Wednesday, August 25, 2010


We're heading back to Mboro today, so that means another two weeks without any internet communication. I'll try to write things down so I'll remember what to post. Also I'll be taking more pictures and once I get my connector cord I'll attempt to put some up!

Hopefully everything is going well at home, miss you guys!!


So I just finished my first week in my home stay.  We’re back in Thies for a few days for training and such so I have a chance to write.

 I’m living in a Wolof family in the city of Mboro. It’s about 40min North of Thies and 5k from the ocean.  I still haven’t figured out how many people actually live in my family compound. I am part of a polygamous Muslim family; I have two moms. I also have a bunch of brothers and sisters; I’ve asked how many there were and have gotten different numbers from everyone. Everyone is pretty friendly, I’m really loving getting to know so many different people. I can’t wait until I get over this language hump and can actually chat with people. I meet about a dozen new people everyday since my mom takes me around to friends and relatives’ homes constantly. I’m the new hood ornament of the family. It’s been pretty great so far.

It is tradition to be given a Senegalese name when you move in with your host family. My name is now Daba Diop, and that is the only name ANYONE will call me. The first day it took about five minutes of yelling before I realized that someone was talking to me. It’s amazing how quickly our names and faces spread through our neighborhood. I walk down the street and here kids screaming Daba!! Daba!! all the time. Daba actually means hoe in Wolof, and yes I mean the gardening tool, which is pretty ironic and since I am an Agriculture volunteer.

My life is pretty hysterical at the moment. The first day was extremely uncomfortable; actually most of the time is uncomfortable, but it’s mixed in with wonderful and entertaining moments. I first went in to my room to find some sort of poo on my bed and floor. I later realized that it’s from the mice that live in my room and sometimes eat my food. But the house is clean and very open. The only time that anyone really spends inside is when it’s raining or we’re sleeping. Other than that, the cooking and socializing is done outside, preferably under a shady tree.

My family doesn’t really speak French so I’m relying on my five days of Wolof training to get by, but I’m getting pretty good at charades. My moms crack me up because I’m constantly reminding them to speak slowly since I’m learning. Instead of slowing down, they just repeat what they’re saying over and over again, but faster. But my brothers and sisters are very helpful; we practice my vocab at night in between break fast and dinner.

Oh yes, It’s Ramadan right now. For anyone who isn’t aware, Ramadan is one of the 5 pillars of Islam where people fast from sun up to sun down for an entire month. And when I say fast, they don’t even drink water. No food or liquid. It’s pretty intense, but I am not fasting because I would shrivel up like a raisin. It’s a pretty cool thing people are doing, but that means that around 7:30pm everyone eats a huge loaf of bread, dates and drinks tea. THEN, about two hours later they eat actual dinner. By this time I’m falling asleep on the mat from the carb overload. But it is extremely rude not to eat, so I try to partake as much as I can.

Eating is fun, but challenging for me. Eating and most things in this culture must me done with the right hand ONLY. It’s a hygiene thing as well as a cultural superstition. Since people don’t use tp here, their left hand and a kettle of water are the main source for cleaning up after yourself. Also, it’s believed that left-handed people have the devil in them? So yes, I’m doing everything except writing with my right hand and it is challenging. I’m practically teaching myself to eat again. My family thinks it’s funny when I drop my spoon in the community bowl. Silly American.

Malaria medicine is crazy. Bubbs I don’t know if you had these issues. So right now we’re taking two different Malaria pills; kind of like a fast track way. One of the pills makes your face feel like it’s burning off in the middle of the night. Actually right now I feel like someone poured rubbing alcohol over the gaping wound that is my face (okay maybe a little dramatic, but extremely uncomfortable). The other malaria med we’re taking can make you have crazy, hallucinogenic and lucid dreams (aims I completely understand your weird sleeping things). These dreams can be absolutely amazing if you’re dreaming about snorkeling through coral reef like I did the other night. OR it can be terrifying like the other night where I had a murdering nightmare. Took me a while to snap out of it. Very odd feeling. Hopefully I have more of the good dreams and not the bad.

The city is absolutely beautiful. It is built in many different levels along rolling sand dunes. There are lots of trees and farming going on around the outskirts so it’s not completely desert-like. I plan on touring around more when we head back to Mboro on Wednesday. It’s a good-sized city, so there are lots to see. I can’t wait to explore more when we get back. There are eight of us in the city; two classes of four. Our language classes are amazing. We learn so much everyday but have an amazing time doing it. I swear I learn better under a shady tree with a mini chalk board than in the most advanced classroom. Wolof is interesting. Very different than English, but we’ve learned to stop making comparisons between the two languages because it just makes your head hurt.

We haven’t been to the beach yet, but are definitely planning on going. I’m hoping that it turns out to be clean. Apparently, much of the raw sewage is piped out into the ocean; yum. I forgot my camera cord in the states, so I can’t put pictures up yet, but I will as soon as I can.

BTW: My friend’s family dog just had puppies; I think I’m going to adopt one…

Friday, August 13, 2010

Survival Wolof

The official language in Senegal is French, which on average, most people can speak. But that doesn't mean that everyone speaks French. There are numerous native African languages spoken in Senegal alone. The most widely spoken of these is Wolof. All of us in this peace corps group will eventually be learning different African languages for our site placements, but today, we were given a "survival Wolof" lesson that will help us in the city of Thies. I'm going to show you guys a few, along with the pronunciation (at least what I think works as the pronunciation guide).

Asala Maalekum  (asahlah maleekuum)    Hello, main greeting
Maalekum Salaam   (maleekuum salahm)   Recipricate the greeting

Nanga def?     (Nongah def)      How are you doing?
Maangi firekk.     (mongee fearekk)        I am fine (this is always the answer)

Naka waa kerga?   (naka wah kergah)    How is the family?
Nunga fa.             (noongah fah)         They are fine (this is always the answer as well)

There are accents in these, but I have yet to figure out how to make them.

 Disclaimer:  I also want to say that whatever I post on my blog is not the view of the Peace Corps, Peace Corps administration or the U.S. as a whole.  Just my personal experiences here in Senegal.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

First Day in Thies, Senegal

So I’m here and I’m safe. The flight was fine and we had no complications during travel. We got in around 5am and already it was STEAMY hot and proceeded to get even warmer once the sun came up. We came straight to the training center in Thies and passed some pretty amazing, odd, and depressing things along the way. The training center is pretty darn cool, we’re staying in bunked huts for a few days until they place us with host families.  I haven’t slept much, we took a 2 hour nap after we got here and went straight into training stuff. I just finished dancing up a storm to some amazing drumming. There are a bunch of local nationals that work in the training center and apparently they like to drum and dance when they’re done with work. It’s pretty hysterical to see all of us trying to dance with them, but I think I’ll get better since it’s only the first day!! It’s already pretty overwhelming with the amount of stuff we’ll be doing, and I wish my French was better, I find myself drawing blanks and staring at people when they ask me questions. Haha.
Yikes there is so much to tell you guys already and I've been here for less than 24 hours. But I don't have time to because we have dinner in like 10 minutes. Lunch was amazing by the way!!! We ate out of large metal bowls off the floor with spoons. (Found out after lunch that yes, it is taboo to eat with your left hand. So we'll see how I do with the right tonight). We had rice and carrots, onions, tomatoes, raisins and beef. It was spicy, but completely delicious. OH and Ramadan starts on Friday, like this Friday, which will be very interesting. I may just partake in the fasting if possible.