Thursday, March 27, 2008

butting heads

a baby cow went into my hut today while we were eating lunch. i should learn to close my door.

how can i expect talla to treat mew ith respect if he doesn't even treat his wives with it? the problem with understanding more wolof these days is that i can understand the things he says -- or more like, commands -- to his wives now. it is frustrating to hear him talk to them like that and often makes me harbor more negative feelings towards him. i wonder if i will ever get around to liking this man.

the best way to tolerate him, i am finding, is to remind myself that this is the biggest deal he will be. it is a bit mean and elitist of me -- but this is his shining moment, when he was big deal in the village. i, on the other hand, will have a plethora of opportunities to be a big deal (maybe) in my life so i should humble myself and let him have the spotlight.

the best thing i can do in terms of teaching him about gender roles is to do it slowly and steadily -- no reason to rock the boat when i have another 1.5 (really?) years to change his mind about what women can and cannot do. perhaps i will never get to see a change in him but i can at least play an influence. i feel a little guilty about griping about the american woman's 70 cents to a man's dollar when here, a woman's not even allowed to carry her own machete.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

work has commenced

success! the work has commenced. things are totally not as i planned or pictures but it will work out nonetheless and perhaps better than i had hoped -- inshallah.

the morning started out with delays -- of course. i wanted to go down to the valley around 9:30 and start digging my bareroot beds. of course i was stalled and also given the news that there was no charette for the transportation of manure. talla told me to wait, so i waited around, slowly losing patience and was just about to head out on my own when he finally showed up again. we made motions to go down to the valley but then talla offered the idea of doing the pepineer behind our compound. it seemed like it would work and would be good since it is right by the road, close to water, and for laziness' sake...right by my hut.

it took us a while to figure this all out -- it is hard for me to have these impromptu conversations because i have so little wolof to express my thoughts and moreover, i have to think quickly and on the spot (which i am not so good at in the morning). the only reservation i had is that the aspect of a community pepineer is a little lost but then i suggested that in the future, i would use the valley's pepineer as the demo field -- and maybe next year it will be ready for a community pepineer. i am quickly learning that nothing is as it is planned and that i really must be flexible. moreover, i didn't come here to do things my way; this is for my village so if what i envision doesn't pan out, it is okay, so long as it works out for the community.

we started to gather sand and manure to fill sacks when talla changed his mind AGAIN and suggested i use our compound's storage area for the pepineer. why not? it's sufficient space and already has fences and is within the compound and all this big space is holding nothing but a few sacks of bissap and monkey bread. this way, the pepineer is super protected with fences and watchful (hopefully) eyes.

so that was decided and we started to mix the soil. talla often insists on doing the labor, which is a little annoying, but at this point, i am just glad to be getting my work started. plus, for sustainability's sake, it is good to have him do the work as there is no way i will be here forever (no way!). we started to fill sacks -- had a slow start and broke a few -- but soon it was me, talla, fatou, aas, and mamasou filling sacks. it was a family affair and talla was in a jovial mood -- joking with fatou and laughing at the kids (rare).

we got a good amount of sacks filled and they are currently stowed away in the new pepineer area and i am covered in dirt and happy.

i also seeded 61 pomme kennel (sweetsao) seeds in my backyard. god, i hope they sprout.

Monday, March 24, 2008

things i did not know before i joined peace corps

1. chickens will eat their own eggs. they will also peck out the eyes of their own young. there is no such thing as chicken sex, just chicken rape. chickens are rather ruthless and cruel creatures.

2. goats sneeze more than any other animal in the kingdom. except maybe sheep.

3. a few nights out of the month there is no moon and the night is shrouded in utter darkness. (apparently i was supposed to know this?)

4. you CAN live without running water. (and electricity, for that matter.)

5. the phone is one of the greatest inventions ever made. cell phones are miraculous.

6. before actually talking, babies communicate in their own weird babble language. they make noises which seem to be sentences and are clearly trying to communciate. the most fascinating part: mothers understand this seemingly nonsensical language and will carry on with their children -- one speaking a coherent language, the other in babble speak. living with babies is weird.

7. you cannot eradicate ants. it is simply not possible.

8. bean sandwiches = best breakfast ever.

9. millet and fish water = worst dinner ever.

