So much time, and so little to do! .....Strike that, reverse it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Back home: leaves are falling, a smell of crisp apples apples is in the air, and jack-o-lanterns are beginning to appear on doorsteps.....

In Senegal: The humidity has no threats to subside, the humming of millet chaffing machines is all around us, and the mosquitoes cling to every surface........ Ahh Fall.

Where has the month gone? It seems like Ramadan ended  light years ago. I forgot how quickly the days pass when people are being active; and how much happier people are with their bellies full (well fuller during the day at least…most still only eat one regular meal a day!)
We had the naming ceremony for my new baby sister. It is the first Seneglese event that I felt truly included in, and excited about! We had so many people running around the compound; I had forgotten how much I loved parties in the states. I invited another Peace Corps volunteer who lives 5k away, so it made the experience that much better. There was music, and we killed a sheep, and everyone was giddy with excitement!! It seems like all we did that day was eat, from morning until about 11 pm… a bit of a shock to my system just one day after Ramadan. 
      I think he knows he's done for....              

Waiting for the Kilifa (religious leaders to confirm the baby name)                                        

When the babies name is confirmed they kill the sheep, and bury some blood for a blessing

             Mom and Baby

My aunt cooking a traditional rice topping Chou....parsnips onions and carrots in a broth

   Notice the HUGE pots used to cook the food

    My host brother and his daughter and me

I am not sure if I mentioned it earlier on, but I am getting new PCV neighbors. 3 will be replacing current COS-ing volunteers, and 2 will be new sites. The volunteers in my region of Senegal had a “Kaffrine Day” where we took them to the market, our favorite juice spot, and showed them the cyber cafĂ©. We finished up by taking them for a beer and our favorite ceeb shack (lunch hut). It was nice to see the new, fresh  excited faces…I know I have been here barely 7 months, but I am amazed how my attitude has changed to fit my situation. I thought I had good coping skills before I came here, but now, I am hard as a rock. I have also had to change my perspective/reality of what I will achieve here, and what development as a whole can achieve on the small scale community based level. The simple fact is: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and everyone fails at least once (something I was NOT accustomed to back home). If you want to read more about the shortcomings and failures about aid in Africa check out a great book: 

On the work front: 

I was able to participate in a regional project in the mangroves a couple weeks ago. Mangroves are known as Forests of the Tide, and support more life in their ecosystems than any other system on earth. According to National Geographic "Mangroves provide nursery grounds for fish; a food source for monkeys, deer, tree-climbing crabs, even kangaroos; and a nectar source for bats and honeybees. .. Each mangrove has an ultrafiltration system to keep much of the salt out and a complex root system that allows it to survive in the intertidal zone.  The plants' interlocking roots stop riverborne sediments from coursing out to sea, and their trunks and branches serve as a palisade that diminishes the erosive power of waves." 
We planted mangroves in a delta town called Toubacouta. The place is beautiful…. But the human impact on the mangroves forests over the last 50 years that Senegal has been industrializing is enormous. Where there used to be a network of tidal flats and acre deep forest, there is now just empty sand bars.  
We had a total of 50 community members, in addition to 20-ish PCV’s out in the mud flats during low tide planting mangroves. It was a fun, dirty, tiring day, but by the time we had finished, there were acres and acres of new mangroves seedlings planted in the thick mud.

Mangrove inlet where we stayed

Sorting through the seeds before planting time

Planting the seedlings along the natural water line

The last Friday of every month, my  health hut holds post-natal vaccinations sponsored by UNICEF. I was given a job at the one we had this month…I sold the aspirin and explained the dosage instructions and proper uses. Not exactly the most important job, but I participated none the less. I spoke with the mid-wife in my village, and starting next month we are going to have an information table, covering a different topic each month. I am going to try to get my hands on a baby scale also so I can monitor the children who routinely come through. Hopefully I will have some pictures of this in November.

I also went to an “open field day”… a project held by AgFo and Sustainable Ag volunteers, and part of the region-wide food security initiative. The tour was held in a village at the site of a farming demo plot. The plot is designed to maximize space and food production, while using natural pest management, live fencing, and a host of other techniques. There were tons of Senegalese farmers there, as well as many PCV’s, and our Country Director. Eventually, we want to integrate nutrition and health education into the program, since both play a large role in food security.

                                                       Rice paddy demo plot

                                        The farmers doing a question and answer session

And now for some lagniappe (New Orleans lingo for "a little something extra")

“A Wolof Guide to the Supernatural in Honor of All Hallows Eve"
Since I have been here, I have heard some odd and varied bits of information about supernatural beings and the underworld…although the country as a whole is Muslim, it does retain some of it’s animist beliefs. (There is an ethnic group who is wholly animist, the Bassari, I would love to go to visit a village of this group during a ceremonial celebration!)

Witches: People here talk about witches all the time. 
- If you don’t eat the bitter tomato in the bowl, or you eat it and spit it out, you’re definitely a witch.
-If you ride you’re bicycle in a skirt, you’re probably a witch.
- If the local schizophrenic/fortune teller says you’re a witch, you might not be a witch.

Ghosts: Ghosts are the scape goat for everything, they also serve as reason not to do something.
-If you whistle, you are actually calling the ghosts. (oops! No wonder people give me weird looks when I whistle a tune while I work). This also means you might be a witch, especially if you’re a woman.
- You can’t go into the Baobob forests alone, because ghosts will attack you (this is always the first thing people say, not that you will get attacked by animals, or get lost, but ghosts!!)
- You can’t walk in between corners of buldings and other objects ( ex. Between a house and electrical pole) because the ghosts will get you.
- you can’t go to the well after dark, because there are ghosts
- The most dangerous thing on the bush paths are lions and ghosts (let me remind you there is only 1 pride of lions in all of Senegal and it lives in a protected reserve)

I am sure there are other superstitions, but this is what I have compiled so far…I am totally a witch, and I communicate frequently with ghosts!

The non work related picture of the month:
Kaolack Kitchen Dance Krew...if we aren't busy singing Glee at the top of our lungs, we are cleaning, cooking, and dancing away in the kitchen


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