Sunday, May 30, 2010

Last day of class!

Saturday was my last day of classes and we did studied marketing, each group presented, and then wrapped up the class. There are a few students that needed to make up some classes so I held one of those this morning. One girl decided to come, even though she hadn't missed a class. Afterwards she invited me to her house and I spent some time there. Later in the day, another student stopped by and invited me to her house if I'm ever in the neighborhood (it should be noted that I live in the neighborhood).

The rest of today has been studying for the LSAT and watching parts of a huge Senegalese wrestling tournament at the end of which I swear the entire city cheered. Youssou also re-enacted the final moments of the match (which included dramatically flying across the floor pretending to be the losing wrestler) the rest of the night. I also watched Miriam cook dinner (chicken and noodles) and explained to her "fried chicken" which she thinks sounds disgusting.

Less than a week until Ghana!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I had my second to last course today and subject was a fun one... accounting! First I have to confess I've never actually taken an accounting course in my life (why would I have, I was an econ major which is all theory, not business) but I have all of Peace Corps "how to teach basic accounting" materials and the level of accounting that I'm teaching isn't hard to pick up. The accounting is really just writing money that comes in and money that leaves - simple enough but not practiced here.

Class started like normal, I reviewed last week's lesson and then asked why this week's subject (accounting) is important. After a few guesses we started in on the actual work. The format is simple enough, 8 columns to track incoming and outgoing money. I gave two examples for a fake tailor shop and then asked for volunteers to enter other activities (bought fabric, sold a dress, etc). After a few, I took the next volunteer and told him, "you just bought tea for you and your friends to drink." He started to right the date, name of activity, and money spent when I stopped him, "I'm not nice. I played a trick on you.. sit down and I'll explain." I proceeded to explain that if the tea is for you and your friends to drink that isn't a business expense! And all of the kids seemed to understand and we finished the examples. I then gave them a little speech about how we only have one class left but if they want to learn more we can do that in smaller groups or if they have businesses in their family I would love to help out. Then everyone did their group work and we all left.

I had two girls walk home with me because they had missed part of last week's class and wanted to go over what they missed. After that was done one of them asked me what I did after class and I answered honestly, "nothing." (to be fair, class ends at 5pm and I do most of my other work in the morning) She invited me over to her house but I told her I needed to wait for other students to come if they were going to come to my "office hours." About 20 minutes later she came back and said, "well if you can't leave, I'll sit with you," and we ended up chatting about her life and mine for about 45 minutes until another student showed up with a question. He ended up staying a little later too and the 3 of us talked.

I'll be a little sad when my class ends Saturday because it's my current big project. Tomorrow I'm supposed to hear the final answer from the University of Bambey so maybe the camp will take the place of the class. I'm also working on a few projects with the students during the summer - I know I complained about nothing to do during the summer but these kids have literally nothing to do if they're staying in Bambey.

Back to the University tomorrow, I'm sure I'll have some story of bureaucracy tomorrow!


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Catching Up

I’m feeling a little behind on blogging so to catch up I’ll tell two stories from the past week:
A few days ago I rode my bike to Diourbel (about 25km away) to pick up some materials for a class. It had been a really windy day so when I turned around the sand, blown up from the wind, had covered the sun and it was getting dark about an hour before normal sunset. I rode for about 30 minutes into straight on wind and sand until I realized I had to decide if I was going to catch a bus the rest of the way or if I had time and would make it back before it got too dark. I saw some women selling dried leaves on the side of the road -I’d greeted them on my way into Diourbel - and stopped to ask. Like normal, I greeted them, asked about their families, and answered their questions before asking mine.
“Do you know how far it is to Bambey?” (keep in mind this is in HORRIBLY broken Wolof)
“No, but it’s far, are you going to go on your bike?”
“Yes, do you know how far Diourbel is?” (so I could count backwards)
“No, I don’t know that… you’re going to ride to Bambey TONIGHT on your bike?”
“Yes, I need to leave.”
“That’s ridiculous, you need to sleep at our house tonight, you can go to Bambey tomorrow.”
The Senegalese pride themselves on their hospitality and it’s absolutely true. These women had NO clue who I was and kept insisting that I stayed at their house. Knowing the Senegalese, I know these women weren’t joking, had I taken them up on the offer they would have fed me dinner and given me somewhere to sleep, expecting no payment the next morning. As much as I appreciate their teranga (Wolof word for hospitality) , I didn’t take them up on their offer and got on a bus to get back before it was totally dark.