10. donkeys are truly the saddest animals in the kingdom and deserve to be treated better. (which is ridiculous because they are also amongst the cutest.).

11. baobab trees have fruit! it's called monkey bread and it is delicious.

12. it is possible to survive 106 degree weather and survive.

13. it is possible to sit in a minicar without shocks on a pothole laden road for 16 hours.

14. i'm a lot tougher than i thought i was.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

baby naming, senegalese steezy

while i was eating breakfast, jamm rekk caught a mouse in fatou's hut and came bounding into my hut with the thing squirming in her mouth and then she bit down on his head with a loud crunch and then proceeded to consume the whole damn thing. gross. and bloodless. (how?? does she swallow it whole??)

anyway, friday was the ngente for the new baby and it was so much fun and personally significant for me because i was so incredibly glad and thankful to be here. i felt so much affection for my family and my village and i really felt like i was a part of the community -- or at least a part of life here. the ngente the baptism service that happens a week after a baby is born. it is during this day that the baby is presented to the public and given his/her name and the mother is celebrated.

JC, shelley, and joel all came out for the ngente, which gave the party a nice boost with their toubab presence. it also helped me out a lot by making things exxtra fun and also, haveing guests helped me appreciate my village and gave me a good snese of my establishment here. plus, it's just always fun to have guests, particularly when they are your good friends.

the day started out with waking up early and an excited mamasou helped me sweep my yard and get ready for my guests. i then sat in fatou's hut and held the neene while she cleaned her hut and got ready for her big day. it was nice, i feel like she is my friend now and we can talk to a certain extent. we had fun making fun of the kids and joking about the problems i have with my husband (the other baby, dame).

people started rolling in -- the first group being aram's family from wenenday. i really like her dad and her brother; her dad was the one who gave me pedro as a gift and he immediately asked about how my chicken was. they were also delighted to see jamm rekk as aram's dad is one of hte first senegalese i've ever seen/met who actually keeps cats intentionally and makes sure that they are fed and taken care of. there's even a cat in his compound that he pets and lets hang out in his hut. i was very happy to see them.

some of the "boys club" men showed up -- the big dogs in the community -- and they were ushered into my hut. i sat with them and we talked and they were happy that i remembered their names and were impressed with how my wolof has improved. i was happy to be able to say more than greetings and to break gender roles for the moment and be a part of the boy's club.

talla arranged a charette for me to go into birkelane with a guy named babacar and aas and mamasou came along for the ride. originally, just aas was going to go but mamasou secretly asked me if she could go too and was tickled when i asked talla if she could come. she and aas yammered away on the ride up there and their excitement got me really excited too. when we got to birkelane, shelley was already there chatting with thiam and mamcoumba in the butig and shortly after, JC and joel showed up.

we gathered ourselves up on the charette and headed out but were delayed for a while because babacar had to buy ice. i got a little impatient because i had left my hut open and with loads of people in it. i didn't really think that anybody would take anything but it still made me a little anxious. just as i thought that we were heading back to my village, we stopped by another person's house where we bought a huge loads of ice and were given yummy bouye radis (frozen baobab juice). i was a little annoyed and frustrated, but then i realized i was in my american-new-york state of mind about time and getting things done and had forgotten that here, an errand is never just an errand, it becomes a string of other errands and reasons to visit and greet others. as soon as i remembered that, i was able to relax and enjoy the process of going home.

finally we headed back and mamasou held my hand and chattered away. she really treats me like i'm her older sister and i was filled with much appreciate for her as i explained to joel how much of a help she has been in my months of adjusting to life here. at one point as i sang her praises, he was like, "you really love her, huh?" and i realized that i really do and that i've never had the experience of being a big sister before and iw as so glad that i've been given the chance to be one to such a bight and sweet and vivacious little girl.

we when got to my compound (3 hours after i had left) there were loads of people at the ngente and the party was in full swing. we went to fatou's hut to greet her and all the women in there and she was all decked out in her fine new clothes and jewelry. the hug was super crowded but us four toubabs squeezed ourselves in a presented fatou with our gifts. jamm rekk also wedged her way in and managed to get herself stepped on by joel but she merely yelped and bit him back. i had bought two little outfits for the baby, JC had bought him a little hat, shelley gave diapers (which i joked about being the best gift since the baby already had a reputation for peeing on me), and joel was real pimp and gave 2 mille. the baby was then passed around and were told that his named had been decided -- fallou ka. i was told though that had he been a girl, he would have been named after me. oh well, as JC said, "beneen yoon, beneen doom" (another time, another baby.)

