Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas Joyeux Noel

Seasons greetings to friends family and followers! I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas holiday no matter the weather or place and have friends or family to spend the season with! I thought I would fill you in on my Christmas happenings so far and share a little bit of my reflections of the differences I have been experiencing in Senegal so far this Christmas season...

So, currently I am sitting in the house of Belgiums who live in Dakar working for a international NGO. They have lived here a little over a year and open their home to Peace corps volunteers who come into dakar for various reasons. Graciously, they opened their home to three of my girlfriends, Maggie, Erin, and Shannon this christmas as we were on our way to the beaches of caps Skirring but won't be leaving until this evening. The sharing of their beautiful home included attendance at a Christmas eve party with their closest friends and family (some even flying in from Paris/France). I must say it was probably one of the nicest Christmas celebrations I have ever experienced (despite not having my family and traditions here ...don't worry mom :)) My friends and i were a little nervous going into it because most everyone speaks french and my french is there but its not up to par...lets just say im really really good at pretending i know what you are saying (the things you learn in a foreign country). So schmoosing around frenchies was a little bit scary but we were up for the challenge...especially knowing games, food, and wine would be involved in the festivities. So we prepared...traveled to the local grocery store (yes they DO have them in Dakar!!) and bought a bottle of red wine and came with my "white elephant" gift, party dress, newly purchased gold and fabulous strappy $3 sandals, and ready to enjoy the holiday season! Guests started arriving around 7:30 pm and were supplied with "hors doeuvres" that would challenge any posh restaurant in town. We consumed caviar and creme (my first experience, it was quite delightful i must say), smoked salmon, belgium sausage, some type of delicious pickled eggplant, tapinade, mozarella and sun dried tomato, anchovies on toast, and wine that flowed all night long. After snacking on this for an hour or so we played a getting to knwo you game...in french and broken english, and it wasn't as awkward as we thought it would be. Around 10pm we sat down to a salad including four types of meat (duck included) with walnuts, pine nuts and a delicious olive oil balsamic vinegar type of dressing. It filled an entire dinner plate and I was already getting concerned with the fullness of my stomach from the dining on appetizers. Salad was of course followed by dinner...around 11pm. We dined on delicious turkey, potatos shredded up and fried to perfection in small samples, a sausage type stuffing, pears filled with cranberry sauce and all followed by champagne two types of bouche de noel, a chocolate mouse extravaganza and of course the holiday fruit cake. To end the evening was a wonderfully entertaining game of White Elephant in which i ended up with a basket found in most senegalese restaurants...still deciding what i will do with it.

My thoughts on this evening....
1. I probably ate more meat in one evening than i have eaten in an entire year in Senegal...it was incredible, my stomach wasn't ready for it, and today i am feeling the effects.
2. Toubabs (white people) can be as generous kind and fun as my senegalese village friends...this was noticed by their kind words, opening of their home and lives to us, jokes, conversations through broken french and english, kados, creepy old men, and the playing of Nelly Furtado's promiscuous girl as a festive holiday selection.
3. The differences that can exist between two communities in one country are huge! Despite the differences however I have seen the kindness that exists among one another and the love that people have for the human race. It was nice to see people take care of one another and to feel the effects of that.

Finally I just wanted to share my thoughts coming from my village to a very posh and nice home in Dakar. I think when you are completely immersed in a culture it is difficult to see beyond it, to realize differences exist beyond your current reality. Traveling from one extreme to another made me realize how stark poverty can be, and how different my life is from the lives of others while I am in village. It may sound sort of "look at me" but i honestly forget the poverty of my village family when that is all I know. It was a shock to realize that not having a warm shower in 4 months, not sleeping on a real mattress, not eating more than one type of meat in one week let alone one meal was both totally normal but totally abnormal to me. I can live in both worlds, feel somewhat at home and at peace in those worlds, but yet they are so different and i can forget so easily that the other exists. Its a strange existence to live in but its home.

From all of that I hope that wherever you are this Christmas is home to you. I hope no matter your economic status, what you ate for christmas dinner, if you had a warm shower or a clean bed, no matter your circumstances I hope you had people in your life who love you and whom you love. I hope you are able to spend quality time with them and enjoy each others company. I also hope that you are able to invite others into your life who might not have that due to their circumstances and treat them as a part of your own family, sharing your home, your food, and your love! And with that, most of all i hope you experience love this Christmas season. No, I didn't attend a Christmas service last night, or a senegalese party celebrating the christian holiday, but I was with people who cared deeply for one another, gave generously, and shared their love with me. That, I believe, is the true meaning of Christmas. Merry Christmas with LOVE from Africa!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gobble gOBBLE Gobble!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Senegal, but we as Peace Corps volunteers do our best to make thanksgiving just like home. My friends Erin, Maggie, her boyfriend Cory and I went down to Kedougou. Erin, another friend Hayes and I made the trip to the waterfalls a few days before thanksgiving. This is not your average waterfall trip, it’s a pretty intense 57+ km trip by bike over rolling hills the first half and on gravely, rocky trails the second half. The scenery in Kedougou is so unlike the rest of Senegal. It has beautiful, rolling hills, somewhat mountainous terrain, and of course the reason we were going: waterfalls. I am not that big of a biker because I have been unhealthy and around my site its much sandier and harder to bike as often as I would like. So, I was prepared to be in for a butt kicking and in some senses that’s what I got. My friends were very patient and encouraging but I was definitely struggling huffing up those hills and crossing small rivers. It was absolutely beautiful and we finally reached the falls after about 4/1/2 hours of biking! I will say that trying to bike those trails and crossing rivers in the rainy season would be very painful, very hard, but a huge accomplishment with beautiful sights!
We camped out when we got to the falls, fixed some delicious camping food, swam in some really really cold water, hiked, and enjoyed the peace and quiet! I will try and attach some of the photos I took and you can see some of the beauty there. I am happy to say though that this trip has been known to make or break a peace corps volunteer and I hope upon looking back that my trip was made.
Now I am at the kedougou house, enjoying a thanksgiving dinner, football, games, and other toubabs company! I wish you all a fabulous thanksgiving wherever you are hoping you are able to celebrate with delicious food and family! Happy Thanksgiving and more blogs to come!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

