Monday, December 15, 2008


Hello to all and I wish you all a merry christmas and happy new year now in case I am unable to post before then. Because senegal is a primarily muslim culture, there arent too many christmas celebrations. I did however just celebrate the major holiday for muslims called Tabaski and wanted to tell you a little bit about it...
Tabaski is the holiday representing when abraham was going to sacrifice his son God provided a lamb in return. So on this day throughout senegal, lambs or sheep or goats are slaughtered in every compound and a big meal is made. Henna on the feet and hands is also pretty common among women, of which i participated! Everyone gets dressed up in their grand boubous and goes around greeting each other asking for forgiveness for the ways they might have harmed one another this year and also giving small tokens like candy, cola nuts, or small amounts of money. My family did all of these things and the people of Maleme Niani know how to celebrate a holiday! Tabaski is much like Christmas in that everyone comes home to visit their family and they stay for a week or more. There were lots of new people in the community who came in from school and lots of dancing into the wee hours! If you ever want to learn how to dance, take some lessons from the senegalese: they know how! The past week or so has really been enjoyable and exciting getting a taste of senegalese culture in a different atmosphere than every day life in the village!

In my every day life I thought i would fill you in a little bit about what my day might look like.
My city has limited electricity, my compound does not have it but others do, so people are often getting up with the sun and getting ready for dinner and then bed when the sun goes down. I usually wake up around 7 and then the day is really up for grabs as to what i will do. Some days I help around the compound and go to the market in the mornings other days i might go to the field, or go to a meeting to learn about some of the groups in the community and to meet different people. I recently went with my counterpart around the community to get information concerning a future mosquito net distribution that we are hoping to do before the rainy season. Lunch is usually around 2pm followed by tea. This is usually the hottest part of the day so often people are in their compounds resting and chatting or visiting others in their compounds. Often this continues until around 5 or so when it begins to cool down again. This is all time for me to continue working on understanding and hearing the language. The evenings are also up for grabs as to what might happen. Dinner is usually around 8 and I have often gone to other compounds or meeting places either before or after dinner. By the time 9-10 comes though I am exhausted from continuous foreign language, hot weather, and the both amazing and frustrating senegalese culture I encounter at all times!

Personally I am doing really well emotionally and surprisingly well physically lately! I had a really wonderful time celebrating Tabaski and couldnt ask for a better family and a better community to work with in the near future! I really look forward to what is to come and it makes me want to become much more immerssed and much more fluent in the language!

Please keep me updated send me information about your lives! I wish you all a very merry chrsitmas and thank you for your support and encouragement!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I have successfully been in my village for two straight weeks with my family and they are wonderful! i have 5 siblings; all younger and my village mom and dad are wonderful! Very supportive and most importantly very patient during this beginning time of learning!

So far I have basically greeted a lot of people; gotten comfortable; and gotten to know the community a little! I have already met with some womens groups who are interested in receiving help and advice from me of all people; so I hope to be able to do that once language barriers are crossed and i have received more technical training! I plan on going back tuesday and will spend a few more weeks out there until coming back into tamba!

My thanksgiving was spent in the beautiful country side of kedougou! there are mountainous hills there and the gambia river and it is beautiful! one of the peace corps volunteers is an excellent cook and fixed up a fest for us while we were there! i unfortunately was sick and didnt enjoy the food like i would have wanted to but there is always next time! it was fun to hang out with other americans and celebrate a holiday i know my family and friends were celebrating too! much needed therapy!

I was thinking about my blogs and wondering if you who are reading would like more informational blogs like i have been writing or if you would like more philosophical issue type blogs where i talk about some of the things I find myself thinking when surrounded by lots of poverty and language barriers; etc. It would be helpful for me so I can write what i know you all are interested in reading and save other things for emails or other sources o communication!

ONE HUGE THING!!! If you by chance send me a letter through the mail; please please send a packet of seeds with it! This wont add to the cost of the letter and it will be sooo helpful! Vegetable seeds here are expensive and not necessarily the best quality; so just stick a little surprise in there with your note of love!