we then left to shower and change into our complets. in anticipating the new baby, i had gotten my complet made specifically for this ngente when i was in thies and the day before, mamasou had helped me iron it. JC, shelley, and i were dressed in our senegalese best and went back to fatou's hut to present ourselves and were greeted with exclamations of how pretty we were (despite my personally feeling quite ridiculous in this garb) and we then took a bunch of pictures with fatou and fallou. he is a cute baby and i am going to have so much fun with my new baby brother -- just as soon as he gets over his fragile state and i am not so terrified of dropping him or inadvertently squishing his soft spot.

after a while we left and greeted the women cooking lunch and the men sitting around playing cards and made our way back to my hut. shelley had bought some balloons for the kids and we had a great time blowing them up and taking pictures. we were served lunch which was totally delicious -- ceeb and fresh goat and cabbage. since we were toubabs, we were given our own bowl (which we all felt rather guilty about) and some prime pieces of meat. we stuffed ourselves silly and then spent the rest of the afternoon hiding from the heat and hanging out. periodically people came by to greet and talk and i congratulated myself on knowing lots of their names and having become integrated enough in knowing all the social etiquettes of inviting people in to sit and asking about their families and villages. ngentes always involve a lot of sitting around and we all felt very well adjusted to life here in the sense that we knew how to do nothing -- JC even passed out on my bed and took a good nap (a common site at ngentes in finely dressed women assed out on their hosts' beds, so JC was really well integrated). i left a few times to greet others and hang out and toss around children and every time i did, i felt so happy to be here and proud of my lovely family and compound.

talla came in and had bought us ice and tea so we had two luxuries: ice cold water and attaya (senegalese style tea). he tried to teach me the art of tea making and i think we bonded a little, definitely a good thing for building our sometimes strained relationship.

when the sun had lowered itself a bit and the head started to make its exit, i took my guests out for a walk around the village and the valley. JC lives in a small village as well but shelley lives in what i would call an almost-town and joel is an urban volunteer so i was made quite aware of how tiny my village is and how quickly we made our way through it. every now and then i am hit with the disbelief that i once lived in the greatest city in the world and now live in this tiny village of 280 people -- there were that many people living on two floors of my apartment building in new york! crazy.

after our walk, we were sweaty and gross so we showered and changed our of our complets. usually women change into something nicer but as i had nothing but my one complet, i changed in my "best" village clothes which are terribly ratty at this point and rags in comparison to the beautiful clothes the women had changed into.

when we were dressed and emerged from my hut, everybody was assembled in a circle in the compound and the sabaar started. the women in my village can dance and drum like no other and they were pumped to show off their skills. the drumming was terribly addictive and there were shouts and laughter and yelling and i found myself cracking up with them and hollering in the same manner as they do when the women scandalously pulled up their skirts at the end of their dance ("oooh-waaaay!". cafe touba had been passed around and i wished so badly that there was alcohol in it because days before i had made the stupid promise of dancing in the sabaar. i do NOT know how to dance senegalese style but there was absolutely no way of getting out of this one and my heart was pounding in anticipation of the moment i would make an ass out of myself in front of my village (not like i haven't been doing just that for the past 4 months).

i guess the beat got to my head because a woman came up to me urging me to dance for the 4th or 5th time and i felt myself handing dame (who had been sitting on my lap) over ("jelal! "jel ko!" = "take! take him!") and entering the circle. JC joined me and we attempted some semblance of senegalese dance and all the women yelled and hollered and cheered. it was done and over with and turned out to be loads of fun and the women were absolutely delighted and came over yelling to me "yow, men nga fecc! men nga!" ("you, you can dance, you can!") having realized that it wasn't as daunting as it seemed, i "danced" a few more times but spent more time watching and clapping and almost dying of laughter when aram, in her fury of dancing, lost her skirt (right in front of joel, i might add) and then her sexy skirt (worn under the skirt and shown only to husbands or revealed during dancing). shelley was convinced to dance and the 3 of us were officially the best toubabs they had ever met (for some, we're the only ones...)