New Pictures

Hey all!

Just letting you know there are new pictures to the left...Korite is the holiday after the month long fast of Ramadan. Pictures are of my family and friends in my compound. They all got new clothes for the holiday and were excited about the pictures I was taking! Pretty cute eh? Take a look and let me know if you have any questions!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

An assortment of random things you must must read!

*my apologies for the mistakes made in the haikus that were previously posted on my blog. I entirely blame them on my lack of work with haikus and the number of languages jumbled in my head that i can't count syllables. forgive me :)*

A Lizard Climbed up my Back; I’m Going to Have a Baby
For those in touch with your superstitious sides when a lizard climbs on your back, you will soon conceive. I was fortunate to have that occur this last week and was informed by my mother that I will soon be having a child. For my family and friends in the states-please don’t worry it is only superstitions, nothing I plan on happening any time soon. Oh and for those who were wondering i only semi-freaked out as the lizard was climbing up my back. It was trying to reach the destination of the post next to my seat...i just happened to be in the way. All the same I must say that was probably a first.

Christmas 2009 - yes its early but then again i'm thousands of miles away. Please contact my family with any questions or collaborations. Thanks!!!

An ode to my family and friends far away
Listing my wishes for this years’ Christmas day

They’re not set in stone, just writ with a pen
To give you ideas of the things you might send.

If times now are hard, money’s not coming through
Please just send me a Christmas letter or two.

Packaging can make quite a dent in the pocket
That Flat-rate boxes or teaming up may help stop it.

No need to feel like you must send me an item,
Simple updates with pictures will keep me a smilin’.

The address is easy B.P. 309
Tambacounda, Senegal, W. Africa (Christmas 2009)

Wishing you love, peace and joy this Christmas to come
Here’s my list-take a look-why not join in the fun??

Spiced Tea-just a lil I don’t need the whole family supply
Oyster Crackers and Dill spice-chili anyone??
Jello Cake Fixings -minus the cool whip that pry wont travel well
Candy Canes/Peppermints/Christmas Treats
Crochet Hook
Christmas music (cd, tape, or flash drive)
-John Denver, Bing Crosby, Manheim Steamroller, the classics i grew up with
Andes mints
Ritz crackers and chocolate chips for dipped PB sandwiches
cute headbands
Football/Volleyball (send deflated for packaging)
Maple Syrup (the real stuff)
Big Tomatos seeds
Seeds for herbs


The Meal you will Crave on a Cold Winter Night
Recipe dedicated to the women in my family who loved it!

Senegalese Maffe (Peanut Sauce)
This recipe will feed 10 people generously (Senegalese standards). Fix rice separately (follow rice instructions) as you like it and set aside to be topped with a heaping portion of a delicious peanut sauce…
Peanut Sauce:
2 cups unsalted, all natural peanut butter
Veggies: 1-2 potatos, 1-2 carrots,
Meat of your choice
ex. 2-3 filet of fish deboned
filet of steak cut into cubes
Small can of tomato paste
Onions 2-3-chopped up
Dried okra powder- made by drying okra and pounding it up –it basically acts as a thickening agent so if you need a thicker sauce you can use this if you find it or a substitute like a little bit of flour
Netto seeds (if you can find these please tell me where, I searched everywhere for them) about 2 T whole seeds
pepper about 1T peppercorns
red pepper about 1T small dried red peppers
salt
mami cubes 2 (you can probably find this in an international grocery store)
garmi packet 1 (same as mami)
1. Mix together Peanut Butter and about 2-3 Liters of water over heat (depending on thickness of sauce you desire) and bring to boil and simmer
2. Add desired veggies (cut in large chunks), meat, tomato paste, and a mami cube and garmi packet
3. Pound up pepper, red pepper, netto seeds, onion and other mami cube with a mortar and pestle and add to maffe sauce. Leave to simmer on low heat.
4. If needed add salt to taste
5. Add okra powder or thickening agent substitute
6. Simmer until ready. Serve with rice and enjoy on a cold winter night!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Senegal Haiku

Per request of my brother in law I will make a post only in Haiku's. Nate I hope you enjoy and bear with me this is spur of the moment.

