Monday, August 23, 2010

Rain

Until a few nights ago the rainy season seemed to have skipped Bambey. Alysas would call with news of flash floods in Thies and there wouldn't be a cloud in the sky for me. One day my host dad and I were 7km away from Bambey and were told it had poured rain the night before - not a drop for us.

Two nights ago I went to bed with my windows and balcony door open like normal. Around midnight the power cut but my fan stopping barely woke me up. At 2am the wind jarred me awake (it sounds odd to be woken by the wind, I realize). I jumped out of bed to close my balcony door. The wind was so strong that I was struggling against it for about 10 minutes before finally jamming my door shut. Wind had already started blowing rain into my room and my sheets were wet. I quickly closed my windows and moved my computer to a safe spot. By the time I had finished closing everything, I noticed my floor was wet. I'd seen water drip in through my windows before so I wasn't surprised until I realized there was actual standing water. I quickly got a bucket and started mopping up the water with an old towel. It was fast to use my hands so I started trying to cup the water into the bucket (making cups with my hands and then emptying it into the bucket). I found the source (my balcony) and started working there. When the bucket was completely full I emptied it and kept going. An hour and a half later there wasn't much water on the floor and I had emptied two full buckets (for an idea, I use 1 bucket of water when I have to bucket bath). I had a dry sheet and found the corner of my mattress that was still dry and collapsed around 4am.

I think I've solved the problem of my balcony door and I moved everything that was on the floor into plastic buckets so if my room floods again I won't have to worry about things getting ruined.

The past two days have just been some more setting up for the camp, reminding people it's happening and things like that. Oh and avoiding the donkey gang.

KO

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Under the hot sun

This morning was my last English class and, though the girls acted like I was pulling their teeth, I have to believe they were a little sad it was over. Even though they never once showed it was anything more than a huge chore for them to come all 3 of my girls would be annoyed and kind of sad when I had to cancel classes. At the end of the class I told them I wanted to help them, if they wanted it, during the school year with their English homework because I'm like an English dictionary (at least compared to anyone else in this town) and made them translate one last sentence: when you're not fasting, I will give you candy for completing this class.

After the English class I went to meet the family of a camper (who was actually on vacation). I had called her dad the day before and he told me he lived in the high school which I thought was a misunderstanding because someone else had told me he was a high school teacher... nope. His house is in the high school and he's actually a middle school principal. The meeting went really well and he was all for the camp. Then he invited me to work at his middle school (which is about 10km away from Bambey) next school year. His son even asked me for help with English (when work rains it pours). As I was leaving the awesome meeting I decided to call Tamar.

The walk from the high school to my house is about 20 minutes and, at 12:30pm, the sun was beating down relentlessly. A few minutes into the walk I noticed a group of boys under some trees in front of me.
"There are 7 8-12 year old boys just waiting for me under some trees... two of them are on donkeys," I explained to Tamar. We both agreed I should just keep walking and ignore their "watsyourname?" and "iluuvyou"'s. When I passed the first kid on a donkey the second kid, whose donkey was facing away from me, started to turn his donkey around and as I walked past him he started chasing me.

An 8 year old on a donkey chased me. Lucky for me donkey's walk slower than I do in heat and sun so I didn't have to pick up my pace. So confused by what was going on Tamar and I brainstormed for solutions (while the donkey/kid continued to "chase" me). Finally I turned around and pretended like I was going to smack the donkey and the kid stopped. Then, like clockwork, the oldest kid called me a racial slur which normally would have pissed me off but I was still digesting the whole donkey-chasing.

I feel like once you've been chased by a donkey there really isn't much more you can do that day and I just hung around with my fasting host fam.

Ba suba,
KO

Friday, August 20, 2010

From America:

Today I watched Jersey Shore while eating chex mix sent to me from New Jersey! Thank you to Amy, her mom, Alan, and my parents for the amazing packages full of awesome American things!

In other Senegal news, Ramadan's about halfway over and I'm starting to set up work for next school year. Tomorrow is my last English class for the summer. That's pretty much it! Happy weekend!