the dancing dissipated as people trickled out for dinner and there was tranquility in the compound that hadn't existed all day. we had dinner, which was again super good, and then thinking the day was pretty much over, started to get ready for be. i was still kind of wired from the day so joel and i went to go walk around. a large group of kids had assembled in the compound and were singing -- i thought that they were practicing koranic recitation, which i have heard them do other nights in the village, so joel and i went outside the compound, not wanting our conversation to be disruptive.

we had just wandered out when a gaggle of little girls approached us. they were very cute -- from 5-8 years old and dressed in complets -- and they were hopping around and dancing, mimicking what they had seen their mothers perform earlier. they tittered in excitement when they saw me and asked me to dance, so i did and they squealed in excitement. joel showed them some of his moves too and they just about exploded. there was no way he and i were going to go on our walk now because the girls would not leave us alone so we walked back to the front of the compound where this is a log for sitting. he and i sat down and they started to arrange themselves in order from tallest to shortest in a half circle in front of us -- the older girls bossing and pushing the little ones who fell out of line. then they started to clap and sing a little rhythmic song and each girl had her turn to enter the circle and hop around and dance. it was one of the cutest things i have ever seen.

a bunch of people came over and urged us to back into the compound and what i had thought was koranic recitation had turned into another dance circle. this time the beat was slower and the boys were dancing and there was singing. the kids bounced around in the outskirts and i danced with them -- attempting some of their moves and showing them a few of my own american-influenced moves. the singing and clapping and dancing continues for quite sometime under the full moon and it was really quite beautiful and i couldn't fully grasp the reality of the fact that this was my life and that this is where i belonged. i danced once in the circle when fatou joined, but otherwise stayed on the outside with the kids until i proclaimed "fecc naa ba sonn!" ("i've danced until i'm tired!") and sat down with fatou and watched the party.

by then it was around midnight -- the latest i've ever been up at site (as there is no electricity) and was totally beat so i finally retired into my hut. JC and shelley were asleep by then so joel and i sat in my yard and talked about our childhood antics and other fond memories of the past while the party throbbed on outside (i don't know how jc and shelley could fall asleep with all the noise). the night was brisk and the full moon made everything several shades of blue and everything seemed just about near perfect. i fell asleep exhausted but utterly happy -- happy that i live in such a great village, happy that i am still here, happy that i have good senegalese and american friends, and happy that this new little life was born and that i could be here to help celebrate it.

(me, fatou, and baby fallou)

(let's play: can-you-find-the-toubab?)

(shelley, me, & jc -- i am so glad i have these fine young ladies as my friends)

of course, more pictures at flickr (although apparently i've run into the limits of my free acount, so maybe you can't see them all...)

Thursday, March 20, 2008


back at site and surprised as to how easy it is for me to readjust into being here. i left kaolack and went to kaffrine on tuesday for a meeting with ethan from trees for the future. i felt very official when i called home and told them that i would not be back for another few days because i had a meeting with an NGO.

walking around kaffrine, i heard my name called, which was cool because i don't often get recognized in kaffrine. turns out it was hattie ba and another woman from my village. we were happy to see each other and i was told that fatou had her baby! a boy! i was very happy and excited to find that out. turns out talla was in town too and i ran into him and excitedly congratulated him. being that this is his 10th child, he was pretty chill about the whole thing, but i was pumped and ran off into the market to buy presents.

the meeting with ethan was very cool and it really looks like trees for the future wants to work with us PCVs. he gave us a bunch of seeds and a good idea of what direction TFTF is going. he also gave good advice about our stints as PCVs (being a returned volunteer himself) and what to do after all of this. this is a working relationship that i definitely want to pursue.

the next day i headed back to site and caught an al-hum from kaffrine to birkelane. a crazy drunk guy helped me out but then got frighteningly aggressive and demanded money from me. i handled it fairly well and everybody on the car came to my defense and collectively got the man kicked off.

after having ben in kedougou and kaolack for quite some time, i hadn't been alone and on my own in senegal for a qhile and was rather relieved to finally be back in "PCV mode." what was also really awesome was that i am finally comfortable enough with the language to be chatty. i talked with a guy on the al-hum, moussa & thiam at the butig, aliou & his seerer friend, and even talla on the charette ride home. i was very talkative and things felt so natural and comfortable, from hanging out at my friend's butig to greeting aliou and drinking tea with him. talla had brought along baye to pick me up and that little boy now feels very much like family and he treats me like it too. i have a lot of affection for him now (so long as i don't have to clean up his poop) and i love having little senegalese siblings to love and care for and yell at.

