Saturday, July 16, 2011

Just Some Cultural Ramblings...

So, I'll start with the medical report: the antibiotics started to kick in on my toe and I was able to go back to village. Yay! I missed everyone after spending a week out, but I was only able to stay in Mbeuleukhe for a week before leaving again for my In-Service Training (IST) in Thies, which I'm leaving for tonight.

Village was village. The same as always. My family was very interested in my toe and I was asked many times a day how it was. A lot of times in Wolof when someone asks you a question there's a response that goes along with it, no matter what you actually would like to respond. (Examples: How's your family? They're there. How's your morning? Peace only.) So when someone asks how any illness/injury is, the response is supposed to be "it's healing," but sometimes to keep it lively I would say other things like "it's ugly," or "it's dead," and my family seemed to get a kick out of that.

The highlight of my week in village was one night I was showing the kids some of my pictures from home. I showed them one of me at the White House and told them that that was me at Barack Obama's house. They seemed semi-excited but then very enthusiastically asked if I had a photo of me at Akon's house. Unfortunately I didn't. Here Akon > Obama.

Also very exciting- my parents sent me some toys for the kids and they LOVED them. Standard American stuff like crayons and a coloring book, a little slinky, stickers, colored pens, etc. It was cute seeing them play and hearing them practicing the word "slinky" over and over again.

On that note, I'm going to go on a tangent about Senegalese people and words that start with "s"... Some of the names here begin with the letter "s", like Samba or Seyni (my youngest sister's name), and everyone here has no problem pronouncing those names. But every other word that begins with "s" gets an "es" sound before it (spaghetti becomes espaghetti and our dog Sparky is Esparky). It's the weirdest thing. I can't quite figure out why they can say some things with a normal "s" sound but then other things get the "es" sound. So anyway, the point is that the kids keep saying "eslinkyyyyy, eslinkyyyy" when they play with the slinky. It's entertaining.

Also, while I'm talking about language, I'll write about my own problems. No matter how clear my Wolof is, people here can't seem to understand anything I say. And it's not just me. My friend Jenn and I were getting breakfast one morning during our Kedougou trip and we asked the woman if she had any mustard. The word in French/Wolof for mustard is "moutard," which really isn't any great stretch for us, but we literally said it 20 times and she just kept looking at us blankly. We would mime putting it on bread and she said say, "Oh, butter?" And then we would say it again and she'd go, "You want milk?" So finally I went over to another seller's breakfast stand and held up his mustard and she goes "Ooooh, moutard! No I don't have that" Sometimes it's like I'm on Planet Toubab where I'm the only one that understands what I'm doing/saying.

The same kind of thing happens every time we go to  a garage to get a car anywhere. Everyone runs up screaming "DAKAR?! DAKAR?!" because we're white, and when we say "No, Linguere" or wherever else we're going, they grab our bags and say "THE CAR FOR DAKAR IS OVER HERE!!" These are the kind of instances when yelling just makes everything easier, because these people will literally push you onto the car for Dakar.

But I can't say that we weren't warned in Pre-Service Training that here you need to repeat everything many times to get your point across. Even with the breakfast woman in my own village, if I ever splurge and spend the 25 cents on breakfast I'll need to tell her about 4 or 5 times what I want. And even then there have been several instances where I'll notice her about to put something completely wrong on my food because even though I said 5 times that I didn't want mayo, I probably really do want mayo. One of the fun things you get used to here. Just repeat, repeat, repeat.

One final cultural thing while I'm on a roll... In America if you didn't know where someone/something was and someone asked you where that person/thing were, you respond "I don't know," because you don't. In Senegal, people NEVER respond "I don't know;" it's better to just make up an answer than say you don't know. Saying someone's at the market when you actually have no idea where they are is completely fine. But this has been a trait that I just can't seem to adapt to yet. When people ask me where someone is and I don't know, my knee-jerk reaction is to say "I don't know," and since no one here ever says that, they then either 1) keep asking over again until I give a place or 2) think that I don't understand the question and rephrase it or 3) (my favorite) say "You don't understand Wolof" to me. So there have been many times where I've responded to random questions with responses like "I understand the question but I don't know where my mom is right now. Maybe she's at the market, or maybe a friend's house. But I don't know right now. But I do understand that you're asking where my mom is. I just don't know where she is right now" And usually once I've finished a speech like that the person semi-understands that I don't know. So that's been fun to have to either make up answers or give these long drawn out speeches whenever I don't know the answer to something.

