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)