Skip forward to today, I was waiting for Thomas (he rides his bike to Bambey, we chat for about an hour, and then he leaves and I go for a run) at our normal spot when some kids saw me. There were 3 kids ranging from 2-5 years old that just stared at me. I called them over in Wolof and held my hand out to greet them. The youngest one started walking over until he realized his brother and sister weren’t behind him and then he ran back. Eventually 2 more kids joined and all 5 got the nerve to come and greet me. The oldest one told me all of the kids names and asked me mine. He asked if I lived in Bambey, and then asked where the other toubab with the bike was. I told him that my friend was coming… and this point the youngest one (I would guess 2 but I have no idea… he was walking and kind of talking) just kept repeating “another toubab! Another toubab!” When Thomas showed up they were too overwhelmed and just stood half hidden by a building and watched us until we left.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

... because of the heat

If I had to guess, I would say (with no reasoning or logic) the rain with come (and the heat will break) end of June. It doesn't really matter, though, because until whenever the rain comes (expected between mid-June and mid-July) it looks like it's going to be hot with sandstorms. Oh well, it's what's to be expected of Africa.

I had my 4th class today with the middle schoolers. We were supposed to be doing cost calculations and accounting but ended up stopped after costing because some students had a make-up class to attend (here that means their teacher didn't show up one day so they have to come back in and make it up). I explained direct and indirect costs then we brainstormed direct and indirect costs for each of the groups "businesses" and finally I went through a calculation. After having them go through it with me and asking if there were any questions, I asked each group to pick one product or service and cost it. As they worked I went from group to group answering questions. I feel like the students are finally getting comfortable asking my questions because I had a lot to answer today. As I was moving from one to another I squeezed past a desk... and heard something rip. I looked down to notice a HUGE rip in the thigh of my pants. Now... these aren't just any pants, they're the pants that make up my "peace corps uniform." Everyone seems to have a pair of khaki capris that, when paired with sandals and a stretched out t-shirt, are the essentials for any volunteer. Here I was with about 45 minutes left in class and a HUGE rip in my pants. I couldn't help but see the hilarity of the situation and laughed it off (then kept laughing periodically every time I thought about how ridiculous I looked). Eventually the class ended and I walked home with my bag covering the hole. Matar was able to patch them up nicely and, as Alyssa pointed out, the sewing makes them slightly more intense.

The rest of my day was power cuts and hot, sandy wind. Though I did have a salad (lettuce with balsamic vinegar and greek seasoning) for lunch today (my own choosing, my hfam at rice like normal). Tomorrow I'm finally starting this mural (just painting the background)!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Another "pet"

Yesterday I went to Thies and had lunch with Alyssa and Jackie. Of course we did the the always delicious greek salad/lasagna split. I ran some other errands while in Thies including getting from Alyssa (grocery stores are closed on Sundays) cake pans to try and make Miriam a cake for her birthday (May 29th). I told everyone if I could make it (using the Alyssa method) I'd make one for everyone's birthday.

Today wasn't too exciting EXCEPT I learned that there are hedgehogs in Africa... more specifically in my compound. We had a hedgehog walk around lost for most of the news tonight. Who knew?

Also, Alyssa gave me two People magazines which I read and passed on the the girls in my family. Today Youssou was flipping through one of them and pointed out every ad for food and asked if I could make the food. Of the three (pizza, meatball sub, Jello's new chocolate mousse) he was disappointed I said maybe to only one (pizza) and no to the other two.