KO

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My new host brother

I might have mentioned it before but I have a new host brother! Imagine my shck when I came home after the English camp and found a 20something year old boy living in my house (and imagine his when I came home). He's been in Algeria at his first year of school (studying civil engineering) and is home only for vacation before starting his second year in October (I think).
Lamin (that's his name) is quickly becoming awesome in my mind. He's absolutely what I imagine Senegalese university students to be. During the day he always wears a Lakers jersey and Puma athletic shorts. At night he wears a button up shirt (which is usually only has 3 buttons buttoned - tonight he didn't even bother buttoning any) and either black jeans or stylishly ripped jeans - not to mention a silver chain. He has a really high tech phone (compared to my Nokia) and a laptop. I don't think he's a player though because he seems really quiet (apparently engineers world wide are almost always nerdy).
Today the mason came to fix my ant hole/wall and Lamin and Youssou played the role of protective brothers. Lamin actually direct the mason and made him fi parts he had done shoddily while Youssou pointed at things in my room and asked me about them.
I also found out, as we were breaking fast, that Lamin gave Youssou 100cfa with which he bought a mayonnaise sandwich. Not that I'm counting (my host mom is) but Youssou broke fast with: 6 inches of bread slathered in butter, 6 inches of bread slathered in mayonnaise, and a giant cup of coffee that had at least half a cup of sugar in it. He is obviously my favorite host brother but it's fun to have another too.

Happy Ramadan everyone!
KO

Monday, August 16, 2010

New kids on the block... and ants

I spent the weekend at the training center helping with the PST for the newest group of trainees. It's bizarre to be the one with the answers to questions and to be the "expert" on things that were completely new to me just a year ago. I helped with a few sessions on Senegalese culture and then answered a million questions on everything else. I would spend all day if I could answering questions because I had a ton last year and I remember what it's like to be completely clueless. On Sunday we gave tours of Thies and showed the trainees where to buy fabric and presents for their homestay language families. Afterwards Jackie, Alyssa, and I went to a nice dinner to celebrate our one year in country. Today I answered any last minute questions and wished everyone luck as they left for the village the first time for a week of language training. I'm back at site now and enjoying a quiet evening (without all of the mosquitoes the training center has).

I got back to Bambey around 5pm and found my room in pretty normal shape - no flooding, not too many paint chips on the ground, that sort of thing. I had finished showering when I noticed there were about 5 large ants (about half an inch each) near one of my windows. I stepped on them and kept unpacking. Then I realized that there were a few more ants coming out of the 4 inch crack in my wall so I sprayed some bug spray on the wall and went back to straightening things. A minute or so later I noticed that the ants weren't really dying but stumbling around like they were drunk I decided to attack them with bug spray (which has GOT to be highly toxic and not ok for use in the US). I sprayed the wall a little then started spraying the 4 inch crack.... which opened the flood gates. Ants started POURING out of the crack and I sprayed for probably a minute straight. By the time the ants stopped coming I had killed at least a couple hundred. I swept them up and duct taped the hole but I'll be patching it with cement tomorrow (my walls are cement).

The fumes have aired out of my room and the duct tapes seems to be holding up for now so I feel comfortable going to bed and not waking up with giant ants all over.

Ba suba,
KO

Friday, August 13, 2010

Happy One Year Africaversary!

A year ago today I landed in Senegal! It feels crazy to think that it's been a year - on one hand PST feels like it was 10 years ago but, on the other, I feel like I got to Bambey a month ago. I wish I had more to say about my first year but it seems to have gone by so fast. I can't believe that a year ago I was a complete stranger to everything Senegalese and today I actually helped lead a session on Senegalese culture to the new volunteers. I remember what it was like meeting new volunteers and asking them questions when I first got to country and it's odd to think that I'm now the one with the answers (or at least trying to come up with answers). Maybe at my one year at site (which will come in October) I'll have more thoughts on this first year.

