Thursday, December 8, 2011

crime and Punishment

After a brief moment of contemplation, li hing mui (thanks mom) and socks for the feetzies (it's cold) I can now successfully try to entertain my readers with a not so happy story.

As many of you have no clue about I was robbed a few months ago while on a 3 day hiking trip. Yes, the trip was epic and yes I could see three countries from where I was standing but the return to my hut was not so epic. I was with my fellow volunteer, Ben, who stayed at my hut the night before our departure. As I entered the hut I immediately knew something was wrong.

My immediate instinct was to check for Ben's computer, he had left it in my hut not wanting to trek with it. I handed him the computer and told him to check to make sure everything was still there. Turning to the back door I discovered where the culprit had entered. I generally use a string to lock the back door of my hut. I thad worked for the year or so I'd been in village why would it fail now. That day I discovered it cut and I was able to freely open the back door.

I went into a rush. Ben told me everything was in his computer as I broke the news that my hut had been broken into. I went through all of my belongings which I now began to notice how out of place they were. Knic-knacks were strewn across my table, clothes on the floor, and buckets moved. I keep my hut fairly orderly to unsure minimal pest damage and cleanliness for visitors, it's not very big you know.

Anyway, I found that the money I had brought out to throw a party had been stolen (40,000 cfa), Ipod gone (neve realized how much I missed it till it was gone), voice recorder, solar charger, batteries, and 3 bars of soap. I screamed for my father to come over, not the best decision as unbeknownst to me the perp was still in village. My Dad, the village chief, came to my hut and I explained to him in very angry Pulaar what had happened. Then, my brother came over to tell me how sad he felt. I felt a little helpless but at the sametime at ease with what had been taken as it was mostly trivial things which could, if wanted, be replaced. My rage stemmed from the invasion of privacy and broken trust that had resulted from the theft.

A meeting was called and immediately my voice recorder emerged. I played for my Father and Uncle's present the recording I had done with my Father about compost 4 months earlier. How they didn't already know it was mine I don't know. They now believed me and told me Boubacar Diallo, a boy from Guinea who had been helping to farm some fields and staying in the village for roughly a month, had it and was taping people talking randomly in the village. Attempting to hatch out a plan in secrecy, something nearly impossible here especially when white person is involved, they set out to catch Boubacar.

Fail. Boubacar whether he heard me yell, my father call the meeting, or got suspicious when my brother took the voice recorder I don't know but he fled behind the fence into the bush with an excuse to poo. I hoped he pooed his pants. Ha!

Anyway, the chase began and my village was dedicated to catching him in a very non-chalant way. My Uncle who had house the boy took personal responsibility to the next morning at dawn ride 30 km to Kedougou to place a reoport than back 60 km into Guinea to place a report with all the villages on the border and the police. I saw him later that same day and bought him some cookies. Unfortunately, I felt all his hard work was a bit futile.

Morning came the next day and left. The afternoon brought some excitement as an old man said he saw him headin gotward Kedougou. The border patrol along with the forestry, because only the forestry has a motorcycle, left on pursuit. Nothing turned up and I went home a little bummed but my father had hope. He had called a Fatia, or done a religou offering with all the religous leaders and elders of the area to inform their people about the thief and to pray he gets caught or dies. Intense I know it gets better.

A few weeks pass and I am in Kedougou for a radio show. I'm packing to go back to village when I get a call from a number I don't know. I answer, "Alo?" -"Mamdou? It's me Malal. We caught Boubacar." Me - "What!? You caught him? Where? How?" Malal - " Come see. Come now. Tell your uncle in the market."

I left immediately to the police where nothing happened because the theft didn't occur in Kedougou. I asked them to tell the police in my area to bring the thief to kedougou (thinking of course that it was their job. I told them about it). Nothin happened because the police in my area don't have a car or motorcycle. So. I left ot village.

Arriving at around sunset I fonud Boubacar sitting with my grinning father. I asked what would happen. They told me to wait until my uncle came back so, I went to bathe. Boubacar wasn't tied up and didn't look hurt but he looked tired, sad, and a little remorseful. As I showered I thought about how he was just a kid who saw an opportunity to have something he may only be able to dream of (I don't mean this offensively. Look into Guinea's status). I began to forgive the boy not in a religous sense but in a okay he did wrong he needs to pay but not necessarily by going to jail.

My uncle arrived and the meeting commenced, if you could call it a meeting. It consisted of humiliating Boubacar, telling him how shameful his actions were, and asking me to talk to him and him to talk to me. I wasn't having it and just wanted things to be decided and over. Unforunately, due to the time and Tebaski (a major Islam holliday) taking Boubacar to jail was out of the question for the next few days atleast, until Tebaski passed (2 days away).

Their first choice Tie him up to a tree or post until the holliday passed then take him to jail. He'd eat, he'd sleep, he just wouldn't be able to go any where. I wasn't a fan givent he immediate ridicule allready givent o the boy i could only immagine what would happen if he were tied up. Next and final option, Saria. Saria in Pulaar literally mean law and until today I didn't know what that meant. So, after some discussion with my advisor and my father and i agreed that this Saria would be the quickest and most acceptable puishment that would make everyone in the village feel like justice was brought.

Saria began at midnight with the showing of all the clothes Boubacar had bought with the stolen money. He then removed the stolen clothes he was wearing, in front of everyone, and put on the slothes he wore when he arrived. He was asked what would happen to him if he were caught stealing in Guinea. He said, "they ask you whether you like your foot or hand better?" My father now weilding a machete than asked, "well which do you prefer? Bring it forward?" Boubacar chose his left hand and my father raised the machete high and borught it down swiftly. Laughter erupted as my father stopped his swing just short of Boubacar's hand. The verbal abuse continued.

Until, one of my uncle's grew tired and called for the children to get sticks. Excited the children each brought a stick. A discussion broke out whether to tie Boubacar up. Thankfully, the decision was no. My unlce than, like something out of a movie, order the boy to sit on a map. He grabbed a the first stick and began beating Boubacar until it broke. Boubacar began crying and screaming with pain. The first stick broke and a second was taken swiftly. These step were repeated until Boubacar leapt with a yelp and began pleading for it to stop. He was ordered again to lay down on the mat. Compling Boubacar suffered again until the fourth stick broke and while the fifth came down on him he leapt again and plead for it to stop. They didn't so he bolted for the door. He ran through the village as the villagers followed for fear he might steal their bikes. Apparently beating and ridiculing is Saria.

I was astonished and intrigued. The people of my village thought nothing of it. They even joked and laughed at how he yelled in pain and congratulated my uncle on a good beating. The whole next day I heard how well my uncle did and how Boubacar cried. I also slept with my bike in the security of my locked hut and woke the next morning to do laundry.

Still shocked I didn't leave the village until the afternoon the next day. I was gone for maybe 3 hours and came back to find my back yard a bit of a mess. I thought, “Damn cat” and continued on my way to bathe. Then the greeting of, “Hey Boubacar is by the forage. Did you see him?” I replied no I hadn't and that you're not funny. Then, I began to think and opened my eyes. My back yard was a mess and there was an interesting space in the clothes I left to dry in the sun. That little SOB came back and tried to break into my hut again. Finding it was locked he took my shirt instead. I'm not going to lie I was scared and slept the next few night with my doors locked for fear of what he may try at night.