All my love to you and hope all is well back in the USofA or wherever you may be right now!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Short post

I am back in Tamba after two weeks in maleme niani! Im going to kedougou tomorrow with friends to celebrate the holiday! I plan on posting after thanksgiving to let you all know what is going on in my life!

Know i miss and love you all and its so good to get updates from you! Hope you all have a wonderful thanksgiving and are able to spend time with friends or family but most importantly the people you love and are thankful for!

Happy Thanksgiving from Senegal!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Maleme Niani here I come!!

Hello from Tambacounda!

I am currently at the regional house but will be moving tomorrow, November 12, 2008, to Maleme Niani! I move in tomorrow around noon and then start off my two years of service. I and four other ladies are in the Tambacounda region and excited about what is to come.

I swore in last Friday at the Ambassadors house in Dakar. It was a huge to-do, lots of press, the president’s general secretary (or some sort) and a number of other dignitaries from around Senegal and representing the United States! Forty of us came to Senegal for our Fall Stage and Forty of us swore in to become peace corps volunteers…a huge thing! After, we ate delicious, rich, food that made an appearance the next day in a not so delicious way. (Apparently my stomach is not used to rich, delicious, American food). Following, headed to the PC office to do some paperwork and then on to the American Club where we swam in a really amazing pool! That night in Thies, we had a party for the new volunteers and a member of their homestay families. There was food, music (of the Mandinka kind), certificates, and of course some dancing that lasted through the night! It was bitter sweet to say goodbye to my sister!

As of now, I am almost positive I will be in Maleme Niani for the next 2 weeks! While there I will get to know my family, find a tutor to keep up my mad mandinka skills, hopefully start cooking up a storm and eating some delicious vegetables (fingers crossed), getting to know my “compound people” and the local community, and just getting a feel for Maleme Niani as a whole! I don’t have internet there so if possible I will try to come into Tamba every two weeks or so to be able to update you all on my life and hopefully begin to accumulate more pictures so you can see the lovely people in my life too!

Other than that you can always contact me over phone and letters/packages are ALWAYS loved and welcomed! And I will always write you back! (if you haven’t gotten a return letter its because the mail system is crazy over here!)

Thanksgiving will hopefully be spent with my lovely friends! We will celebrate with a Thanksgiving dinner, so I will have a bit of America all the way over in Africa!

Keep me updated! Shoot me an email! Let me know what is going on in your own lives and what you are up to! Hope to hear from you soon and stay in touch as best you can!

Lots of love,


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

random post

Dearest Family and friends!

How are you all? I hope everyone is well and would love to hear from those at least a few words as an update! I even love hearing every day activities, like what you ate for lunch or who won the latest sports game! These are like little treasures I love coming across when I can!

I am currently in Thies! I just arrived and pleasantly can use my friends computer again to type this before hand and save me both time and energy trying to type everything out on a computer with a different keyboard than I am used to and paid time! So I just returned to the training center after my last trip to Mbour! I said goodbye to my family there and wont see them for another three months at least! Its crazy this part of my journey is almost over, and I will be swearing in this Friday, November 7th! As a stage, we go to Dakar and have a little celebration at the ambassadors house and then come back to Thies for a party where one of our family members from our village stays will be! They will have lots of food and a celebration ceremony of some sort.

After that I will be leaving for Tambacounda. I will be in Tambacounda getting ready and buying things I need until November 12th and then I actually move to Maleme Niami that afternoon! I met two counterparts at the counterpart workshop we had here at the center a little over a week ago and I am both excited and really nervous about finally making the trek out to my place of residence for the next two years! I have yet to get my address for that location but will for sure post it when I get it! So if you are writing, or sending a package, hold off on sending it to the training center location and wait for me to post a new address, otherwise I might not get any of those things until February when I for sure will be back in Thies!

Hopefully by the time this is posted, I will finally have pictures posted too! That has been crazy and annoying trying to figure out how to get them on but hopefully I will have a system figured out by the time I am in my village! Sorry it has taken so long!

Well this post is much more informational than I thought it would be! I will try to get a post out before I head to Tamba or while I am there! Please please keep me updated on your life too! I love hearing how things are going in the states and am definitely separated from everything going on there so any tidbits are great! All my love to you all! You have no idea how many of you come to my mind when I am doing random things here! I miss you and love you all and hope all is well wherever you are!