Now that I've bored you with all of this cultural/language stuff, I'll get to more interesting things...

I'll be in Thies for the next 2 weeks, which means I'll have internet for 2 WHOLE WEEKS! I'll be able to e-mail, skype, facebook, blog, everything! It'll be like I'm in a first world country or something! So get ready for e-mail responses and skype dates because Fae Patton/Mariama Diaw will be connected.

And, I'll wrap this up by begging for more stuff. In case any of you wonderful people were intending to send anything my way, these are the latest things I could use/I'm craving (and yes, I've asked for many of these things already but my friends and I are creatures of habits and continue to crave things like mac and cheese on a regular basis):

·        A Frisbee
·        A cheese grater (not for cheese- I use it for soap to make lotion to repel mosquitoes for my village)
·        Maps -World, US, Africa, Senegal (even if they're just printed off the computer that would be great)
·        Photos of my friends, family, favorite places
·        Schick Intuition razor blades
·        Small tissue packets, wipes
·        Magazines!
·        Sharpies
·        Double A batteries
·        Anything small that the kids would enjoy

·        Drink packets (Crystal Light, Ocean Spray, Propel, Gatorade, etc.)
·        Hot chocolate mix, Chai and Earl Grey teabags
·        Peanut butter
·        Granola bars- Kashi GoLean! chocolate caramel, Nature Valley peanut butter, any Clif bars (but in particular Black Cherry Almond, Banada Nut Bread, Chocolate Almond Coconut or Chocolate Dipped Coconut- yummm)
·        Cereal!!! A box or the little variety-pack boxes or even loose in a ziplock bag. (Rice Krispies, Cheerios, Life, Peanut Butter Captain Crunch, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Honey Nut Cheerios, basically anything)
·        Oatmeal packets (Maple & Brown Sugar's my fave, but I'll take any)
·        Raisons, Craisons, any small dried fruit
·        Mac & Cheese! (to save space you can just send the cheese sauce, I can get macaroni here)
·        Any dry snacky stuff (Cheeze-its, pretzels, cookies, Animal Crackers, Wheat Thins, Goldfish, Fig Newtons, Chex Mix, graham crackers, Sunchips, Teddy Grahams, etc.)
·        Peanut Butter M&M's (orange bag, my fave), Plain M&M's,  Skittles, anything chocolate
·        Hard candies for my village (Jolly Ranchers, Jolly Rancher Pops, Tootsie Pops, Dum Dums)
·        And if anyone would like to attempt to send baked goods to Africa, be my guest!

I know that's a lot of stuff, but they're just thoughts. Don't rush to send it all at once; I can pretty much guarantee that I'll still want peanut butter and drink packets throughout my entire service.

Like I said, I'll be online, so hopefully I'll talk to everyone soon! Byyyeee!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Independence, Waterfalls and a Really Gross Big Toe

So I celebrated my first 4th of July in country, had my first big trip, and developed my first major ailment. All in all I would say it was it was a very successful Independence Day. Here's a play by play...

July 1st- Seven of us left our house in Linguere together to make the trek down to Kedougou. There are many various forms of transportation in Senegal, and one of them is called a sept-place (seven places). It's a station wagon that can fit seven passengers and a driver. We were very lucky in getting exactly seven of us, and the ride down was more or less calm and easy (compared to most travel in Senegal). After many hours in the car, we arrived in Tambacounda, the region right about Kedougou. We stayed overnight there at the Tamba regional house.
        At the Tamba house I mentioned that my toe was bugging me. I think it started out as an ingrown toenail, but I hadn't been able to fall asleep the night before because it was throbbing so much. I'd been taking advil, but it was starting to really be annoying. One of the older volunteers decided I probably had a staph infection. Onto the next day...

