Thursday, December 29, 2011

Patton Family Takes on Portugal

Hello, family and friends! I hope that you all had a very Merry Christmas/great holiday season. My Christmas vacation has been amazing.

I flew out of Dakar in the wee hours of the 22nd and arrived in Lisbon around 7am. I was so excited to see my parents and brother! I was descending an escalator near baggage claim when I spotted my family, and my mom had her IPad open and ready to document our reunion. It was so great to see them again!

Our first day was spent catching up, resting and exploring our area. We rented a flat in the Chiado part of Lisbon from an apartment rentals by owner site. For our first dinner we enjoyed traditional Portuguese paella, prawns and SANGRIA!

On our second day, we walked around Lisbon. We trekked up to Castle Sao Jorge, a Moorish castle overlooking the city. My dad, James and I climbed up the walls and checked out the view while Mom hung out down below and took photos (which became a recurring theme throughout the entire trip). I also ran into a few Senegalese guys selling jewelry on the street. My parents got a kick out of me speaking Wolof with them.


Hanging out at Castle Sao Jorge

Pretty Lisbon

Mom on her IPad... she's obsessed.

Castle at night

Castle at night

Castle at night

James being a GQ model

Lisbon nightlife

We took a few awesome day-trips. One place we loved was called Sintra, which was the home of a few really cool palaces, and possibly the best meal I've ever had (shrimp in a creamy lobster sauce and the best sangria ever- aside from Doreen Higgins' famous recipe). We liked Sintra so much that after our first day there we decided to go back again the following day. And yes, I did force my family to go back to the same restaurant the next day so I could eat the same lunch two days in a row. Yum!

Moorish castle

Pena palace

James at a Hobbit's door

Just chilling in the palace

Mom and Dad being silly

Hanging out in the castle walls

Loving the BEST MEAL EVER!!

 Today was my last full day with the family, and we had a great day. We decided to do a private tour to go see a bunch of sites that we were interested in seeing. Our driver/tour guide was so kind, helpful, and easygoing. If anyone's planning a Portugal trip and needs a recommendation, let us know; because he was awesome. Our first stop of the day was in Fatima, a city famous for apparitions of the Virgin Mary seen by three children in 1917. I was kind of expecting a grotto-like area that still looked like what it would have been like back then, but the area now has a huge cathedral and a small chapel where the apparitions took place. We saw people crawling on their knees around the chapel as part of a pilgrimage. We were told that this time of year is quiet there, but that it's packed in the summer. I'm glad that we were able to see it.


Fatima cross

After Fatima, we went to Nazare, a beautiful beach town. Huge cliffs overlooked the water, which had killer waves and was full of surfers. Then we headed to Obidos, a walled city decked out like a Christmas village. Obidos was charming and has some delicious chocolate for sale. I bumped into another Senegalese guy selling stuff on the street and chatted with him. It turns out that he met my friend Sarah, another PCV from my region, the day before. Small world!

Cliffs at Nazare

Awesome waves

Such big waves!

Two Patton beach bums

F & J


Now I'm getting my act together to fly out tomorrow night. I'm hoping for one final amazing meal tomorrow, then it's New Year's Eve time! My friends and I are planning on heading up to Saint Louis, in the northwest part of Senegal. I'll let you all know how my first Senegalese New Year's turns out. All in all, my vacation was amazing. It was so nice to hang out with my family and it was so, so good for my mental health to get out of Senegal for a bit. And I was able to skype with a lot of my friends and family back home, which made my Christmas even better!

I was hoping that while I had this super-fast European wi-fi that I was hear the good news that my newest baby cousin arrived, but no such luck. Get a move on, Aunt Cindy! I'm dying here!

And HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MER!!! So glad I was able to talk to you the other day. Hope your b-day is amazing!!

Happy 2012, Everyone!! Love you all!

Monday, December 19, 2011

So I Guess I Dropped Off the Face of the Earth for Three Months...

So I need to apologize for the unbelievably long delay since my last entry. I'm sure by this point many of you have given up on me, but I promise I'm alive! Our internet modem in Linguere has been broken since before Halloween, and we still haven't gotten a new one yet. What can ya do? It's Africa.

            I'll start way back in October, where I left off since last time. October was a busy month for Fae Patton/Mariama Diaw. I was just about  to leave for Thies for a Health/Environmental Education Summit, when the Diaw household welcomed a new member, baby Mariama! These photos are from the day she was born.