Boubacar showed his face in and around the area for the next 3 days before finally being spotted heading towards Kedougou. I haven't heard anything since but everyone is on the look out. I now lock my doors when ever I leave, sucks, but I do. I learned my village really does care for me and will go through a lot to make things right. I also learned that I should've shared the things I hid from my village (Ipod) because then they would've known it was mine and things wouldn't have gone so far. In the end, we have moved on and learned. Boubacar is no longer welcome in any part of my community and I know people are looking out after me.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Senegal has a variety of animals living in the wild that (I could be wrong) one cannot see in the wild in America. Things such as lions ("ohhh!"),Snakes ("ewww"), lizards, and yes the cute and cuddly hippopotomaus. Not to brag but I have seen a few of these little critters while attending to the daily business.

Baby hippo - Early in my service our entire region (Senegal is broken in 14 I belieev) went on a retreat in order to discuss desired projects, a visons for the year, and possible improvements. This pas tyear it was held at a Campement roughly 40km North of the Goo. The trip was pretty standard some alcohol, arranging for one of the worker's wifes to cook for us instead of the regular white people chef they have on tap, and the daily out door frolicing near the river.

I was fortunate enough to be blessed with a thought full, creative, and fish loving father who decided to send me a fishing pole. Sorry Pop, it's been used once but it does play a key role in this story.

A now retired volunteer and I decided, knowing the the campement is on the Gambia river, to bring the pole along just in case. After a long day of meetings and discussions we decided to get a few casts in before the sun fully set. Per usual we stayed out casting away, really just messing around, until dusk. Now, as many of you dwellers of the developed world may have forgotten but with no cars, generators, tvs, radios, or noise making devices the world is a fairly quite place and atleast in my perspective the darkness brings about with it a new level of silence. My friend and I were slowly approaching this silenece when it was abruptly broken with sound of water breaking. (You know the sound that you heard when you submerge a bottle under water and it pops back up or when your ears exit the water and are ambushed by the freedom of air).

Anyway, immediately we looked to the river and found a cute little Baby hippo (real life size probably about the size of a small car) and its mother. They came for down river and were sitting behind a little rock sehlf in the middle of the river avoiding the current. The baby was attempting to climb the rock. A few seconds later we began to notice the shines of not jus the two hippos but roughyl 3 others also resting in the shelter provide by the rocks from the stream current. My initial though, like any, was this is awesome, how can I get closer? We quickly scuried down the river bank to a clearing that put us directly in line with them and at roughly 50 yards away.

As we sit and watch these beautiful creatures the sun grows tired and decides to go to bed. We stand mesmerized staring now only at the contrast of shinynes between the hippos and water. No we don't have a flashlight. Why would we? CRACK, RUSSLE, SPLASH! We freak out now in an instant realizing hippos are very territorial, especially around their young and in the dark and they can easily out run us on land. We take off running/fast walking up the bank, down the trail and back to camp.

We laugh as we arrive, out of breath, and only able to ask, "Did you see it? Was it a hippo? Shit!" The crash was big (hence, the capitals), the russle equally as big and the splash well you can imagine. Waht caused it? I don't know but that Baby Hippo sure was cute.

For more info on hippos -

Reptiles - There aer many reptiles in Senegal most of which youreally don't want anything to do with. I've seen them in the back of my hut and be headed (the common death penalty of a found snake after being beaten with a stick) on the side of the road. The other common reptile of interest that I've seen commonly are monitor lizards. They usually scare the crap out of you by plopping out of a tree, scurrying through the bushes, or swimming across a river. These actions are also true for most snakes.
My most recent enconter with one of these lizards was down at a farmer's field. His 10 year old son pointed the lizard out to me. It was sitting high up in a tree and appeared to me to be pretty tires, maybe a little hungry but definitely thirsty. The boy and by this time his mother, little brothers and father all agreed with me as we stared up at this lizard willing it to move.
The boy had other plans. No sooner than I pulled out my camera to take photos the boy was hurling rocks at the lizard to get it to come down. His little brother, age 2, scurried to his mother and somehow never took his eyes off the lizard. The rock throwing continued for about 15 minutes, none ever hit the lizard, until finally the boy's mother decided it was time for them to get back to picking peanuts.
The lizard seemed unperturbed but as we began to leave it turned around and started down the tree a little. I left for another field but was greeted later that night by an estatic little boy claiming he had hit the lizard with a rock, causing it to come down and run away. This is fairly classic rural animal and human interaction in Senegal however, this doesn't hold true with some of the larger mammals.

Lion - Ona return trip from Dakar I must pass through a National Park in which there is no cell service, houses, and one will see numerous monkeys, warthogs, and sometimes a lion. I got a fairly late start this particulair day getting out on the road for the last leg of my trip home. The sun began to set and most of the people in the car were asleep, thank goodness the driver was not. As we putted down the road a strangefigure began to emerge from the distance. The figure seemed to be laying on the road. My first assumption was it was a cow but as we approached I saw that it was a tad smaller than a cow. I live with Pulaar people I know what a cow looks like. I then decided it was a dog but quickly destroyed that though as the animal was much to large to be a dog. I hadn't made my third prediction when we arrived at the animal's resting spot. The driver was jsut as curious if not more than I in what this things actually was and upon learning what it was he quickly sped up and looked back at me.
He asked, "Did you see that?" Me, "Ya, what was it? Was it a lion?" He just nodded manicly and focused his speeding car down the road as his fear stem from the numerous stories people tell of bikers, herders, and even cars being chased, harrassed and sometimes destroyed by lions. I on the other hand was shocked but it made sense. This large figure mimicked the way a dog or cat would lay. It was smaller than a cow but much larger than a dog. It was a lion.

These are just a few of the animal encounters. Others include hearing Hyenas at night as they follow our cows back to the village, warthogs, and monkeys. I unforuntaely have not seen Chimpanzees yet but will before leaving. Any questions?

I stink at keeping this thing updated.

As the holliday times roll around volunteers begin to plan their trips home and families and friends begin to roll in to Senegal. As the times are in America, Senegal is happy and cheerful in the Peace Corps's world during the holidays. Even amongst the arguments over an upcoming election, this years drought, and the constant "Tobabing" children we volunteers seem to be able to make ourselves feel at home. Before I forget I'd like to wish you all a late Happy Thanksgiving, a Merry/Happy what ever religous holiday you celebrate and if none the have a good day, and of course a Happy New Year. Thought I would cover all the bases all at once just in case I don't write another blog post for the rest of my service.
I decided to jump back on the band wagon of blog posting after sharing some of the interesting stories I've thought I told my parents but have some how gotten lost in the back of my now some what Sengalese mind. Some of these are happy, some are sad and as I am a fisherman's son they may or may not be embelished. That is for the reader(s) to decide.
In an attempt to use this little intro blog as a reminder and table of contents for the stories I will lis the "chapters" of the stories below. Seeing how I have been eating straight pork for the past 2 days and ran 15 km today please frogive me if the stories aren't filling your new found appetite for fresh African stories.
Chapter One - Animals - Over my past year and few months in country I have encountered a few animals that many people will only see behind bars. Some deadly, some cute, and some tastey and all we seen while simply going about my daily business.
Chapter Two - Crime and Punishment - Everyone thinks that going into a third world country means on will have to strap on a bullet proof vest and buy one of those uncomfortable and akward traveling wallets. The fact is that yes people do view you as upper class, even if you aren't bac at home. The simple fact is that you have something they want and they may just decided to try and take it. A variety of crimes happen to volunteers here and across the world. I'd like to share my little incident and how I've never felt more at home while being no where near the place I truly call home.
Chapter 3 - Police - The most recent story about how one event can be ruined by what I deem as selfish.
Chapter 4 - Disease - Maybe the most gruesome of the chapters. I think it is time you hear about some of the diseases, illnesses, and health issues I have personally gone through while in Senegal.
Chapter 5 - Marathon - We'll try to end on a good note as I speak about beginning to train for a Marathon in March.
I hope this works and I actually saty on top of it for your benefit and mine. My Pops says I should share these stories and maybe some of them he hasn't even heard. So, here goes nothing. Fingers crossed I don't bore you too much.

