Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pretty much all the People of my village

my father and mother are missing


November 25, 2010

I believe it has been roughly two weeks since the last time I wrote a blog entry. I am now back in Kedougou for Thanksgiving, which is looking to be quite the feast, and to research some potential projects.The past two weeks have been fairly slow but filled with some fairly important celebrations. The largest of which is Tebaski, (have explanation of Tabaski).

Tabaski for me started with a morning prayer withall of the men, women and children from Bombaya, the village next to Togue, and Togue. There were probably close to three hundred people praying together under two large Baobab trees. It was a beautiful sight to see so many people on the same page and together accomplishing one task, to give grace to their Allah. I didn't understand at all what they were praying for but it was nice again to be together with so many people. This moment was abruptly interrupted when every one finished praying and an older lady quickly approached me as I got up from my mat to demand I offer her money. Now, I shouldn't of been shocked because I know that this holiday, along with many other holidays, it is customary to offer children and the elderly monetary gifts. However, some how I was still unprepared with no money and shocked that this lady whom I showed respect would so blatantly demand I offer her money. The moment passed and soon I was off with my counterpart Malal to Pate Swares's house to kill a goat.

No, I didn't actually get to kill the goat, but I did get to watch the whole process. Pretty interesting and strange how I felt sort of bad for the goat. I tried to directly compare this feeling to that of the numerous fish I have witnessed and slaughtered myself. However, the goat death made me feel almost sad but the meat was delicious. Speaking of this feeling of killing things lets talk about our massive thanksgiving. I got to kill a duck.

THANKSGIVING!!!!! Lets state the facts and get right into the food/essences of thanksgiving. We had 10 chickens (35,000 cfa total or roughly $18 us), 5 ducks (15,000 cfa roughly $8 us), stuffing (bread, apples, carrots, onions, raisins), apple pie, pumpkin pie, weird pudding pie, squash pie, mased potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, two types of gravy, biscuits, cornbread, carrot and corn salsa thing, and banana bread. Thanksgiving here didn't lack anything and the best part was we split the chickens into groups and each got to season/marinade a chicken the way we wanted it. I went with a honey, orange, hot pepper glaze which turned out way to spicy but delicious. Actually maybe the best part was when we destuffed all the birds and had a stuffing which contained all the flavors of every bird. Needless to say I was supposed to go back to village this morning but who can realistically miss thanksgiving leftovers. So, what really happened was I woke up at 630am ate some more food and went back to sleep until now (10am) in which the sun is too hot and my belly is in no mood for a the 1.5 hour bike ride. I'll be back later on today just not right now. Thanksgiving was a huge success and I hope your thanksgiving was a good as mine.

Current Update
As of now I am running back to village to find someone to water my plants, lock up my hut, say good bye to the family, convince them I will be returning in a few weeks, and to pack for my 3 week stay in Thies for mid service training, All volunteer conference, and sustainable agriculture conference. I'm a little afraid what this mass amount of time away from village will do to my language skills but I'm bring my books and hopefully someone will want to practice with me. As for now, its back to the village for a day (12 hours) and then work (i.e. presenting my village, possible projects, safety things and finishing other documents PC requires us to finish before all these conferences).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

nene (mother) in Sangal Kam homestay during training.
The family (L to R: Youssafa lil bro, JaJa Isotou (older Sister), Baby awa (on Jaja lil sis), Fatou lil sis, Koto Housman (older brother), Baabaa (on Koto).

My Room in Sangal Kam.

One lovely sunrise on our beach weekend in Pompenguine.

Swear Inn at the American Ambassador's residence.

Life on top of the mountain I live below. For more Picture please refer to my facebook profile as FB seems to be a bit quicker in the uploading process.

Here is the link:

Current And Up to Date

So, it is now November 7, 2010 and it has been a while since I last wrote a blog. I have posted some older blogs to try and catch you up/give you guys an idea of the process I am going through but it has been difficult with all the traveling lack of internet, computer problems, and the fact that I just get lost/have to much fun in my brand new home called Senegal.

As of now, I have been in my village Togue fro about 2.5 weeks. The village itself is about 100 people if you count the children, and I mean barely 100 people. My father is the chief of the village which mainly consists of one family name, Camara. None the less everyone is very happy and very helpful in teaching me pulaar, how to cook, how to get water, and just about anything you can think of because I am their guest and they need to know I am okay and have/can do everything I may need to do. Life is good.

The village itself, sorry if this is repetitive, is about 25-30km south east of Kedougou city in the rural commune of Dimboli. It is a village of Pulaar people who farm corn and some peanuts directly in the village during the rainy season as well as in their fields, about 5km outside of the village. The nearest volunteers are about 12-15km up a mountain and east. Really not that far as it takes me about 30-45 minutes to get to either place on bike due to the mountain and poor road conditions.

