Monday, January 24, 2011

Magal: Part Two

Yesterday seemed a little calm for such a big holiday and now I know why... today was the social part!

People started arriving at our house by 9am (which means they left Touba EARLY). The women started on the big basin of onions to peel and chop for sauce. Once the onions had been finished everyone (all of the women) started specializing. By this time (11am) almost everyone had arrived. Like normal, the men sat outside the house, talked, and drank tea; the women were cooking; children were fetching things for everyone. After onions, some of the women prepared the other vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, and green peppers) and the rest cleaned the meat (two big tubs of beef not mutton!!) and made the marinated. Miss started on the sauce (onions, vinegar, bullion cube, msg, salt, oil, maybe mustard) while my host mom made a fire. Because there was so much that needed to be cooked, we needed more than just the one gas burner... so fire! A piece of scrap metal was laid out, on top of that a mound of sand was added, and then the kindling and wood. Once the fire was going a GIANT pot was put on the fire and the meat went inside. After finishing most of the vegetables, the women started bleaching the lettuce and picking off the brown parts (I joined in and helped). The meat cooked for maybe an hour or two and was then moved to another marinate of oil, mustard, bullion cube, vinegar (you'll notice a seasoning theme) and then into a giant metal colander/rice steamer over another fire to grill for a little. By this point it was about 4pm and people were getting hungry. The kids started setting up mats for eating, bowls for hand washing, and bottles of water. Next, the women started plating giant metal plates with a few chunks of meat, two huge servings of onion sauce, fries, lettuce, and chopped vegetables (which was covered in a dressing of mustard, oil, salt, pepper, vinegar). Six big plates went out and the 25+ men (I couldn't get a good count) sat around them and started eating. A few minutes later a plate was made and all of the kids (about 10 of them) sat down to eat. A few minutes after that the women made their plates and we sat down to eat.
I'm usually the only person who prefers vegetables and today was no different. There were 4 women at my plate total and we had two HUGE pieces of meat as well as a ton of other stuff. I let everyone eat my share of the onion sauce and fries while I focused on making lettuce wraps with the meat (which is really just a fancy way of saying that I was eating them both at the same time). I've gotten pretty good at eating with my hand (right hand only per cultural rules)... ripping meat with only one hand is kind of hard. Today was probably the best Senegalese meal I've eaten. I mean, really, grilled beef and salad - awesome.
After lunch we all got a can of soda (which is pretty impressive and expensive). Once everyone had finished their soda the house cleared out in a matter of minutes. We went from having more than 50 people to having less than 15. The remaining women did the cleaning and we all pretty much settled down to watch soap operas because it was fairly late. At one point someone gave me a baby to hold that started crying immediately upon being given to me and stopped immediately upon being taken away from me... oh well.

There's one more day until everything, hopefully, gets back to normal and my classes start again.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Magal

The Magal is the religious pilgrimage that has put everything on hold for the past few days (and will continue to do so the next few days). Members of the Mourid brotherhood (the largest sect of Islam in the country) travel to Touba for the day. Today almost everyone from my house left to go to Touba - at lunch it was only my host mom, Aisha (Khady's mom), Saly (who lives with the grown up host sister across town), and myself. People trickled back during the day but we're still only about half full... which is about to change.
I've mentioned it before but anyone coming from Thies or Dakar is going to pass through Bambey on their way to and from Touba which means that everyone my host family knows is invited to our house for lunch tomorrow on their way back home! We have soda for more than 60 people so I'm nervous. I've been told that people will be stopping by for lunch and staying until...?
In other news, we had porridge for dinner tonight. I was fairly hungry so I ate a decent amount. As I walked by Khady to put my bowl away (porridge is the only thing we don't share on a plate) she hid her porridge from me like I was going to steal some - she's a pretty funny kid.

That's all for today - I'm just biding my time until the holiday is over and things get back to normal (and class start hopefully).


Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Before going home for vacation I organized my Junior Achievement business classes. I have 3 at one of the middle schools and 3 at one of the high schools. My first class was Thursday of last week. About 3 weeks ago I reminded the principal to place a notice to the students reminding them that the class would be starting Jan. 13. Last Thursday I showed up at the high school and it was a surprise to everyone! Whoops! Forgot to remind the students - but no worries, he would remind the Tuesday class! Monday I went to the middle school and, without reminder, the students were there! I have 12 students in that class and they're all girls (which is even more exciting because of the 60-something high schoolers there are only 3 girls)! The class went alright and they seemed really excited about the competition (at the end of the course).