Friday, July 29, 2011


So, it is another Friday and another radio show will but put on here in Kedougou. I am not sure I have ever describe what exactly our Peace Corps Radio Shows incorporates. I guess I should start now since I am in here.

The Peace Corps Kedougou Radio Show is a flavor of the week sort of show. What we talk about really depends on the time of year, genre (health, Ag, Agfo), and whether or not we feel it has importance (most of the time we do feel it has some importance). For example, last week June 22nd we spoke about correct spacing and thinning of corn and millet, Perma-gardening, and a little supply and demand. Most of these pieces are short, roughly 10 minutes, and explained with a straw-man skit. Straw-man means one of us acts completely naïve about whatever subject is being discussed while the other explains step by step what to do and why. The straw-man then repeat what the genius has taught him to reconfirm that he understands. It's a very effective way to communicate things that aren't directly tangible and the straw-man technique is extremely fun to play out as it often leads down random funny roads.

I'll try to post an example of one of our shows on the blog so you guys can listen to it.

Other than the radio show things haven't been too busy. Farming is continuing on at a frantic pace so that one doesn't have to farm too much during Ramadan, which starts on August 3rd. Apparently August is supposed to be the rainiest month of the year as well. That's good news because my local river and 2 foot waterfall should be flowing soon. I'll have to take some photos.

Over the last what ever its been. Time sort of flows together and gets lost here. Which is funny because they are obsessive about checking their watches and cell phones with me as well as each other to make sure they all have the same time. It always confuses me when someone asks me what time it is and their cell phone is in their hand. I don't always carry my cell phone on me so often times I just look at the sky and give my best estimate. I've gotten pretty good at it but no where near the mawbe (old men's) quality.

Some exciting news here on the West African coast in brevity:

Malaria and or Dengue are the new flu as mosquitoes take over
Presidential elections are getting heated as one candidate tries to slither his way through
Corn will soon be ready for fire roasting and eating at just 25cents a pop (too bad real butter melts in your pockets).
Waterfalls and skin infection win the awards for strangest couple and most eye opening.
PCV's being inventing a new extreme sport called mud skiing. (it involves some sort of vehicle usually a bike, rope, sticks and one large mus puddle).

That's all for now any request, comments, suggestions please feel free to let me know. Really I am just sort of writing this thing for the hell of it. I think there maybe a lot more interesting things written in my journal at site but I haven't mustered the courage to just directly copy yet.

Unitl next time I wish you guys all a good Ramadan. Eat lots of good food for me, for those of you near water sources jump in, those near forests/mountains go get lost for a while it's good for you, and for those of you who don't fall into either of these categories start you own small garden and experience just how good it feels to give life to something. Wonnen e Jam (Lets be in Peace).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blog Report 15th July, 2011

Only a week since my last post, I think (not that I want to be this frequent), and I am back updating you, the reader, with my doings or do nothings. Let us begin with the rain. How marvelous the rain is after a few months of day after day of 110+ days. Even the shade under he mango tree was too hot to stand. Thank goodness the rainy season has arrived.

The month in July as all of you know and Kedougou, as I think I explained previously, just got done with their annual fourth of July party. I was in charge of cash/organization and am extremely glad the 4th passed with no serious injuries or malfunctions. Unfortunately that did mean I was out of village for roughly a week planning, nursing head aches, and saying good bye to a friend who is off to bigger and better adventures.

Adventures. I've been thinking a lot about adventures lately especially with all this rain and the mountains I live below. I know my area is beautiful but now that the dust is cleared I'm sure there are some good waterfalls, sights seeing spots or valleys that a beaming with new growth and fresh water. Over the past week in village I have made a little pat with myself to adventure a bit more at least once a week. I don't mean running off to the next village or going to the waterfalls I know exist. I'm talking about asking people where the biggest most beautiful places are, who lives at these places, how do I get there, can I take a bike, do they speak Pulaar, and Whose coming with me.

My self-pact doesn't mean I am playing hookey. On the contrary, one can only plant, weed, thin, and add fertilizer so many times. Corn, sorghum, peanuts, bean, and sweet potato have to grow on their own some time. I've got the date of importance marked on my calendar and will be there for the 15 day weeding and day 45 for adding fertilizer. However, those 30 days in between don't all have to be spent visiting farms or sitting around drinking tea.

You all are probably asking yourselves know, “So, what sort of thing has C.J. Gotten himself into? What have you done C.J.?”

Sorry, but over the past week I've been playing a little catch up and one of those important days (day 15 thinning) came and went with out a hitch. I'd did visit a new village, near mine, that butts right up against the mountain. The place is beautiful and they want a volunteer. I don't have the final word but I gave them the proper paper work and we'll see what happens. I also took a little adventure to some fields that are just recently being plowed and planted. Yes, I got lost a little but nothing to cry home to about (sorry mom and Dad). Other than these little trips I really haven't had any stories.

The main story has been rain and how wonderful it is. I am now taking hot bucket baths again. The combination of cold rain and hot water make for one delightful experience. Throw in a sunset and you've got one hell of a start to an evening. These little adventures and warm/cold bucket baths are what I enjoy most about this beautiful place I live in.

Alright, enough of the sappy 'oh, I live in Africa' business and on to some events, some news. I may have told you but my garden was eaten almost bare by goats. Stinks but I think with the rains it'll keep on truckin'. In other news, my boss visited me and gave me some props as well as some pointers. It must be a Peace Corps must for it's employees to be great motivators. Either way, he and I spent a few hours talking about my work and stuff and it made me feel important. Important like my work had a purpose other than to just feed people vegetables. Now-a-days, my focus has turned to farming and setting up small examples of mulching, spacing and thinning with in individual farmers fields (this should add to my adventuring).

Sorry this was a bit of a ramble with out much purpose or direction but I'm in a bit of a rush to get back to the fam-bam. Don't want to miss any more planting or the first opportunity to visit our very own 2 foot waterfall/swimming hole or fishing. I hope the rainy season is a good as I'm dreaming it will be. Water makes me happy and well the very name rainy season sounds like there should be quite a bit of rain.