Living in village is a whole other world than training as I am completely alone and given total freedom of what I want to do in a day. It is a little overwhelming at first but I am slowly adjusting and finding things to do. For instance, I took a day trip out to Kafori, about 12km east of my village where another volunteer is stationed, to walk to a gorgeous waterfall. (see pictures below). Another day I spent with my father in his field eating corn (yakugol kabba) and then walking roughly 20km more to his rice patties. But for now, as it is the harvest season, I spend most of my days studying Pulaar and talking with the community in the morning and then helping with the harvest in the afternoon. Recently I've actually begun to make a rock pathway to my douche (toilette, which by the way I have definitely mastered).

Other exciting events have been the all night celebration (literally 12pm to 12 am) of the circumcision of about 10 boys. I was astonished to find out that these boys were between the ages of 10-12. No, I didn't actually participate in the cutting process, there was a doctor for that, but yes I ate as much Kosan and laccirri (couscous and sour milk with sugar) as I could stand and then danced it off before gorging myself on dabirri (a crushed peanut, sugar and laccirri mixture that tastes exactly like a peanut butter cookie). Really the food is delicious and the village has no problem attempting to feed me every second of every day.

The majority of the food I eat contains some sort of grain and a sauce. Usually this grain is funio, a sort of grass like crop which is stepped/danced on for its seed then dried in the sun and either cooked whole like rice or pounded and steamed. Either way its amazingly tasty. Other grains we eat often are rice, corn, and sorghum (although I have not eaten this yet as it has not been harvested). Most of the sauce that occompany these grains are okra (Taaku) or peanut based with different variations calling for species, crushing of the peanuts, sugar etc.... These grains and sauce known as nirri e mafe are usually eaten for lunch or dinner. While breakfast is usually mboiddi, a laccirri porridge made with water, sugar, and limes. There is no bread, no meat, and very little vegetables although I have had tomatoes once and bitter tomatoes few times. I hear this will change with the upcoming dry season gardening season approaching.

As for me, I have been on a roller coaster ride of hating, loving, good, bad, mediocre and ever other emotion, feeling, desire, or whatever you want to call them on could experience. However, the average of all these things has been more than positive. I was warned of the difficulties of not being able to directly and easily express myself but in the back of my mind I always thought there would be one person I would find who would understand or have the same humor as I did. I was wrong as of now. One grand example is farting. I, personally, find farting to be hilarious whether it is silent and violent or loud and proud all farts are funny as hell. I had held back my farts in training around my host family because I didn't want to be rude or know how they would react. However, with my host family in Togue I immediately became aware of some noises that I interpreted as farts but as a family would in America these noises were ignored. So, I waited for my time. A time with children and no adults preferably away from the village. This time came on my walk to my fathers farm in which I waited back forcing my little brother to slow down with me and I let out a loud but not deafening fart inorder to study the reaction of my little brother. For a good portion of the walk I had wondered whether he would laugh or be disgusted or fart too but nothing had prepared me for what he actually did. NOTHING! He didn't even break stride. So, I tried again as I has stored up some extra gas via the massive amounts of kabba I ate. Again nothing. My little brother had crushed every hope and dream I had of a simple due to natural gas in Senegal. Still I didn't give up.

I decided to push the limits and give farts one more chance this time with the family and at dinner something only kalabante (trouble maker) in the state would think about doing. So, as my family and I gathered around our food bowl, hands washed and full of funio I let out a little toot. Again not hideously loud but defnitely audible so one would know it was a fart. I looked up to see if anyone noticed, reacted, stopped eating, laughed, something...but again nothing not even the scolding I was prepared to take. The fart, a comedy I hold deep in my heart in America and have used on numerous occasions to lighten a mood, completely fails in Senegal. Well not completely as I can still laugh to myself whenever I fart or someone else does I guess.

Now, I am sitting in Kedougou city as I have to buy a bunch of food for a language conference being hosted at my village. Really it is just a teacher, myslef, and two other volunteers coming out for a few days to learn Pulaar but language conference sounds so much more official. So, I am going to end this long but informative blog entry with a bit of Pullar wisdom that I really like and have been repeating to myself for the past couple of days now:

lekkun bee e dowkal mun. (Every little tree gives its little bit of shade).

Until next time I hope everything well with every one and please and thank you for sending letters, emails, and any other form of communication.


PCV C.J. Cintas
BP 37
Kedougou, Senegal
West Africa

A bit of Catch Up (posts I wrote in August).

August 8th.

Finally in Washington D.C. And after a short trip on the metro I've arrived at the Holiday Inn on Fairview. So, far so good as I was surprised to meet my first Peace Corps peer, Rachel from Colorado. The introductions were short lived with Rachel as I had to check in and get ready for dinner and drinks with Pontius.

I returned to the hotel at around 11:30pm felling bad about missing dinner and the arrival of other volunteers when, to my surprise 11 or so volunteers were gathered in the lobby of the hotel. We exchanged glances and made eye contact before finally asking, “Peace Corps?” and answering “Peace Corps.” I've finally met a portion of the 65 or so volunteers who will be traveling with me to Senegal. The rest should arrive tomorrow for a fun day of paper work, ice breakers, and a boat load of information. Not going to lie I am a little nervous.

August 10, 2010.


