Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 28

The Pont Faidherbe, as I’ve mentioned before, is the bridge that connects the Island to the Mainland. All is considered to be the city of Saint-Louis. The bridge is in pretty rough shape, and is under reconstruction right now. The bridge, however, is still operational despite its shoddy make-up. The first time I walked across the bridge, I was terrified, because as you’re walking, you notice that the boards that you’re walking on aren’t that great. Every now and then, you’ll come across a gap where half of one of the boards is gone, and you can see the swiftly moving river below. Other times the boards are spaced out awkwardly, and sometimes a little too much for comfort. And when big trucks drive across the bridge, or someone decides to jog past you, it starts shaking, and not in a good way.

The bridge isn’t my favorite part of the trip, however, it is always the most temperate. With a nice breeze coming down the river, it’s a great place to cool off. On several different occasions, while walking on the bridge, people going to opposite direction have actually reached out and grabbed me, which makes me very uncomfortable. A couple weeks ago, one of the religious men who wears brightly colored clothes who collects money from everyone in the market reached out, grabbed my arm while I was walking, and tried to get me to stop and give him money. He let go of me quickly, but walking was stopped. Yesterday, when I was walking home, a kid thought it would be a good idea to hit me on the back of my leg while I was walking past him in the opposite direction.

I’m a pretty speedy walker, and also on the bridge I often run into groups of squealing high school girls whooooooo wwwwaaaaaaalllllkkkkkkk sssssslllllllooooooooooowwweeeeeerrrrrrrrrr tttthhhhaaaannnnnn mmmmmyyyyyy tttttttuuuuuurrrrttttlllleeee, jaws. To make it worse: they travel in gaggles!

So, with oncoming hordes of people that are going the opposite direction, I have to weave through between them and high heels (which I’m surprised haven’t gotten stuck between the cracks yet) that move at the speed of molasses, all the while trying not piss anyone off, and not letting anyone steal something out of my backpack.

Yes, it’s fun.

Anyway, another interesting thing that was brought to my attention, by someone who is probably more of a feminist than myself, was the culture of women here. When she was talking, she said, “It’s so sad that these women will sit at home all day perfecting their beauty, but they have no education.” Most of the time, I guess I don’t really think about these sorts of things. Usually, I see how a different culture works and I don’t question it – well, except for the whole littering/garbage issue that I mentioned before. Most of the time, I just accept the way things are. My reasoning for this is because I think that if I do question it, then I may or may not be imposing “western values” on someone else’s culture, which is something that I would not want to do. So, usually, I just observe the way things are. Sure, I may believe that there is a better way to do something, but I don’t feel that I know enough about a culture to make that judgment call.

One of the things that our class learned about in Morocco was about the tensions between development and culture/religion. While many in the country wanted to develop, there was also some hesitation because they didn’t want to sacrifice their culture and religion and become like the rest of the western world. This is a very important issue, I think. Enough of an important issue that Jeffrey Sachs noted cultural issues as one of the impediments to development. It’s an interesting question/problem/issue that will probably result in very innovative answers. At least, that’s what I think.

But back to the beauty thing – yes, the girls here are very pretty, and they spend a lot of time with clothes and hair and makeup. I’m really impressed. I’m kind of the grungy toubab who wanders around the streets with a big red backpack. But then again, even at home in the states, I don’t spend that much time on fashion stuff. I’m the result of growing up in Dutch Harbor. Of which I’m very proud!

Anyway, that’s all for today, as promised, gaggling girls and terrifying bridge journeys!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 27 – Writer’s block… or just not enough coffee.

Within the last few days, I was chatting with Logan and he asked me, “Have you updated your blog yet?” I told him that I hadn’t, explaining that I had writers block. Well, to more exact, I didn’t have the inspiration to write, although I had a couple of ideas. One of which was an outrageously ridiculous open-love-letter to [drum roll] fruit! Another was talking about the screaming girls that pierce my ears when I haven’t had any delicious instant coffee (Sam knows I’m not kidding, after the term in the middle east, I appreciate instant coffee). There’s also a narrative similar to the taxi one about cross the Pont Faidherbe, the large bridge between the sor and l’ile (mainland and island).

I told Logan that I wasn’t really feeling motivated. However, if I tried to write, I would quickly distract my self with 3D Sudoku (which is sweet) or something else of equal interest. (Side note, Logan and I have been together for a year now. Yay! We celebrated last Friday with a phone call. There’s not much you can do while this far away.)

This morning, I was eating breakfast – I had time to enjoy two cups of delicious Nescafe, and I started thinking. I started thinking about the summer of 2007 when I worked for the newspaper full time. While I was getting paid 40 hrs a week, I don’t think that is what my time sheet looked like, if I had kept closer track. But the thing is that I loved writing for the newspaper, and it was a lot of fun for me every week to do that job. But the same thing happened while I was working for the paper that I described to Logan. Sometimes, I just couldn’t write. Whenever that happened, I always ended up going into town to go to PCR or Eagle to grab flyers and work on the community calendar. Thinking about that gave me the motivation to write.

So here I am…

Yasmine – Yasmine is the woman who comes and cleans the house everyday. I don’t think she speaks much French. I’m assuming mostly Wolof. Because when she speaks in French and I don’t hear her, I ask her to say it again (the way my introductory level French teacher taught me) and then she gets confused. For example, this morning, I bought some toilet paper at the little shop literally 15 ft away from the house. She noticed that I bought it, so she asked me what it was, but when she asked me, I think she asked me “What you bought, what is it in England?” Which explains my confusion. In reality, I only heard the word “acheter” or “to buy” and “Angleterre” or “England.” And then when she went to the bathroom and pointed at it, I figured it out. And I told her that it was the same in French and English – tissue.

I think Yasmine is really pretty. One time she asked me how old I was, and I told her, and then tried to ask her how old she was, but she either didn’t understand or didn’t want to answer. Not sure. I’m guessing somewhere between 18 and 25. She has a really young face which makes me think that she might be 19 or 20, but at the same time, she has a regular job. I’m not sure what the age of getting a job in Senegal is – especially as a daily house cleaner – which I’m assuming requires more maturity, perhaps? I’m going to assume that she is done with school, and has possibly been doing this for a while, so that’s what I think she might between 20 and 25. That’s my logic. She also has really nice boubous (the traditional dress) when she comes, before changing into her cleaning clothes. Which makes me assume that she has had time to save money over a period of time to buy nice clothes.

Anyway, there’s my fit of inspiration/motivation for today. Tomorrow, I promise to write about the bridge, with pictures of the treacherous gaps that try to gobble up your leg when too busy looking at the surroundings. (This is also a tease to come back tomorrow and read!)

Day 26 – My future… well, just the next week and a half.

To stir the excitement! Friday is the last day of classes, and then this weekend, we’re going to the desert to spend the night. I think the desert trip is on Saturday. We’ll come back to Saint-Louis on Sunday. Then, I’m planning on the usual beach trip on Sunday, spend the night at a hotel in town (because technically the homestay ends on Saturday) and then head down to Dakar on Monday. I’m really excited about getting to Dakar. I have the week planned out. I’m planning my sight-seeing/activities based on location. BUT, there is super exciting news. I actually almost screamed last night when I found this out.