i got home and was excitedly greeted by the family. i was happy to see them and also happy to see that jamm rekk was still alive and well taken care of. in fact, mamasou came running up to me with jamm rekk in the basket -- i have a feeling that she took good care of my cat. bless that girl, she had swept and arranged my hut for me and i actually found out later that she had also done this on sunday when i was expected to come home. i gave her 200CFA for everything and made sure aram (her mom) knew how much i appreciated her daughter's help. mamasou was really pleased with the money and she immediately put it away "to save."

i went to go see fatou and the new baby. he's quite adorable and has lots of hair. fatou looks beautiful and quite relieved and gave me her "neene" ("little baby" in wolof and is quite possibly the best word for a baby and also my favorite wolof word) to hold. i held him while i chatted with fatou and then the neene peed on me. the relationship has been established. fatou and i laughed about it and regardless of the pee, i was struck with a feeling of complete happiness and content in being back at site.

jamm rekk has gotten much bigger within the time i was away and also far more independent. it was actually good that i left her for so long because i came back to her roaming around the compound freely and well adjusted. she's figured out how to climb up my screen door and out of the hut, so there's not much of a point in keeping her in there. the dog doesn't care about her anymore and she is totally fearless and imperturbable. she loves to hang out with the kids and they pet her and bug her and she deals with it quite well. fatou told me that she woke up one morning to find jamm rekk nestled in between the kids and when she was having her baby, jamm rekk was in the corner of her hut watching the whole thing. the kids have gained a friend and i know that when i leave here, she will be well taken care of.

one of the best parts about being back is that it seems like my wolof has improved greatly -- thus giving me the ability to be so chatty and loquacious. i'm slowly getting a grasp of the grammar points and my shyness is decreasing. several people have told me that my wolof is improving and i've been a) able to yell at the children and have them listen to me, b) chat with mamasou, and c) be witty on the spot. this is definitely very exciting for me and i am way more talkative than i used to be which makes me feel a lot more part of the community. i just hope that this is a continual improvement and not just a short growth spurt. it feels great to finally be able to somewhat express myself in this language!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

city girl in the bush

back in kaolack. got here on thursday. this time we took 7-plaases back up from kedougou and i traveled wtih shelley, matt, and chris. the trip was far less painful as the trip there as were in 7-plaases and the garages in tamba and kedougou are far more relaxed. as painful as traveling can be it is nice to have companions and the three of them made good traveling partners. there were a lot of fun mishaps, some involving honey and children and broken stalks of grass (not necessarily all at the same time).

the day prior (wednesday?) shelley, liam, matt g., matt h., and i went out to a village called SEGOU where they are lucky enough to live by some gorgeous waterfalls/cascades. its a 70k bike ride roundtrip and a 4-5k hike up to the falls. it was a good adventure but i trailed behind the crew the whole time which starkly reminded me as to how much of a city girl i can be and that the majority of the people here are hardcore outdoorsy people with years of experience in biking and climbing and hiking and all that stuff i always wanted to do but didn't. i felt much like sassy from "homeward bound" (yes, i just made that reference) throughout the hike, picking my way through the rocks and trying to avoid stepping straight into the water. it's not that i'm a's just that...okay, maybe i am a priss. sometimes i feel that this creates a large cultural gap between me and them -- they talk about skiing and hiking and climbing and all i have is my urban life and spots of memories from small adventures in chinle or central america. i have spent my entire life wanting, desiring, and aching to be urban and now i find myself wishing i was more earthy and outdoorsy. funny how things work out.

regardless, the excursion was a lot of fun and a nice escape from the recent flurry of traveling and the stress from planning for my first planting season. it was gorgeous and it was fantastic to be surrounded by so many trees and water and sights that we do not get to see up in the ugly kaolack region. it was also good company and we enjoyed ourselves at the waterfalls eating mangoes (except me, as i am allergic) and hanging out and watching monkeys and just enjoying some time off. everybody feels quite refreshed. i personally feel exhausted and my body kind of hates me from having biked and hiked all day and then spending the next day crammed into a teeny car seat.