For Kaveny,

Cooking a pig in the ground:
Rocks rouhgly 5-6 head sized and 2-4 fist sized
banan leaves and stalk or some other type of fire barrier and insulator
Drinks of choice
chicken wire
Plastic tarp

Dig hole big enough to fit pig in with about a 4-6 inches of space all the way around it. Fill hole with wood and rocks. Light fire, relax, and prep pig (banana leave and stalks on outside pig but inside of chicken wire plus seasonings). Once fire has burned down to coals and rocks are red hot fish out the smaller rocks and stuff in side of pig stomach. Sew pig stomach up. Sew chicken wire with banana stalk, leaves and pig sandwich up nice and tight. Try to not let any of the pig show. Form crevice of rocks and coals in pit for pig to fit in. Place pig in, if you have one place a piece of sheet metal on top of the pig, extra banana stalks can also be used, if not bury pig with first layer of dirt. Place plastic tarp over first layer of dirt and then cover the tarp with dirt. This should reduce the amount of heat lost via the top of the hole significantly. Let pig cook for 10-15 hours dependent on size. You can't over cook it. When ready, dig up pig, clean off dirt, and eat.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

One Great American Holiday

Alright I have been back and healed from my last post for abut a month now. Things have been going well and after a little catch up on work I seem to be back in the groove of things. I've distributed seeds to my farmers and educated them on the planting, saving, and caring techniques Peace Corps has passed down to me. Whether or not these techniques will be used is completely the farmers decision and from what I have seem so far the techniques have been ignored. I guess that what you get for trying to "change" a habit based on history and survival. All in all, I chalk it up as a success because I cans still try and at least get them to save the seed they do grow instead of being almost completely dependent on NGO's and other programs to come in and give them what they need.

Also, my garden was producing eggplant, okra, tomatoes, and green peppers like mad. Most of which, tomatoes and green peppers, I ate while in the garden while the eggplant and okra went to family and friends. I eas even able to supply a baby shower with enough eggplant and okra to be put in every bowl (for perspective roughly 40 people showed up not including my village). Pretty good I think. Unfortunately, the day before leaving for Kedougou (July 1st) my garden was broken into by some thieves, goats to be specific. They ate most of the okra, bitter tomatoe, beans, moringa, etc...etc.... Hopefully some of it is left but from what I saw the village isn't to interested in copying what I am doing but more so in just eating what I can produce.

Anyway, I also had a visitor, the volunteer before me, Steve, came back for a visit during his trip to Mali. It was wonderful to spend the day with him and hear what has changed, what he liked, what he actually did, and what the villagers lie about him doing. The village builds Steve up to be a real superhero so, it was nice to see how he really is and realize he is just human.

At the present moment, I am recovering from a long week of planning, creating, and enjoying our annual Fourth of July Party. I say planning but really nothing could be done with out the other volunteers in Kedougou. The party went smooth and I even cooked two Kalua Pigs (yup, dug the holes and everything). People loved them and I had never felt so Hawaiian before. Pulling the pigs out of the ground people began gathering, then I tore of some meat and gave it to someone for tasting. Eyes watered, saliva dribbled, and the frenzy began. I don't think it took more than 30 minutes for people to finish off these pigs. And that was that for the pigs. The party continued on into the night. I haven't heard one complaint.

Really now, this moment, I am putting together my life, getting all the things I have put off to plan the party done, in hopes I will be biking back out to the village this evening. I sadly have to say goodbye to a ear friend today. He'll be leaving for another adventure after serving here for a little over 3 years. I'm bummed but know we'll stay in touch. I'll say goodbye then hit the road and the next time I come in he'll be gone, still so strange. Until next time remember : Mon haylaaki, o haylay horee (The one who doesn't adventure, only shakes their head). Keep that in mind the next time you can't figure out what to do on a day off and just get out and walk around. You'll be surprised at the things you find.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

6 New Volunteers, 11 Stitches, and 12 Days in Dakar

The title gives all the exciting points away but I'll try to keep you in a little but of suspense.

Part 1: 6 New Health and Environmental Education (EE) Volunteers

Yes, it is true I am now longer a "freshman" volunteer. I graduated on May 13th when the new group of Health/EE volunteers swore in at the American Embassy. Shortly after swear-in 6 of the newbies arrived in Kedougou, excited, eager, and scared to finally be out on their own in the place they will be spending the next 2 years of their lives. Unfortunately, (due to PC policy I cannot name all of them [Really this is just a good excuse because I can't remember all of their names. I hope none of them are reading this]). Any how, my area got one of the six new volunteers. It's a boy and his name is Ben. Ben is a genuine, fit, and sincere guy with a desire to get outside and go on adventures and learn the Pulaar tongue. You should have seen the smile on my face when I found out he liked adventures and Pulaar. Ben and I have hit it off so far but my first visit with him really made me realize just how "green" these new volunteers are. Things like cows and goats out in the open, always having a flashlight on me, and the large presence of different infections and disease don't shock me as much as they do him. One of my favorite conversations with Ben starts with him saying, "C.J. it gets really dark here."
Me: "Ya Ben. It's called night time."
Ben: "Ya I know but you can't see anything. "
Me: "It's night time there is no light. You didn't bring a flashlight."
Ben: "Not last night left it in my room before going to dinner. Then, it got really dark and I couldn't find my way back to my hut."
Me: " Alright, well...It gets dark, there are no lights, you need to carry a flashlight on you when you leave and don't excpect to be back before dark."
Ben: "Okay."
I don't mean to seem mean but thinking about it now I probably could've been more sensitive. The comment just caught me so off gaurd at the time. Ben is going to be a great volunteer and dark or light we will have some good times I am sure.

Part 2: 11 Stitches and 12 Days in Dakar

It all began Monday May 23, 2011. It was a simple and non-eventful day. I started with some work in the garden, then studied at the Priemer school near my village, before returning home for more gardening and a hope to kick the ball. Unfortunately the latter was changed when I kicked the sheet metal covering my wood frame door. Unknowlingly the bottom corner of sheet metal had come undone a little and on my way out to water my orange tree my left foot made its acquiantance. Feeling the impac but no real pain I instinctually looked down at my foot. To my surprise there was not much red but quite a bit of white. It took me a second to realize the white I saw was bone and the little of bit of red was rapidly growing. I dropped the bucket and picked up the first aid kit. My namesake, at that same moment, arrived at my hut to ask to use my bike. He was shocked to find me cleaning and tending to such a wound. His words were something like, "Oh my Good God" but in Arabic. I quickly put him work to get me water to clean up. With the wound attended to, I made the crucial decision that the wound was bad enough to call the medical staff and see what they would like me to do. I secretly already knew they were going to tell me to go to Dakar as quickly as possible to prevent possible infection and to get stitches which new would be needed.
Long story short I was driven to Kedougou with in an hour of the iccident by a teacher and on a bus to Dakar wih in 6 hours. I arrived in Dakar, saw the doctor, and was stitched up with in a day of initially cutting myself. Now, I am laid up in Dakar for 12 days with no real plans. The only good thing to come of it is that I will get to watch the Champions League final at the destination of my choice with some good friends and I'll try to write a few more blog posts to inform you a bit more of what I have been up to. Until then Yo Allah okkee mon cellal e golle e ko hondun fallaton. (May God offer you health, work, and what you want).