A few hours old

My baby!
            Unfortunately I couldn't skip my summit, so I had to miss her ngenti (Muslim baptism a week after the birth). I went to Thies for a few days and learned about possible future projects, best practice guides for existing projects and, most importantly, I ate like I'd never eaten before. One memorable evening the seven member of Team Djolof (the people from my region) who were in attendance went to Thies' fanciest restaurant and shared seven different entrees. Probably doesn't sound like much, but it was AMAZING!
            By that point it was October 27th, and I had to be back in Thies on November 1st for a SeneGAD (our gender and development initiative) training. So instead of going back to site in that short time (which, if you understood travelling in Senegal, you'd know that that would have been insane), I decided I might as well live it up a little. I went to visit some of my buddies in one of the other regions, Kaolack. I visited my friend Aimee's village, which speaks Seereer, another of Senegal's many local languages.
            For just a second, let me indulge myself by talking about the different regions of Senegal. As I've mentioned many times, my region is dry, sandy, desert-y and full of camels. Kaolack was green, not as unbearably hot, and was full of massive pigs. They say the grass is always greener on the other side, and whoever first said that was clearly living in the Djolof region of Senegal. Just kidding though, I wouldn't trade my desert for anything.
            So after spending a few days being jealous of Kaolack, I went down to yet another region, Tambacounda, to celebrate the age-old American holiday of Halloween. Some of my friends and I went as Nice Cream girls. Nice Cream is THE ice cream shop in Dakar; famous among PCVs and any expats. The girls behind the counter wear colorful aprons and hats with ice cream on them. Really not the most exciting costume, but hey- I'm in Africa. We had a grand old time at the party, but I'll spare you photos because we all look like sweaty messes.

            Then I did a quick trip back to Thies for a GAD training, and then finally it was back to site for the biggest Muslim holiday of all, Tabaski! On the biggest religious holiday of all I did not expect to find myself participating in a mass murder, but that's exactly what I ended up doing. We slaughtered EIGHT sheep in my compound. Though it may seem weird, it was kind of fun and I actually took a lot of pictures. Again, I'll spare you the photos, but here are some of the non-bloody ones...

The women watching the killing spree

My brother Ada getting this poor soul ready

About to begin!
Baby Mariama in a the Tabaski dress I bought her

Little sisters looking great
Me with my turrando (namesake) 

My "beautiful" braids that hurt and itched a lot

After I took the braids out. I know I look great.
            After two days of eating way, way, way too much meat (especially for a girl who never ate red meat before setting foot on Senegalese soil), I managed to escape to Linguere for some vegetarian meals. All of us Linguerians came together to welcome our two newbies, Bonnie and Erin, into the family! I'm very excited to have two new members on the team, and I know that these two are going to fit in great.
            So then after about a week in-village, I went into Linguere to prep for a pre-Thanksgiving bike trip! A few of us from my region planned on heading "up north" for Thanksgiving, where the PCVs in the northernmost region in Senegal host a party. Some of us crazy kiddos decided it would be fun to try biking halfway there. And it was fun until it wasn't anymore. So instead of getting all the way to our desired destination via bike, we made it as far as we could and then took a bush taxi the rest of the way.

At least the view is pretty!

Bush taxi stuck in the sand. Of course.

Dirty, tired, and sore. But we're about to eat Thanksgiving dinner!
            Getting to Thanksgiving was quite the adventure, and the party up North did not disappoint. It was no Patton/Robinson Thanksgiving, but we did have turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole! (my fave), biscuits, and every kind of pie imaginable. So even though I was sweating my butt off and I wasn't with my family and friends, it was still a lovely holiday.

            After Thanksgiving, it was back to village to get going on work. One project that I'm very excited to work on is a correspondence program between children in my village and students in the US. I'm currently working on a letter program with some elementary schoolers at Eleanor Roosevelt Elem in my hometown, and a French class at Pennsbury High School. Here's a big shout out to Mrs. Royal and her students and Mlle. Kiryluk and her French kids! I'm so sorry that everything is taking me so long here, but the school system in Senegal is slow, slow, slow. As is everything here.
            I also got going on a garden at my village's elementary school, went to a garden training that my friends Justin and Abby were doing, and witnessed a huge fire in my village (everything was fine, they set it themselves to clean up hay). Lots of excitement in my life. And my family also welcomed a new horse, which they decided to name it James, after my brother... except they spell it "Djims" haha.

"Djims" aka James

Jamesy Boy
            And right before I came into Linguere to write you all this beautiful blog entry, I went to visit my bff Jenn for her village's Gammou, which is a religious event. It was actually really fun, even though they had the speakers cranked up maybe 200x too loud for my listening pleasure.
            So that's what's going on in my world. I've been trying to watch Christmas movies to get into the spirit, but it's kind of difficult when you're sweating, surrounded by sand and camels, and no one else around you celebrates Christmas. But luckily I'm not going to be spending Christmas alone. I'm flying out in a few days to Lisbon to see my parents and brother!!! I'm so unbelievably excited! I can't wait to see my parents and James. Can't wait to eat seafood and sample the delicious wine and Port and sangria. Can't wait to walk down a street and not have every single person scream out "toubab," ask me if I have a husband, try to charge me 4x the normal amount for things, and criticize my Wolof. Can't wait to speak English with my family. Can't wait to be called by my actual given name. So, basically, I'm really excited.
            Right now I'm packing, baking brownies for my buddies here, and getting all of my stuff in order. Before I leave, I need to send a huge thank you to my Aunt Anne Marie, Kathy Royal's classes, the Hayner family, the Park family, and my parents for the wonderful and generous packages and gifts that I've received lately. You're all so kind!

Happy Holidays, everyone!!!!