Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dinner's On Me

My house is about half full right now so we've been having a lot of food left over after lunch each day. Because I know there's food that could be simply reheated, I decided to cook dinner for everyone! I wasn't sure if anyone was going to like it (though I knew they would pretend) but the leftovers were a fall back in case they hated my food.

I had been thinking about cooking dinner for a while and I was going to attempt a macaroni noodle with Laughing Cow (or Vache Qui Rit if you're in a Francophone country) cheese sauce that other volunteers had made...then we had spaghetti for dinner last night. Not wanting to bore my host family I decided on a peanut sauce stir fry mix vegetable pile with lettuce around the edges (usually my host family eats cooked mixed vegetables with onions sauce and lettuce around the edges so this was my Asian/American take on that). This morning I went to the market and bought: lettuce, green beans, green peppers, onions, garlic, carrots, peanut butter (which is really just mashed up peanuts with no salt or sugar), and limes.

After lunch I cut the green beans, cleaned the lettuce, then bleached all of the vegetables. (Side note: that might sound like a bad idea but it's to kill any parasites or amoebas living on the vegetables so eating minimal quantities of bleach is better than eating those.) Around 7pm I realized that I hadn't bought bread yet so I ran out to get that, most Senegalese cooking involves the rule of: if there's not rice there's bread. After the soap opera I boiled the green beans and carrots while cutting the peppers, onions, and garlic. The garlic, onions, and peppers were then sauteed, the green beans and carrots were added, and then they were taken off. I only have one pot so they were moved to a plate while I put the peanut butter with some water, to thin the sauce, soy sauce (bought in a bottle in Thies but you can buy it in packets in most boutiques), lime juice, some sugar, some salt, and some Chinese hot pepper sauce that my parents sent me. After lots of whipping it was ready so I threw the vegetables in and tossed the mixture.

That was put in the center of a plate, lettuce was put around the edges, and the bread was cut for everyone. Miss helped me get the mat down, water bottles out, and forks ready then we ate! I thought the meal was pretty good, not the best thing I've cooked but not bad by any means. One of my host sisters didn't really like it but pretended she did. Another seemed to really like it - or is just really good at pretending. I couldn't tell if Miss liked it or not but then later she asked if she could save some for tomorrow so I guess she did... and that's everyone in my house right now (except for my host mom but she's been eating yogurt and millet every night).

So overall I think it was a success and I'm glad I finally cooked for them. It doesn't look too appetizing but here's a photo:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Quel But!!

Before I get to the spectacular goal scored tonight ("quel but" = what a goal), I'll start at the beginning of my day.

I had been invited to the "Fete de l'Ouverture de Foyer" at the middle school which is a morning of speeches by officials and then skits and dances by students. I was told it started at 1oam so after much internal debate I finally decided to be a good volunteer and headed over to the school around 10:45. When I arrived at 11am nothing had even started but all of the students were gathered around the school's large sand courtyard just waiting. The principal saw me and invited me into his office where I waited with a few other teachers. Around noon we sat down and all of the guests (a delegation from the mayor's office, the retired principal, and a principal of another middle school) had arrived and we started! The first hour was speeches by all of the principals, retired and serving, present. After the speeches the skits started...and kept going... and going... Most of the skits were done in the same style that Senegalese TV is which, to be nice, I would describe as extremely overacted and lacking clear plot lines (and that's being generous). The skits had to do with AIDs, teen pregnancy, or early/forced marriage. Each skit also had a whole bunch of boys playing older men that sat around and talked most of the skit (which is a pretty accurate portrayal but never seemed to move the plot forward). The average skit lasted half an hour.

At 2pm I decided to try for an escape. I should explain that the school is surrounded by a wall on all sides with a single door on the Northwest corner. I was sitting on the South side of the courtyard so between me and the door were the skits, the entire dj/microphone area, and about 300 students... not to mention that literally everyone would have seen me leave. I asked the teacher next to me if I could go around one of the buildings and sneak to the door but he responded with, "it'll be over soon."

