Sunday, December 28, 2008

holidays in dakar

merry late christmas!

so i am in dakar celebrating the holidays and even though i was going to head back to the village today as i promised them i would spend the 31st there, i am still here because i got a nice little christmas present -- some kind of bug that has been making my stomach turn circles and have made traveling pretty much impossible at this point because i need to run to the bathroom every hour or so. oh well, i'm still in good spirits because at this point i'm just used to these kinds of things and it could be so much worse.

i got up here late in the evening on christmas eve and it was quite the epic adventure. so i woke up regular time (7:30am -- late for village life) and did all my morning chores, prepared my bags, and packed up my hut in preparation for a hasty departure. i was already a little bummed out because a bunch of people were already up in dakar or other places around senegal or west africa and celebrating christmas eve. i felt like i was the only person in peace corps senegal working that day and i was lonely, sad, and eager to be with others who actually cared that it was christmas (disadvantage of living in a muslim village). but, i made the choice to stay so i cheered myself up with thoughts of christmas cheer and potatoes and got ready for a day of potato planting and travel. turns out, the day was a lot more intense than i expected it would be.

talla left for the field first and i stuck around the compound until the women were ready to leave. i was getting rather impatient and annoyed because i knew that the women were done with their errands were just sitting around and procrastinating. it was already 10 am and i wanted to be at the field already! finally they called me and we headed out and just as we left the compound, adja came running from across the village yelling/screaming, "ARAM! ARAM!" when she got up to us, she opened up her skirt, flashed her panties at us, aram and fatou started screaming, and they all collapsed into a heap of laughter. i internally rolled my eyes and thought "here we go again." for some reason the women find it really amusing to flash each other (often sans panties) and these antics is often lasts for a while so i waited for it to pass.

next thing i know, they've gone from flashing each other to picking out lice from aram's hair. i leaned on my shovel and sighed deeply, feeling like an impatient boyfriend. picking lice from each other's hair is a common social occurrence among the women -- it took me a while to get used to this practice and to correct myself from thinking it primitive or crass. it's just what they do. i'm used to it by now but at this time i was so annoyed and frustrated and i thought it was absolutely ridiculous that we had places to go, things to do and they were standing around gossiping and picking out lice from aram's braids. i nearly stormed off on my own but instead just waited it out, trying not to get annoyed, and thinking of silly american things american women do that could be comparable to delaying important activity in order to pick lice.

finally the women were ready and we headed down to the valley. everybody who was there already remarked about how late i was. i had plenty of snarky retorts to say in english about it being no delay of my own but in Wolof, had nothing to say other than muttering, "yes, i'm late today." we started watering and after about an hour and a half's time, world vision had not yet shown up so we sat around in the shade (it was hot!), harassed each other's children, and gossiped. at noon WV showed up and potato planting commenced. it was a lot of work and everybody was bustling -- digging trenches, raking, marking holes, selecting potatoes, planting potatoes, watering. i was marking holes for the potatoes that were about 30-40 cm apart. this required me to be bent over the whole time and i had to work quickly because there were more people planting than marking so i was trying not to hold things up. sweat was pouring in my eyes and my back was aching by the time i was done. it was extremely hot and i was so extremely thirsty i drank water from a watering can (sand, twigs, and leaves).

around 1:30PM the WV guys were heading out so -- dirty, hungry, and sweaty -- i jumped into the car. i got lucky -- they were going all the way to kaolack (instead of just mbirkelane) and were willing to tote me along. it was nice -- there was air-conditioning and the car was fast. we chatted about our christmas plans (one of them is a catholic) and shared in our excitement for the holidays.

we got into kaolack around 2:45 and i ran off to kaolack house, dropped off some stuff, picked up some others and headed out to the dakar garage in hopes to get into a car, out of kaolack, and into dakar before the infamous rush hour dakar traffic started (there is only one road in and out of dakar, so you can imagine how congested it gets during rush hour in the morning and in the evening). unfortunately, 3PM is the hottest part of the day and there was not a single cab out so i walked about 20 minutes in the dead heat hating life until a christmas miracle occurred -- a cab with a nice cabbie who did not even try to overcharge me. i got to the garage and got the last seat of the last car which was a triumph but also basically just an uneven metal plate and quite possibly the worst seat i've ever had in a sept-palaas.