Much Love!!!


Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Senegal America Comparison

I am using a friends computer and can type what I have been experiencing here ahead of time, so I hope this post is helpful for those who are trying to stay updated on my experiences. I thought I would spend a little bit of time letting you all know what the daily Senegalese life is like. I am going to make comparisons of what you would see in the States as opposed to the everyday Senegalese sights, smells, tastes, etc.

The things you experience in Senegal that you don’t experience in the States (on a regular basis):

Charettes are a form of transportation found throughout Senegal but used primarily in smaller villages. Donkeys or horses are rigged with a carriage-like piece of wood (on average 3x5 feet) with wheels and 5-20 people fit themselves on at one time. The downside to this lovely form of road travel is drivers don’t always judge their passengers ability to hold on tightly when traveling at higher speeds!

Eating from the bowl
The bowl is usually a very large metal mixing bowl you would find in most commercial kitchens in the USA. The entire Senegalese family (ranging from 5-15+) sit and eat from this bowl at one time. It is definitely very intimidating when you first experience it, but I have grown to appreciate it! Eating from the bowl includes bowl manners, mothers scolding children who aren’t abiding the bowl rules, etc.

Daily Markets
In most larger cities, markets are held on a daily basis. You can get everything from fish, fruits, veggies, peanuts, and other food products to sandals, fabric, batteries, and the ultimate bucket purchases! (buckets are useful for everything here!) Markets are crowded often dirty places with people haggling for the best price and getting their veggies, meat, and grains for their meals that day.

The breast-feeding woman
Breast-feeding and breasts in general are viewed completely differently in Senegal than they are in the States. It is not uncommon for women to walk around topless doing house work, breastfeeding their children in public, etc. This has definitely been an adjustment and something that can still be shocking when meeting someone for the first time. You don’t really get used to seeing more of them than you are used to upon introduction.

Sheep and goats anywhere and everywhere
That’s basically all I need to say. They show up in your housing compound, school building, middle of the road, everywhere you go.

Bucket Baths
Move over modern shower appliances, the bucket bath is here to stay, and stay it will! Many might find it to be a bit disconcerting but I have come to appreciate the joys of a bucket bath after a sweaty walk through town. For those who are wondering, it is what it sounds like. Fill a bucket with water, add a small cup to scoop, traverse to your showering area, and indulge!

Three Cups of Tea
No ladies and gents, not the book, although I have seen a few copies floating throughout the training center, I am talking about the common mid-morning, afternoon, and evening three cups of tea. The Senegalese drink tea from what look like shot-glasses. Usually the youngest male child of the family makes the tea and you drink three cups that progressively get sweeter and more minty as you go! It is delicious!!

Jack Bauer
Yes, 24 has made it to Africa! Although its dubbed in French, Jack Bauer can be seen fighting crime and saving the world on a regular basis!

Call the Prayer
It happens 5 times a day, the first at 5am. Those living in larger cities do not fare as well because it seems as if many Senegalese own or share loudspeakers. The call is done in a type of singing/chanting way and its not uncommon to be woken up by this every-day experience!

White Bread
I have yet to see any whole wheat bread in all of Senegal. Almost every day breakfast will be white bread with coffee. If you are lucky you can get your white bread with beans, Senegalese mayo (its delicious trust me), chocolat, or maybe even tuna!! Major breakthrough: I recently got my family to try white bread with peanut butter (this is unheard of here).

Toubab and other racial slurs or seemingly inappropriate language
The Senegalese characterize one another by their differences! This means they point them out and make fun of one another all the time! As a Toubab (literally white person, or foreigner) you do not go for a walk out of your compound without being called Toubab. It is definitely NOT done in a menacing way, its simply observation and how many of the children have grown up! The fun part is turning it into a joke so they either learn your name or get to know you as a person rather than that label!

This is a goal of mine! The Senegalese have an uncharacteristic aim and force to their spitting I have yet been able to duplicate. Don’t worry I will continue to observe and practice this art!