But, just a little north of Dakar, there is a place called Village des Tortues, for people who already speak French, you know why I’m excited. For those who don’t. Tortues means turtles. YES! TURTLES! I am so excited. First off, let me explain. I LOVE TURTLES. I think they are the coolest frickin’ animal. I have a turtle at home, his name is Jaws, and I miss him a bunch. No, seriously, I do. I actually think about him more than I admit.

Anyway, more about this village. I’m just going to copy, verbatim from my book:

“On the route de Bayakh, just north of the village of Sangalkam, is the fascinating Village des Tortues. This ‘village’ is a sanctuary for more than 400 injured and neglected turtles. There are several species of land and seas turtles, but the main attractions are the giant African spurred tortoises (geochelone sulcata). This is the largest continental tortoise on earth, and the neatly kept reserve has got scores of them, ranging formt he newly hatched ones to a 92 kg giant. (Lonely Plant: The Gambia&Senegal 4 Ed, 2009, pp 180)”

I am so excited. I’m planning on spending all of Thursday there. This would be Feb 4, not this Thursday. I’m also going to bring extra sim cards, and so many batteries to make sure my camera doesn’t die. I am so excited about this. Honestly, this is probably going to be the highlight of my entire month.

Oh, of course, I’m going to go see other things: the giant lighthouse, a couple of big old mosques, the market, place d’independence, museums and art galleries, the beach, Ile de Goree (an island just of the coast, and key location during the colonial period) and possibly go scuba diving (depending on how expensive it is). I’m planning on exploring the entire area of Dakar, and if I have extra time, and enough funds, then I’m going to head to Lac Rose and check that out (a lake of some significance or importance or it’s just pretty, that I can’t seem to find in my guide book right now).

So, that is my plan for next week in Dakar, and then I leave early Monday morning (Feb 8), and get into MSP later that afternoon. The next two weeks are probably going to go by very quickly.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 25 – Let’s go save the world!

Since I’ve been here, I’ve had a great chance to catch up on a bunch of podcasts that I really enjoy listening to. One of my favorites, and probably the only one that I’m loyal to is NPR’s “Wait! Wait! Don’t tell me!” a show that recaps the week’s news, with a rotating panel of very hilarious individuals, and one guest star a week. One week they had Dick Durban on the show, just after he had failed to push a bill through the senate giving some sort of special recognition to the show. They have all sorts of actors, musicians, politicians, and more on there. It’s a great show, and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t heard it before.

Anyway, I’ve been catching up on all the shows since Halloween. Usually I’ll listen to one a day, or so. I finally got to the show that talked about the Climate Conference in Copenhagen. One of the things they said – in a joke, of course – was about how someone suggested a way to save the environment, that had all the liberals crying and screaming at the conference: Stop showering, and drink instant coffee.

This was particularly amusing to me, because it’s the case that the rest of the “undeveloped” world already does this. And I had a thought at that moment: if you ignore all the other factors of being developed and threats to the environment, and solely look at “showering” and “coffee preference” then it seems like a bit of a conundrum. If the goal is to have all the countries in the world at the same development level, then one would assume that would mean showering on a daily basis, like most people in the “developed” world, and drinking Starbucks. [And according to this EXTREMELY simplified model] leading to an even greater issue with the climate.

Of course, this is extremely simplified, and isn’t accurate at all. And I’m sure not too many people would be happy with me using “showering habits” and “coffee preferences” as key indicators to climate change. Don’t worry, I know how absurd it is too. It is more about the principal of the issue. I say this because of internal conflicts that everyone has, including myself, about the climate, personal responsibility, and the constant hopelessness that comes because it seems like one person can’t really make that big of a difference. While all of us mean the best, it’s a difficult and steep uphill battle. Sometimes you don’t want to take a shorter shower, and sometimes you’re eyes are bigger than your stomach and the food goes to waste. I realize that I’ve talked about this before, and came to the same conclusion, but it is something that continues to plague my attention while being here.

On a side note, today (Sunday) I’m going to the beach. After last week, we decided to make it a weekly event. We have this and next week. However, next weekend we’re supposed to be going to stay the night in the desert and go for a camel ride afterwards. I’m excited.

This is week 4 in Senegal, and I have this week in Saint-Louis, and the week after in Dakar, then back to negative-cold-as-hell degrees in Minnesota.

PS. My belly is back to normal. I bought some bananas and crackers.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day 24 – le samedi

I apologize if this is too much information, but I promise, it is related to something that I think I’ve discovered about Senegalese culture. So, the last 4 or 5 days have been a little difficult for me. For two nights in a row, I was woken up in the middle night by horrible stomach cramps, and then darted to the bathroom. After those two nights, I went to the pharmacy and bought some immodium. So, I took two immodium in the morning and evening, which stopped my need of running to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Then, I was worried that I was dehydrated, so I started drinking water as much as I could – which led to an upset stomach that doesn’t really want any water.

The third night, I again wake up, but this time with the threat of needing to run to the bathroom to relieve my stomach. This entire time, I’ve been having trouble eating food, because while I’m hungry and I know I need to eat, every time my eat, it feels like my body is saying: “Nope, don’t think so. I don’t like this. Try again.”

The weird thing is that I’ve been craving certain foods. (I realize this sounds like I’m describing pregnancy – but I’m not.) I’ve been craving fruits and vegetables. The reason for this is because I never get any fruits or vegetables. For breakfast, I have a piece of bread with chocolate spread, and Nescafe. For lunch, rice and fish. It’s difficult to eat the fish because there are a bunch of little tiny bones that spar with the top of my mouth while eating. For dinner, usually noodles, potatoes, or beans with a piece of meat, and bread. Every now and then we’ll have steamed carrots or squash with lunch, but not very often.

I’m thinking that the reason that I’m having difficulty with my stomach lately is because I’m not getting enough fruits and vegetables. And finally my body is letting me know that it’s time to get some of that good stuff. So, that’s my goal for today – I’m going to buy some fruits and try to find some veggies. I know I’m going to get ripped off, but I don’t really care – as long as my digestive system gets out of this funk.

Yesterday (Friday), I didn’t go to class because I felt nauseas after eating. I started walking to school, but I turned around half-way because there was no way that I could concentrate. On Thursday, I had to leave class earlier because I was sitting there, sweating, and trying not to loose my cookies.

I also have a theory that perhaps all the pills I’m taking is making my stomach go haywire as well. So, now, the only thing I’m taking is malaria meds and once a day vitamin. And the two big things that I’m craving include: applesauce and gingerale.

Needless to say, it’s been a difficult several days. I’ve been trying to lay-low, but today, I think I need to get up, move around, and get my body working again.

