Sunday, February 22, 2009

cold is over...

the 10 day weather forecast (according to for kaolack, senegal (the city closest to my village):

Feb 22

Mostly Sunny
Mostly Sunny


Feb 23

Partly Cloudy
Partly Cloudy


Feb 24



Feb 25

Partly Cloudy
Partly Cloudy


Feb 26

Partly Cloudy
Partly Cloudy


Feb 27



Feb 28



Mar 1



Mar 2



Mar 3



Thursday, February 12, 2009

i don't think you're ready for my gellies

after two extremely productive weeks, i'm in dakar getting ready for WAIST! WAIST is a big west african ex-pat softball tournament that goes for the president's day weekend. it's pretty much the party of the year.

upon leaving the village i felt an extreme satisfaction, i got so much work done. i was in the fields almost everyday, held meetings with teachers, planned a big project for the spring, had my first art class (and established a schedule for more), had a meeting with my village chief about a latrine project i want to do, went to the louma on sunday, worked on drawings for a training manual, planned a village meeting for when i get back, and even got my hair braided.

there's still a bunch of work to be done in dakar and that is also a nice feeling. i have a few letters and proposals to write so i don't feel like i am only here to play. moreover, i'll be volunteering to do kid's facepainting on saturday and also helping run the oceanium party -- which is, according to last year's experience, the ultimate party.

today chris, jc, and i went out and about downtown getting errands done and even managed to find facepaint for the kaolack team theme (braveheart = kilts, blue & white warpaint). i also found a fun conductor hat that i splurged on getting. oh and, maybe i'm a few seasons late but i've heard that gellies are back and all the fashion rage in america. well guess what i found for 1,000CFA ($2USD) on the streets of dakar?!

yay new shoes! (i've been here too long...)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

update: wolfgang!

wolfgang and my little sister, ndey fatou, have learned how to play fetch. they just did so for about a good 15 minutes. she throws his little pillow toy i sewed him across the room, he dashes off to get it, and then brings it back to her for her to wrestle away from him and then throw across the room again. amazing.

he's getting pretty big these days. my mom (my real one, in america) doesn't like his name so calls him waffle. i think that's pretty appropriate too.

he's fun but a bundle of stereotypical boy. he burps, farts, and refuses to be cuddled until night time when we got to sleep.

here is wolfgang and himself:

and here is 44 seconds of a 2 hour battle with a quaker oats granola bar wrapper:

(he went back to it...)

Friday, February 6, 2009

art in the village!

i've always felt that one of the keys to development is developing creativity within children. this hasn't been made any clearer than in senegal. there is a style of "this is the way things have always been done" in senegal which makes venturing into new ideas or projects somewhat difficult at times. education in this country is not the best nor does it focus on giving children options or choices or stimulus in creativity. kids learn to write the same, recite the same, often, think the same. therefore, i feel like if we start encouraging creativity in kids, start prodding them to think outside of the box, when they get older, they may be more apt to new ideas and new ways of doing things.

i had a talk with emmanuel, the new french teacher who has been affecte'ed (sent) to our village, about this and asked if i could start working with his students doing some art classes. he heartily agreed.

i just had my first art class and it was lots of fun and i'm in love with all 31 of the students (ranging in ages 4 to 11). for our first project, i decided to do an "evaluation" project -- i wanted to see where they were at in terms of creativity, ability, independence , and willingness. so we wrote our names, drew ourselves, and a few things about ourselves. for an example, i drew myself, a book, a cat, a carrot (things i like to eat), and a tree.

at first they were completely befuddled. even writing their names was a process -- most of them didn't even know how (shows the quality of the french school...). when it came to drawing themselves, they all claimed they didn't know how...which i guess makes sense since barely anybody has a mirror, and if they do, it is just a small piece of one. so emmanuel drew a generic one on the board and that got them started -- although some of them actually went their own route.

one kid, ablaye, was even drawing and talking to himself and at one point exclaimed, "ey wey! xoolal sama tank baram!" ("hey, wow! look at my toes!) as he was drawing his feet. i wanted to scoop him up and hug him.

they were again stumped when it came to drawing things about themselves -- i had to list things they might want to draw: huts, soccer balls, mortars and pestles (the little girls pound millet and other things in gigantic wooden mortars and pestles). it is hard for them, i guess, to think of their "favorite" things as they aren't given much choice in their lives, but after a stall they all got really into it. they were very diligent and there was a hushed clamoring for sharing crayons and erasers and rulers (some of them are perfectionists).

every now and then there was a sparkle, a hint of creativity -- basically something nobody else hadn't dawn yet like a cow, a car, a bowl of ceeb u jen (fish and rice), somebody making tea, a dress. as soon as i would comment on the new item, everybody else would scramble to draw it as well.