Senegal is hot
But when it rains it gets cool
I sweat day and night

There are lots of flies
they like to swarm on new cuts
like mosquito bites

my dad the mayor
has plush new couches and chairs
i lay on them now

Mosquito nets work
but they dont work well if
you both are inside

Guy like to dance here
they dance better than girls do
it is lots of fun

Work is slow right now
The trees are all planted
I hope they dont die

Vitamins are good
they make you feel much better
when you eat just rice

Soccer is huge here
team mission just won first place
this weeks new highlight

Send your requests here
I'll write what you want me to
this websites for you

Until the next time
Enjoy the cool weather there
Jump in the leaves too!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

ATTENTION!!!

Attention to All!

New photos have been posted! A HUGE HUGE thank you to all who generously donated to my net distribution campaign. The pictures in the new album show the distribution that occurred mid-july with the help of a number of community members and fellow Peace Corps volunteers! Maleme Niani and neighboring communities received 1,150 nets to help eradicate the effects of malaria in the area! I will keep you updated on the effects of this campaign and how you helped to make a huge impact on the health and happiness of people I live with! I can't say thank you enough! New posting will be coming soon!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A crack in my methodology

Well I am going to stray from the structure of my previous postings in order to at least get something out there for y'all to read. The photo posted is just one of my beautiful sister who is newly married to my new bro-in-law Nate! The wedding was fantastic, meaningful, and lots and lots of fun and now the two are living in Buffalo NY. Im sure any other info you can get from either one of them!

I am currently sitting in a hotel in Tambacounda, the main city in my region. I am here for the next couple of days working with other peace corps volunteers, typing up random reports and documents, and getting together things i can only do in places that have electricity and internet access. I didnt have the time to put together something like I have in the past but hope this suffices for those who like to keep updated.

I've stayed busy the two weeks I have been back at site. It is the rainy season here so every couple of days we have at least a little bit of rain and often times get rain every day. It is the time of outplanting all the trees i have been growing and watching over alongside of people in my community. I have outplanted a live fence that helps to keep from having to replace dead wood fences every year as well as random spots to plant trees in prominent community places, schools, for shade, etc. That has pretty muched wrapped up and now I am in the process of finishing all the detail work for the mosquito net distribution that happened before i left for America (pictures to com soon).

Along with staying busy it is a really important time for the muslim community here in Senegal because they are celebrating the holiday of Ramadan. Ramadan is a month long experience of fasting of food and water during the times when the sun is out. Family members wake up at 5am to take their breakfasts and then do not eat or drink until around 7:30 pm when the sun begins to set. It is a really special time i have found that brings family members together and really creates a feeling of community and bonding between people. I have been taking part and am really finding it to be something that i have appreciated and learned to take a lot of things from the times I wish i had a glass of water or something to eat to reflect and think about all that I do have and where it comes from! I have also had a wonderful time experiencing this with my family here, being able to connect with them in a different way than i have previously since being in Senegal. Ramadan ends with the next cycle of the moon (around September 21) with a big feast called Korite. Often this will be celebrated with the slaughter of a sheep or goat and a big meal that the family eats during the day and finally breaks the fast!

I wanted to get something out to you to let you know i am trying not to neglect my blogging duties! It was so good to see some of you all when i was in the states! All the best from Senegal and the Toubab times will hopefully begin again in the next post!

much love and happy fasting!

Jessica

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Toubab Times
Second Edition, August 13, 2009
Editor and Writer: Mane Gory aka Jessica Scates


Letter From the Editor

I apologize profusely to my readers because of my lack of communication since around May. I have been busy this “summer” and not taken the time to update you all so I hope this edition will give youa few updates on my life and what I am doing right now. This last june I had the opportunity to go to Brasil for a family reunion! It was fabulous and I got to see my immediate family and many members of my dad’s family. (not to mention the whole getting to be in brasil thing) After my trip to brasil I had about a month left in Senegal before my next trip…my sister’s wedding. Amanda got married on August 8 in Michigan and I went to be present, help how I could, and see her off on her way to be a wife! After I met up with some friends in the chicagoland area and now I am sitting in Ohare waiting for my flight to NYC to make it to Senegal by tomorrow morning. Through all of this I have tried to get as much work done as possible, stay as healthy as possible (update below), all the while going back and forth from place to place. So my apologies to you all and happy reading!
This is a horrible segway into a different time but I am now currently in Senegal, made it safely as you probably can see (i did post a blog) and going back to village tomorrow. I'm happy to be back and hope to see some trees alive and planted when i return to ville. I got the opportunity to welcome some really wonderful new volunteers to Senegal. There are a total of 52 here and all of them are doing very well so far and will be soon adjusted to the Senegalese lifestyle! Miss my american friends and family but enjoying everything I am doing! Keep me updated when you can!