Oh, and one more thing to show emphasize how screwy my body has been – I was also craving a sprite. For those who don’t know my eating habits, I drink soda maybe once a month, at best. But I’ve been craving sugar, and the carbonation makes my belly feel better. It’s the closest thing to gingerale that I could find here too.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 21

Brief update: Today marks 3 weeks since I began my travels. I'm getting into the swing of things - unfortunately, my stomach and digestive system are getting out of the swing of things. I've had pretty bad stomach aches the last couple of days. Bad enough to wake me up in the middle of the night - 1 am, 4 am, 7 am... - and making it almost impossible to fall back asleep.

Anyway, the internet is a bit rough today, so nothing long. However, I did call Anne Hillman yesterday to chat for a few minutes, and then it turned into her interviewing me. :) So, of course, go to the wonderful KUCB website and check it out, as soon as she posts the story. Is it too cheesy if I give a major plug to KUCB? :D

Everyone knows that I'm super biased. That's all I have for now. I promise to write some more good stories tomorrow or saturday.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day 20: The attack of les moutons!

Le merdredi - Wednesday

I think I’ve shared this story with one or two people, or perhaps I already wrote about it, I can’t remember. If so, here it goes again.

There are goats EVERYWHERE! Goats, in French, is moutons. Sometimes I see tiny little baby moutons that are so cute, and I want to play with them. But to be safe, I googled “goats, fleas” and it’s an issue. So, I’ll refrain from playing with the moutons. However, I look at them all the time, and watch them. And it’s true, moutons really do eat anything. I always see them eating cardboard. Oh, and yesterday I saw the cutest thing. As I was walking to class, I saw a baby mouton trying to munch on a chain that was hanging off of a truck. Needless to say the little guy was not successful in satiating his hunger, but it was so cute!

One day during the first week that I was here, I came home after class, and there were some moutons on the little patio-type thingy outside of the house munching on the trimmings from the bushes. There was a mama moutons and a couple of babies munching away. And I walked up to the gate to open it and go inside, but all of a sudden, the babies ran behind the mama, and the mama started coming at me, very quickly. I PANICKED! I thought she was going to butt me with her little horns, and I was terrified, so I ran out into the street… and they ran away. Turns out, they were scared of me, and I had unwittingly corned them. I felt kind of like a fool afterwards, but luckily no one was around to see me. :)

Sometimes, when I’m walking through the neighborhood, a mouton will follow me. I’m always paranoid, and I turn around every couple of seconds to make sure that he’s not chasing me getting ready to attack me with his horns. But usually they get distracted with a piece of cardboard and go eat it. Thankfully.

And the sheep (chevres) here – when they “BAAAAA” – sound like death. It’s the most terrifying BAAA I’ve ever heard in my life. It scares me everytime, because I’m never expecting it. And those little (they’re actually bigger than the goats) buggers are always hiding behind vehicles where I can’t see them.

Another weird thing is that the moutons run around freely, but it’s the chevres that are tied up. Haven’t figured that one out yet.

Day 20 - The little things, again


So, there were some other things that I thought about , or just little things that I noticed that I would like to share.

Oh, but first – WATER UPDATE.

I guess, apparently, there was a problem with the plumbing, or a clog in the pipes or something to that effect. Because, Tuesday morning, the utility/water guys showed up, and when I returned that evening, THERE WAS WATER!!! There was even an amazing amount of pressure. I took the first normal shower since being at Sam’s House on Dec 30. There’s still no hot water, but I don’t care. And don’t worry, just because I have a shower now, doesn’t mean that I was super wasteful, afterall, the water was cold. So, I got wet, turned off the shower, soaped up, rinsed off, conditionered, and rinsed off. All very quickly – because, once again, the water was cold. :)

Taxi cabs and their horns – So, remember before how I mentioned that pedestrians get a courtesy honk before being run over. Well, it’s more complicated than that. This afternoon, I wasn’t really in the mood to walk home, plus I had a nasty stomach ache that made me feel nauseas which was really the main reason for not wanting to walk, so I took a taxi. While we were driving, I invented a game – guess what the driver is honking at. I was doing pretty well, until about half-way through the 7 min drive, when it seemed like he was just randomly honking. But this is how it went:

1. Honking at the pedestrians, telling them that he’s there and he’s going to run them over if they don’t move.

2. Oh, hello there fellow taxi driver! How is your day?

3. Why thank you sir for letting me through.

4. To the motorcycle on the bridge that wasn’t moving: WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!?!? CAN’T YOU SEE THAT YOU’RE IN THE WAY!?!?

5. Turning right: Excuse me, I’m turning right.

6. To pedestrian that he knew: Hello friend!

7. Honk – ME: Wait, why did he just honk there, I don’t see anything that he could’ve honked at. The goat maybe? But he didn’t honk at the last goat… hmm.. I’ll let that one slide.

8. Turning right: Excuse me, can you stop and let me through? – Followed by a “thank you” honk.

9. Honk: Hmm.. another random honk for no apparent reason.

10. Honk: Maybe his last taxi didn’t have a horn and he’s super excited about having a horn now, so he honks it all the time.

11. Honk: Okay.. maybe those honks really didn’t mean anything, and he just likes honking every 15 seconds to get attention.

12. Honk… honk… honk… That was a waste of time.

That was my internal thought process during the taxi cab ride. I have yet to figure out the true reason for the excessive honking. I don’t know if I will figure it out though.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Successful translation!

Day 18 – Le plage et au bar de l’hôtel

Yesterday, we were going to go to the pool and hang out for the day, but turns out it was 4000 francs (~$8) to go to the pool, so we just decided to go to the beach for free. We spent the day at the beach, occasionally pestered by locals who wanted to sell us stuff. But some legitimately just wanted to talk. However, there was one teenage boy who came and sat down next to us. We waited for him to leave, but after 20 minutes, he was laying on the sand, staring at the downstairs region of Caroline. After a few minutes of him sitting there, I was getting really annoyed with him. I feel that we had given him enough time to leave, but he hadn’t done so. Julie even told him to leave us alone, but he didn’t leave. So I looked at him, and asked if he spoke English, he didn’t say anything, so I said “français?” However, he didn’t really respond. So I started telling him to leave, very forcefully and vocally, I said, in very French “Ici non! La bas, la bas. Tu reste pas ici. La bas.” Which is: Here non. Over there, over there. You can’t rest here. Over there.” I told him he couldn’t look at Caroline, and to leave. This may sound insensitive, but I did it as rudely as possible. But I think that he was being very inconsiderate. He left. Thankfully. And he walked down the beach away from us which was even better.

So, the most exciting part of yesterday for me was at the bar. After going to the beach, the four of us decided to go to the l’hôtel, and get a drink. I decided to have a beer. Within the first couple of minutes of drinking the beer, a fly (un mouche) landed in my beer, and was swimming around. I picked out the fly, and continued drinking my beer, BUT (here’s the best part) I know a joke about flies landing in beer. AND I successfully translated it into French! And everyone laughed! The reason that this is so exciting for me, is because it really does mean that I am learning more French, and it also means that people can understand me when I’m speaking in French.

