Tuesday, July 5, 2011

American Holidays Celebrated Internationally

I hope everyone had an amazing holiday this past weekend! The Fourth of July has always been a fun holiday but I’ve really come to appreciate it even more living here (yes, I realize that sounds a little ironic).

Saturday morning April (the volunteer that lives 25km east of me) rented me a place in a sept-place to pick me up on the way to Thies. She planned on leaving around 8am but called me around 7:20am to tell me she was leaving the garage… I quickly threw a ton of stuff in my bag and jumped in the shower. In 20 minutes I was locking my door and on the way out. It usually takes me about 5 minutes to walk to the road - where April was meeting me – but I was about 3 minutes late. April, and her car of Senegalese people were waiting for me so I took off running. Sure I’ve picked up running since being here but I’ve never taken an early morning jog in normal clothes, sandals, with a full hiking backpack and carrying a purse with my computer. According to April, I came running up to the car, opened the back door, and immediately offered a winded “Saalamaalikum” greeting. April and I were the first people in Thies and got out of the car just as the dashboard started smoking. Eventually we met the other 6 people in our party and left for the beach!

For this holiday weekend (America and Tamar’s birthdays) we decided to try a new beach. We rented rooms at a hotel that we thought had been recommended by volunteers but no one could remember the name so we just went based on the prices of the rooms. It turns out we had made an excellent decision and we ended up in a hobbit like/medieval castle/stone fortress/monastery hotel on the beach. We spent most of the weekend eating crepes and lounging at the beach and in the water. We all got a little burned but it was helpful in evening out all of our tan lines that are quite stark from two years of walking around under the African sun with our knees covered.

Yesterday morning we left to go to Dakar to celebrate the Fourth. I decided that, in honor of the birthday for the greatest country ever, I would get a high-five for all 235 years of America. That started early in the morning and has continued all day. It’s included many high-fives over the phone, including 11 from Alan and his friends celebrating in New York. The traffic on the way into Dakar was HORRIBLE but eventually we made it to the regional house. We quickly threw in a load of laundry and washed the soot and exhaust from the ride before heading to the American club. There was a big barbeque so we all got to eat burgers for the Fourth. Because all of the US Embassy workers have a more formal event in the evening, the day barbeque was aimed at kids… which explains the CREEPY Senegalese clowns. Seriously. I thought normal clowns were unsettling but Senegalese clowns are really creepy. One point of their act included balancing kids high in the air above concrete – horrifying.

After burgers, we the 8 volunteers went downtown to run a few errands and eat ice cream. Alyssa, April, and I hit a GOLDMINE at a bead store. We found two amazing Senegalese guys who sell big strings of beads. Usually, artists like Alyssa’s jewelry maker, buy a strand of beads and make several necklaces using a few of these beads as focal point beads. As people who cannot pass up interesting jewelry, the three of us spent a while in the store creating different combinations and eventually purchasing a ton. Here’s what volunteers having too much fun with beads looks like:

With new necklaces in hand, we went to N’Ice Cream – the ice cream store – to continue our celebration of America through food: Obama Cookie Ice Cream. YUM!

After ice cream we met back the rest of our crew at the regional house to begin making dinner. Let me add a quick disclaimer that, though it sounds like all we do is eat, and though we do eat a lot of food, it takes a lot of time to travel so between ice cream and starting to cook it was maybe an hour or so. We made a delicious, America dinner with many thanks to my mom for sending us the key ingredient: Velveeta. If you combine Velveeta with bacon and macaroni you get an addicting, amazing, dinner. For a third time today – amazing. Dinner was followed by a viewing of The American President.

For the next few days I’ll be in Dakar doing close of service things. The plan is to be totally done before I head to Thies on Thursday. Here’s hoping it all works and everything gets done!

I promised more retrospective blogs and I’ll try and get those going!

KO

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