Laundry-a workout here!
Needless to say, I give major props to Senegalese women! They work all day long preparing food and maintaining the house and it is hard work! Laundry here is not simply throwing clothes into a machine, sitting for an hour, and then throwing them into another to get them fluffy and warm. Its an all morning activity that includes lots of buckets, different liquids, lots of wear and tear, and finally lots of muscle!!

I hope to continue this list as I think of them. In every way I am sharing these things as just observations and out of love for the people of Senegal! I hope it helps you have a better idea of what life is like, and how it is different to the culture I was used to in America!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Back in Thies

Hello from Thies!

Im a month in now! Its hard to believe ive been here that long yet it seems only natural! My mandinka friends and i had the chance to see two villages when we went on site visits to two villages. We had the opportunity to see lots of different field crops, tree varieties, live fences, and community gardens! We also danced and ate at a tam tam party where there are drummers, food, and lots of dancing late into the night! They were having the party to say goodbye to the peace corps volunteer that is currently there, and also welcoming the new peace corps volunteer. It was great to be able to see their everyday lives in action and to put some breadth into what i will be doing soon! It made me really excited and a little anxious to learn more of my language!

This coming week i will be traveling back to mbour for more language classes! We will also be checking up on our vegetable plots, field crops, and tree nursery that we planted there. It will be good to be immersed into the Mandinka language again and hopefully build up my skillz!

I have taken lots of pictures, I hope to post them sometime soon, i just have trouble not having a computer to download them onto and then get them online. I am going to try and get those posted in the next week so you canalso see what i am seeing!

Also, after this next month my address will be changing. I will update it here on my blog as soon as possible so you have that address. Also i just recently got a skype username so can talk to those who have skype! Let me know what your skype username is and we can set up a skype chat date!

All in all i feel like i am adjusting more to life here! It has been tough at times but I feel like seeing what pcv do has helped me to kind of have more of a focus as to why i am here! I enjoy hearing from anyone even with just a small little email so please let le know how you are and what you are up to!

more updates coming soon,


Thursday, October 2, 2008

For the next two years...

I will be living in a city/village called Maleme Niani. It is in a region of senegal called Tambacounda in the southwest. It is actually a new site but from what i have heard I am actually going to have running water and electricity, a rarity for most agricultural volunteers! I am located on a major road that goes through senegal, and is paved! So it doesnt look like i will be roughing it like some volunteers do but each site has its challenges and i wont really know until i get there!

I am back in Thies for one day! I celebrated Korite with my family yesterday and ate a lot! My dad in Senegal was the chief of my neighborhood and is older and distinguished so families continued to bring in dishes! I am pretty sure he ate from 5-6 bowls! I did too and am still feeling the effects today! haha! But it was good to have some quality protein in my diet and to eat something other than rice for a meal!! We had chicken, beef, in a dish that had an onion sauce with fried potatoes and spices, very very tasty!!

Tomorrow the mandinka speakers head out to a town in tambacounda to visit a current peace corps volunteer! We will be there for about 10 days or so getting some technical training and also practicing our language on our own!

I am doing well so far! I love getting letters from you so please keep sending those if you have an extra dollar around for postage! I am doing well and its good to be back in Thies for a while! Have gone through a bout or so of homesickness but its getting better as i am getting used to the culture of the Senegalese! I have also had quite the adventures with my family in Senegal from lots of nakedness (not me)to a mouse who lives in my room, to watching the slaughtering of animals, to overnight trips to the squatter! I wont post those here but if you shoot me a message i can fill you in!

Thanks for staying posted! I would lvoe to be updated even just a little on your own lives so let me know how you are and what you are up to!

pictures will come as soon as i figure out the best way to post them!

lots of love!

ps packages are also always always welcome!! :)

Friday, September 26, 2008


this is jessica in mbour, at a cyber cafe on one of the main roads. i am doing fine and had some free time to update family and friends.
the mandinka speakers (there are four of us) are stayin with families in mbour while learning the language and startin demo plots for our tech training. we are in class every morning and then in the afernoon either go to the garden; a field; or do some crosscultural studies. it has been quite the experience, definitely overwhelming a times, a little hard but also good.
it has rained the last two days thankfully so the heat is not as unbearable, and i even went and danced in the rain this morning with my little sisters. yesterday my team and a current peace corps volunteer rode our bikes to a nearby farm and looked a the crops they had growing there. it was absolutely beautiful! baobob trees, acacia trees, fields of millet, sorghum; peanuts, beans, bissap, and more. there was a cool breeze blowing the whole time from the ocean and it was wonderful being ouside of the city for a bit.