The person who told me the joke is Sam, my roommate, so I wanted to dedicate this to her. I think she’ll be very proud of me when she reads this and finds out that I told a joke in French! Here’s the joke (in English of course):

There’s an Englishman, a Scot, and an Irishman in a pub in the UK, and a fly lands in each of their beers. The Englishman pushes the beer away in disgust refusing to drink it. The scot, grabs the fly, tosses it, and continues drinking his beer, but the Irish man picks up the fly and yells: Spit it out! Give me back the beer!

I hope you’re laughing. Needless to say, I am très proud of myself!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Adversity creates environmentalism

Sunday – le dimanche

This is something that I’ve thought about for a long time. BY long time, I mean since last summer, and I think it’s something that both my environmental friends (Kate) and hippy friends (Jane) will appreciate. Sorry if I’m leaving other people out, but they’re the two that I can think of that read this blog regularly, and they’re the ones that would appreciate it the most. And my dad too, but he doesn’t read this, just because he’s been talking about carbon footprint stuff lately.

Anyway, to the story. Adversity creates environmentalism.

I explained last week about my shower situation. Well, it hasn’t changed, and Friday night, I took another bucked shower. (The more I think about it, the more I realize that I probably wouldn’t even waste my time with showers if it weren’t for my long hair.) This time, with my bucket shower, I only used HALF a bucket. Last time, I used a whole bucket. And these aren’t the standard 5 gallon buckets. This buckets is maybe 2 gallons, give or take. It’s not a standard bucket. But, the point is, is because I don’t have easy access to a shower, I now take bucket showers, which saves on so much water. And, in a desert, that’s really important. Plus, at this rate, I’m only taking two showers a week – instead of one every day. I use a little bit of water to brush my teeth and wash my face twice a day. So, that whole carbon footprint thing – I’m kicking ass and taking names right now!

The thing that really started me thinking about comes from what happened last summer at home. Another situation where a problem with the water changed bathing habits. We had a clog in our water pipe, so the presser was REALLY reduced, and it was a pain to take a shower. So, what we ended up doing is turning on the shower, rinsing, turn off the shower and let it build back up for a couple minutes. During this time, you would soap up. By the time you finished, the pressure would be built back up – but just enough so you could rinse off. Then do conditioner, and rinse off. Even though it was a pain in the ass, it was being environmentally friendly. I realize that this is a bigger issue on other parts of the country/world where there is an actual risk of water shortage, over the Aleutians which gets A LOT of rainfall every year. But, it’s still good to practice.

I’ll be honest, the sad part is that, I probably wouldn’t have conserved that much water last summer and now, which showering/bathing, if it hadn’t been for something else forcing me to do so. That’s a habit that I shouldn’t get into, I know. But it’s just something I’ve been thinking about.

Djoujd – BIRDS!

Saturday – le samedi

First, see pictures.

I’m not going to write too much about it, because the pictures are way cooler. We went to a wildlife refuge/thingy – the guy spoke French the entire time, so I only picked up part of what he was talking about – and went on a boat. We got to see alligators or crocs, one of the two, and very large lizards, and lots and lots of birds! When we first arrived, we saw pelicans in large groups swimming around, all diving at the same time, and coming up with fish. There was one time when one of the fish was extra lively and was tossed around in the flock a little bit before escaping back to the waters. But that was nothing! We went to their breeding ground – see pictures. Very Cool!

After that, we stopped a small village on our way back to Saint-Louis to have tea with a family, in which we discovered some very interesting things. These people are a different group, something that starts with a P. Most of the people in Saint-Louis, and the northern part of the country, are Wolof/speak Wolof. These are a different group of nomadic people who practice polygamy. We also learned that girls are married off between the ages of 12 and 15 to men who are twice their age. Usually, the men will go to neighboring villages to see the girls when they’re 6 or 7, and decided then, wait 6 years, then get married. Also, everyone sleeps under one roof, and there are curtains to “hide nighttime activities.” It was very interesting. During tea, our tour guide insisted on singing, and Emily even got up and started dancing, which everyone appreciated. There were also baby chickens running around peeping. I took pictures. :)

Even baby warthogs are cute! They're about the size of a baby kitten, but more insane. They would scurry around, and change directions any second. I was afraid to get too close, because I didn't want to mess with a mama warthog.

This guy got his lunch! Nom nom nom!


A bird. I took a lot of pictures of random birds. I'm not a bird person, so I don't know if it was a special bird or not. The tour guide probably said its name, but it was in french, and I didn't catch it.

ALLIGATOR!! (Or crocodile.. not sure. I'm pretty sure it's an alligator though) He was just sitting there, not doing anything.

The BAZILLION PELICANS!!! A bit stinky down wind, but very cool to see. The dark ones are the babies.

Last but not least, cute little baby peeping chickens! :D

Friday – le vendredi

On Friday, I came home from class early. Class was ended early because the principal was using the classroom we were supposed to use in the local high school. I am assuming that it was detention of some sort.

Anyway, when I returned to my host family, there were three boys in the patio/courtyard cracking coconuts! (See pictures) I was really surprised, and completely entranced by them. After watching the for a few minutes, I went and grabbed my camera, and showed them and asked if it was alright if I take a picture. One of the boys – who I ended up agreeing later – freaked out and said “No No No” so I said okay, I won’t take a picture of you, but one of the others jumped up eagerly to get his photo taken. The first then asked me if I was going to put it up for sale in France. First, I was flattered that they though my French was good enough for me to be from France, and second, that I could actually take pictures of that caliber. I told him “Non, c’est pour moi et ma famille” - for me and my family. Then he decided that it was okay that I take a picture of him. Then I was going to take a picture of some coconuts before and after being peeled, and he over-eagerly piled them up for me. It was very considerate. Then I was kind of worried that he was going to try to hit on me and try to marry me, so I decided to go to my room until they left.

That evening, my host mother banged on my door and handed me a coconut to drink the milk, and another coconut to eat. I ate so much coconut on Friday night I thought I was going to be sick. But it was also the freshest coconut I will ever have in my entire life.

My mom will appreciate this next story (that only Unalaska people will appreciate the most) – one time when we were kids, we were going to a birthday party, and she thought it would be a great idea to bring something different to the birthday. SO, we went to Carl’s Grocery and bought a coconut (yes, very long time ago. I think it was 7 or 8). We brought the coconut to the birthday party, and sure enough everyone was really excited, but when we cracked it open, it had already started rotting on the inside (To explain – it takes SO LONG for things to get to us, at least it used to take much longer, that it was always really expensive to purchase produce, and often times it was on the verge of rotting because it was so old by the time we got it. For a long time, Unalaska residents didn’t eat much produce unless they grew it themselves). That was my first experience with a real coconut, needless to say, this one was much better.

The boy who didn't want me to take his picture.

The third boy, still arduously working to crack those coconuts! Very difficult.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 14 - The little things

There are little things that I think of every day, so I thought I’d put them down.

