Saturday, January 21, 2012

G-Force PCVs go to Gammou and get WAISTed

Greetings, Family and Friends!

So what has Fae Patton been up to this first month of 2012? A wholeeee lot.

New Years Eve
My friends and I kicked off the new year by going up to Saint-Louis, a pretty city on the water in the northern part of Senegal. It used to be the capital back when Senegal was a French colony. My friends and I took advantage of the holiday and got dressed up, ate out and went out to actual bars/clubs. Our group had a really fun NYE. We even met up with a group of Canadian surfers and hung out with them all night. Not too shabby for a bunch of dirty PCVs.

The highlight of the night for me was a conversation I had with one of our new Canadian buds, which went something like this...

Canadian surfer:  "So all of you girls, you're all G-Force?"
Me: (brief pause) "Huh? What do you mean?"
C.S.: "You said you're all G-Force?"
Me: "Sorry, I don't understand"
C.S.: "You're all here with G-Force, right?"
Me: (full minute pause) "Do you mean PEACE CORPS?"
C.S.: "Oooh yeah, Peace Corps. It's so loud in here I thought you said G-Force"

G-Force volunteers get really excited to get out of village

Dancing our way into 2012

So, naturally, now all of us call ourselves G-Force volunteers, because it just sounds so much better. We intended to go back to Linguere (where my regional office is) on January 2nd, but as luck would have it, all transportation in Senegal went on strike for 2 days. So we spent a bit longer in Saint-Louis than originally expected, but no harm no foul.

Next up on the agenda was my village's annual Gammou. Technically, a Gammou is a religious "learning" meant to celebrate the birth of Mohammed. Unlike Christmas, which has a set date every year, Gammou changes. It's a different date each year, and different villages choose to celebrate it at different times. My village's Gammou was on January 7th.

Gammou's are a really big deal. If it's time for your village's Gammou, your entire family comes in from wherever they live. So my compound wasn't just receiving family members from Dakar and other parts of Senegal, but also family members from places overseas, like Spain. It was pure and utter insanity in my village the day before and the day of Gammou.

The actual "event" of Gammou is a religious learning that begins anytime between 1-4am. This means people "singing" aka screaming into microphones and very, very loud music all day leading up to the main event and then all night. Since I live directly next to our mosque, the entire day was comparable to being in the 1st row of a death-metal concert. And, my Gammou didn't even really get going in full throttle until around 3:30am. Needless to say, I didn't get a very good night's sleep that night.

LUCKILY, I didn't have to go through the insanity alone. My wonderful, wonderful friends Jenn, Justin, Aimee, Erin and Bonnie all came to my village and suffered through Gammou with me. They were great sports going around with me to greet people, being forced to wear head wraps by over-eager teenage boys who thought that they needed to be the Gammou "security," and helping cut and peel plenty of onions and potatoes.

Justin, me, Bonnie, Erin, Jenn, and Aimee in our day-time attire

The then for nighttime attire, just add a head-wrap!

I don't know what I'd do without my friends here! (For more Gammou pics, check out my Facebook!)

Summit, All-Vol and WAIST
The day after Gammou (and by that, I mean a few hours after the music had ended) my friends and I hopped on a bush taxi and got the heck out of there. A group of us went to Thies for our SeneGAD Summit, where volunteers from Senegal, Mali, the Gambia, and Guinea presented various gender-related projects. It was really cool to hear about what's going on in other countries.

Then for two days we had our All-Volunteer Conference, which was similar except there were presentations on all kinds of possible projects. Around this time, more volunteers started arriving in Thies. One night out at our local watering hole, I met a Cape Verde volunteer who's from Wildwood. We enjoyed chatting about our beloved Jersey Shore, trying to see if we knew people in common, and decided we should even write in to The Star & Wave to tell about our crazy meeting (who knows if/when that will actually happen, but it was fun to talk about doing it). So that was exciting. Shout out to Peter from Cape Verde!

Then it was off to Dakar for the big event... the West Africa International Softball Tournament... aka WAIST! Once a year, volunteers and expats from around West Africa come together in Dakar to battle it out in a softball tournament. Volunteers (especially Senegal PCVs) don't take it very seriously; but the expats do; so we're lumped into either the "social" category, or the "competitive" category. Clearly, my team (Team Linguere) was in the former.

And to make it even sillier, the "social" teams also pick costume themes. Our team did "Suits," so we all got suits made out of Senegalese fabrics. It was a lot of fun. Mine came out really big, so I kind of rocked an 80's look. Other teams from other regions had themes such as "South of the Border," (there was a taco, a piƱata, a mariachi band, etc.) and "French," (a poodle, the Eiffel Tower, guys in speedos, Madeline, etc.)

Team Linguere getting down to business in our suits

WAIST was probably exactly what you'd imagine it is... an excuse for crazy PCVs to get together in weird costumes and gallivant all over Dakar. In the evenings we had events like a talent show, a PC prom and a dance party night. Unfortunately I managed to catch a stomach bug right as WAIST was beginning, so I wasn't able to partake in the events to the fullest of my ability, but I definitely enjoyed being a observer.

(I apologize for the lack of WAIST photos... they'll be more on Facebook later)

During WAIST, it's customary for volunteers to be placed in homestays with expats in Dakar. Some of my friends and I were lucky enough to be placed with a very kind Embassy employee named Catherine. She was unbelievably generous letting us stay in her home and we had a fabulous time. Thanks, Catherine!

So now we're making the trek back to site after what's felt like 100 years away. Team Linguere has a moringa tourney (explanation will follow in the next entry) in the works for mid-February, so I'll be back on then.

I miss you all and I hope everyone's doing well back home! I wish I could be home hanging out with all of you (particularly my new baby cuz, Emma Grace), and eating delicious US food (Girl Scout Cookies cough, cough) but I guess somebody's gotta save the world. No, but in all seriousness, I'm just gonna sit around tonight trying to download the latest episode of Glee and figure out how to make a song about the Moringa tree to the tune of "Waka, Waka" in Wolof. Oh, the life of a PCV.

Love and miss you all!