anyhow, i am back in kaolack now and was meaning to go back to site on sunday but have found out that there is a meeting with an NGO that i hope to work with in kaffrine so i might hang out here for a little bit more and try to get some work done. its a little strange because the agroforestry work season is really picking up and there is so much to do and so little time. at the same time, it is exciting because when i do go back to site, i will have loads of sacks to fill and seeds to plant. i finally feel like i have something concrete to do and to earn my keep. moreover, the new stage just got into country a few days ago which means that we are no longer the little babies of the peace corps community! i'm still definitely a novice in terms of agroforestry and wolof, but there certainly is no more handholding. 6 months have gone by fast!

there are a few pictures of segou on flickr but the camera doesn't really do it justice.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

hello kedougou

so i am finally here in kedougou (for the agroforestry summit) after a 16 hour al-hum ride from kaolack to the other side of the country. it was a bit of a brutal trip. 16 hours in a car -- even a comfortable car -- would be unbearable and this was a senegalese al-hum and we were squished shoulder to shoulder, sitting on hard metal benches with minimal padding, and little air ventilation. the car stank of sweat. the first al-hum we took, i had the middle seat, meaning that i didn't have a back of the seat to lean on but people started getting off and chris and i were able to jack a really good seat at the front of the car and get really comfortable. but then the car ran out of motivation -- meaning it got its 2nd flat tire and they felt that the car was too empty to justify its running -- so they squeezed us all into a smaller al-hum so once again we were all on top of each other in a car that's windows wouldn't open. for a while i became convinced that this place didn't exist because the road just never seemed to end. moreover, the road is littered with potholes. chris suggested that we had died and this was hell and we would just keep on going down this awful road crammed in this awful car forever. it was quite possibly true.

basic observations i've made about kedougou:
1. the huts are round! i wonder how it is to live in a round hut.
2. everybody has bikes and there are barely any horses or donkeys.
3. they have really tiny goats here.
4. not to sound very wolof, but it is weird being somewhere where wolof is not the major language. i don't understand the convserations going on around me and i feel guilty having to assume that everybody understands wolof but its the only local language i know and god knows i can't speak in french to get my point across.

after we got to the kedougou house, we headed out to this placed called the relais where there is a beautiful panoramic view of teh gambian river and gardens and we ate warthog sandwiches and had breakfast beers and then swam in the pool as a substitute for showers (we were absolutely filthy from the ride!) so that we refreshing. since then we've just been bumming around. considering that i don't like pork, i was surprised to enjoy the warthog sandwiches so much. but then again, after 16 hours in an al-hum, anything tastes wonderful, so maybe my judgment is off.

warthog sandwiches and breakfast beers

Saturday, March 8, 2008

bush dangers

i just smashed a scorpion that was hiding under my bed (where the cat sleeps!).

what's up with all the dangerous creatures this week?

in my lifetime i've killed 3 scorpions and 1 snake. i think that makes me pretty badass.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

cat motherhood

i've forgotten how much work a kitten can be. she's very needy and there are a gazillion and ten dangers for small cat our here in the senegalese bush. i am seriously worried about the white worms in her poop (worms? maggots? rice come to life?) but then i have to remind myself that probably 89% of the cats in senegal have white worms in their poop. what do i do about these extra friends she's brought home?

since the stupid dog already tried to rip her to pieces, her trips outside have been supervised. basically, i let her wander around but keep at a distance with a long stick to the dog away and to scare her away from the things she should avoid, like poop, thorny fences, the bush. the kids have a lot of time watching me and i feel like some kind of crazy/kooky circus trainer. i am trying not to be overprotective, which is why i let her get caught in between some goats and donkeys and she wound up on a fence trying to figure out how to get down for 10 minutes.

anyway, i am over thinking it all and it makes me wonder what kind of mother i'll be if i am obsessing over every little detail of my mangy african cat. yikes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

call me snake killer...

because i have just killed a snake. i'm still a little freaked out but i chopped the thing in half with my machete. the news is already spreading through the village.

so we were eating lunch and i was just spacing out when all of a sudden, mamasou starts yelling her head off and she's pointing at something behind her mother's head. there's a long yellow snake slithering down the post behind aram and everybody starts running and screaming and the thing freak out too and darts for a hole in the wall of aram's hut.