To start – Bazzine, my host sister, last night she ran up to my door and through a picture into the room saying regarde, regarde, which means look look. It was a picture of a previous volunteer and Bazzine. I feel like she’s rubbing it in that her and I have a tenuous relationship. Thanks, but not appreciated. She’s been nicer lately, but she gave me one of those evil looks today when I was leaving… I don’t trust her.

The taxis: You get a honk if they’re behind you, but that’s the only warning. If you don’t get out of the way, then they will hit you.

There are these things called car rapides, which are colorful buses/vans that are completely open to the air, and have no doors on the back. One or two young men hang onto the back of the bus banging on the outside of the vehicle telling the driver when to go or stop. It only costs 100 Francs, which is 20 cents. And it’s always entertaining.

It really is pretty here. I know I’ve talked about the trash before, but I’m getting used to it, and it’s easier to disregard. (I know, bad thing to say.) I think that the neighborhood that I live in is pretty well off. There are a couple of houses that are shanties, but the rest look really nice. Also, I think there is a USAID office literally 30 second away from my house.

Shower saga: I actually thought about not sharing this story with anyway, but then I thought that I should because it’s just the way things are for me right now. Anyway, here it goes. It’s the dry season, and for the last week, there has been a trickle or no water from the faucets. I have plenty of bottled drinking water to drink so I’m fine there, but I didn’t take a shower for 5 days. 6 days is my record. That was in Morocco, and it was after we went to the hamman, so I figured I was REALLY clean, and didn’t really need to shower. Anyway, on Monday, I just couldn’t take it any more, and I was really bothered by how dirty and gross my hair was, so, I took a bucket shower. I poured water over my head, soaped up, and rinsed off, all from a bucket. So, I’m clean. Which makes me very very happy.

Hmm.. that’s all I can think of for now.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

“Finish your dinner… there are starving children in Africa”

Day 13

Yes, there are indeed starving children in Africa. Hmm... that’s funny, I happen to be in Africa.

Last night, something happened, that made me feel strangely ________ [enter appropriate feeling here]. I can’t really find the word, so let me just tell you what happened.

For some reason, I just wasn’t really that hungry last night, and I couldn’t finish the stew that my host mother made for me. It was tasty, as always, but I just wasn’t that hungry. Maybe it was the two cups of tea I had after lunch… I don’t know. Anyway, I apologized to my host mother and said “Je n’ai pas plus de faim.” Which means – according to me – I don’t have a lot of hunger or I’m not very hungry. Not sure if it’s grammatically correct though. I had heard voices outside, and she grabs the bread and bowl of stew, and she goes and opens the door. But before she does that, she explains that she’s giving the food to the Talibae.

Let me explain what the Talibae are. (I’m not sure if that is the exact spelling.) From what I understand, the Talibae are children that are enrolled into a Muslim school to learn the Koran, and to live holy lives. There is some controversy surrounding the Talibae because, according to the locals, the Talibae are sent out to the streets to beg for money, and the money isn’t always used for Allah’s will. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s not. And you really don’t know when, so they tell us not to give money to the street children. You can give food, but it’s recommended to not give money.

I’d say, judging by looks, the age of these boys is between 7 and 10ish or 12ish. I don’t really understand the whole system, but I’ve told you everything that I know.

So, last night, my host mother gave my uneaten meal to the Talibae boys. Although it’s not your stereotypical starving child in Africa, there are a lot of similarities. It got me thinking about a couple of different things. It was so easy to just open the door and find someone who would finish the meal that I didn’t. The food wasn’t put to waste, it was all eaten up.

Another thing I thought about was Islam. When we were in Morocco, we were told, by our Moroccan professor, that in the medina, or “walled city”, the people take care of their own. When there is a family that is having a hard time with money and aren’t very wealthy, then the neighbors around them will pitch in, bringing food, and other items over to help them out. So, ideally, there would be no beggars. Our professor explained this process, and told us that it was because of one of the pillars of Islam: charity. She also explained to us that a lot of people are embarrassed by being poor, and they won’t beg. She also told us that the people that we saw in the streets were somewhat of an embarrassment, and that we shouldn’t give money to them.

Anyway, last night, I kind of wondered to myself – is that why my host mother was giving the extra food to the Talibae boys? Was it apart of this system of Islam? The community caring for itself? The pillars? Or, is it just because there was extra food and there was no need for it to go to waste?

I thought about it for a while, and wondered about the significance of that gesture? And if it even was really that big of a deal. Which brings me back to where I started – hungry kids in Africa, and myself in this strange cycle.

As Americans, we’ve all heard that saying “clean your plate, there are starving children in Africa that would love to eat that.” Inciting guilt, and leading to obesity – not really, that’s kind of extreme, but you get the point. I’ve even said that to friends in the Caf when one person piles their tray high with food, takes a bite of everything and decides they don’t like anything, sending it all to the garbage. Of course, there is always the wry response “well, if I packaged it up and mailed it to them, they probably wouldn’t want to eat it” thrown in there somewhere. Then we all have a laugh.

So, I guess the big thing I really want to say, is that it was really weird for me when that was what happened. Who cares if I didn’t finish my meal, if I wasn’t hungry, if I didn’t like what I was eating. It didn’t matter. Because, literally, if I didn’t eat it, someone would. Someone who didn’t have food before, now did. Someone who was hungry, who was poor. If I had been hungry last night and had cleaned my plate, then they wouldn’t have eaten. It was strange to actually be in that situation, instead of just hearing it from your parents or friends, and immediately forgetting about it, guilt free.

One last thing, on top of that, it’s really bad, but, in the states, it’s easy to be complacent. It’s easy to say – yeah, there are millions of people dying of preventable diseases, or hunger. There are people without access to potable water – all of that. It’s easy to say it, but just as easy as it is to say, it’s just as easy to forget about. Because that’s on the other side of the world, and we’re not there. We don’t know those people, and it doesn’t really affect our daily lives. It doesn’t matter, and they don’t. And it’s easy to joke about cleaning your plate and the starving kids in Africa, because we can’t see them. But we can see the piece of cheesecake in the dessert line. It’s easy to ignore a problem that you can’t see. And it’s even easier to forget when you’re sitting on top of a hill, wearing a sweater, hiding from the cold, complaining about the odor of lutefisk and dreaming of the sun.

I suppose I was overwhelmed with this bizarre feeling because it’s a situation talked about so much, but one I never ever ever thought that I would actually be in. And that starving kid in Africa got his meal.

Monday, January 11, 2010

le 11 janvier 2010


Beach pictures from Saturday. The Atlantic Ocean - seen from Senegal.

A large boat.

The boat that I was trying to take pictures of - this is when the camera died.

Luckily! I had my other little camera... but as soon as I snapped a couple of pictures, the batteries died as well. This is why there are only a couple of pictures. Here are the cows. The one on the far right was the stray we were afraid was going to meander over us.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Going to school

If anyone is interested, I put this video up on youtube.