In other news Ramadan started yesterday and the day before that we got 65 new SED and Ag volunteers! For those of you not familiar with Ramadan here's the basic run down (at least how we do it in the Fall household): everyone (but me because I'm not fasting) gets up at 5:45 for morning prayer and then eats a small meal (bread, butter, coffee, maybe water). From sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, no one eats, drinks anything, or smokes (in the Koran it's refereed to as "drinking smoke"). Everyone does the normal household chores in the morning which is the only time of the day anyone is willing to work or even discuss work with me. Around lunch, I sneak up to my room and make lunch for myself as well as chug water (during Ramadan it's REALLY rude to drink or eat in public so I confine my eating and drinking to my room). In the afternoon everyone just lays around and naps. Around 6pm Awa starts cooking dinner (because cooking takes a few hours here) and at 7pm my hostmom and Youssou put out our break fast table. Around 7:20pm Youssou takes off running to the mosque because they have, supposedly, good break fast food there. At 7:30pm everyone prays and we all break fast (eventually Youssou comes back in a breaks fast a second time - which everyone makes fun of him for). We each drink spiced coffee (Youssou and Awa drink mostly milk with a hint of coffee), eat bread with either tuna or butter, and some dates (the Koran says Muhammad ate them when he was fasting). After break fast I've been heading back upstairs and skipping dinner even though my host family can't believe I'm not hungry because I didn't fast. Because Miss is pregnant, thus not fasting, she's not living with us now (she's with her family who, I'm told, lives across town). Ramadan will continue for the next 27 or 28 days - until the new moon is seen. I'm sure I'll get annoyed withe everyone's crankiness and lack of wanting to work but for now it's nice to cook my own lunches and break fast/dinner is pretty delicious too.

KO

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Back in Bambey

When I've been gone from site for more than a few days it feels like years. Yesterday I came home to a mostly empty house - all of the girls are gone on vacation and Miss was sick. There was one new addition... a new host brother who just finished his first year of university in Algeria. He's home for the "summer" and we chatted briefly (I'm guessing it's weird for him that in the year he's been gone a toubab moved in).

I was supposed to teach an accounting class this morning at the Mayor's office but it was closed and the guard's phone was turned off so I had no room to teach in... no students showed up anyway so the class was cancelled. I decided to not let the whole day be a waste so I sat outside of my house to work on my personal statement a little. About 10 minutes into outlining a group of neighborhood boys saw me and started sprinting towards me. "Tata Fatou! Tata Fatou! Menanunu dessiner???" My coloring group hadn't seen me for a week and they were eager to color. I brought down my crayons and some paper and made them all say "please" before they got paper. I finished my work while approving of all of their drawings. Eventually Youssou came out and made them all go home so they wouldn't miss lunch.

This afternoon I organized things for the camp and read a little - not much to do during the hot part of the day. This evening Youssou and I watched lutte (Senegalese wrestling). He explained the two wrestlers, who was mean, who was smart, and who he supported. Just as the pre-match fanfare ended my host mom came out and we all cheered on the smart one (who ended up winning). Youssou and I also talked about how he might want to go into the army (which I encouraged because it's a stable, good income and the Senegalese army does mostly peace keeping missions in other countries) or go to Italy to work (which I discouraged).

The rest of this week I am doing more camp work - we're almost a month away! Also Ramadan starts Wednesday or Thursday (depending on when we see the moon).

Ba suba,
KO

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The English camp was legendary and sweet. I made so many new bffls. Then I took a jankity car back.

I'm back in Bambey after an outstanding week at the ACCESS English camp (and the title of this blog contains all of the "slang" words we taught them). The camp is for high-achieving, low-income students and they were all so amazing. Some of my favorites were (by their English names):
LandonDonovan: who was quiet but very intelligent and an outstanding dancer;
Jym: pronounced like 'Jim,' also quiet but always said very complicated sentences;
Claire: super intense and always ready to participate;
Ana: short and halfway through the week got awesome braids - she also danced well;
Holly: wore a side ponytail, large shirt, and leggings all week - also won the olympics for our team.

This afternoon we had a really successful meeting for our own camp. We were able to take the things we learned from the ACCESS camp and apply it to our girls' camp. The curriculum looks great and I'm really excited.

Now that I'm back at site I'm starting an accounting class tomorrow (if anyone shows up) and I'm a week away from my one year in Africa.

KO

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

English Camp Day 2

The past few days it has stormed every evening for two or three hours. Usually it starts around 4pm and continues until right before dinner. Yesterday I was caught in the rain and had clothes drying on the line so I was unhappy with the storm. Today, it’s a completely different story. We made it back to the training center before the rain came and now, even though I’m trapped in my room, I don’t mind the storm. The training center is designed like most Senegalese compounds with unconnected buildings. My room, for example, is in a building with other bedrooms and 1 bathroom but all of the doors face outward and you walk between the rooms under a little awning. The rest of the buildings are separate with no awnings or coverings. Because the center floods with heavy rain, we’re trapped in our room which, frankly, I don’t mind that much.
After a morning of running around and leading camp games (flashback to my Girls’ State days) I don’t mind having a few hours to read and relax. After the camp we ate lunch (at a restaurant this time), and went to the market to buy food for dinner. From now until the rain lets up or we get hungry enough to brave it and run to the kitchen, I’m in forced, but enjoyed, isolation (with my 3 friends and a little bit of internet).
The English camp continues tomorrow with the main event: ask the Americans! In the meantime I’m going to continue reading and eventually eat dinner.
KO