Two hours later I was fairly dehydrated, hungry, and hot (we were sitting under a plastic awning which did block the sun but seemed to trap the heat). The teachers sitting around me were also starting to grumble a little and trying to get the proceedings to move a little faster. FINALLY the second to last group came to perform around 4:15pm and man am I glad I stayed for it. Now, Senegalese culture is a little more casual with stereotyping ethnic groups and nationalities than Americans are, so keep that in mind as I explain the skit. The skit started with an announcer saying something (muffled on the mic) as two students came out dressed in nice Senegalese clothes. The students said they were ethnically Wolofs and gave a nice message encouraging youth. Next a few other students came out dressed like religious people and did a dance and gave an encouraging message. Next another couple came out dressed in slightly ridiculous traditional clothes and the girl had stuffed her skirt as to make her butt seem HUGE. When they announced that they were Jolla (from the Southern part of Senegal) everyone started laughing hysterically. After the Jolla's was a boy with a fake fat stomach in a suit and a young girl - no worries, they were Americans, they were Russians! After the Russians came a boy in a dress shirt and a girl in a cute summer dress and heels - they were French! When a child came up to them to ask them if they had kids they laughed and said they never wanted children.. hilarious! After the French people came 3 students dressed in North African clothing they pretended to speak Arabic and referred to themselves using a mild racial slur. After the North Africans came two boys in karate outfits. They were Chinese and spoke only in fake Chinese (aka "ching chong") which got a HUGE laugh. Then they drank 2 cokes (I'm not really sure about that part) and had a fake martial arts battle. Finally an Akon song started blasting and out came the Americans: 5 students wearing jeans, shiny shirts, and sunglasses. They all danced like a mix of Michael Jackson and Usher then spoke in English about how wonderful Senegal was. After the Americans that group took their bows and we were on to the last performance! Before I get there, let me say that of all the ways the students could have portrayed Americans - I'm actually happy with the way they chose... also I don't dress that that at all here.

The last group was the gymnastics club who did some cool tumbling but at that point I think I was a little delirious so I didn't enjoy it as much as I would have had it happened at during the first two hours not during the fifth hour.

The second the gymnastics club looked like it was wrapping up one of the teachers I work with quickly whisked me away to the teacher's lounge where there were cold sodas and sugary baked/fried goods! I drank my soda and chatted with a few people and was out of there in about 10 minutes. While I was chatting EVERY student had emptied out and the crew was taking down the tents - it had cleared out.

I got back to my house about 6 hours after I had left. I went straight to my room to chug some gatorade to make up for the hours sitting in the heat.

Tonight Senegal played Cameroon in a qualifier game for the African Cup of Nations in 2012. In the last 2 minutes of additional time Senegal scored a goal! The entire city erupted with cheering including my host family screaming loudly! Senegal ended up winning 1-0 so they keep their lead in their group. Games are halfway over so we'll know if they qualify in September I think.

I hope everyone is enjoying watching March Madness Games - if your championship team has been kicked out, feel free to join me in cheering for UNC!


Friday, March 25, 2011

A Visit From The Boss

This morning the SED PTA (or Peace Corps speak for trainer for business volunteers) Talla came to check-up on my work. We visited the schools I've been working in and he stopped by my house. Now, I think I'm doing some good work here but man can my work partners sell it! Senegalese culture is EXTREMELY complimentary so everywhere we went the principals and teachers just talked about what an amazing job I've been doing. I'm not trying to sell myself short but I'm not revolutionizing the world here. After visiting my work partners, we stopped by my house where Talla and my host mom had this conversation:
Talla - I know she doesn't have any problems here because you're amazing.
Host Mom - No she's amazing.
Talla - No You're amazing
Host Mom - No Peace Corps is amazing...
I wonder if it's possible for Talla to get an accurate read on how my work is going. I was able to show him several substantial work projects and he seems really enthusiastic about the girls' group radio stuff but with everyone fawning over me and the Peace Corps in general, I wonder what he writes in his report.

Schools gets out this afternoon and resumes around April 27th (with Senegalese Independence Day being April 4th and Easter the 24th they just took the whole month). So my work will slow down a little bit BUT Noah (my brother) and Tara are just a few weeks from being married so I'll be back in the States soon for a week or so for that wedding!


Monday, March 21, 2011

My internet has finally been fixed! I promise I'll blog more now that I don't need to email my postings to my parents and have them post (thanks parents).

