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