regardless, i was on my way and trying my best to stay in good spirits but then we -- despite my attempts to avoid it -- got stuck in traffic for two hours and i kept hearing from chris who was at a christmas eve party and i was livid that i was stuck in traffic, dirty, tired, hungry, and my butt hurt like nobody's business when all i wanted to do was to be out of the car, clean, and drinking a glass of red wine. i really wanted to head straight to my homestay rather than the party since i was disgusting and cranky but chris managed to convince me to go to justin's (a third year volunteer) apartment where the party was.

i finally got to justin's around 9pm and was just about fed up with everything. i was beat, exhausted, and was ashamed of how dirty and disgusting i was. everybody greeted me kindly and in the christmas spirit but i guess i was just emotionally drained, so after walking in, walked out of the apartment and broke into tears in the dark hallway. i just wanted to...i didn't even know. i was just flat out tired and it was such a long day and everybody seemed like they had spent the last 10 hours playing and having a good time and i was wallowing in self pity and crying about how i had gone through hell and back. chris managed to calm me down, i went back into the apartment, took a shower, had some eggnog, and started to feel a lot better -- much due to the fact that top gun was playing.

the next day -- christmas day -- chris and i headed out to goree island where some other peace corps volunteers had rented out some rooms at an auberge (inn) and were planning a nice christmas dinner. we took the ferry with mandi and her boyfriend terry who had just flown in from england to visit her and got to goree where it was stuffed full of tourists, very cold, and overrun with cats. i hadn't seen some of those folks in a while so it was a happy reunion and we made candy cane reindeer (thanks to a care package) and sipped on grey goose screwdrivers. chris and i also took a walk around the island and by the time we came back, there was quiche to be eaten. it was yummy. kira -- who had coordinated much of the day -- and mandi had bought a bunch of yummy food and christmas dinner (which we ate around 2pm) consisted of a pineapple glazed ham and mashed potatoes. even though i don't eat much pork product, the ham was quite tasty and it felt like christmas. terry had even brought christmas crackers from london and we enjoyed getting our prizes and wearing paper crowns.

unfortunately, i got quite ill -- probably food poisoning from some street food i had eaten for breakfast -- and threw up a bit afterwards. that pretty much sucked -- mostly because there went christmas dinner. since i wasn't feeling great, chris and i decided to head back to mainland dakar earlier than we had planned, said our goodbyes, merry christmases, and happy new years, and got back to the homestay around 8pm. chris made some cinnamon rolls (with icing!) which smelled delicious but i was still throwing up so i had to opt out. even so, christmas was a nice affair despite the weird little stomach bug i got. it's always nice to spend christmas with friends, regardless of where you are or what happens.

the next day -- boxing day -- i was feeling a bit better and had promised to make up for the lack of a christmas eve dinner with a big boxing day dinner. we decided on squash soup and vegetable lasagna so i spent most of the day preparing that. jc had just gotten back from a trip to sierra leone and was heading out to ghana to meet up with her boyfriend so she came up to dakar and got to wallace's house just in time for dinner. it was nice. chris, wallace, jc, and i had a nice dinner together and the lasagna was not just a lasagna but a lasagna monster. i have developed this fear of never having enough food (i attribute it to living in the village and not having much money) so i went a little overboard with the veggies but it was stuffed full of zucchini, carrots, spinach, eggplant, tomatoes, and mushrooms and smothered in ricotta, parmesan (brought from italy!), and mozzarella. thankfully i was feeling a bit better that day (although still extremely weak from emptying the contents of my stomach the entire night prior) and could eat some of the food.

hopefully i can get rid of this stomach bug by tomorrow and head back to the village. chris is coming with me and then we are spending new year's with my villagers who have made me promise to celebrate with them. last year we didn't do anything -- or at least i didn't, i went to bed at 10 -- so i'm curious as to what will happen this year. i am thinking about buying firecrackers as a present and setting those up on new year's eve. that could be fun! (or disastrous...)

i have a few pictures up from the village and of christmas, you can check out candy cane reindeers, cinnamon buns, and christmas crackers here. (oh and, there are also pictures from thanksgiving in america -- a bit overdue-- here.)

well, that's about it for now. happy 2009 everybody! 2008 has been a crazy year and i look forward to the craziness that 2009 will grant me. hope it is a wonderful year for you all. i'll see you soon -- it's my COS year. :)

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