Day 11 – le 10 janvier 2010

Sunday - Dimanche

Yesterday, a group of us went to the beach. Nothing super eventful happened, a couple of guys came and tried to sell us things, but they left soon when they realized we weren’t going to buy anything. It was just a day meant for relaxing. We didn’t stay on the beach for very long because it was surprisingly cold. In town, it was pretty hot, and we were thinking that it might even be too hot to go to the beach. But after the taxi ride on the Langue to Barbarie or the peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the Saint-Louis River. We went down the peninsula away from the city to a quieter part, and the beach was really nice. There were little tiny crab running around on the beach (they were scared of us), and when I tried to throw sand on them they ran away very quickly. So quickly I couldn’t even see where they went – they were also the same color as the sand.

At one point, a cattle herder was walking his cows along the beach, and they went right by us. That was exciting because there was one cow who was straying away from all the others, and if he didn’t change course, then he would have trampled right over us. But honestly, the cows were walking soooooo slooooowwwwwlllyyyy that it really wasn’t a worry at all. We probably stayed there for about an hour or so before heading back into town.

I forgot to put the pictures from the beach on my computer, so I’ll post them tomorrow.

Next weekend, there is supposed to be a trip to a wildlife reserve with lots of cool birds. I’m not really a bird person, so I’ll just take pictures of everything I see.

-- Another story --

This morning (Sunday) I had another incident with Bazzine. As I grow up, I’ll be honest, I think of the day when I’ll have children. I also think about the day that I’ll be retired, so this isn’t anything I want to do anytime soon. But, when I babysit or meet other people’s children, I think about the day that I’ll have kids. I’m excited for it – again, not trying to make it happen anytime soon – but I’m also worried that I’ll get one of those little brat kids that everyone hates. Obviously, I know nothing about parenting, but I’m still worried that I’ll do the wrong thing and THEN I’ll have a spawn of Satan on my hands that will drive me to my grave, or even kill me while sleeping – that’s what Bazzine is.

Yesterday, in an effort to make friends, I gave her a little present, in the hopes that she would be nice to me. Whenever my dad stays at hotels, he always grabs all the little shampoos, soaps, conditioners, lotions, etc. and gives them to me. I think they’re great because they’re all travel-size and make it through TSA, no problem. And I use them too! Sometimes good companies partner up with hotel chains, and they’re actually pretty nice. Anyway, I saw one in my medicine bag yesterday, and I decided to give one of the little lotions to Bazzine, as a present. It went over well. Except Daoda was jealous, so I gave him a piece of chocolate, and then Bazzine flipped out and tried to give me back to lotion because she wanted chocolate too. Even though I had thought I had given her the much better present. Anyway, that was yesterday.

This morning, I woke up, after sleeping-in, as usual. And went out to the table to eat my breakfast. I was sitting there, minding my own business, and Bazzine comes and joins me. I’m being social and practicing French and trying to ask her questions. She keeps grabbing at stuff, and even takes a sip of my coffee. But then she grabs the knife, and runs off (still in eyesight) and tries to cut her boubou with the knife I was using to put the chocolate spread on my bread. I told her no, which she took as a game. Anyway, the entire event turned into her throwing things at me, and throwing things in my room – to which I had moved my breakfast in an effort to get away from her. I couldn’t close my window so she kept yelling things and running around outside of my room, banging on the door, banging on the window – etc. Unfortunately, there was no one else around at this point, so no one could help me. So, I ended up leaving, and I think I’ll just stay away for most of the day and return this evening. When I do, I’m going to talk to my host mother to see if something can’t be done.

Basically, she’s a nightmare. She also makes me hate all children.

A note to Sam – I would rather have Napoleon clawing my back every single day while washing my face, than live with this demon.

Day 10 – le 9 janvier 2010

Saturday - Samedi

After getting up at 7 a.m. yesterday, I decided to sleep in today, and got up at 1030. I sat there eating my breakfast of bread with chocolate spread, and Nescafe coffee, while thinking. During breakfast, when I have time, it’s really nice to just sit there and relax. I have a lot of time to just sit and think. I really enjoy it. My mind just kind of wanders. Today, I was thinking about how I really am starting to feel confident about French. Well, more-so than when I first got here. And I’m really happy about it. But my happiness could’ve also been a side effect of the second cup of coffee I had (usually I only have one).

During the first couple of days, I kept thinking that going to Senegal to learn French was a crazy idea and I had bitten off more than I could chew, and that it was a bad idea. I was having a lot of doubts. But then, class began on Wednesday this week, and it was nice. I was glad to be occupied, but I didn’t really feel any different. However, yesterday, I had class from 8 a.m. – 11 a.m., and then 16 – 19. For six hours! (Whereas on Wednesday and Thursday I had class for 2 hours.)

But when it was all done, I was walking with Monsieur Kandé after class, and we started talking. At first, I asked how to say “brain” in French. I did so by saying Comment dit-on… and pointing to my head. First he said memoire, but then he said esprit, which means mind. And after six hours of class (I have max of 4 at Olaf – with breaks), my esprit was very very tired.

But then we started talking, and I’m not sure where the transition was, but we started talking about poverty. One of the things that he said was about all the children in the streets, and how it’s a key indicator of poverty, and that in the United States or Europe, kids don’t play in the streets. There is a place for the kids to play. And I told him that I was reading the book “The End of Poverty” by Jeffrey Sachs, and that it talks about this. I also told him that when I was in Morocco one of the big problems with fighting poverty was the balance between gaining wealth as a country, and maintaining the identity and culture that is unique to that country. I’m no economist, but it seems that it is entirely possible to maintain the culture, religion, identity, etc. of a country, but at the same time be prosperous. I think the difficulty is that those countries need to pave a new road that does that. I don’t think there is a one-size fits all solution to ending poverty in each country. But I also don’t know the answer.

Anyway, although the conversation only lasted a couple of minutes before Monsieur Kandé and I parted ways, I felt good, because I had a conversation in French about a complicated topic, and was understood. And again, it was a very short conversation – definitely less than 5 minutes, probably less than 3.

But going back to the issue of poverty, and improvement. One thing that is hard to miss is all the garbage on the streets. I do see men who clean the streets, which is good and helps to make it look better, but there is still a lot of garbage on the streets. I think that if the garbage were dealt with, and there was a place to put it, it would change a lot of things. The solution that I thought of was to put up waste bins or garbage cans around, and the same men who collect the garbage could also collect the waste from the bins. This is just one of the things I think about while walking around the city.

Another thing, that I’ve mentioned briefly to Logan about the grant we’re applying for is the possibility of investing/educating about composting. First off, I would like to say that I don’t know much about the agriculture output of Senegal (I know that there is a big groundnut – peanut – production left over from colonization that could probably be diversified), but I think if people had small veggie gardens, that might go a long way as well. But, I think there might be plots of land that do agriculture in this region, because when we visited Touba, it was explained that there is some agriculture, however, only during the rainy season which is in the summer/fall. And right now, it is the dry season. Also, there is a lot of sand around here, most times you can’t even see the roads in the neighborhoods because it is covered up by the sand. So, maybe my second idea is useless, but I think the first one would still be a good idea.