we are here in mbour for another five days or so and then head to another site for some tech training with current volunteers. i would type more but need to go. i am missing you all and would love to hear from you soon!

so much love,


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Im Alive

Dear family and friends!
Im safe and sound in Thies Senegal. Im at a ciber cafe right now and using a french keyboard so i apologize for any typeos. Things are going well and I am great.

Africa is HOT right now…its really humid because its the rainy season and people are cranky because they are fasting all day for Ramadan. It is beautiful though and the Senegalese have been nothing but hospitable to our group. There are forty of us here training in four different sectors ; agroforestry, ag extension, small business interprise, and ecotourism. I a, zorking in agroforestry and our group just planted 200 trees with the help of our trainers.

All 40 of us have been placed in homestay villages near Thies. Myself and three others are in Mbour a coastal village on the west side of Senegal. My family is wonderful and I will be living with them for the next couple of weeks. I am beginning to learn Mandinka, a language spoken in quite a bit of West Africa. My host family speaks it but they also speak Wolof, the ,ajor language spoken in Senegal other than french. I ca,e in knowing nothing, have been ,aking a fool of myself trying to understand them, but am co,ing along slowly but surely !

We will be in training for the next 7 weeks and then will be sent to the community we will live in for the following two years. I will speak Mandinka, but will try and pick up some Wolof, and am pri,arily being taught my language in french. So you can imagine that my head is swimming by the end of every day.

Here in Senegal, we are fed many traditional dishes. We always have bread at breakfast, and then some sort of rice or millet dish for lunch and dinner. Because many of the Senegalese are fasting they eat very early ? and then break their fast around 715 with tea, dates, and bread. Then they start eating dinner usually around 930 or 10. I have definitely had to adjust my eating schedule but am doing fairly well so far.

I am posting my contact information so please send me letters, CARE PACKAGES, and of course some love ! I miss you all and would love to hear from you…any calls i receive are free, so if you happen to have a calling carda round dial my number. I hope to be able to post as often as possible but wont know what that will look like until I have a pretty regular schedule !

My love to you all back in the states or wherever you are ! Thanks to the letters and package i already received, its helpful knowing there are people thinking of me !

Love to you all,
Mariama (my senegal name)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mixed Feelings

Well I take off for Philadelphia tomorrow! I will be there for two days and will then head to Senegal! My first two months will be spent in Theis (Chess) which is pretty close to Dakar. I will live with a family, most likely, while going to school and learning the language, customs, and the basic skills I will need to survive. Also, I will most likely get lots of information about trees, planting things, etc. If this all seems a little vague to you, thats because it is for me too. I dont have specific information yet, but as soon as I get there I hope to be able to post more to keep everyone involved!

Here is my address for training! Just for your information if you want to write, number your letters so its easier to keep track of what has actually reached me and what has not...

Jessica Scates
Corps de la Paix
B.P. 299
Thies, Senegal
West Africa

I appreciate you all and am so thankful for your support throughout all my travels! If you have recently moved, could you send me your address (I hope to make letter writing a new hobby). I also hope to be posting pictures up on this blog so you can actually see what I am experiencing.

Well, all my love to you! Please keep me in your prayers and any encouraging words would be wonderful for me throughout these next two years!

God Bless,

Saturday, August 16, 2008

here I am, here I go...

Hello! Hi from Minneapolis, MN in my sister's lovely house! Welcome to my "blog". I hope to keep you all updated on my life...this being one of the ways I can do that. For those who don't know already, I will be heading to Senegal, West Africa in less than a month with the Peace Corps. I will be a part of the agro-forestry program. In other words, I will be working with farmers to reforest the area by growing tree nurseries, planting trees, etc. I am VERY excited, a little nervous, and feel as if my date of departure is surreal but coming so quickly! I wanted to keep you all in the loop, So here is my blog, hope you enjoy!