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!! :)