TOP STORY: PCV Jessica Scates Village Father Inducted as Adjunct Mayor
Reported by: Jessica Scates

Mane Gory’s father was elected as adjunct mayor of Malem Niani. The victory occurred with nothing less than a little drama and huge celebration (as the Senegalese always do) and her family is on its way to becoming patron!! PCV’s father is technically the second mayor in command but the representative who is living in Malem Niani. His family and friends are very proud of his accomplishment and excited for the opportunities this will bring them in the near future. PCV Mane is also very excited for the inside look and connection she may have with the government and the possible effects that might have on her service experience. Updates will continue on his term and how he is dealing with responsibilities that are new to him and his family.


FINANACE: Mosquito Net Distribution
Reported by: Jessica Scates
PCV Mane Gory spent a weekend with the help of other PCV’s (Binta, Ida, Aissatou, and Sanu). The distribution was stressful but went as well as could be expected. Malem Niani habitants and individuals living in neighboring communities all received nets from this distribution and another distribution that covered women and children of the community. Mane wants to send a HUGE thank you to her family and friends who helped her raise the money to buy these nets for her neighbors and friends. It will make a huge impact on the health and safety of the people of her village. 1150 nets were provided for the area which means $2300 was raised to support the effort. Thanks to all who helped and the ways in which you have improved the lives of so many people Mane interacts with everyday.



FORECAST

Hot.
Rain continues through October.


WHATS IN YOUR HUT??
(What’s on your bedstand)

Finding our Way Again
By Brian McLaren

-I just started this book by recommendation of my newly married sister!


USA in AFRICA
-Weekly Sighting-

Senegalese Sledding. Senegalese children craftily cut up plastic water carriers, using them as toboggans, and slid down a dirt hill outside of Maleme Niani.

SALYMATOU’s Senesations
(Senegalese Mama’s Recipe)
Previous Recipe: Cheb O Jen
Current Recipe: Maffe/Durango coming soon

UPCOMING EVENTS:

PCV Continues work with Local Eaux et Foret agency. Around 30,000 tree sacks have been filled with earth by community members and seeding has begun. Outplanting began on August 1st and will continue as PCV returns to her community at the beginning of this week.
PCV to meet with president of community rural of Kouca Gaydi, town 25 km from Maleme Niani to speak about AGFO technologies and PCV’s presence in that community.
PCV’s work with Environmental club at the local college continues. Event was held to begin outplanting while PCV was in the USofA with members of the community. Outplanting will continue through the rainy season.
Tomatoes planted at the local Eaux et Foret. More veggies to follow after rainy season ends.
Scholarship process completed. Papers sent to Dakar and scholarship recipients will be announced within the next month.
PCV beginning process to put together orchard/garden site in her village for the 8+ womens groups to grow and sell produce. She hopes to use currently available space to make a test site for the upcoming cold season. Hopes for veggies galore are bright for her future.
PCV to help with new trainees arriving on August 13th. PCV may be flying with trainees on their flight from JFK and then will help for the first few days they are at the Thies training center.


*Please Send questions and comments to the blog site. Editor will respond when needed. Thank You for your Time! Please glance at the short list of items always accepted by PCV in the country of Senegal through the postal service in the top left hand corner of this blog! J

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Toubab Times

The Toubab Times
Premier Edition
Editor and Writer: Mane Gory aka Jessica Scates


Letter From the Editor
Dear Readers,
I am pleased to present you with the premier edition of the Toubab Times. For those unaware toubab is what is screamed at white people by children and unfortunately at times by adults when they see a white person. Depending on your mood it can be funny or really annoying. I thought it was fitting for my writings here. The Toubab Times has been established for a number of reasons: primarily to be a delight for the reader and secondarily to be more a delight to the writer, moi, as blogs can often be tedious and hard to write. The layout of this publication will remain the same, unless readers suggest random topics they would like to learn more about, and new material added periodically and hopefully on a more regular basis! So from henceforth the Toubab Times will reign in this blog world and I do hope you enjoy it as much as I already am!

TOP STORY: PCV’s Pulaar Neighbor Delivers Dingo* and PCV Attacked with Black Pencil
Reported by: Jessica Scates
Harnatou, Neighbor and friend of Mane Gory, delivered her FIRST child, a girl, at the local dispensaire in Maleme Niani Friday, April 30th. After delivering she quickly made her way back home to prepare dinner, sweep, take care of other children staying in her compound and learn the ropes of motherhood. All jokes aside the birth went well mother and daughter are great. Upon hearing of the occasion, Mane, having just arrived from Tamba, sprinted over to the neighboring compound to lay her eyes for the first time on what she only knew as a large bump poking from the belly of her friend’s stomach. Harnatou’s husband immediately began preparations for the Kulio, muslim baptism partay, that followed the following Wednesday. PCV Mane Gory and about ten other women looked fabulous in their matching Senegalese outfits. To prepare for the occasion, Mane’s hair was braided and her face was made up to satisfy the likes of the Senegalese (this of course included black eyebrows and red eyelids). Pictures will soon follow to document the occasion. The entourage entered the Kulio with an announcement made by the DJ and dancing ensued and lasted late into the evening. Mother and daughter are now settling down to their every day life and enjoying the quiet that is finally occurring in their compound.
*dingo:child

FINANACE: Mosquito Net Distribution Continues, Donations Being Accepted
Reported by: Jessica Scates

JUST IN: PLEASE GO TO http://www.AgainstMalaria.com/jessicascates AS SOON AS YOU CAN. You dont want to miss an opportunity to raise money to save the lives of those affected and dying of Malaria.