Monday, August 2, 2010

Access English Camp Day 1

Today was the first day of the US Embassy sponsored English camp. We left the center this morning not knowing what to really expect and were met at the high school by about 50 15-17 year olds and a few English teachers. We had of only the lesson plan a few volunteers had created which was, no fault on them, bare bones. The teachers hadn't bought any of the supplies we requested so we had nothing (no paper, pens, markers, etc.). We broke the kids into groups and started playing games.
My group has 17 Senegalese kids, Jackie, Zach (a volunteer from Kedougou), and me. We started off with name games ("my name is Katherine and I like ketchup) but had to explain several times that if your name was Anna you couldn't like "the beach" but something with an "a" (they all chose to pick American names for the week - we have a Landon Donovan). The rest of the day was full of other games and things you can do outside without any supplies. It was fun to speak in English the whole time and I think the kids really enjoyed themselves. At one point, the game involved asking each other questions and one girl asked another (who then said "yes"), "would you like to have an American husband?" Zach better watch out!

The camp was 4 hours and we were all pretty tired (with no lesson plan it had been 4 hours of making up games on the fly) and went to the garage to get chicken sandwiches. It sounds gross but I think I've explained it before: the garages (where you get cars to go to Dakar etc.) have food for people to buy and eat while they're traveling. A while ago Jackie, Alyssa, and I made friends with the best chicken sandwich lady (we'd tried a few and decided on the best one). Jackie and I were there earlier in the week and she remembered us and was annoyed that we didn't invite our 3rd friend (Alyssa) to eat lunch with us (we had invited her but she was eating with her host family). Today we came to our friend's stand with other volunteers and pretty much bought all of her chicken sandwiches. In case you were wondering, a chicken sandwich is: 6 inches of baguette, onion sauce, rotisserie type chicken, and fries... they have lettuce when lettuce is in season which is not now... all for 500cfa (about $1).

Post chicken sandwiches we ran some other errands and are now hanging out. The English camp is every morning this week so I'm sure I'll have more updates coming. I hope all's well in the US!

KO

Access English Camp Day 1

Today was the first day of the US Embassy sponsored English camp. We left the center this morning not knowing what to really expect and were met at the high school by about 50 15-17 year olds and a few English teachers. We had of only the lesson plan a few volunteers had created which was, no fault on them, bare bones. The teachers hadn't bought any of the supplies we requested so we had nothing (no paper, pens, markers, etc.). We broke the kids into groups and started playing games.
My group has 17 Senegalese kids, Jackie, Zach (a volunteer from Kedougou), and me. We started off with name games ("my name is Katherine and I like ketchup) but had to explain several times that if your name was Anna you couldn't like "the beach" but something with an "a" (they all chose to pick American names for the week - we have a Landon Donovan). The rest of the day was full of other games and things you can do outside without any supplies. It was fun to speak in English the whole time and I think the kids really enjoyed themselves. At one point, the game involved asking each other questions and one girl asked another (who then said "yes"), "would you like to have an American husband?" Zach better watch out!

The camp was 4 hours and we were all pretty tired (with no lesson plan it had been 4 hours of making up games on the fly) and went to the garage to get chicken sandwiches. It sounds gross but I think I've explained it before: the garages (where you get cars to go to Dakar etc.) have food for people to buy and eat while they're traveling. A while ago Jackie, Alyssa, and I made friends with the best chicken sandwich lady (we'd tried a few and decided on the best one). Jackie and I were there earlier in the week and she remembered us and was annoyed that we didn't invite our 3rd friend (Alyssa) to eat lunch with us (we had invited her but she was eating with her host family). Today we came to our friend's stand with other volunteers and pretty much bought all of her chicken sandwiches. In case you were wondering, a chicken sandwich is: 6 inches of baguette, onion sauce, rotisserie type chicken, and fries... they have lettuce when lettuce is in season which is not now... all for 500cfa (about $1).

Post chicken sandwiches we ran some other errands and are now hanging out. The English camp is every morning this week so I'm sure I'll have more updates coming. I hope all's well in the US!

KO