Tomorrow I'm going to start painting my mural (no worries, it's not freehand) at the middle school and write my lesson plan for Wednesday's "accounting class." Oh and don't forget study for the LSAT (tomorrow marks 3 weeks until the test!


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The magic of poultry

I like to take advantage of everyone being in school or doing housework in the morning by studying for the LSAT. Today I decided to study outside because it's starting to heat up and we don't get wind in our courtyard. About 10 minutes after sitting down a little boy approached me and greeted me. He then proceeded to sit next to me and watch me take my practice test. Two other little kids joined him so I asked them if they wanted to color. A family friend had sent me crayons so I brought down some paper and the crayons and told them to color. Eventually we attracted 3 more kids and I had about 6 kids coloring houses and people (their choosing). I gave paper to the youngest one (maybe 3? 4?) the other kids said to me, "he can't color, he can't do anything," but this was American-color time so everyone got to color. Eventually, I needed to go upstairs and get some real work done so coloring time was done, but I plan on continuing it.

I didn't do much this afternoon but Thomas came to visit and I went for a run after he left. I'm so glad I have a neighbor who likes riding his bike 50km a few times every week. It's nice to chat with another volunteer even if only for 30 minutes. After Thomas left I went for a run. There's a group of women I pass a lot and today I invited them to join on the run, one of them even pretended to get up... we settled on they would join me tomorrow. It's always nice to joke with Senegalese people (which is so different than the usual being laughed at).

Apparently the stars are aligned tonight because after a month of rice, beans, and dried fish for dinner we had salad, fries, and poultry. I say poultry because my hfdad's been hunting and returning with small birds (having never seen them Jackie's decided they're grouse) so it might have been that... or a chicken - who knows ... it was amazing.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Yangi Nice? (as Chris Williams greets people literally meaning you nice?)

I just finished a fun filled weekend in Dakar but, like always, I'm pretty happy to be back at site. I really like Dakar in small doses but when you're there too long it just gets expensive, loud, and annoying. That being said, I had an amazing weekend.

It started with the SeneGAD board meeting on Saturday, which went long but was productive. I'm the activities chair and this is our first year as a 501(c)(3) so there's a lot of work to be done. I like the GAD president's direction (it might help that she was in a sorority and she's basing the organization of GAD off of her sorority... at least as far as institutional memory and position definition go). Saturday night I didn't really do much because we had the regular GAD meeting early Sunday. Oh, there was, however, a marathon of America's Next Top Model... each regional house seems to have their favorite shows (Kaolack's obsessed with Glee more than any other region) and the Dakar region seems to be attracted to trashy TV shows (ANTM, Jersey Shore, etc.).

Jackie came in early Sunday morning and we had the GAD meeting with the board and all the regional reps. Afterwards everyone called their mom to wish them a happy mother's day. Elizabeth was sticking around the office so to kill time Jackie and I went to the restaurant thing near the office and tried to order iced coffee (we were copying another volunteer). After ordering "coffee... with milk... and ice.... cold coffee," the manager came over to our table and said, "You want coffee... with ice? You want it cold? That's strange," and walked away. Eventually we got our iced coffee and explained that American's really like it when it's hot. For dinner a group of us met up with Chris a COS-ing volunteer for Chinese. Chris speaks Chinese so he just ordered everything for us and it was amazing.

Monday morning Jackie and I had a meeting with Talla to figure out this camp stuff. He made some calls and wrote us an official request letter for the head of university affairs for all of Senegal (based in Dakar) and we delivered it. I'm supposed to call Thursday to find out whether we have approval to use the U of Bambey campus for the camp so we'll see! Afterwards we went to lunch and ran into some people from Wheaton (where we both went to high school) in town for something (a third volunteer went there for college and says they come every year). Finally, the best part of the weekend came around 3pm. Chris (same one who got us an amazing dinner) tried to teach Jackie and I how to surf. He took us out one at a time, dragging the board through the waves, then turning us around, and telling us which wave to try for. Neither of us did very well but it was really fun and something I want to do again. Afterwards we got dinner with Chris and Elizabeth then we all met with a girl from Google West Africa. She's based in Ghana but was in Dakar... she was able to give me some tips for the upcoming Ghana trip. At the end of the night I said goodbye to Chris... which is weird thinking that the next time I see him will probably be in America considering I know him only in the context of Senegal.