Day 9 – le 8 janvier 2010

La nourriture (food)

The food that I eat here is amazing. I thought I was going to loose weight on this trip, because I assumed that I might have trouble with some of the food – which I have once or twice, but that’s all. The rest of the time, I try my hardest to eat all of the delicious food, but I get too full and feel like I’m going to explode before I get to that point.

Every day for lunch we have fish. The lunch they have here is some cooked fish with a variety of vegetables and rice/couscous stuff. I think it’s more rice than couscous, but the grains of rice are very small. You squeeze a little bit of lime over everything, and it is very delicious.

For dinner, my host mother always makes something delicious that is exploding with FLAVOR (Yes Logan: FLAVOR). It’s like eating a rainbow, there is such a variety of FLAVOR. I really don’t know how to describe it. And it’s so delicious, I eat it as fast as possible because I just can’t get enough. And then I realize that I ate too much and my stomach, although happy with the delicious food, gurgles with slight resentment for the rest of the evening.

I mentioned this before, but after the visit from Touba, I had that weird curdled milk and cheese/yogurt thing that was really hard for me to eat. I kept making deals with myself after every bite. I told myself that I had to get to the bottom, but when that was not achievable, I would just swallow the whole spoonful immediately after touching my tongue. After a gag, I told myself: Okay, 5 more bites. After one bite of that: Okay, 2 more bites, you can do this Monica, don’t be culturally insensitive. After that, I kept taking bites with the promise: This is the last bite, then you’re done. I kept worrying if I didn’t eat enough, would it be insulting? So, finally when I got to the point that I thought I had eaten enough that showed that I was full, and not insulting I stopped.

But other than that, I haven’t had a bad meal.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Day 8 – le 7 janvier 2010

It’s been a week since I went to the airport in Minneapolis. Tomorrow will be the first of five weeks that I’ve been here. Update, I think I’m getting a little cold. I hope not, but I think I am. I’ve been eating a bunch of vitamin C which will hopefully help to fight it off and drinking tea and lots of other fluids in general.

Story time – a couple of days ago, my host mother brought in a basket of fruit: apples, oranges, and bananas. At our orientation, they told us that if your host family has kids, then they’ll want to come in and take everything that is yours because they think it’s theirs. I felt bad at first saying no to the kids, but then I realized that I shouldn’t. On the first day, the girl grabbed my cell phone, punched in random numbers and started calling people. Another day, she grabbed my camera when I wasn’t paying close attention. At one point, she grabbed my glasses put them on and started running around. Which scared the jeepers out of me, because that is the only pair I have with me. On that first day, she also grabbed my cell phone that I use in the states and started pressing buttons, but because it was turned off, nothing was happening. She wasn’t familiar with this phone so she didn’t know how to turn it on, so she runs out the back door on to the little patio saying corbeille, corbeille (not sure if that is spelled correctly). I didn’t recognize the word, then I realized that she was trying to throw my cell phone away. I got it back, but I had to start paying even closer attention to her.

So, back to the fruit thing. But before the fruit thing, to set it up even more, Bazzine (the girl) saw my computer on the bed, which I had out because it needed to be charged, and she said, “Joue. Joue.” Which means “play, play.” I responded with the equivalent of a “hell no” for me, but in French, “Non. Non. Non. Non. Non. Non. [plus a couple more probably].” After that, Bazzine, with Daoda (her brother), pointed at the fruit. She started saying “C’est pour moi. C’est pour moi.” And I said, “Non, c’est pour moi.” Which is basically “It’s for me, it’s for me.” I also told her, in french, that if she eats the banana or orange or apple, then she won’t have hunger for dinner (literal translation). But she just looked at me with a confused face. I didn’t feel bad about it, because, again, we were told this at orientation. So, Bazzine leaves, and Daoda is standing outside the door, and I’m sitting on the bed reading a book, and she whispers something to Daoda. Daoda said something, which I didn’t understand, and then Bazzine runs back in forth in front of the door yelling it. I didn’t know what they were saying, and then I realized that they were angry that I hadn’t given them an orange. So I looked at Bazzine and said, “I don’t understand you.” And she responds saying that I am a fool. At this point, I was really annoyed, so I began putting all of my books away in the closet where they couldn’t see them, my glasses, and everything else of value. They kept running around in the hallways screaming the same thing I couldn’t understand. So I kicked them out of the room and closed the door. Bazzine ran to the little window that connects my room to the door and started chanting through that, so I closed the window, and she pushed it back open. At this point, I sat on the bed and put in my headphones. I stayed in my room until dinner because I didn’t want to deal with the two.

Honestly, Bazzine is the difficult one, and she’s the one who is always causing the trouble. Daoda is a sweetheart when Bazzine is not around, and she seems to poison him and get him all riled up. She’ll also do stuff to make him cry during the evenings when no one is looking.

Bazzine reminds me of the host sisters we had in Morocco. I was scared of them. There were six children total and the two youngest were girls. My favorite was Mohammad who was about 11 or so. He was a sweet heart. The two girls we lived with were terrifying. I don’t know what it is about little girls, maybe it’s a cultural thing. I wonder if all little girls are like this, or just at this age.

One day when I was walking across Pont Faidherbe, the bridge that connects the Island to the mainland, I decided to walk behind some school girls in the 15-yr-old age range. I assumed that would be a good idea and reduce harassment. However, that didn’t prevent me from getting hustled by them. One girl, like all the other people I run into on the street, started asking me for money. So, like always, I gave her a confused look and walked faster. At orientation, they told us not to give money to people in the streets either.

I mentioned this before somewhere (at least I think I did) was that they told us if you don’t say hello it’s considered rude. So, most of the time I say Bonjour to a student on my street (there’s also a school, so I figure it’s not too dangerous to say hello), and then they ask for 5 francs. (Always 5 francs, not sure why.) Then I tilt my head and give them a confused look. I feel that will be the majority of my time spent here. Tilted head accompanied with a confused look.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I didn't write anything for today. Class began today which is good. So, instead of writing a bunch, thought I'd just throw in some pictures. Enjoy!

My bed (before):

With the mosquito net! Yay!

last night's sunset:

Daoda, my host brother. He's about two, and he likes to walk back and forth in front of my door singing songs, or making faces, and always wearing his father's shoes, which makes it more hilarious. I sit there and make a different face everytime he walks by and he starts to scream and laugh. It's pretty entertaining.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Day 5 – le 4 janvier 2010

Today, nothing super exciting happened. We had orientation today, and got an official tour of the island. By that, I mean we were shown the good restaurants, bars, clubs, and internet café’s. I walked all the way into town, walked all over the island in circles, then walked all the way back. I think it takes me about 30 or 45 minutes to walk to la ville, as they call it, or the city. (So, I was probably walking for 2-ish hours with my heavy backpack.)

