Race to the finish: The end of PST draws closer

Monday, May 10, 2010

      I was sick for the first time in Senegal…fever, chills, typical flu symptoms no big deal. However, I had to go to see my new home for the first time, and to shadow a current volunteer. I had terrible diahrreah the whole visit, but I perservered and the rewards were sweet indeed…
       The volunteer I visited is a Small Enterprise Development volunteer, so her work involves working with the local womens’ groups mainly. Her large project is a juice business, where the women use local ingerediants to make 100% natural juices (no added artificial colors or flavors), a rare thing in Senegal. We talked about using my knowledge of cooperatives to hopefully collaborate on a Co-Op project when I install in my site in May.
I received my Peace Corps issued bike before I left, and discovered on my volunteer visit I am truly going to appreciate having it. Kaffrine is a city, and a department in Senegal. The newly paved and bike lane lined national road runs right through the city, and as long as it is daylight, biking is relatively safe. It amazed me that some cities in America don’t have bike lanes but that they have them here! (Shout out to Eugene and Portland who took the #5 and #2 spost for most bike friendly cities).

     I had the pleasure of visitng Ngodbia, my new permanent home for 2 years. I have a cement hut with a thatch roof, electricity, and a personal restroom (Turkish style pit douche ). My host family has quite a bit of money, a difference from my training village for sure! My father,  Omar Ndaw, has had 2 volunteers before, both AgroForestry. Those volunteers actually started their own NGO , Tree’s For the Future, that focuses on re-forestation in developing countries. My host dad is the national rep and just an all around amazing dude who is commited to experimenting with cross-sector collaboration and Peace Corps initiatives.
 http://www.treesftf.org/    Trees Logo

I was also able to visit the local health post, a small center that doesn’t do much but administer aspirin, oral rehydration, and write prescriptions. The close proximity to the regional hospital (a 25 cent donkey cart ride away) has made the health services here nearly obsolete, but it does function as a point of contact for relais (local health volunteers), mid-wives, and rural doctors.  I toured the rest of my town, and noticed an absured number of gardens. They call my town “the place of salad” since most of the women have large gardens that generate income in Kaffrine… I couldn’t be happier! I even saw improved technologies such as drip irrigation being used, an indication that my village is progressive and accepts changes easily.

    The rest of my visit was spend essentially following around my volunteer and meeting people who I will never remember. I have 2 neighboors within 15 minutes in Kaffrine. I also have 3 or 4 other neighbors between 25 and 40 kilometers down my road, all in the Agro-Forestry sector. In Kaolack,the large city where my regional house is located, I got to see a number of volunteers in my region, across all sectors, and also have a taste of little America. The house has wi-fi, a movie projector, a computer lab, extensive personal and reference library, and refrigerators!! The regional house is usually populated on the weekends, and is a good place to hold meetings and other functions. My region is responsible for hosting Thanksgiving holiday and St. Patricks day for the entire country.
I am finally feeling like this place is my home!


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