Monday, May 9, 2011

Being a Sustainble Agriculture Extension Agent

I think it is time to describe exactly what it is I am expected to do for my job and then what actually happens. I've explained this to a few people already (mainly the mawbes (parents) and sister) so here is, what I hope to be, a brief explanation of my job/direction while living here in Senegal. Oh, and Pictures will be included if the si internet jabi (if the internet agrees).

The pictures above are from my demostration garden in my village. As you can see there is still a lot of land to plant and improve upon. I myself haven't just done it because it's not my land and I've learned from experience that you don't necessarily learn something unless you practice it yourself. So, instead I am waiting for the day the women's group, village, chief, or someone approaches me and says, "Hey Mamadou I want to plant here. What can I do?" This may seem like a utopian approach to my "volunteer" work but it's the only way I feel I can make a direct short and long term change because the people approaching me for these techniques, I assume, want to learn them and will therefore use/practice them. Harsh to some and maybe not enough to others but that fact is I have two years here to work, play, and learn. Two years may seem like a long time but I've been here for 8 months now and it seems like yesterday I was just learning how to squat and properly wash myslef in the douche.

I am not going to lie to you and say my demo garden is just for learning. I definitely enjoy working, smashing bugs, planting seeds, and in general watching things grow. The kids seem to get a kick out of it too when they decide to try and help. However, the demo garden isn't the only way I "reach out" to find these motivated and interested people I am looking for. We also partner up with other NGO's such as, USAID and Trees for the Future, to put together informational meetings about such things as seed saving, seed distribution, tree pepeniers, and any other agricultural or agroforestry concerns one may want to attempt to learn. My experiece with these partnerships has been positive: 1.because the NGO workers are local and speak the local language much better than I and 2. They are used to interacting with Europeans ro Americans and there fore aren't consistently if ever asking me for things and on time . I guess you could say education, mostly pertaining to Agriculture and Agroforestry, is the main goal of my job (atleast as I see it).

Education is an important part of developing or imporving any one's or thing's living standards because one most understand why and for what he or she is changing the norm for. There fore, and to contrary popular belief most of my projects and successful projects are non-tangible. For example, the two Agroforestry meetings I've help set up and run or the mural I painted of the world are not projects that one can, usually, tangibly see the positive or negative results of because education takes time. Just think back to how long it took you to learn all 50 states or break a habit. In America, one may think these are just fun and "busy work" projects but in reality the pasing of knowledge via imagery and hands on experience is greater than the monetary handout that is mostly associated with the words help, project, and development. I want to give knowledge that can be passed on for years to come weven after I am old and having brain farts on a regular basis. Below, because I seem to ramble and rant when discussing this subject (it really is difficult to explain unless you've experienced it directly), are Peace Corps 3 simple goals written by John F. Kennedy back in 1961 to promote world peace and friendship (I think they are crucial in understanding where I got my methods from):

1.Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.

2.Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.

3.Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

As you can see by just surviving in village and writing this blog post I am fulfilling all 3 of Peace Corps goals (which if you haven't notice contain no numbers, quotas or directly tangible "projects or delevopments.") Peace Corps' 3 simple goals are why my answers to the question, "So, C.J. what projects are you working on? or How are the proects coming along?" usually begin with, "ahhhhh, welllll, you seeee, can you define projects?" My overal, main, over reaching goal here is to share my culture with the people I encounter as well as to learn, practice, and share their culture with the one's who choose to follow me on my journey.

For me my Peace Corps experice(s) aren't about how many wells, forages, gardens, schools, fences, and any other useful structures one could build with the ludicrious amounts of grant money that is out there. No, I want to see how many people can learn something from or teach them something. The most difficult of change for any person is, what the experts call, a behavioral/habitual change such as using a douche rather than wherever you happen to be when nature calls or quiting nail biting. Sometimes these changes are fast, like my host father putting mulch around all of his mangoe trees, and other times this change is slow, like getting a village to undersand using a douche is more important than parading the fact of having a douche to boost you social status. This isn't too say I am against building/creating tangible projects. I just want that project to continue giving, helping, surviving and providing for the community and itself when I decide its time for me to move on. Again, referencing Peace Corps 3 goals because each is able to provide for itself when one moves on in one's life. (i.e. cultual exchange continues long after a Peace Corps volunteer leave's his or her village with the sharing of stories betwwen villagers and the people that volunteer meets (this is especially true now with the modern world's communication abilities)).

I hope this helps you guys understand why I answer "the project questions" with a sigh and grunt; and please understand that this is my opinion and you don't have to agree with it. This is simply the best way, I feel, I can enjoy, integrate, help, teach, learn, and LIVE during my service. Two years is a long time now but 23 years of life have gone by in a blink of an eye (ask my parents) and I feel I must find a balance of work, play, and pleasure inorder to fully experiece all of Senegal.

[Photos: not necessarily in order: bean flower, okra bigger than hand, okra flower, my garden, agfo pepenier training, and the beautiful mangoe that was chilled by the Segou stream. Tried to give a balance of work and play].

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A month's review

April 24th, 2011

So, again it has been almost a month since I have last posted on my blog and to tell you the truth it doesn't feel like much has happened but I am sure things have changed a bit. For this blog I will consult my handy calendar book created by my wonderful friend and neighbor Katherine Crocker (KC for short).

Since I last wrote the college kids have left and I haven't heard a word from them since. I think they are okay though because some are staying at the Kedougou house now. April fools day has come and gone and I didn't act on either of my ideas for an April fools joke. The first was to pack up all my stuff and begin walking out of my village. This gesture would provoke the questions, “where are you going?” “why do you have all those bags?' I would respond, “I'm going home. I miss my family too much.” This would only be funny because my village is very paranoid that I will not return whenever I leave the village. I decided against the “fake going home” because it would probably cause I village wide panic and my father may have had a heart-attack. I don't want to be responsible for the pain/death of an old man. The second idea was to switch the usual tea sugar with salt. It would have been a classic switch -a-roo that probably would have gotten some laughs and been a lot less harmful than the previous idea. Instead, my joke on April fools was a complete fluke. I was sitting making tea with my counterpart and some friends when the sugar ran out for the third round. (side note tea in Senegal is taken in 3 rounds in which a shot glass of sugar is added in each round. People are served a ¾ shot glass full of tea at each round. For good tea sessions it is best to have less than 5 people drinking tea from one pot). Usually when the sugar runs out one would ask for more sugar. I, being American and sugared out, decided I would just continue making tea and see if anyone noticed since there was already so much sugar in their anyway. No one had noticed that sugar hadn't been added when began pouring the first glass to be distributed to my counter-part. He took the glass and with the first sip made the infamous bitter beer taste. He immediately shot me a quizzical look and handing me back the still full glass asked, “Did you add sugar?” Knowing I hadn't I responded, “Yes, I added it on the first and second rounds.” He was a little annoyed but still playing along when he specified his question to the third round. I answered, “No, there is no more sugar so, I made American tea with out sugar.” Everyone began to laugh and quickly ask to be served their share of the tea. Some lied it, most hated it but in the end everyone got a good laugh.