Current Numbers are as follows: $355 raised
710 nets
$1650 left

FORECAST

Extremely Hot.
Rain expected
By June 15th. Heat to
Continue through October.


WHATS IN YOUR HUT??
(What’s on your bedstand)

Les Miserables
(unabridged)

-Great read, but despite boring afternoons, Hugo can be a bit too descriptive when describing history, I just want to know what happens to Marius Vic!!


USA in AFRICA
-Weekly Sighting-

Rice is reportedly being sold throughout Senegal with the title of Obama. PCV Mane Gory has eaten it and if the US president lives up to the quality of “maanoo” named after him he will do quite well.

SALYMATOU’s Senegalese Sensations
(Senegalese Mama’s Recipe)
Sauce Things: (Literal Translation)
Oil- around 2 cups for a family of 12
Rice- 2 Liters
Fish- fresh and deboned, amt according to you
Tomato Paste- 3 Tbls
Cabbage- TBD on number of people and your likes
Onions- 3 red or white
Potato- TBD
Carrot- TBD
Garlic- 4 cloves
Jimbo- 2 (otherwise known as msg)
Mami- 1 (Jimbo with tomato)
Black Pepper- 3 Tbls
Red Pepper- dried 2 Tbls
Tamarind- no idea in American terms
Bissap leaves
How To:
1. Heat Oil in pan/cauldron
2. Place fish in hot oil, flip when done on one side and remove from pan when ready. Around 5 min total. Set aside.
3. Add totmato paste to oil and stir
4. Add Water (enough for the amount of rice being made) to oil and tomato paste mixture.
5. Add veggies to water/oil mixture.
6. When veggies have reached your preferred level of doneness, Grind up pepper, red pepper, onion, and garlic and add to veggie mixture.
7. Wash rice, place in steamer, and steam over veggies and spices. About 10 minutes
8. Take out veggies and add rice to liquid until rice is done, stirring to check. About 20-30 minutes.
9. Remove from heat and plate in your desired bowl(s). Enjoy!

UPCOMING EVENTS:

*PCV Continues work with Local Eaux et Foret agency. Around 30,000 tree sacks have been filled with earth by community members and seeding has begun. Outplanting to be expected around the end of June with the rains come.
*PCV to meet with president of community rural of Kouca Gaydi, town 25 km from Maleme Niani to speak about AGFO technologies and PCV’s presence in that community. Meeting TBD within the next week.
*Wula Nafa (local environmental agency) tourney cancelled for PCV due to the installation of PCV’s father as co-mayor of Maleme Niani. The big to-do will be discussed in future editions. Future Wula Nafa tourney to be scheduled. Fellow Mandinka cohorts will be taking her space.
*PCV began work on Pepiniere started at local college (middle school) with newly created environmental group. Expectations of 700 trees to be cared for.
*Vegetable garden in the planning for PCV within the pepiniere location of Eaux et Foret. Will be started with the rains.
*PCVs continuing to raise money for rainy season bednet distribution. PCVs in Senegal hope to eliminate uneccesary death due to Malaria throughout all of Senegal.


*Please Send questions and comments to the blog site. Editor will respond when needed. Thank You for your Time! For real i would love your feedback. Please glance at the short list of items always accepted by PCV in the country of Senegal through the postal service in the top left hand corner of this blog!

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Much needed update!

I just got done showing the new stage around Tamba. 5 girls were sworn in as a part of the Tambacounda region and will be installed into their sites tomorrow. We helped them get some of the necessary items (buckets, rope, etc.) and showed them around Tamba a little. Its weird knowing my stage has already passed the ¼ point and moving swiftly towards the ½ mark! I am in Tamba for a few days helping them and also working on pc related things!

Life in Maleme Niani is going. I definitely have had my ups and downs but working through it and trying to get a realistic schedule I can live with. Have a tendency to go stir crazy with sitting around so I’m working at picking up hobbies, finding good books, and hopefully creating projects in a number of different areas. I also have recently been working on my cooking skills and hope to bring those back for family and friends when I come to the states in August! Be on the lookout for greasy rice and lots of it!

My family in the ville is doing wonderfully. Maleme Niani was recently updated to a Commune, meaning we now have an elected mayor and adjunct mayor. My dad in ville was actually elected adjunct mayor and as the people of my community say he will be eating his money soon. (meaning have a lot of money to spend on things and food, etc. which I am almost positive he will not do, but my family is moving up in what one could call the social index of a village). It was interesting to see political dynamics in a village and compare them to those that occur in the states and especially in a more developed community. I found myself getting annoyed with some of it just because the political power caused some of the people who were running to become a lot more self-centered or egotistic than they had been in the past. A lot of time in village I find myself in a little world of people who don’t have much so therefore all they do have and all they are is out on the table for everyone to see. What you see is what you get, for the most part. It was interesting to see how power could change some individuals and what that means for we as a people as a whole. To know that a lot of the power struggles, social hierarchies, and facades of all sorts are evident, in a lot of cases, to cope one’s culture was kind of reassuring. We are all simply people. When stripped away, to be honest, we are all in the same place: having to eat, sleep, breathe, and do a number of things that might be gross or unattractive to some, in order to live healthily. That was appealing to me. Knowing (to be blunt) that my bush-squatting family members here or my toilet seated family members in the states are made of the same stuff, have many of the same tendencies, and simply adapt in order to survive.

