after pout, i hung out in kaolack for two days to run some errands before heading out to the sine-saloum delta to sokone. the kaolack region strategy planning meeting was happening there for a few days so i went down a day early to hang out and see the area.
the sokone region is beautiful and i am terribly envious of those who live in that area. there are cashew trees everywhere and plush mangos and mangroves with a dramatic tide. the first day there, chris (who is about 40k from sokone) met up with me and we wandered out to the mangroves and shlucked around in it before going to a cute little restaurant where he had to meet up with laurel, elisabeth, and kate to write a script for a radio show about field burning and its alternative (mulching). it was interesting and makes me want to try for a radio show in the kaffrine area.
afterwards, we all went to get fatayas and wolfed down the woman's entire supply. we went back to jessica's (who is the sokone volunteer and extremely lucky in site location) for dinner. kate knows a few really cool cats who run a small bar in their compound (we refer to it as the "catholic compound") so we headed over and had a few drinks and chatted and made friends with the guys who ran it and their friends.
the next day, the majority of the kaolack region (comprised of the kaffrine, nioro, kaolack/fatick, sokone subregions) volunteers convened and our strategy planning meeting started. it was awesome to see everybody from the region together at once and for the purpose of discussing our work and how we can do it better. kate, who ran the logistics of the meeting, booked us at a wonderful campement out on the mangroves where we had comfortable rooms, real mattresses (what an amazing sensation!), a fully stocked bar, REAL coffee (which we all got ourselves sick off) and a beautiful view. it was two days of a lot of talking and thinking and planning and discussing and socializing and by the end of it, i was exhausted.
after the retreat, i spent a day in kaolack and was struck by the desire to cook a big meal so i made a vegetable heavy spaghetti sauce with meatballs and garlic bread for about 10 people. the sauce was comprised of a can of tomato paste, a kilo of tomatoes, lots of garlic, onion, carrot, eggplant, green peppers, a can of mushrooms, and a few hot peppers. the meatballs were few but successful, considering that i've never made meatballs before. i bought minced beef at the french epicerie and combined it with soy sauce, italian seasoning, a little bit of oil and vinegar, minced (fresh) onions, bread crumbs, crushed red pepper, and an egg (for the consistency) and i then baked them. i love making these big meals because if everybody chips in for the price, i can buy lots of produce and ingredients and make a big quality meal that comes out to a cheap price for everybody. usually the cost is around 1 to 2 mille but this time i succeeded in getting the meal done for 875 mille. i think people were pleased and i was happy to fill bellies and be able to cook. moreover, it gave me the excuse to splurge on a bottle of real wine (5 mille! yikes!) and have a good meal before heading back to site and millet and fish water.
i got back to site yesterday evening after a somewhat frustrating adventure back that isn't worth thinking about because it was just a string of stupid events that don't deserve much more acknowledgment than that. today i didn't do much because i am so exhausted from the past week of traveling around and sleeping in different places and living out of a bag. i have to say that as much fun as i had, i am glad to be back at site and normalcy (bush life is normal now!) and a place that is familiar. everybody's been real understanding in letting me rest and i practically hibernated all day today and only went out to weed for a few hours.
i also heard dame's first word today...well, the first word he's said to me. he came running naked into my hut -- he was running away from his bath -- and hid behind my door when aram came for him. she asked him if he wanted to shower and he looked up at her with his adorable big doe eyes and said "waaw" (yes). she didn't really react so either he's been saying "waaw" for some time now or first words aren't a big deal here. i didn't make a big deal out of it either but inside i was so excited and wanted to scoop him up and hug him.
i've never been able to watch a child grow and if i am as excited as i am right now, i can't even imagine what it is like to watch one's OWN child grow. i am also noticing how the other kids are growing. baye is a fully functioning/comprehending being now -- that is, he understands and reacts appropriately all the time (dame is still confused by some aspects of life). mamasou has moments when she seems frighteningly womanly and awa is conquering her stutter and sounding more and more like a young girl instead of a child.
its kind of strange to be so far away from childhood. not that 23 is very old, but i am a far ways off from being just a kid. i feel like there is so much that i have to be responsible for -- from basic things like my health to things associated with work like my pepineer to friendships and relationships with peers, family, colleagues to other beings like my cat (who is huge now!) to the mundane like my taxes to the grandiose social consciousness and responsibility i strive to have. being a kid, i see now, (from observing my acquired siblings) requires so little self care and responsibility. this also brings me to a higher appreciation of mothers of small children -- there is an incredibly ridiculous amount of things to be responsible for.
anyway, despite my exhaustion, i hope that all i need is one day to recuperate. tomorrow i intend on wandering out into the bush with my machete to find some good posts for shade structures that i need to build over my pepineer. some of the trees are being burned by the sun.