Monday, April 26, 2010

I live in the devil's armpit where everything goes to die lol

Ahh, electricity! I never thought I would miss you so much! Haha. So last week was our volunteer visits. We got to travel to rural Senegal and stay with volunteers in or near our actual village that we will be living in for the next 2 years. Since my village is a new village, there is no current volunteer there so I stayed with the next closest person who was like hundreds of kilometers away. His village had no electricity so that was interesting waking up and going to bed with the sun but most important, I got to see his daily life, which has been a complete mystery to me – what do volunteers do everyday? Anyway, it was a very enlightening experience, minus the fact that I was sick for most of the visit. Let me tell you, having a fever when it’s like 115 degrees outside is absolutely no fun. It wasn’t malaria or dengue fever or anything serious. Just fever and headache and body aches. Maybe I’ll get appendicitis in the next 2 years, we shall see. Another not so cool thing was the mosques. So mosques are alright in my book, except for when you combine them with loud speakers. Then they are the bane of my existence. I hope none of you ever have to experience a muslim man shouting chants at 5:30 in the morning… for a full hour… every morning. It is painful. Please dear god or allah or whoever, don’t let there be a very loud mosque right outside my window in my actual village. Umm, and there are scorpions in my village. AWESOME! And camels. I am totally buying one because it just doesn’t make sense to bike anywhere. My closest neighbor is 55 kilometers away, aka like 34 miles, on a terribly sandy, bumpy, and hilly road. It is a nightmare. I may just be the farthest person in our group from civilization. Awesome and scary. We shall see about my sanity. Especially if we have cherri for dinner every night. So it’s not that I hate millet but I just don’t really like it. It’s got the texture of sand for one. And two, it’s kind of tasteless. I couldn’t be more disappointed with a Senegalese meal, lol.

Um, so I have a pretty bomb ass tan… on my arms, lower legs, face, and neck. It may be the worst farmer’s tan known to man. I am as pale as a snowflake, the body parts that never see any sun. And the rest of me is pretty much bronze – sigh, beautiful bronze. We went to the beach yesterday to try and even out this terrible tan except all I did was burn myself and make my skin red and sensitive. But let me tell you. It is the same Atlantic ocean but it’s just so much prettier on this side. The water was aquamarine blue. The sand was clean. There were palm trees everywhere. It was really bizarre actually, going from rural hot-as-hell sandy Senegal to paradise coastline Senegal – such a contrast! You guys should all come here for vacation. It’s beautiful. And it’s affordable too. A few days ago, we went to Dakar for the first time and it was like any other big metropolitan city. Well let me rephrase. It’s affordable for you – not for me, on my pitiful peace corps meager salary haha.

The prenatal vitamins they make us take are awesome. The make your nails and hair grow faster. That is why my hair is like super long. Ive decided to continue to grow it out… until I feel like shaving it all off. I’m also breaking out like it’s junior high again. The heat that makes me sweat combined with the massive amount of dust and dirt and wind and stuff in the wind that clog my pores, is not really agreeing with my face. It’s tragic. What is more tragic is when you can hear the wind but you cant feel it. So it is f’ing hot in the region that I will be going to – even at night time. And when we sleep indoors, under a mosquito net, with the windows open, it couldn’t suck more to hear the amazing wind outside and not being able to feel any of it. The wind, what a tease.

I am tired of defending myself about being an American. It is such an outrageous concept to them that America is the melting pot of the world and that Americans are not just white but also black and orange and all other colors. I am tired of arguing that akon and jay z and obama are all Americans too. Especially in a language that I don’t know the full vocabulary to actually carry out a proper argument in. But what is more frustrating, and perhaps an opportunity where I can do some gender development work, is the perception of gender here. So gender is determined by 3 things and 3 things only (of course I’m boiling it down but essentially it’s what it is). First, hair length, second, what you wear on your head, third, whether you have earrings or not. Nothing else matters. Not even facial hair. You can have the biggest adam’s apple, the fullest beard, and all other masculine characteristics, but if your hair is long, you will be a girl. Or if you wear a bandana, you will be a girl – because our bandanas, in their opinion, resembles a woman’s headdress and not a turbin. It’s slightly absurd that there is no color association with gender here, like we have back in the states – or how certain postures or gestures are perceived as more masculine or feminine. None of that matters here. It’s slightly absurd when I walk around with a week’s worth of unshaved scruff and still get called a girl by the old grandmothers of the village, only because I don’t have a bald head, and instead have a head full of hair. But the explanations are always fun because I get to prove to them that they’re wrong and their perceptions of gender are skewed and mislead. It’s good much needed gender development work. Haha.