Along with that tangent, this morning I took a run early just as the sun was coming up. It was about 6:30 and I thought to myself its as if all of Africa is asleep right now. It was so peaceful. Senegalese are known for their music, cheb-mamas, men who harass you, etc. but at 6:30 this morning it was simple. I suppose that goes along with fa├žades in that every day we go and do our things, whether that be cook the meal, tend the farm, build a shade structure, untie the goats, go to school, etc (obviously these are related to Senegal, although they most definitely could be a part of your culture wherever you are) and those activities create the environment we live in. This morning it was bare-bones, no people (or very few) simply the sprawling environment, the sun coming up, the cool breeze (thank goodness). I guess I was appreciative of the vastness of it all. The fact that it was there and things were living and dying without humans in the picture was a good thing to be reminded of and to soak up. Sometimes its nice to be reminded of how small each of us really are.

Well I didn’t come to the computer with an idea of what I was going to write and here it is. Hope my thoughts are applicable to you! Keep me updated on your lives. Also, check out the website I have made below which includes a project to raise money for mosquito nets to prevent the spread of malaria in Senegal. All the information is there.

www.againstmalaria/jessicascates

Thanks all and all the best to you wherever you are.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Massive Update

It has been a long long time since I wrote to you all and a lot has happened. Wanted to fill you in on everything on this side of the atlantic so you could get an idea of all I have been up to.
For those who don’t know International Womens Day is March 8th. PCVs throughout Senegal took that time to hold activities for women and their community members. I did the same and some of the pictures that are newly posted are from that experience. I organized a day in ville with a number of different activities. We had college girls (high school) compete in the first all girls soccer match, we had music and tam tams there and that continued into the night. The entire day was a holiday and so many of the women were excited about a day devoted to them. Check out the pictures and you will see many of the wonderful women of maleme niani!
After IWD I took a trip to Kedougou to help with an eye clinic that was put together by a peace corps volunteer last year and continued this year. PCVs from Ked and Tamba got together to help the doctors who came from the US by translating. The eye doctors who came provided consultations, glasses, cataract and trichloma surgeries. I was there for about a week and had an amazing experience. It was great getting the opportunity to work with people and provide a service to them that was really tangible. Instead of waiting around and not seeing results as many pcvs experience, this was one experience where you could see the results immediately. There was definitely satisfaction from that!
I also just went down to Ked to an agfo summit with all agfo volunteers in Senegal. It was really helpful, lots of information, seeds exchanged and questions answered. With that I will go back to the ville to start up pepiniere and work with my local Eaux et Foret, a tree and forest agency based throughout different villes in senegal. Hope to work with the local agents, womens groups, and agfo volunteers in my community in a number of diff agfo technologies. I am definitely excited after being there and have a clearer idea of how to go about working with people in my community.
After the kedougou agfo summit, myself, and two friends went on a bike tour for an organization called Wula Nafa. The tour lasted three days and we went to three villages talking to them about their involvement in Wula Nafa and their upcoming activities (tree pepiniers, what they are planting, where they are planting it, selling of trees to community members, etc.). It was really helpful for a number of reasons: language practice, seeing the process of working with community members and how all of it plays out, and seeing living and working examples of agfo technologies and volunteers within different communities. We biked about 60 km in total throughout the days, camped along the Gambia River, and had a really good time. I hope to include those photos here as well.
I am now in Tamba getting computer stuff done and will go back to my village tomorrow morning. For those whoare keeping track, we recently had elections here and the current presidents party was ousted. It was big news and there have been lots of demonstrations throughout senegal. Check out local headlines for more info on this, I do not have much. Senegal’s independence day is coming up here on April 4th so it should be interesting to see what the political climate is like as people celebrate and look to the future.
I know not all of this is as detailed as some would like, just hard to pile it all into on post. I hope it is helpful to you and please post if you have any questions. Thanks for all your interest and keep me updated on how you all are doing in the states!
Oh, I WILL be coming to the states late july early august to see my lovely sister wedded off to her beau, Nate. Congratulations to the two of them and I am so excited to come and celebrate! I will keep you updated on those travel plans!
Lots of love from Sweaty and hot africa
Jessica