I tried to leave Dakar this morning but ended up leaving around noon. There was a Peace Corps car going to Thies which meant a free ride (with air conditioning and actual room for sitting) as well as a free lunch at the training center. As I was trying to leave the driver asked where I was going and told me he could take me back to Bambey. I thought he was just being really nice but it turns out that Peace Corps gets their seeds from the agricultural research center outside of Bambey and he was picking up seeds. No matter, I got a second free (air conditioned) ride and made it back to site by 2pm.

Tonight before dinner my host mom told me that I needed to eat a lot because I was starting to lose my jaayfonde (large rear end) which, of course, to Senegalese women would be a huge concern. I tried to reassure her that, due to genetics etc. it wouldn't be leaving anytime soon but she's still pretty worried.

Friday, May 7, 2010


I'm heading to Dakar today for the quarterly SeneGAD (Gender and Development) meeting (for more info check out ). I'm hoping to make it there in time for quiz night (and to see Tamar before she heads back to the Ladj) and there's a possibility a COS-ing volunteer might find time to teach Jackie and I to surf after the meeting.

Before I head out, though, I want to give a shout out to my friend Carly who's about a month away from her own Peace Corps adventure in Honduras! Check out her blog to follow her in Central America!

Have a good weekend everyone! Congrats to those of you graduating!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Crash Course

I might have mentioned it before but I started teaching a business class at the middle school. It's supposed to be 15 hours (chosen by the school supervisor) over 7 classes (chosen by me)and in French (which is a million times better than Wolof which I would be unable to say anything). We're studying business basics: what makes a good business, budgeting, profit, markets, marketing, accounting, and VERY VERY basic econ (which I'm now thinking we won't have time to get to). The first meeting was last Wednesday but all we did was talk briefly about the topic of the course and very, very abstractly about what makes a good business. Everyone's "thought homework" (I told them I wasn't going to give them real homework, just things to think about) was to think of something that's missing in Bambey.

Today was our second meeting and I had a pretty simple plan: a brief intro and my expectations, what makes a good business, how to find YOUR idea, how to choose/analyze your idea, group work (they're working in groups to apply the daily lessons and "create" a business). In theory the teaching (mostly discussion based) was going to take an hour and a half and the group work 30 minutes.

That didn't happen for several reasons... but let's start at the beginning:
My expectations: I simply explained that, even though Senegalese teachers will tell them exactly what to write down (usually they write it on the board and the students copy it exactly), I was going to teach like an American. Aka, they would have to decide that was important to write down. (We'll come back to how well this worked in a second).

The three "subjects" went alright until I would ask for students' ideas ("what's something missing in Bambey?" "why should your business idea be based on something you like to do?") and it was like pulling teeth. About 15 questions in, they figured out that I wasn't going to make fun of them or yell at them for any answer and that I also wasn't going to move on until I got answers (I started saying "we're not moving on until I have 5 answers,"). We also had problems when I would ask students to summarize or tell me the important parts of what I had taught. After the first try at that (in response to "what makes a good business") they started kind of taking notes and I had a few students be able to volunteer for the next section.

Unfortunately that only took an hour total. I had an hour left to do the group work and I was SURE that they would finish it in 10 minutes (I remember anytime anyone said to me, "you're done and can leave after this" I rushed through everything). The way I set it up was that there would be 5 groups and each group had a notebook I had bought. I was going to create "worksheets" for each lesson so today's they had to write 3 things they each liked to do, 3 things they were each good at, and 3 business ideas (I told them they could be not feasible). Then they would choose 3 for the group and do a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis for each of those 3 and settle on one. Luckily that took them an hour! (So I was right on time).

