We came, We saw, We trained

Friday, September 3, 2010

IST finally drew to a close. In addition to the things I listed in my last blog post, we also did sessions on tree outplanting, how to hold HIV/AIDS trainings, effective strategies for doing causeries (demonstrations of technical information to the public) and a NGO fair that introduced us to some of the other aid organizations working in Senegal, and basically what they did. For the most part the second week was pretty lack-luster. I did however enjoy the beekeeping field trip we went on! The man who we toured with was very knowledgeable about the type of problems we might face in the village with our communities, and also offered practical advice and alternatives to the traditional box style hives used in the west. The Gambia Peace Corps program has a fairly established project going on for keeping bees, and also a training. I would love to get involved with this as side project, since I live in an area with numerous tree pepineres and community gardens.

After IST, we spent another lovely weekend at the beach, and then I was off to Dakar. 
Dakar is a wonderful place ( I say this in the context that I live in a village and therefore think ANY city is nice.) But it really does have most of the things you want in a city: food, music, clubs, and a beach! As PC volunteers we get free admission into the American Club (a country club with volley ball courts, pool, tennis court, and  of course drink specials and food). I was in Dakar a week before our IST started, and then again for a few days afterward. I got to eat REAL cheese and REAL ice cream and the best authentic Chinese food I have ever had (thank goodness we had a native Mandarin speaker with us). For a bit I was able to forget that I was in developing West Africa, and just do somewhat normal things any 20-something would be doing in a large city. I guess that’s the problem with the developing world, all of the money is centered around metropolis areas where a fraction of the population is able to live and work, leaving the rural areas forgotten. 
Needless to say, I was ready to head out of the city and back to my hut!

When I arrived back in my village, to my utter dismay, my garden had not been watered, and there had been only 2 seasonal rains the entire month. My plants were almost dead, and my watermelon was very dead. I was not a happy camper with my host sister who had watered my garden previously, and she offered to me no explanation to why she didn’t. After a  week and a half of coaxing, they are all nearly back to normal, just a few weeks behind in maturation. I have 3 cucumbers that will be ready for picking very soon!!! 

I  was able to participate in a Universal Nut Sheller demonstration. The UNS is a simple concrete and metal machine that, with the help of a hand  crank, shells nuts, most notably peanuts. Since I live in the peanut basin of Senegal, this technology is well received. If you have good dry nuts, it shells peanuts 40 times faster than women can do it by hand. I personally have the calluses to prove that 40 hours of shelling peanuts SUCKS!  The cost is minimal (about $75 US) and is a great investment by a woman’s group, or co-op. Hopefully, the women we showed it to connected the labor and time trade-off, a connection that is hard to put across in a country where time is not valued, and is not related to how much money you can make. As one person put it “ what will I do with all that extra time during harvest season?”. 


In other news, my 12 year old sister is “takked’ the Wolof equivalent of engaged.  While I have been uncomfortable in many cultural situations in this Muslim country, this is by far the one where I want to scream EWWW at the top of my lungs but cannot. I have never been one to much hold my tongue, so watching all of this occur in my compound in front of my own eyes is disturbing. Yet, I do what I can by saying that she has to finish school before they get married. The marriage isn’t planned for 5 years, which is some relief, but since she began menstruating last month, she was old enough to be promised to someone. He is close to me in age.


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