Saturday, February 21, 2009

When the East meets the West

I just got back from IST (In-Service Training) and WAIST (West African International?? Softball Tournament) held both in Thies and Dakar. IST was helpful in some aspects, learned a bit of Pulaar to help in village and also did some technical activities like grafting, seed collecting, seed storage, and visited/saw a number of good examples of agro-forestry techniques being used around the Dakar area. It was great seeing all 40 from my stage and catching up with them and all they are experiencing in their own communities. WAIST is held every year and is three days worth of softball, friends, food, drinks, and definitely lots of fun. Our team Tambagou (regions of Tambacounda and Kedougou) went as “Peace Corporate” and dressed up in corporate wear that of course was cut off into short shorts because #1 most PCVs are mid-20s and #2 its Africa and no one wants to be wearing actual corporate wear while playing softball. Team Tambagou had a perfect record, all losses! We do not play to win but play to have fun and fun we had! After the many activities of WAIST the volunteers from Senegal met together for an all-volunteer conference where we went to a number of discussions facilitated by current PCVs who wanted to share what wisdom they have attained while in country. It was very helpful and bittersweet to return back to hot hot Tamba after a long restful break in the cool cool Dakar region.

Thus begins East meeting west. I thought I would share a little bit about the differences I have noticed between my “east,” or my village, which coincidentally and helpfully is east of my “west” or Dakar/Thies/the major cities out west. Phew. Its interesting when you are in a place for an extended period of time how things become normal (I think I have blogged about that before) but I hadn’t really noticed the difference between Senegalese until coming to Thies/Dakar. I had the opportunity to stay with a wonderful family in Thies during PST. The family almost entirely is made up of artists. They have 3 galleries in Thies, sell their artwork throughout the world, and the women go into town every day to sell jewelry and odds and ends that are uniquely African. Most if not all of the family members are educated up through lycee (equivalent of high school) and some have even been to university. My sisters and brothers are all above 21 years old and NONE of them are married yet! The culture, conversation, experiences, etc. were all very different from my life in Maleme. In Maleme most women stop attending school after the primary level (around 13 years old) and begin helping out around the house. It is not uncommon for girls to be married at 16-17 years old (although the age is increasing slowly). The younger men of Maleme often do go to lycee but few attend university.

I think what a lot of this comes down to is education, information, knowledge on part of the people. People in Dakar and Thies are exposed to so much more, so many other different lifestyles, while in Maleme most women, especially, have never ventured 30km outside of their community. They just don’t know what else is available, what differences exist, what other possibilities may be around. They don’t know to question the things they have because they don’t realize there is something else.

Now this is the part where I begin to question whether or not this is a bad thing. I obviously come from the “west” and have experienced the something else, Ive been educated to critically examine everything I experience and to question why things happen and how that affects me. I have been taught to think outside the box. I don’t know if simply because I am used to living a certain way and others are used to living a certain way one is better than the other. Most certainly its not good when a family is not able to get food on the table, not able to supply their children with an education of some sort, and does not have the freedom to act and live in ways that allow them to grow and thrive. That is obviously why I am here, to have a cultural exchange, to share knowledge and information. I just have a hard time justifying all my actions as good (simply because they are all I know) and the less developed actions of others as not good enough, even though it is all they know.

I guess when it comes down to it, it makes me think more critically of myself. This helps me to realize I too have learned to act and do the things I do in life because of my family, environment, faith, etc. Because I have had those experiences means I can learn from those who have had different ones, those who come from the “east” and can teach me things they know that I never thought about before. I’m still not sure if I have all this figured out in my head or even hear on paper but it’s a start and something to continue to work through and discuss with others here and there. It is definitely always an opportunity to learn and I plan on doing a lot more of that as I continue my service!

Tomorrow I head back to Maleme in the morning. I will be there for about a week before coming back to Tamba for a regional meeting. This next week I will be checking up on my garden (which my lil brother so lovingly took care of while I was gone) and hopefully starting up some pepiniers with the school I help out at and possibly some of the womens groups I have met with the past couple of months. I hope the pictures are helpful to you all. I haven’t gotten any posted yet from my homestay in Maleme but hopefully they will continue to slowly be added as I take them. Keep your eyes peeled!

Well I will sign off wishing you all in Amerka a beautiful beginning to spring. I am jealous of your cool weather knowing the hot season is coming here fast! Keep me updated on your lives too! All the best!

Herra Doron (Peace Only)
Jessica

Friday, February 20, 2009

Website to check out

Hello all. Here is a quick website i actually didnt know about until now and thought it might be interesting for you. It has different posts from people all over the world who are involved in the Peace Corps and especially of interest to you the posts of those living in Senegal! So read up to get an idea of what we are all experiencing! More to come soon!

www.peacecorpsjournals.com

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hello to you all from Thies!

I am currently typing from the computer of my homestay in Thies which has been a completely different experience from where I live in the village! I am here for two weeks of training and then a conference with pcvs from all over west africa in Dakar. Its a jam-packed february but i will take it over some of the slow days you experience at times! Things are going well I am learning a lot more about agroforestry-seed collection, seed preparation, alternatives to using wood, etc and getting excited bout bringing those things and ideas back to my friends and family in my village! Thies, the training center, and all other pcv volunteers from my stage are doing great and it has been fun to reconnect with them all! I am also currently learning a new language for these two weeks! Pulla Futaa is a pulaar language spoken by some in senegal! There are some cases where the words are similar to Mandinka but for the most part it is very different both structurally and its vocabulary! Its been good though because about half my village speaks pulaar and now i will be able to speak with them on a somewhat basic level!

