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].