i doubt the thing is poisonous but there is pure terror in the air and that is the snake's death sentence. i go get my machete and aram runs to boil water to drown out the snake. the whole time i'm waiting for the water to boil, i am nervous. i don't think i've ever killed anything larger than a scorpion or a big bug and even doing that makes me a little nervous. the water is ready and we get ready.

aram throws the water into the hole and out comes the snake and everybody is yelling and screaming and i guess the adrenaline kicks in and i start hacking away. i miss the first and second swings, but by the third swing, i've hit the snake and by swing number five or six, i've chopped the thing in half. the head half makes a bolt for my hut and tries to climb up my hut's wall (spreading blood as it goes) and i figure it has to die eventually (right?) but aram goes after it with the vengeance of a really pissed off momma bear and pummels its head in with a stick.

minutes later, it's dead (the tail end still twitching) and there's snake blood everywhere (maybe an exaggeration) and everybody just goes back to eating. i'll admit i was freaked out and had lost my appetite but because i was the snake killer, everybody was urging me to eat so i took a few more bites of ceeb without puking because all i could think about was chopping up a snake. apparently i am a "jambar" (loosely translated as "champion") now because of this incident and perhaps i have gained some respect.

the head

the tail

*note - i showed paul these pictures and he says its a baby boa. not poisonous but it would have grown up and strangled my cat or the kids or a donkey or something, so my killing has been justified.

Monday, March 3, 2008

kitten party!

(richard toll going after costello and jamm rekk looking on)

i finally have a kitten! she is super cute and i had almost forgotten how much fun it is to have a cat again. she's a little noisy/needy and i have to make sure that i don't spoil her but my life already feels so much more fun now that i have her around. i am so a secret crazy cat lady. the family here is pretty pumped and are very ready to spoil her with food and even want me to go and get her her own little bowl to eat out of.

the cat escapade was quite the endeavor and i am rather exhausted right now. on saturday (the 1st) i went out to kaffrine for the "team kaffrine" day. basically all the PCVs in the kaffrine area met at emmy's to talk about several things. after a day of meeting and ginger juice and the cyber (kaffrine now has 3 cybers!), me, JC, shelley, matt, and helen headed out to kaolack.

in anticipating our trip to kyla's to pick up our cats, JC and i had bought plastic picnic baskets (women use them for shopping in the market) to act as cat carriers and were giddily excited to get our kittens. the only problem was that we had heard from kyla and she could only find one of the kittens. regardless, we were going to go and take our chances ad hope that the kittens would show up. we got to the garage and on our way to the al-hums (mini-cars), i spotted a scrawny little black and white kitten chilling by the benches. i jokingly asked JC if she wanted to grab that one, not really thinking she would because a) he was dirty and b) she probably wouldn't be able to catch him anyhow, considering how the street cats are here. we both looked at him for a while and then JC was like, "sure, why not?" she cautiously approached him and quickly tried to grab him. turns out, he didn't even try to run off and was easily scooped up and plopped into the basket.

the little guy caused a huge amount of chaos at the garage and all these guys tried to make us pay for hte cat or to pay its fare in the 7-plaas. very annoying, as there was no way this cat ever belonged to anybody (as senegalese are not very found of cats) and its not like people ever pay for the children or goats or chickens they bring on board. in the meantime, while we argued with all the garage people, he managed to squeeze out of the lid of the basket -- not once, but twice -- and then scampered off about 5 feet to go and sit under the tire of an al-hum. both times he was retrieved just as easily as he was the first time. no protestations, just keen on sitting under a mini car wheel. weird little guy.

JC named him richard toll, after the city up north, and a name that we've had for her cat since christmas when the kittens were born and we started to day dream about their existences in our lives. he seemed to accept his fate very well and settled down during the car ride from kaffrine to kaolack. at one point during the ride, i checked on him in his basket and he was asleep, lying on his back, paws up in the air!

when we got to kaolack, richard toll got a bath (much needed as he was found in a garage), which he did not enjoy very much but still handled rather well. he had an egg while we had banana splits for dinner and we all spoiled him with attention and cuddling (now that he was quasi clean). richard toll eagerly accepted his new life, which is undoubtedly five thousand times better than living in the kaffrine garage. he's a goofy little dude, pretty fearless, and has a plucky personality. we were all very happy to have him in the house.