Moving along through the month of April we come to the 4th also known as Senegal's Independence Day. I decided to head into Kedougou after being told by everyone kid in village about the Independence parade that took pace on the fourth. Curiosity got the best of me and I left the afternoon of the 3rd to be sure to be on time for the parade on the 4th. I left earlier than normal on the 3rd because it wasn't too hot and I didn't have anything else to do in village. I decided to take a different route than normal. The route took me past a village I hired to make some shelves and then continued on through the bush to the Kedougou road. I was told it would be a lot faster and it might have been if I could ride my bike on it. The road was skinny and blocked by numerous fallen and live trees. I walked my bike most of the way but when I could ride it I did. This is where the fun begins. Five minutes into riding my bike on the path my front tire goes flat, which usually isn't a big deal until found out my pump doesn't work. Long story short, I ended up walking 25-30km towards Kedougou before getting picked up by some boys from a surrounding village. The boys, also on bikes, allowed me to sit on the back of one of their bike and push my bike along side me. We did this for the last 5km.

Back to the parade/march. I got up early to run to the market before the parade started at 9 am. My promptness paid off and I got a good seat with some kids on a wall adjacent the road to be marched on. I though, “This is great I have an unobstructed view and some kids to mess around with. It'll be a good parade.” On the wall I sat for roughly an hour waiting for the parade to start. 10 am rolled around and the parade looked like it might begin at any moment but I still hadn't seen any kids, parents, NGOs, or other group that looked like they would march besides the Senegalese military. 10:30 am the parade starts and a military band begins to blare its trumpets. The Senegalese police force is first, then the army, then what I am guessing is air force and then no one. The parade ends in less than 5 minutes. A little astonished/bewildered I sat on the wall for a few more minutes watching the most exciting part of the parade, the Senegalese Army, continues marching and chanting while spectators followed and chanted beside them. Next time I'll get more details about the celebration but it was good for me to see and be seen by some of my community members and to support such an important holiday.

So, this post is getting long I'll try and be a bit more brief. Back in Togue we've had an explosion of baby births. 3 this month so far. What takes place at a Senegalese baby shower is the naming of the baby just born. The parents choose the name but nothing is official until it is whispered in the ear of the religious leader, Imam, and repeated with some Koranic verses. A pretty special and spiritual process. Rice powder mixed with honey, cobal (choball), is divided and distributed to everyone after the name is announced. Then, there is a lot of sitting until the food is served, usually rice with a peanut sauce, and the ceremony takes a rest before eating again. The denabou, as the Pullaar call it, takes up most of the day and is usually fairly uneventful but a good break from work.

The next event to happen in April, was KC and my bike trip to Segou via the mountains. It took one day, roughly 25 km, but due to some work constraints we couldn't start till the heat of the day. After some flat tires and rest stops we made it to the Gambian river (5km from Segou) and swam in it to cool off before continuing on to Segou. We arrived unscathed, tired, and a little dehydrated but excited for the waterfall the next day. The trip was definitely worth while and photos can be seen on my facebook.

April turned out to be a pretty heavily packed month with the above events coupled with the new volunteers coming down for their first visits, my garden getting bigger, mangoes being extremely ripe and plentiful, and KC's announcement of leaving early to attend grad school. I've had a busy month and only going to get busier once KC leaves. Jessica, my other neighbor, and I will be the oldest volunteers out our way giving us the full responsibility to set up new sites, answer questions and explore. I'm a little scared but I think I'll managed some how. April hasn't ended and KC is still here. I plan on picking her brain and hanging out until she finally leaves. May can only bring new lessons and adventures.

So, I've finished with the month of April until now. Sorry it was a bit rushed but I'm happy to answer any questions. Now, I'll leave you with a funny story that made me think I was in America. It was a Thursday afternoon and I was heading to the Lumo (weekly market) in Fungolimbi (15km towards Guinea up a mountain). KC and I usually hang out at Lumo discussing language and culture. I was getting a late start and had on the pants I had been wearing for the past 3 days. Before leaving I always let my parents know, just like in America, but this time I was confronted not about where I was going or when I'd be back but because my pants were too dirty. My mother told me I could not go unless I changed my pants. I asked why and she responded because they are dirty. Enter my father who is now curious about where I am going. I tell him and he gives me the same talk about changing my pants. I tell them my pants are going to get dirty going up the mountain anyway so what is the difference? Simultaneously, they respond, “It makes you look bad, your family look bad, and your mother look bad because if your pants are dirty then people think we are not washing your clothes or taking care of you.” I simply couldn't help but smile and laugh a little as it reminded me of the time my mother, biological, sniffed me in the movie theater and told me, not very subtly, “You stink. You need to shower when you get home” before returning her attention back to the movie. Any where you go parents are the same. They only want their kids to present themselves and their families in the best light whether that is through clothing, bathing, or manners. So, to end the story I couldn't change my pants because the rest were just as dirty. We compromised. I bought soap at the Lumo and she did my laundry on Friday. Almost like home.

Shout out:
Frank Guzzardo say hi to his mother.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Visitors from America, Thank Yous and Good Byes

Over the past week I met some people, said good bye to some people, and remembered a lot of people. Sort of a weak way to satrt the blog but it's true and the electricity could run out any moment so, I am just going to go with it.

I was asked and agreed to host some study abroad (CIEE-Council on International Education Exchange) students. I was worried when I heard my students were two girls. Not because they were girls but because we don't have enough house bikes and wuld be walking around my Community Rurale (its roughyl 5 km to the next village). I was pleasantly surprised when Sarah and Catie didn't complain, bicker, or tear up. Instead they just smiled and asked question as we trucked along in the 110 degree sun to or destinations. We saw waterfalls in Segou, visited the Dimboli Post de Sante and Bambaya Primary School, and went to the Lumo in Fongolimbi. The icing on the cake I think was our Lumo car (massive dump truck) ride down the mountain back to Kedougou. We had to get out once on our descent because the car was so full with people and mangoes. We eventually made it to Kedougou, barely as the gas ran out when we crossed the river. So, we called a cab and got a ride to the house just in time to eat the last sandwhiches in Kedougou for the night. Perfect really (atleast they said they had a good time). They left early this morning back to their home-stays in Dakar with a little different perscpective on Peace Corps and the Senegalese culture.
Speaking of people leaving Senegal. I also said goodbye to 3 PCVs who have completed their service and are on their way to bigger and better things. It truly is a weird things to say good bye to these people even though I haven't necessarily known them for that long.PC creates a special and strong bond between people that just doesn't seem to rub off. Maybe its the intestinal infections or the struggling with culture and language or maybe its just the amonut of free time one has to think about what he or she is doing. What ever it is it makes communicating, shooting the shit, dinner talk what ever you call it so easy here. Everyone has a story that leads to a story that leads to some laughter. Its strange to share those moments and then say good bye to that person with a simple hand shake and a few akward works before he rides off to the garage on a bike filled with luggage to find a car to take him to Dakar. Just like that your service with Peace Corps ends. It definitely ism't as glorious as it started. However, everything is alright whether you're just starting something or finishing it as long as there is someone/something you can go home to.
I was reminded of that today when I received some wonderful packages from wonderful people (my mother and Father and Kyle Kaveny. Thank you so much. It made my day and many others. Thank you.
I'm going to go know. Figure out what I am bringing back to village and relax maybe watch a movie if the electricity agrees. Either way I am in good company and will hit the road nice and early tomorrow before the sun gets to hot.

Finnee e jam. (wake up in Peace)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bringing Books to Senegal

So I am posting this real quick and asking that you please take the time to read about this project.

