it has been a long long time since i've written last and this is mainly due to a smattering of activity, getting stuck in dakar, an agfo summit in kedougou, a free one night trip to saly, hosting some study abroad students for a week in the village, and getting my mind wrapped around what i'll be doing with my life.
work in the village has been really busy but also really fulfilling. this year is a 180 from last year, instead of being totally clueless and creating a 3,000 sack pepiniere of my own, i'm working with 25+ farmers in helping them get personal pepinieres (tree nurseries) established. lots of these farmers are women, which makes me really happy. so these days i'm running around measuring fields, talking to people, and counting out sacks and seeds. it's really exciting work and there's lots of cool projects coming up. my so-far favorite of these is in a little pulaar village next to mine where all the women have decided that they will have a permanent tree nursery established (as they call it, an "always pepiniere"), live fenced, and 20 of every species i can give them. it was an agfo's dream to see all these women show up and plot out the place of the tree nursery -- right next to the well and right under a huge tamarind tree with lots of shade. they even had me taste the well water to see if it was "sweet" enough for their trees.
what is the most exciting of this is that i am really working in wolof. while there is plenty more for me to learn, i am totally comfortable in wolof now and my points come across clearly. i can joke and banter freely and conversations come easily. the other day we had a formation (training) on tree sack filling and i was even able to explain the whys of what we do and able to quiz farmers on what we had covered. while i'm prepared for whatever may happen, i feel really good about my work right now and it is extremely fulfilling to see that my past year of struggle and work has finally worked itself out.
my proposal for a grant through peace corps has come through and next month i'll be having a "kid's pepiniere" day where every school-attending child (both in koranic and french school) will have the opportunity to learn how to fill sacks and seed their own two trees -- one fruit tree and one shade tree. they will learn the maintenance and care of a pepiniere and we will also have a discussion about social responsibility. we'll paint a mural and have snacks and dancing.
in addition i've managed to add a parrot to my animal menagerie. he's a little green senegal parrot. talla bought him as a chick a few weeks ago and it had been living in a miserable little cardboard box in loneliness and darkness and was only let out to be fed. feeling bad for him, i asked jc's family to give me the bird cage that they own (they once had a parrot) which they readily gave to me. it was a little broken but talla and i had a fun time fixing it and after we got the bird established in it...it wound up becoming mine. it's supposed to be talla's bird but every day i take him outside and every night they bring it back to me. i don't really understand it but he now lives in my hut and i feed him old oranges and he cheeps at me. wolfgang is not entirely pleased but has given up on trying to eat our new addition. he poops a lot and i pretend not to like him very much but he's a cute little guy and it's nice to have another little living being in my life.
the past few weeks have been slightly stressful in the fact that i've made a few decisions impacting my next few months to a year of life. i'd been seriously considering extending my service here to a third year based in dakar. i would be working on programmatic agroforestry stuff and there were lots of exciting prospects. there was a time in which i was really set on it and dreaming about my new life in dakar and all the things i would do (learn tennis, volunteer at the orphanage). however, upon some serious consideration and thought, i've decided not to do this and to end my service at two years. this opens up the exciting opportunity to go on a sweet COS (close of service) trip with JC to asia but afterwards, it's all a blank slate. it may be the first time in my life that my future is unknown. it's pretty scary and often keeps me up at night.
surprisingly, at this point, it would be the easy thing to do to stay longer in senegal. i am finally comfortable, know what i'm doing, speak the language, and can cruise through life. ultimately i had to admit to myself that my wanting to stay here was mostly procrastinating the reality of paying off my debts, getting a job while getting myself ready for grad school, and readjusting to american life, culture, and friends. it is time for a new challenge and perhaps this challenge is the abyss of the unknown and uncertain.
even though i don't COS until october, it really feels like my service is winding down. just about every day i think about america and a life there and it ranges from day dreams/visions of landing the perfect job in new york to working a hodge podge of jobs until i go to grad school to grad school ambitions to vacations in california to living in my parents' basement with wolfgang twiddling my thumbs and going through culture shock. maybe i worry too much.
even so, in the meantime all i can do is do my current job and to do it well. april will be a busy month of getting tree nurseries established and working with farmers on project planning for their fields.
may it be a good month and i'll be sure to include pictures soon.