richard toll

the next day, JC and i got up pretty early, stuck richard toll in the bathtub, and headed out to kyla's site in hopes of picking up some more kittens. kyla had told us that she would continue looking for the others and if there was more than one, we would take the other back for shelley. the road out to nioro is probably the worst road i have ever been on. it is quite possibly more potholes than road and subsequently, while teh distance out there is less than 60k, the trip takes about 2.5 hours of being jostled around in a heap of metal crammed in like a bunch of sweaty sardines. at least i had a traveling companion and i couldn't help snickering about the colossal effort we were making just to get some kittens.

we finally got there around noon and trekked out about 1k through the bush in the hot sun to kyla's site which is a pulaar village. neither JC or i speak pulaar. thankfully a bunch of them spoke wolof so it wasn't too strange when two random toubabs showed up in the middle fo the day carrying baskets and dripping in sweat. this had been where JC had demysted and she was recognized and well received. pulaars are always so nice.

we found kyla who then showed us to her hut where all 3 kittens were being kept hostage. she had found them all an they were all sprawled out when she opened the door to her hut. they were all super cute but i had claimed "the striped one: as mine and had already named her "jamm rekk" which means "peace only" in wolof. since tehre were 3 but we had already found richard toll, one had to be left behind with kyla (which isn't as bad as it sounds because the entire village cares for the cats) and one would be brought back for shelley. we decided that the white one with the 4 distinc spots would be good for shelley. she's also the one who had fallen down the douche (a fact we felt shelley would enjoy) and had to be rescued by kyla and a big stick. kiddo, kyla's cat and the mother of the kittens, had just weaned the 3 kittens and was making it quite clear that she was ready for them to move ou so it was all very good timing. we hung around for a while and had lunch while we waited for the sun to chill out (later i would find out that the temperature reached 106 degrees!).

we left around 4:30, cats in tow, to which they protested greatly and struggled to get out of the baskets. they both pooped in the baskets out of fear. we flagged down an al-hum and amused a good number of people with our cats in baskets. shelley's cat peed on JC and when we got home, i discovered that jamm rekk had peed all over herself. by then she was soaked in pee and thoroughly pissed off at me (no pun intended) but i had to bathe her, which did not improve her mood.

the trip exhausted both of us and the cats and now there were 3 kittens in the house. shelley named her kitten costello and the 3 of them romped around while we obsessively watched successive episodes of "arrested development." richard toll, the scrappy garage cat, initially had a hard time adjusting to sharing his space with other but by the next day the 3 of them were chasing and playing with each other. costello is a little reserved and shy (who wouldn't be after falling down a douche?) and richard toll wouldn't stop bugging her. he's maybe a half a month younger than the sisters so a little bit smaller and wouldn't stop picking fights withe costello and jamm rekk, to which he is quickly schooled about biting girls. we eventually took them out to the courtyard for a kitten party and they played while we laughed at them like doting mothers.


eventually it was time to depart and go back to site so i stuffed jamm rekk back into her basket and we headed out to her new home. she pooped herself out of fear again (graceful, i know) and cried the entire ride out to birkelane. the charette ride was equally not as fun for me or her and since she had crapped herself, she had to be bathed again when we got back to the hut. my people were really excited to have her in the village and word traveled fast that the toubab cat had arrived and she received more visitors than i did when i just moved into the village.

i left her in the hut to chill out and relax a bit and by the time i came back in, i discovered a dead mouse! either that cat is smart and already earning her keep or it is a very wacky coincidence that as soon as she shows up, the elusive mice start dying.

she's a little purring machine and has already attached herself to me. she's also very noisy and vocal and meows constantly for attention -- which is slightly annoying but simultaneously endearing and my villagers laugh to see me react to her cries as they do to their babies. everybody is quite amused by my love for this kitten and the kids are both scared by eager to play with her. it is cool to have them around while she's purring and playing and maybe we are helping to teach a small lesson on the better treatment of cats and animals in general. it has been interesting trying to teach the kids that they can play with her but that she will bite or scratch if provoked (which all the kids are very good at doing). everybody calls her my "doom," meaning "child" and every time people greet me, they now ask me about jamm rekk and how she is.

jamm rekk

hooray for kittens!

more pictures of furballs on flickr.