I was having a convo with my sister the other day and wanted to bring it up here to see if anyone had any comments they wanted to make or thoughts about what i say! I have noticed in Senegal it is much easier to be me! I dont know if this is a mixture of things but here is what I am thinking. First of all the people of Senegal are very non-judgemental in that they believe it is completely wrong to judge the actions of another person and then tell that person what they think. Second I think because of this and the fact that the culture is completely foreign and i am completely foreign in it I feel as if I dont have to live up to the expectations i might feel the need to live up to in the states. The communication, culture, language, and a whole multitude of things are either unknown to me or I am still very unsure of them that all i can be is myself and hope for the best. In the states however I know the cultural norms the standards set by society and the host of things that goes along with that so I feel more pressure to live up to those things and show myself in a particular light.

In many many ways this has been really good for me! Yes there are times I feel very stupid, out of it, bored, lonely, etc but during those times the only thing i have to resort to being is myself! I was wanting to know what people thought and maybe it will shed some light into whatever you might be experiencing wherever you are. I guess i just didnt realize how much of an impact culture and societys norms could have on a person. It has been helpful for me just to look at that and then question why is it that i am doing the things I am doing and acting the way i am acting.

Those are just some thoughts! Hope it made sense to you all and let me know how you are doing wherever you are!

Lots of love
Jessica

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cultures

January 14, 2009

I am currently sitting in the Tamba house, a regional house for Peace Corps volunteers in Tambacounda. I came in for a few days to go to the post office, bank, and run some errands, this being one. The new year has come and I haven’t written in a while because I have been doing a number of things. I traveled to St Louis in the NE part of Senegal for Christmas with other peace corps volunteers and then spent the new year in Maleme Niani. They were both great holidays but family and friends were definitely missed from home. Today however I went to the post and picked up 5 packages and a handful of cards/letters! Thanks to you all for writing me or sending me packages! It was SO thoughtful and made my afternoon! It is really assuring knowing I am being thought of halfway around the world!

Concerning the title of this blog, I thought I would talk a little bit about the different cultures (Senegalese and American) I am constantly experiencing. It has been interesting coming from a developed country while being immersed in the people and cultures of a developing one. I feel as if I do pretty well balancing my life as a Senegalese woman and American woman but then there are those moments when you realize how different those worlds really are. For example, when coming to Senegal one of the things you cannot escape is the trash that collects in towns and cities. The garbage system is not that of the U.S. and the side of the road becomes the trash can. At first this sight was not something you could miss. Now however, I find myself not seeing the trash and have actually found myself thinking “I am glad the plastic bag was on the side of the road because I needed it.” It’s at these moments that I realize two worlds have collided. My very developed, city girl upbringing realizes I have become adapted to the developing country, village life. And the funny thing is I don’t necessarily view one as better. I have begun to realize how much culture affects how you think about and interact within your environment.

Despite the very different cultures I experience on a daily basis I have begun to appreciate the similarities between people of all cultures. One of my friends lives in Tambacounda the city and her family is well off in Senegalese standards. She has commented that she gets annoyed at comments made by family members about needing the latest cell phone, the newest trend, and getting their hair done on a regular basis. On the other hand, other PCV experience families who don’t have cell phones, have never left their village to see the latest trends, and whose hair is done by family members on special holidays. I have begun to notice,however, that despite the very different experiences we are having as PCV’s, the people remain the same. If my not as well off family inherits money and lives in a larger city, they too will most likely begin to converse about trends, cell phones, and hairstyles. Similarly my friend’s family, if only exposed to a very impoverished village lifestyle, will not have the conversations they are having at the moment. The people in themselves don’t change it seems as if it’s their environment and their experiences in a large part that changes them, how they think, what they like, etc.

I have battled with this quite a bit because in my family and in others I have observed, things like daily tasks, marriage, work are all done out of necessity. Men and women do certain tasks because they have to in order for their family to survive. Obviously this is the same in America but it’s a very different experience. It has been my experience that those who have do not have to think of or create environments in which pure survival is the aim; they have options. They have the option of marrying out of love, desire, looks, personality, education, status, etc. instead of marriage for the simple necessity of having a mate to help raise a family and support one another. Those who have share the tasks of the household much more than those who have not, who rely on one member of the family to care for the household and one member to bring home an income. Obviously things like tradition and religion play a huge part in the society here, but at the same time I have begun to appreciate some of the ways in which the culture is ordered and adapted to the needs of the people living in it. Instead of viewing the separation of power between men and women as sexist or the traditional customs as strange or inaccurate it has been life-giving to take these in as a people who know and have learned how to survive and thrive in their environments, despite how different that may look from one culture to another.

All in all, whether you go to Senegal, a developing country, or to the USA, the most powerful country in the world, people adapt to their cultures-no matter what that culture may be. This may seem like a common-sense observation but it becomes more interesting and evident when faced with it every day. Something to think about as you work in the field, drink your Starbucks latte, sit at your desk, pull water from a well, and live the every day life you have adapted to wherever you may be.