As you know, I am currently serving in Kedougou, Senegal as a Sustainable Agriculture Extension Volunteer for the U.S. Peace Corps. In between watering the garden in the mornings and evenings I have taken to the schools in my Communtiy Rurale to learn French and Pulaar as well as teach English. A typical afternoon is filled with questions about what this and that object are in English, Pulaar, and French along with the ever-popular topics of girls and soccer. The kids and teachers are adamant about learning, teaching, and succeeding but struggle to do so because of a lack of materials, mainly books. In short, due to the lack of books in Senegal teachers and students are hugely obstructed from being able to do their job and gaing knowledge on their own. Following the lead of a second-year volunteer, Jessie Seiler, who has teamed up with Peace Corps and Books for Africa. I have jumped on board the Bringing Books to Senegal Peace Corps Partnership Project in an attempt to bring a shipping container full of books (roughly 22,000) to Senegal for distribution through out the country. I hope that this project will help motivated members of my community by providing an opportunity to learn--both on their own and in the classroom.

For more information on the general overview of the Books for Africa Project please go to this link:

For more informatin about the Peace Corps please follow this link:

For more information about the doings and success of Books for Africa please follow this link:

Thank you and there will be an update coming shortly.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Congratualtions on Another Trip Around the Sun

As you may already know my wonderful American mother gave me life just a few days ago, March 7th. In past years my birthday has been spent at beaches, hotels, restaurants and college rooms usually with a significant amount of alcohol, food, cake, candy and whatever else one can associate with a birthday. This year I went against tradition. I spent my birthday in village with one other American and roughly 80 Toguenabbe (people of Togue). My only condition being that I get to swim/jump in some water.
I made sure to accomplish my only birthday wish by heading out to a nearinsh village, Kafori, where Jessica, a volunteer who came into Senegal with me, lives. From Kafori the waterfall is about a 30 minute hike. There you have two swimming holes, some little fish, and the occassional monkeys. Before starting or hike we bought some local bread (made in a mud oven), mangoes, cookies and cheese (not real cheese and imported from Kedougou). The day couldn't have been more relaxing and delicious. I swam and soaked and jumped off thing until I ran out of food, water and was tired. We spent roughly 6 hourse at the falls before heading back into town two purchase my present.
Kaforis has it's Lumo, market day, on Mondays and therefore Jessica and my plan was to go to Lumo and get some food to bring back to my village and feast. Really all we needed were two nice big plump chickens but first there was lunch to deal with. On our way back in we stopped at a local farmers house that Jessica likes and ate some corn cous cous with leaf sauce. However, Jessica's Senegalese mother had other things in mind. I received a call while I was in mid discussion about how much I was willing to pay for a chicken. Jessica simply said, "My mom wants you to eat lunch here." As a guest I as obliged to do so and honestly still a little hungry. So, I finished up my trasaction, settling for two chickens, the first costing 2,500 cfa ($5) and the second 2,250 ($4.75), and headed to Jessica's house. It's hard to describe my shock and excitement when I opened the lunch bowl expecting corn cous cous and leaf sauce but finding rice, meat, onions, and oil. We can just say that I didn't say much until the bowl was clean.
By this time it was getting dark and I needed to transport the squaking birds to Togue soon if I were to eat them that night. Jessica and I were off racing the sunrise back to Togue where my family and village was expecting and waiting to kill two chickens and have a wonderful meal. The meal was worth the wait as my Senegalese host mother certaintly can cook when given the proper and sufficient ingredients. My birthday dinner consisted of rice, oil, onions, garlic, salt, maggi (seasoning), and two chickens. I ate until I could eat no more and then went to bed (mind you that dinner wasn't ready till around 11:30pm). All in all, it was a wonderful and memorable birthday and I wish all of you who are reading this could have shared it with me.
I am now 23 with no immediate direction but that which is given to me by the day at hand. I don't think I would want it any other way right now. Thank you all for the wonderful birthday wishes via Facebook, text, email, and phone. You guys truly made me smile and feel special.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Long Time Over Due: The Day and Life of My Peace Corps Experience

While lounging today in the city of Kedougou I realized I hadn't written a blog post in quite a while. In fact, I think it has been almost 2 month now. Forgive me please as I know you are all hangin on by a thread to know what my next and every move is. Fortunately, we live in modern times in which cell phones, email, facebook, etc.... can compensate and keep you informed about my where-a-bouts without me actually updating the blog.
So, I guess I will begin in Febuary because I think that is where I left off.
The shortest month of the year proved true to its name and just flew right by. I was in village for maybe half of it as WAIST (West African International Softball Tournament) fell right in the middle of the month. I had enough time to plant some beans, corn, and moringa in my garden and then jet off to Koalack to view a master farmer site (a PC inspired program inwhich highly motivated farmers are given the materials needed to improve there fields witht their promise being that their fields will be used to demonstrate the techniques PC is trying to implement). The Master farmer's field was awesome complete with the begginnings of live fencing, a beautiful pepinere (tomatoes, basil, lettuce, onions, etc..), a moringa intensive bed, and all the works one could say. I also travelled into Koalack to view a "reading room." Essentially a room that is stocked with books and supplies to allow whom ever to study while school is out of session. I thought it might be a good idea for my village as most of the kids do attend school but don't have a place to study in peace. Talks are in the works but I'm not too sure it'll pull through for a variety of reasons. Anyway, my Koalack trip ended at a friends site for fun. I was treated like a Pular king there as the village spoke Wolof and I made friends with the only Pular family. In two days I think I gained 10 pounds as I was expected to eat three meals and drink teat twice a day with two seperate families. The second day I puposely didn't go to the Pular Family's lunch because I was soo full so, they just saved some for me and had one of their sons deliver to be eaten at my descretion. To tell you the truth I waited for my stomach to digest a little so I could atleast taste the meal I was given. Of course it was delicious but I was full to the point of vommiting so I donated it to some of the local children who were more than willing to devour it. Needless to say I feel like this paints a pretty good picture of the type of life and welcoming spirit that I encounter the majority of the time.
My journey continued to Mbour and another volonteers site right on the ocean. This time I was there only for the water, fresh fish, shrimp, and clams and to have a good time. I think I could live in Mbour. Seriously. It's a beach town that is bombarded with tourists and greasy white people but the locals a beautiful. They pull nets all day long, cook and sleep on the beach, and for the most part seem willing to better their situation on a whole. It's hard to describe the many different levels of Mbour you'll have to take my word for it when I say I want to live there to mena that it is pretty cool.
Next stop was WAIST. The Kedougou and Tamba regions were themed as cops and robbers. Yes, that means we wore costumes and no, you probably wouldn't want your kids to see us in character. WAIST is a 3 day event in which volunteers from Senegal, Mali, Cape Verde, Gambia and others come to drink and play. Ofcourse, there is a legit tournament going on but we only participate in the "social" league where the refreshments are a dollar. You could say we were all well hydrated through out the 3 days of softball and night time activities. I had an amazing time, meeting some really interesting people, eating atleast 4-5 bowls of raisin bran a day (at my wonderful American homestay house, Thank you Devlins) and only swinging the bat once. All in all, it was a great escape that made returning to village life a bit more difficult.
To the present we go. I was greeted by my village with lots of bowel movements, lacking/slow language skills, and a half eaten garden (screw grass hoppers). Those first four days were rough because I had lost moment on anything that I may have had going on before I left. I compensated by reading my current book, Life of Pi, and by focusing on my garden. Little by little my routine started up again and I was feeling better about my life in village. Not too mention I have two wonderful neighbors who are willing to listen, share, and help me out in any rough time. I'm back in Kedougou now to watch the Arsenal Barcelona game (I had a little bet with one of the teachers near my village) and to get some work done. However, I would like to take the time now to break down my daily schedule in village so that you guys can maybe gain a small grasp on what being me is.....(If you've made it this far into this post you are trully a good person).
My Daily Routine

6:45 - 7:30 a.m. - Get up with the sun rise, poop, pee, drink water, begin and finish short work out, eat oatmeal with powdered milk and water plants in back yard.