And lastly, my job here in Senegal is becoming more and more clear with passing time. Although I will dabble in all matters of health and environmental education, I think I will be trying to eradicate (or as close to eradicating) malaria in my village, do some AIDS/HIV sensitization work as well as testing, and pre and post natal care, which includes vaccinating and weighing babies – cute. Anyway, everyone should watch the video we made below. We had to give presentations on the ecology of our region so we made it as a little joke of how terribly hard our region is to live in. It’s amazing.

and pictures!

a women's group meeting in a village... pretty much sitting around, drinking tea, a little dancing and some talking... maybe, lol. the volunteer i visited (brian is his name) is giving a discussion about diarrhea.

this is the baby back packs i was talking about... adorable!

what an actual garden should look like. ours is so pathetic compared to this one, sigh.

so even out in rural senegal where there's no electricity and the closest beer is an hours worth of bike riding away, there are obama pins... so awesome!

brian's hut. it's kinda really sweet and cozy.

the bachelor pad. probably what my room will look like in a few weeks...

brian's host family. they were so nice. unlike my practice host family, they did not make fun of me when i was sick. but then again, my practice host family is just so amusing that i will definitely miss them... =(

the dreaded cherri. it doesnt even look appetizing.

louga region! my closest neighbors! and by close i mean like 55 to 120 km away. we are at our regional "apartment" aka hallway having a group dinner. um, the bar (if you can call it that) in lingere is epic. it brings all other speak easies to shame. i will for sure update more on this when i move there in a few weeks.

umm, buying a camel!

the desert. dont be fooled by the "trees" you see. they are acacia trees, aka more like large cacti. there are spikes everywhere, it's kinda ridic.

so even though i am the farthest person from civilization, my village is kind of baller. it's like an oasis in the middle of the desert, or vegas in the middle of nevada. i get my own compound and courtyard and shade tree and bathroom and gardening space. there's electricity in the village (although not in my room, but still) and my village overlooks the land around because it's on top of a hill.

this will be my bathroom / shower. a huge upgrade from my practice host village bathroom that could not be grosser. there are very few places in the world that i would classify as gross. my current bathroom pretty much embodies the word. go figure...

our bean plants! they're so big!

and the acacia from the pepiniere are coming along too! look at the thorns, yes!

also very proud of our moringa bed, although sometimes eating some of the moringa... murder!

my brother and sister. i was named after him! he's the original ass diop (ass job!) they're such jokesters...

my other brothers and sisters and people that live in my compound... they are a lovely bunch, braiding each others hair's all day, sweeping sand... you know, the usual...

um, so we went to Mbour, aka the beach aka beautifully amazing. the clear skies, the clear water... it's just unreal!

palm trees and shade huts! paradise much?

and... sand! lol, stupid sun burns. um, and you can totally fry an egg on the sand midday. it's that hot...

training is almost over... i am not fluent in wolof yet. my french could not be worse. totally worried but hey, life is a ball (because my new name in my village is going to be... BALLA Fall.) Like it couldnt be more on the opposite end of the spectrum going from ass job to balla. life is justified.


  1. Can you explain the sweeping sand thing from the previous post? thx.

  2. Are you seriously going to buy a camel?!?! How much to they cost? I'll chip in. Let's start a camel for JT fund. What in the world do you name a camel?!

  3. ok those beaches are gorgeous. definitely buy a camel though they are scary to ride. I did it in israel. That little girl in the orange is absolutely beautiful. And I just read all through your blog and when I look at any other web page, I see spots. Something about the white on hurts. Stay safe. Love you.

  4. I'm bored. come back already.