Things are moving along in Bambey - nothing too exciting to report. On Saturday the opposition parties (there are several smaller parties) held a rally in Dakar and a few other large cities. There wasn't a rally here but everyone watched the Dakar march on tv. It's just interesting how life still goes on even through something that people were thinking might be huge (Reuters' Article Pre-Rally). Everyone still had to go to the market and do their chores, they just did it with the tv on in the background. So far there hasn't been any follow up.

Yesterday I had a girls' group meeting - we're working on a radio show project. The girls are writing radio scripts and in two weeks another volunteer is coming to record them. The other volunteer, Erin, is arranging a deal with a local radio station for a "Peace Corps Hour" a few times a month. Hopefully my girls' skits and discussions can be on the radio someday! They tried to write a script last week but it was horribly confusing and a little inappropriate. For this week, I started with a basic plot diagram (intro, rising action, climax, concluding action, resolution) which none of them had seen or been taught before (that creative writing isn't taught here shouldn't surprise me at this point). Using that, they were able to put together one skit and are working on the other skit during the week. They have two weeks until Erin comes to record so hopefully everything will be ready.

My classes resume today because, theoretically, the strikes are over.

Also, it's the hot season like whoa. It was cool in Dakar and when I got back here it was hot. I'm talking about almost unbearable hot. The kind of heat that takes your breath away when you walk into the sun. The kind of hot when a gallon of water isn't enough during the day (yeah that's not a joke). This should stay until it starts raining in July, and it's still cooling off at night enough to sleep without a fan so that's a success! Speaking of heat though, I should go fill up my water-bottle! Happy Monday! I hope all of your brackets are doing well!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

News Round Up

Senegal Updates:

The power outages have been horrible and the teachers were on strike for a few weeks; those two things together just caused restlessness among the students. Last Monday the students decided to go on strike themselves to protest the teachers striking… it wasn’t entirely in solidarity but it was a little. They threw big rocks and burned tires to block the national highway that cuts through Bambey. It made it on the news (even though taking to other volunteers these strikes were going on all over the country). My host family and I were watching the news that night when we noticed a familiar face… YOUSSOU WAS ON THE NEWS! He wasn’t speaking but he was standing next to the student being interviewed! Now whenever I ask how his day was I ask if he talked to any news crews.

On Saturday there’s supposed to be a huge opposition rally in the main square in Dakar and also in other cities. The government is cautiously letting it happen and supposedly each opposition party will be represented (Senegal isn’t a 2 party system). My host sisters haven’t heard anything happening in Bambey – I’ll keep you updated as it all happens.

Peace Corps Updates:

My work is coming along well. I’m still teaching business classes and I have several side projects. We’re gearing up for the 2011 Girls’ Camp. I’m trying to put together some stuff with my girls’ group and also one of my business classes to do some skits. There’s a volunteer working with a radio station and, theoretically, these girls’ skits will be played during a “Peace Corps Hour” sort of thing on the radio.

In other areas of the country it’s just volunteers talking about things on the radio – which ours will be as well – but I’m hoping that my girls’ can create some good discussions and we can diversify the project.

Last night 3 volunteers finished their services! Oliver and Ankit were a year ahead of me and extended for a few extra months. Chris was a few months ahead of me and just finished his two years. A whole bunch of people went into Dakar to see them off. We spent most of the afternoon at the American club and then went down to Happy Hour. After Happy Hour, around 30 of us went to the Chinese Restaurant. We toasted to their services and safe travels with moonshine made of rice alcohol which was followed with cans of PBR. Yes. American beer that had been made in America, sent to China, imported from China to Senegal, then drank by Americans… globalization at its finest. After Chinese we all went back to the regional house and ate the cookies, brownies, and cake that Alyssa, Jackie, Erin, Tamar, and I had baked in the morning.

Finally around 2:30am they said their goodbyes and went to the airport. They’re now somewhere in the US on their way to Las Vegas for some March Madness games. While it was sad to say goodbye to volunteers that I’ve become really good friends with, I found it also really exciting. They had put in two amazing years of work for Senegal and influenced so many volunteers’ services (mine included) with their senses of humor and kindness. It was exciting to see them basically graduate from Peace Corps and go on to their next adventures. Also, being a little selfish, it made my end-date seem just a little closer.

That’s all that’s really going on in Bambey right now. I’ll try and blog more – hopefully the internet will be fixed.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and enjoy March Madness for me!