red ears but I didn't let it ruin my momentum. The meeting went well and the girls still in school and getting (what I think are) good grades! I'm going to keep following up with her and try to involve her in this year's group of scholarship applicants.

Tonight I sat with a couple of hfsisters and Youssou while we watched Senegalese music videos and then an hour of Wolof tv which I am proud I lasted through. Tomorrow I'm going to try to find my counterpart and see what other work I can do!

KO

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Back!

IST ended yesterday and today I returned to my lovely, quaint Bambey. The trip back here was not so lovely but I made it back (and so did my bag which I actually thought I was going to lose deal to the utter horribleness of the apprentice aka baggage guy).
My first task (aside from greeting the hfam) was to clean my room. Luckily Steve (the lizard) had not taken over, but instead I was faced with a THICK layer of dust over EVERYTHING. About two hours of moving, sweeping, mopping, sweeping, moving later, my room was as clean as it was getting and it was time for lunch.

As we were sitting down to the bowl Youssou walked in and greeted me. He asked how Thies was and, after I gave the standard "delicious," he said, "but Bambey's better, right?" And of course I agreed!

The afternoon wasn't too exciting, I visited Matar and hung out some more with the host fam. Tomorrow I'm starting in on tackling the epic work to-do/ideas list that I created during IST... more updates to come I'm sure!

KO