Today marks the day we, the Peace Corps volunteers of Senegal, actually depart and arrive in Senegal . Once again, I am writing this message on the airplane (its amazing what you can do in 8 and a half hours). Although I've only really been talking with a fellow volunteer, playing games, and watching Cop Out (the edited version) mostly to procrastinate about writing this blog.

I have mixed emotions flying into Senegal. Some are scared others excited but mostly it is a realization of what is really happening. I'm really doing it. Yes, they are speaking native languages on the plane, including french, and no I do not understand them at all. Yes, there are people here dressed in (what I am assuming to be) native attire. Yes, the plane is awesome and it includes free drinks, any type, free movies, music, games, a camera showing the plane flying through the air, and many more fun things. But enough about the plane and more about the day.

Today was fairly boring a sort of hurry up and wait day, if you know what I mean. We started with a very early check out at 830 and began boarding and stuffing a 2 buses full of our stuff. We were off to receive the yellow fever immunizations and to receive what would be my first official WHO (World Health Organization) card. Pretty exciting stuff until we arrived and were lined up and walked through a metal detector and then escorted into a room where a lady speaking broken English was flicking needles and mixing, what I hoped and turned out to be, the yellow fever vaccines. It was sort of a picture you would see in a horror movie torture scene but a lot less scary of course. Fortunately, I received my shot fairly early in the day and was then able to relax and shoot the stuff with my fellow volunteers. The whole process for everyone to be checked and stabbed took about 4 hours. I know but talking with other volunteers I am amazed to see how many are from so many different backgrounds and places. Its pretty cool to think about us all united under one cause.

Anyway, the day continued on, we said goodbye to our PC trainers and headed for the airport where we were given our first test, How to Check into the Airlines. I stayed back to watch 3 or 4 people travel to either United or South African Airlines (SAA). The solution was to stay and wait for SAA to open and then check in there (SAA was the airlines designated on the itinerary). Everyone was checked in, I was not over weight with my baggage (Hooray!), some repacked at the check-in stand and others just paid the difference. And so, we were off to again wait through security and the gate for our flight. Since, I am currently on the flight, 1 hour 30 to go, I think this is a good time to describe some of the feelings, emotions, relationships, and other things you might find interesting that have been happening over the past 24 hours. Oh, and just a heads up this could be a last message for a while depending on our next move but we'll both find out tomorrow.

So, training was sort of fun like a summer camp where everyone is feeling each other out and attempting to make friends. I think the interesting part is yet to come when we finally begin training and put some time in at Senegal. The main concern of traveling was of course packing and bringing enough stuff or too much stuff. The second biggest concern is the malaria medication. Some say it is horrible and causes you to hallucinate others, the PC, say it is the best thing for you. Think I am going to go with the PC on this one even though I don't have a choice in order to continue my service. But on to more important issues like the 10 core values of PC.

We learned them, got a pack it, and now I have forgotten them. Thank goodness it is pretty common sense stuff. And I've lost my train of thought as I haven't gone to sleep yet, too excited for our big debut. Wish me luck......


My second day in the Thies (Chayse) training center and I'm not sure life gets better. The life style is very laid back, the food is excellent and everyone is very willing to help. I still need to learn the language and my view point might vary as I begin to live with my home stay family on Monday but as of now things are pretty great.

Today I began my Rural Agriculture training. In this program we are working towards food security by demonstrating different planting techniques, using a variety of crops, and dispensing improved seeds (the seed are cross bread seeds from India that are bred with local Senegalese plants to adapt them to the dry dry climate). Pretty tight if you ask me.

Ag volunteers will also be looking to improve community participation and set up a plan, as I understood a sort of general plan, for the community to follow in order to inplement new programs (like a community garden). The one very tough thing is learning the language and things are going to get tougher when I move in with my host family. I'm excited though because that's when training really begins.

Any way the people are great. Yesterday, we had a little dance party as the guys played the drums. The majority of us were having a difficult time following the beat or being creative enough to impress the locals so one of the drummers decided he would teach us a dance. It was called the mongoose, Walker if you're reading this you need to get on this dance move. So, you start off feet shoulder width apart slightly bet at the knees. Then hop with the beat and as you begin to get into you choose a place to jump and land and stop on the beat. As you land throw your hands up above your head, bend your elbows and wrist toward the direction your facing. Add a crazy look in your eye and begin jumping in one direction until you cannot any more. When you can no longer jump forward anymore you must jump backward to where you came. Its actually pretty fun if your with a group of people, who are all into it or are Peace Corps volunteers, and you make a giant circle.

Oh, another interesting story comes from one of my fellow volunteers who entered the PC right out of college. He was sent to the Cape Verde Islands. Before exiting he applied again and was sent to China. Now, he is on his third PC stint and in Senegal. He has been home for a total of 2 months for the past four years. He has traveled to some amazing places and gotten paid for it. I thought it was pretty cool.

Alright, that's enough I think the heat being produced from my computer is attracting more mosquitoes. So, I am going to go. I don't know when I will be able to post this but I am attempting to write everyday and when I can post more I will and most likely do so in mass quantities.

I hope everything is well back in the States. Next time I will give you a run down of my first bowel movement into a hole in the ground.