I collected the notebooks so I could read them and judge what was learned and what needs to be reviewed. I learned that I need to review the concept of not copying another business (no, I'm not letting any of my students open the 100th cyber cafe or the 15 pharmacy in town). And I didn't do a good enough job of explaining that your likes/what you're good at should lead into your business ideas. For instance, one of my students loves dance and is good at dance and wants to open a hair salon.

I know the kids are kind of frustrated with my French but I went from having 15 students the first day to 27 today. I'd love to keep all 27 (including the high schooler who's coming to the middle school for the class) but I'll be happy if I keep 20. But, (sort of) to my credit I think they're all at least interested even if it is only because I'm a foreigner.

Who knows! We don't have class next week because there's a field trip but the next class (in two weeks) is budgeting, profit, and accounting (because I had to combine two classes... I might end up just getting rid of econ and pushing everything back a week once I start lesson planning).

Sorry that was kind of long but I'm excited to be actually doing (or trying to do) business development work!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I really like my host family; I think we're a really good fit for each other. The volunteer I visited this weekend (not Jackie, the other one) has 6 younger host brothers ranging from high school to about 2... I could not do that. I like that everyone in my host family is pretty independent and, though they care about me, don't bother me when I'm working or trying to get something done (the few times that happens). Miriam's birthday is later this month (I have to ask about the other 3 kids) and I plan on making an Alyssa-style double boiled/baked cake for her because she's always really nice to me (not to say that everyone isn't nice). But then there's Youssou... I'm sure I'll write about Youssou a million times while I'm here but he's just so great.

Today he saw me as I was walking back from a meeting and yelled his characteristic, "EHHH! FATOOOOOOUUU!" that I get every time he sees me. Then he waited for me to catch up to him before continuing home. Afterwards I sat out front with Ndiaye, Miss, and my hfmom while Youssou and his friends played a game, the rules of which seem to be:
The person with the tennis ball throws it at someone else
Everyone tries to not get hit/catch the ball

Today's lesson of the day: pre-teen boys are apparently the same everywhere... give them a sharp stick and they'll run with it, give them a tennis ball and they'll throw it at each other.


Monday, May 3, 2010


This last weekend I took a little mini-vacation and finally visited Jackie (she lives about 40 miles away so it doesn't make sense that I haven't been to visit). Pout, her site, is about the same size as Bambey but set up a little differently. Jackie has her own three room house so there was a lot of space for the 4 of us (Jackie, Tamar, Alyssa, and me). Not only is Pout overflowing with mangoes but it's also close to a monastery that sells goat cheese so the trip was full of amazing food. We had goat cheese and crackers, Indian food someone had sent Alyssa, and Pjangoes! Pjangoes are our own creation that involves blending ice, fresh mangoes, vodka, and mango juice concentrate to make a delicious smoothie. Oh, and the name comes from P(out)J(jackie)(m)angoes. The night was full of amazing food and watching the latest season of Project Runway (what more could a volunteer ask for?).

The next day we went to Mboro (about an hour up the coast) to help another volunteer and our Peace Corps Trainer give a training. Mboro is not at all like Bambey, it's tropical and significantly cooler. It actually looks what I think most people think of as Africa (tropical and green) compared to the desert that is Bambey. After the training we started prepping for Oliver's birthday party which was the next day. The 5 of us in Mboro bought a TON of rice, beans, and veggies to make a taco salad kind of thing while everyone was else was getting to Mboro. About half of the party goers got there the normal way (cars) and the other half walked from Oliver's site to the beach (about 20 miles). We had rented a house on the beach and spent the night dancing and eating mexican-ish food. We went to the beach around 10pm to discover bio-florescent bacteria things in the water aka the water was glowing. It was really amazing that any movement in the water created an effect that looked like little fireflys in the water. The next morning we cleaned up and I came back to Bambey. On my way back home I bought some mangoes for my family and I think, to really take advantage of mango season, I'm going to buy mangoes for the family every Sunday.

The rest of this week should be pretty busy... my boss is coming to see Bambey today, I have scholarship stuff to do, some artisan stuff, and I need to prep for the SeneGAD meeting this weekend.. oh and of course studying for the LSAT (which I take in about a month now)!