7:30 - 8:30 a.m. - Off to the garden for maintenance and watering along with pumping a bucket of water for consumption during the day.

8:30 - 9:30 a.m. - Return to hut and leave to pump second bucket of water then, off to break fast with the family.

9:30 -11:00 a.m. - Back to the garden or someelse's garden or help Malal with what ever he is doing (currently its building a huts).

11:00 - 2:00 p.m. - Drink ataya (Senegalese tea lots of sugar), hang out under a mangoe tree to get some gossip, study language, study ag/gardening/Senegal, do anything that may be needed/wanted to my room, chat more with the locals, maybe go on a hike, essentially keep myslef busy until lunch is ready.

2:00 - 3:00 p.m. -Lunch (usually a leaf or peanut sauce with corn couscous), followed by digestion under the mangoe tree.

3:00 - 5:00p.m. -More ataya with Malal or the teachers at one of the schools, maybe a nap under or in a tree, any other messages, visits or "work" (by the American definition) that can be done with out too much exposure to the sun.

5:00 - 6:00 p.m.- Second watering of garden along with maitenance (mulching, pest managment, planting).

6:00 - 7:30 p.m./Dark- Usually soccer at one of the fields (Bambaya or Togue) or more studying of language and reading of my choice.

8:00 - 9:00p.m. - Showering, general hygien and doctoring of any damages to my body that have occurred over the day.

9:00 - 9:30 p.m. - Dinner (usually leftover lunch) and hanging with the family.

9:30 - whenever I get tired or Malal get tired - Drinking ataya, talking/discussin possible projects and life, admiring the stars, making jokes, learning Pular history/stories. Generally just hanging out and learning about each other.

10:30 - 11:00p.m. Bed time preparations, journal writing, some vocab studying, glass of milk with bread or cookies if available, reading and sleep.

And there you have it. The complete break down. Pretty exciting huh?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Going with the Flow.

Being in Africa over these past four months has really taught me one crucial point in life and that is to go with the flow. This was recently thrown in my face while traveling to and from Dakar. What should be a short 10 hour excursion from Kedougou took, due to some mishaps, bargaining, and consumerism, 15 hours. Truly it wasn't that bad but to try and explain this journey I must first try to paint a picture of what travel is in Senegal.

At the very basic levels there are what we call Alhums and taxis. Taxis are basic four door beaters that look to be dug out of a junk yard and welded together. In fact, most are just this having to be pushed started and not stop inorder to continously run. These are used to travel in the current city you're in and most trips around the entire city run a wooping five hundred cfa (equivalent to about a dollar). I know what you thinking, I'm paying good money for a taxi I deserve the best but be reassured most taxi drivers are nice and their cars get you to your destination most of the time.

The next most common and even cheaper form of travel is the Alhum (short for alhumdullilah "Praise be with Allah" ). These 30-60 seater vans, depending on how many people are sitting on the roof or hanging off the sides and back, travel to and from villages for an average fair of roughly 200 cfa depending of course on the distance traveled. If your lucky you'll get the bonus of sitting next to a large Senegalese man or woman who will proceed to sleep on you through out the trip before wanting to frantically depart the van at her stop. Their departure obviously is dependent on how fast you get out of their way and into another persons lap before they pick up to much momentum and squash you. Fortunately, there isn't much room for them to run so you usually have enough time to get out of the way. Never the less the Alhum is a good ride for the price if you are travelling a short distance between cities.

Next there is the ever popular sept-plus (named after the amount of people it is legally allowed to drive at one time)(note that this does not include babies). Sept-pluses are usually taken from major city to major city due to their cost, ability to carry baggage, and speed. However, these cars again are beaters and due to the drivers want to get to his destination as fast as possible, the sept-plus often breaks down or has some sort of delay during travels. Sept-pluses are often avoided because of the new buses that are cheaper, run the same routes and are less troublesome.

Now, to begin traveling in Senegal one either knows a driver, as was in my 15 hour case, or has to travel into the garage. Upon arriving at the garage one must know the price of where he or she wants to travel to avoid the inevitable opportunity of being ripped off. After establishing a price one must discuss baggage price. This is often the most troublesome problem because there is no set pricing for baggage and the drivers and garage men see it as an opporunity to fatten their pockets. Again, this can usually be avoided by calling a driver or renting out a whole sept-plus, though these techniques are not full-proof.

My trip began at 7 in the morning when our driver arrived at the regional house to pick us up and take us to Tamba, our first stop before Dakar. We had seven people and there fore rented out the entire car. Of course the driver asked fro baggage fees but we brushed him off and away we went with a decent car and a good price. Unfortunately about 2 hours into a 3-4 hour journey we had our first flat. No big a quick change of tires and we were off again in roughly 20 minutes only to be brought down by the same tire 20 minutes later. Now, we were almost 2 hours into the trip and stranded on the side of the road waiting for another car to help or transport us to where we wanted to go. After waiting another hour, I napped under a tree, our driver was kind enough to put us into a Alhum and paid our way. Our Alhum trip lasted 45 minutes before they decided we needed to get back into a sept-plus and continue on to Tamba. 5 hours for what should have been a 3 hour journey sounds terrible but really I got to take a nice nap (which I needed) and we arrived safely. Things could've been much worse.

The only bad thing that happened was our numerous delays put us into the Tamba garage at lunch time (11-3) and we ended up having to wait for everyone to come back to work before beginning to travel again. We ended up needing the extra time to bargain the price of the trip and our baggage fairs. Again it sounds terrible but fortunately this bargaining can be done by one person while the other, i.e. me, go off to find delicious meat sandwiches. Just going with the flow. After chatting it up with some local people for a few hours we were on our way to Dakar and with a General.

The trip to Dakar was nice due to our friend the General who made the numerous check points easy to pass with a simple wave of his hand. Usually these check points are to check the driver's papers and to sometimes withdrawl a briber for an infraction. Unforunately the General liked to stop and buy things so, we probably made just as many stops as we would've even with out the General in the car because he wanted bananas, a soda, peanuts, and the list goes on. I'm not going to lie so did I and I enjoyed to little butt stretching breaks that the General's stops gave us.

Long story short we arrived in Dakar about 8.5 hours later. But the moral of the story is that life will throw small and big curves the point of them is to find the good and push through. Somethings will go perectly as planned but most won't and for me those that don't usually end up being alot more fun and rewarding. I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and wish that atleast once this year you explore and enjoy the unplanned, unexpected, and just go with the flow.