of course there were a few cats, but no books (disappointingly). ultimately i was happy because nobody drew themselves as a chinois with a lip ring. they were so cute! i totally enjoyed that class and can't wait to have the next.

earlier in the day i was moping around my room because i have a horrible cough that really hurts and it was cold and grey when the world vision car came up to the house with talla and malick -- they had come to get me because the health person from mbirkelane had come all the way out to come meet me. he works for world vision in partnership with USAID and when he heard there was a PCV in the bush, he said he had to come and meet me so that we could start working together. he speaks a little english, which makes me feel a bit more relaxed, as we both speak broken versions of each other's language. i guess it makes me feel a little less like an idiot. we have a temporary meeting planned for the 20th. i'm excited -- now i can get mosquito nets and have health related projects.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


last night was quite pleasant. dame ka, talla's dad, was spending the night in the village so it was kind of a special night. he and i chatted a bit -- he used to have a volunteer so totally understands the peace corps thing and is great to talk to. then i sat with the kids and a lady named adji signan on a basan with dame and we hung out. i got quite talkative and yammered away with them, talking about american money, my hair, softball, etc. emmanuel, the new french teacher stopped by to talk. i think this is his first year teaching and he is eager and fresh-faced. then we had chicken for dinner! it was very salty, but amazing and totally a treat. dame should come visit more often.

this morning dame left to go back to toune but he truly seemed sad to go. i found out (from him) that he was born here in my village. i didn't know that. he kept saying that our village was better than his and that he should come back home here. it was kind of sad to see the old man long for the place he was born. i imagined him reliving his childhood days, running around in the sandy corridors of the village, meanwhile surrounded by his grandchildren, a reminder of his age. i say, why not? he should come back here and hang out.

the rest of the morning i spent shelling peanuts -- i pretty much shelled half of fatou's quota for the day. my fingers hurt.

after lunch i settled inside of my hut and was just sitting around reading over my journal when women started whooping and everything seemed to explode into noise. you could just feel the atmosphere change. at first i thought they were just messing around but then it intensified and aram ran out of the compound yelling, "NDOX! NDOX!!!!" ("WATER! WATER!!!!")

i ran out of my hut and saw what i've dreaded to see in this grassy dry village -- FIRE.

turns out some kids were dicking around with matches and set baye sene's entire stock of hay and feed on fire. the wind didn't help the really dry conditions and it accelerated quickly. all the women ran out with buckets and the men were trying to salvage what they could. i ran out with my bucket -- which was totally hevy -- and ran into ma'asou who then helped me carry it over. we went to the robinet to refill. women were swarming with water and men were raking and trying to control the blazing fire. i was scared. we all then ran out to the well where two men and a horse were pulling water.

despite the chaos of the fire, i couldn't help but notice how quickly everybody fell into place and winthin an hour we got the fire down to just a few flickering and smoldering piles. still, the air is thick with smoke.

it's funny, perhaps ironic is the more appropriate word, though because just yesterday i was marveling over how lackadaisicle the women are about children and fire. even dame is allowed to stoke the fire and i began to think that perhaps it is american paranoia that keeps children from fire and that it is its mystery that causes american children to start fires or get themselves burned. guess i was wrong. fire safety is something i strongly believe in. smokey the bear, ya'll.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


i sit in this rusty automobile
tossed and jostled down burdened roads,
catching glimpses of the glittering sine saloum river.
its salty waters call my name.

the train tracks beckon me east.
the baobabs urge me to stay --
telling me that i will be safe lying deep beneath their roots.

yet wisps of a life i once knew reach me too --
blown in from across the atlantic ocean.

i am covered in a film of sweat and dust.
i lean my forehead against the window,
dreaming of east coast windows that are cold and frosty.
but this one brings me no relief
and instead, my head bounces against the smudged glass
as the car hurtles mercilessly down a path i've grown to know.
like i once knew the subways of new york.

we pass through towns and villages,
names and facades i know but have never known.
sometimes when i am traveling down this road --
exhausted from days of trying,
i pretend that i am never coming back.
and then --
my heart aches.

they say -- you don't remember me? you don't remember my name?
and i -- tired and frustrated and clawing at memory to remember,
wish i could just say -- yet you never even really learned mine.
who is this person you've made for me?!
dumb and mute and unaware of your annals of history.

i've come to know you
and what i wanted from you, i never got.
but, i have learned to love you.

you tired me
you exhaust me
you berate me, humiliate me, sicken me.

but you also thrill me
and show me
and teach me
and incite within me
a wisdom i would not have learned
in the slush filled asphalt streets
of modern cities with narrow passageways and looming shadows.

it could not have come from the mechanized world --
the place that i call home.

it can only come from.
you, the sine-saloum, the people, the battered road,