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?