Sunday, May 22, 2011

Installing the New Kids!!

Little chunk with his gris-gris.

I was lucky enough to accompany Justin to a health causerie in the village Dakhar Mboudou.

Fields of manure, pretty standard in village.
Horse Transportation is the way to go through deep sand..
This is the river Ferlo that "runs" through our region. As you can see, no water.

The railroad that used to run through the region..
Me and my little sister "Mama" at the Yang Yang Gamou. We were dressed to the nines.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

Haunting Images

There are some events that are devastatingly horrific to see. Some that will forever give me nightmares. That happened to me today while I was waiting for lunch to me served. My mom, mother of 5 kids was ridiculously sweaty. The way she fixes that is to take her shirt off and proceed to wipe the sweat from her body. Under her armpits, her stomach and back all the way to the front where she lifts up her boobs to get to the sweaty underside. Then back up to her face. This happens for about 30minutes until lunch was served. I was sitting less than a foot away and could not take my eyes away from the terrifying site. She is a beautiful Wolof lady, but I was not prepared.


Just thought I'd let you guys know that today I was biking home and saw about 30 camels jogging down the street on the way to the watering hole outside of Linguere. It was pretty funny. I usually see them on a daily basis, but not so many all together.

Random Thoughts

Hot season is here. Apparently it's not as bad as it was last year (the other volunteers boast). But I have to say that it's still pretty damn hot. We can still work outside, and go about our normal tasks until about 1pm when the sun becomes too hot to move. I then have to take refuge until about 5-5:30pm when I can get another couple of hours of work in. Senegalese people think we're insane to be working outside this much, but they do it too! They tell me that my skin is too white and sensitive to handle the heat. That might be true, at least for my pasty skin, but I refuse to be seen as a weakling! haha

So an example of my workday:
     I usually wake up at like 7am, sleeping outside with my family doesn't really allow me to sleep in. I'll read for a little bit while I have breakfast (usually consisting of bread and tea). Then I'll head out about 8:30am, 9 if I'm feeling lazy. Today I went to the Master Farmer site (I'll explain more about that program later). I watered all of the trees that line the farm, all of the trees that protect the field from the smothering heat, winds and sand. Since there really isn't a great irrigation system, I water them all by
hand with a watering can. After that I planted eucalyptus, guava and cashew seeds in our tree nursery site. At about 12:30 I biked back into town, chugged some cold water at our regional office and went home. I passed out under the tree in my compound until lunch and read until about 4pm. I came here to work on my computer (thank allah there is electricity right now) and wrote this post. Now I'm getting ready to head back out to the field to finish up some work. At around 7pm I'll head back home, shower and hang with my family for the night.

So that's the schedule most of the time. Other days I work in my personal garden or visit residents in the city and help them out in their gardens.  We have about 13 volunteers in our region now. The rest of them are Environmental Education and Health workers. But everyone works in some sort of agriculture. Sometimes I get to go to their villages to teach or assist teaching agriculture techniques. We work with women's groups and school environmental clubs. I love doing that. Even though my Wolof is still a little rocky, I have so much fun teaching and conducting trainings. So that's the agriculture part at the moment. I also work on educational and nutritional murals around town, which is really fun. It's a nice break from the field and can be therapeutic.

I feel like I conduct "cultural classes" on a daily basis with people. Some days I have the funniest conversations. And the questions people come up with are amazing:

      Do they have bread in America? --Um yes, yes they do
      Are there cats in America?   - yup, we've got those too
     What about sand? Is there sand?  - Yes there is, but it's usually attached to some water
      There cannot be sheep in America!??-- By the end of this 15-minute question fest I usually lose
                                                                     patience and say something stupid like, yea we have sheep
                                                                      but in America they have two heads....I can be such a jerk

I find that lots of volunteers do this. We're not trying to be rude, or take advantage of the lack of education here, but sometimes we just get annoyed. Or need a laugh to keep our heads on straight.

But I also have serious conversations with people. I was extremely surprised that most adults and teenagers (ones that have been to high school) do not know that we have landed on the moon. I spent one evening talking about how in 1969, we actually went to the moon and walked around and stuff. And since then, we've been exploring all over space. They think I'm CRAZY, or playing a joke on them. "Adji, you can't go to the moon, you'd fall off." I then attempted to explain gravity in Wolof. I think I may have left them more confused than when we started. But at least now they know people can go there. At least, I hope they believe me. Maybe I'll tackle that topic again another time.

I love talking about winter. I'm constantly showing pictures of snow-covered Ithaca and Union Springs. TV shows snowscapes all the time, but I don't think anyone connects it to the real world. People are fascinated that ice covers the ground and roads. Everyone just assumes that we stay indoors for the four months of winter and wait it out. I tried explaining that we go about our daily lives and if the roads are too icy we spread salt over it. "SALT!" my host dad exclaimed, "why would you people waste salt like that? Don't you need it for eating?" I guess that is the normal response. I tried to explain how it's different salt, blah blah but I think it got lost in translation. It got me picturing salt trucks pouring it all over icy roads...that made me laugh out loud.  Sometimes Senegalese show me how weird OUR culture is.

Okay I must head back out to finish my work day. I'm already in need of a shower. Heat rash is crawling up my legs. I have sweaty- salt stains on my clothes from this morning's work. My legs are covered in dirt that accumulates from just walking around. Sand is still gritty in my mouth, the wind these days is laced with layers of it flying into my eyes, mouth and ears.

But it is absolutely beautiful out here. I've never lived in a semi-desert (and will never again) I love it. I have so much freedom with my work. I experience new things every day. I really cannot imagine myself doing anything else with my life right now. I just wished I had a creamsicle ice-cream cone..