Today I went in for classes 3 and 4. This morning the high school didn't have a room for me (and hadn't reminded their students) so the Tuesday class was permanently cancelled and those kids were moved into the Wednesday section. I was really excited, though, for my afternoon class! It was at the middle school so the kids knew about it! I had fixed the kinks from Monday! I was ready to go!

But the students were striking.

When I got back to my house, I explained to my host mom why I wasn't teaching and her response was, "Oh, right, the students are striking because a teacher got 2 or 3 students pregnant."


There's really nothing more to say than that.

Tomorrow starts the week long holiday for the Magal - religious pilgrimage of the largest sect to Touba.

Maybe I'll have more to stay but I'm still pretty speechless several hours after finding out about the pregnancies.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Power Outages

Power outages are a subject that, while not absolutely riveting, deserve a little more attention because they're such a part of daily life.

First let me say that they aren't the typical type of outage caused by a big storm or freak accident. Whatever your explanation for it (grid over-extension, not enough power to go around, etc.), the government/power company (who are co-mingled) has to cut the power. There isn't an actual "schedule" or anything - the power just goes out... and then eventually (so far every time) comes back on. Sometimes it goes out for a few hours, sometimes for more than just a few hours. It's different in different areas but recently Alyssa (who's 50km away) and I have been having the same outages which leads me to believe a huge chunk of the country doesn't have power at the same time. Over the past few days we've been loosing power between about 11am-2pm then again from 7:30pm-10:30pm. My host family said that the power had been cutting almost everyday like that for a while. The power cut this morning at 5am and didn't come back until 2:30pm. It actually just cut again while I was blogging (3:45pm) so we'll see when it comes back this time.

I would say the worst part about the power cutting is that about 45 minutes after the power has cut - the water stops being able to be pumped and it cuts. I've been pretty diligent about keeping my water filter filled and my host family keeps about 100 liters of water for cleaning/washing... it's still just frustrating to not have running water to say.. wash your hands.

Now I understand that there are many volunteers that don't have any electricity or running water but this is just another description of my little slice of Africa.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Back in Bambey

A very delayed Happy New Year everyone! I had a wonderful trip home and got to spend a quality time with my family, friends, and boyfriend. I hope everyone had a lovely holiday season!
The adventure (which I say with neither a positive or negative connotation) began on the plane: it was 3 seats per row I was seat F the window seat. When I got to my row there was a guy in the aisle seat and one in the window seat who I made switch (no way I'm giving up my window seat for an 8 hour flight). A few minutes later another girl came along and said she was in the aisle seat... whoops... 4 people for 3 seats. The flight attendant quickly saw the problem and came over to discover that both of those men had been issued tickets with the same seat. The flight attendant put the woman who was supposed to be in the aisle in another seat and left. He came back a few minutes later and explained that the two men had bought their ticket at the same agency and, because they have the same name (which happens all the time in Senegal), the agency sold them the same seat. He explained that they would both have to get a refund from their ticket agency and buy new tickets but that they would have to get a new ticket immediately if they wanted to be on that flight. It blows my mind that two people were able to get ALL THE WAY ON A PLANE with the same ticket.

Anyway - once I was back in Dakar I went to the office and got some stuff taken care of. I wasn't feeling very well so I went to med and stayed for a day. I'm better now and back at site!

Yesterday morning I gave my host mom the 6 pounds of candy and 3 pounds of oreos I brought back for the family (she said "this is too much!!"). Then I gave her the gift I brought back for her which she really liked and seemed really touched by (she kept saying "but we didn't give you anything to give your parents!"). I was waiting to give everyone else their gifts until Mor got his but he was gone all day and in the evening I finally decided that, though I'm normally quite culturally respectful - they were my gifts and I would hand them out as I wanted to. While everyone was sitting in the dark (we haven't been having power between 7:30-10:30pm so we sit in the dark outside), I grabbed presents. Everyone was really appreciative when I handed them out and they took turns looking at each others gifts. Youssou kept using his new pump to pump and deflate the soccer ball. Khady was the best though, she danced around with the cabbage patch doll she got saying "Fatou gave this to me!"

I'm still trying to motivate myself to go see other people and get work started. I had a class I was supposed to teach yesterday but the principal forgot to remind people (I had asked him to right before I left) so no one showed up. The most frustrating part isn't that I spent all morning prepping or that I walked to the high school to do this but it's the principal's nonchalant attitude regarding wasting my time and delaying the start of these classes. He doesn't seem to care if the classes actually ever happen which doesn't help my motivation problems.

Today right before lunch, Ndeye (one of the high school girls) asked Khady if her baby was hungry and Khady said "yes!" ran into her room, brought out her doll, and then strapped it to her back (like all Senegalese women). Last I saw her she was still carrying the baby doll on her back.