July 2nd- A bunch of us rented out a van and travelled to nearby Wassadou, a beautiful park where you can see hippos and baboons! All of us from my area were very excited about this because we have sand and camels, so greenery and hippos is like a whole other world. Four of us from my region decided that we wanted to keep going south and make it to Kedougou that night, so after a very long and complicated afternoon of begging for a ride, we finally got a car down to our campement. After briefly greeting our friends there we all crashed.

July 3rd- A down day. After walking around Kedougou for a bit, we ended up spending the majority of the day in the pool. At this point my toe was starting to look pretty funky, but wasn't hurting as bad as it had been earlier.

July 4th- We got up and hung around the campement for a while, and started making the journey to the 4th of Juky party around noon. The party was at the Kedougou volunteers' house, which is really more of a hippy commune than a regional house. It's comprised mainly of huts, so most everything is outdoors. The ideal location for a huge gathering of volunteers to celebrate their nation's independence. The party was awesome, despite the fact that my toe was becoming really ugly really fast.

July 5th- I woke up and called my PC doctor, who put me on antibiotics. We rented two cars and drove to Dindefelo, a nearby village with a waterfall. The small hike made my foot very unhappy, but the waterfalls were beautiful and I'm so glad I went.

July 6th- The worst day I've had in country thus far. Jenn and I caught a 5am bus from Kedougou to Tamba, and in order to catch said bus we had to wake up at 3:50am. We arrived in Tamba around 9am and began the great wait for a car. We had breakfast at the Tamba garage and waited. And waited. And waited. By 2pm we finally filled up a car and got going. Around 7pm we arrived in Touba, not too far from Linguere. Then we had to negotiate a car from Touba to Linguere. Long story short I ended up screaming at a man who turned out to be my friend's host cousin and after resolving our differences he invited me to his house sometime for yogurt and dancing.
        *Note: I used to have a calm temper, but it doesn't help to be calm here. Yelling seems much more effective and people don't get upset by someone yelling in their face the way they do in the US. In the future, if I ever write that I was yelling at someone or fighting with a stranger, don't think that I've lost my mind... I'm just adapting to my surroundings. And maybe losing my mind just a little bit.

        Anyway, we FINALLY got back to Linguere. Jenn and I sat down to eat and stretch out a little bit. This was when I realized that my toe no longer looked human and that my entire foot was swollen. I called my doctor (truly a saint for dealing with all of us volunteers all hours of the day and night) and she put me on a stronger antibiotic and told me to e-mail me a picture of my toe. I'll spare you the photo on here, but it's in my latest Facebook album for whoever wants to see it.

July 7th/8th- I spent the day of the 7th catching up on e-mails, doing laundry and trying to stay off my foot. I was able to skype with my parents and aunt Anne Marie, which was nice! I was originally planning on getting my act together and heading back to village now, since I've been out for a whole week for the 4th; but I've been advised by the older volunteers that that's not the best idea right now. So now I'm sitting around uploading pictures and writing this really long blog entry. I'm hoping the antibiotics will start to heal my toe soon and that the pain will go down. For now I'm just waiting and trying to stay off it as much as possible. I really just want to get back to village because I'm going to leave again for my In-Service Training (IST) in Thies on the 17th. Had this occurred in the middle of August when I'm not so busy I would've loved the opportunity to chill for a few days watching movies and using the internet. Can't this stuff ever happen at the right time?

So that's what's going on in my life right now, just waiting to see if my toe falls off. Hopefully you won't read another blog entry for about a week because that means that I'm able to go back to village. I'll keep everyone posted.

Also... it's Cait Mac's 23rd birthdayyyy!!!!!!!!!! Happy birthday, you crazy girl!

Bye, everyoneeee!