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.