Today, I was able to get my hands on several things that I didn’t have with me. Like, mosquito repellent, a mosquito net, and a towel. The towel is very pretty. It has a flower, and it’s pink. Very pretty. Also, I took pictures of before and after of my mosquito net. I’m very excited about it. The main reason is because the last several days, my new hobby has been counting my mosquito bites. Last night, I wore a long sleeve shirt to bed, even though it was hot, and some how I managed to wake up with 5 NEW bites on my left elbow, even though there were absolutely none before, and it was covered up… But I’d like to see those crafty little bastards get to me now! HAHA!

After I came back and took a shower, I was taking a video of the house (soon to be posted) and my host mother calls to me saying that later we can take a picture all together with the kids. I thought at this time, that she might like to see pictures from the Touba Mosque, so I grabbed my computer and showed her pictures of the mosque, and the pictures I took on Saturday while walking around Saint-Louis. Then I showed her pictures of my family (She said that my mom was pretty), and then home. Of course, I showed her the prettiest pictures of Dutch Harbor, and only two or three of the winter. There were a couple of good pictures where the clouds were a bunch of different pictures that she liked. Then I showed her pictures of our macaw, Dutch, and the cat, Ole, in a face off on the couch. When I explained to her that Dutch and Ole do not like each other, she had a good laugh.

When I first got here, I think I was shy about my speaking abilities, and was a bit shell-shocked with all the French and the culture and everything, I had trouble speaking and stringing sentences together. Now that I’m getting more comfortable with my surroundings, all the vocabulary is beginning to come back to me. But I’m having trouble remembering the word for “summer.” I’ll figure it out later though…

While being here, I’ve had a couple of thoughts. One of them is that next time I go overseas, I’m going to have short hair. My long hair, while it’s nice that it’s easy to just put all of it back in a bun, is a pain whenever I need to take a shower, because it gets all matted up when I don’t take a shower everyday, and then I spend twenty minutes trying to brush it. It would be so much easier if I could just dunk my head in a bucket of water and soap it up. I’m not going to chop off my hair while I’m hear, but I definitely will next time before going overseas.

Anyway, later tonight, I’m going out with everyone else to hang out, and tomorrow, class starts at 2 pm, so I get to sleep in again. J But right now, it’s my nap time! I’m exhausted from all the walking.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Day 4 – Touba Mosque et dejeuner, Dimanche, le 3 janvier 2010

On Saturday night, I got a text from Emily saying that a group of people were going to go to the Touba Mosque. Not only had I not heard about it, but I also couldn’t find it in my book, so I really had no idea what to expect or if would even be that interesting. But in an effort to be social, get to know the other people better, and to do a little bit of exploring in Senegal, I said sure. I needed a boubou (traditional wear) to go to the mosque, so I borrowed my host mother’s. She is a large woman, and I was basically swimming in the boubou when I put in on.

In the morning, I met up with Emily, Patrice, and Vincent, and we proceeded to the gare routière, which is a place where you can get a sept place.

Before continuing, let me briefly explain both. A sept place, when translated basically means seven places. In these vehicles, there are seats for seven people, although it is very cramped. These vehicles travel between cities for example Saint-Louis and Touba, or Dakar and Saint-Louis. When I first landed, I took a sept place from Dakar to Saint-Louis, and was quite cramped. Second explanation, if you would like to get a sept place, you go to the gare routière, which every city has.

To continue, the trip took us about two and a half hours to get there. We switched to a taxi, after finding a toilet in OiLibya. The taxi took us right up to the mosque, and a generous tour guide looking for hire was there to greet us when we stepped out. I donned my grande boubou, and we began our tour. Little did the others know, but this tour was special for me. Not was it because it was the first one I had taken in Senegal, or that it was at the mosque, but it was the first tour I had taken in French. I didn’t understand most of it, but I understand more than I would have a year ago, which made me very happy. Patrice, Emily, and Vincent were all there to interpret and explain to me of course.

After wandering around the mosque, we went to visit a cemetery. In one place, the bodies were simply buried in the sand, with rugs over the top. I didn’t take a picture of the cemetery, because I wasn’t sure if I would offend anyone or not, so no pictures. After the tour, our tour guide offered us lunch at his house. So, we got into a taxi – 5 people, very cramped – and went to this man’s house. He has a very large family, and he is somehow related to the people who live across the street. The first woman we were introduced to was “le première” the second woman we met was “le troisième” and another woman stuck her head in latter and was “le duxième.” Basically, he had three wives. And probably between 13 – 20 kids. I didn’t count, but there were A LOT. The lunch was delicious, and we ended up going back to the gare routière. When we got there, there was a big hoo-hah, because there was a sept-place with only three seats available going to Saint-Louis. So, they kicked out one person, and put us in. I don’t know why it was such a big deal, we could’ve waited, but apparently that was not an option.

Now, honestly, the 3-hour return is probably more story worthy than the rest of the day combined. The reason is because the car that we got into was a piece of shit, frankly. That vehicle should have been decommissioned decades ago, but alas, it wa the vehicle we were stuck in. First off, when you looked at the driver, the first question is “Can he see?” His eyes looked a little funky, and we were sure that his eyesight was limited. Second, the car was falling apart, and the black exhaust came into the rear of the car every single time he accelerated. And he accelerated every chance he had. There are speed bumps for the purpose of slowing people down, however this man accelerated rapidly after every single speed bump, even if there was visibly another about 50 yards away. And again, everytime he accelerated, the exhaust came into the car. Oh, and I forgot to mention, the windows were stuck. They were open a couple of inches, but there was neither a door handle nor a way to unroll the window. And periodically throughout the trip, the door would open, scaring the man who was sitting there who was equally displeased about the vehicle.

Then, we pulled over. Turns out we had a flat tire. Quite frankly, I didn’t mind because it was very cramped in the last row. The worst part of the trip was when it started to get dark, and our driver kept drifting towards on coming traffic, then dodging out of the way at the last minute. A couple times he almost hit other vehicles, either head on, or a broken down truck on our side of the road. When we started getting close to the city, he almost ran over a biker, almost hit horse drawn carts, other vehicles. We were all on edge.

We safely made it back, and when I got into my house, the power was out. So, I had a weird dinner of this curdled milk/yogurt and malt-o-meal. That’s the best way I can describe. It’s probably the first time that I could barely eat something because I really didn’t like it. I took two lactaid just to be safe. (Side note: In the last couple of months I’ve become REALLY sensitive to lactose. I don’t know if I’m completely intolerant, but somewhere on that scale.)

After eating the dinner, I fell asleep, at 8 PM. And got up at 9 AM this morning. I’m really enjoying it here because I am SO RELAXED. No pressure, no schedule. I just know when I’m supposed to eat, and in the mean time I read, dink around on my computer, go for walks in town, etc. And it’s really nice.

The flat tire, and the worse vehicle in Senegal.

The family we ate lunch with... ALL of them.

The mosque. The marble came from Italy, and wooden doors from trees in Portugal (if I understood the guide correctly.)

Day 3 – J’ai vais au marché

Today, I went for a walk. I didn’t really know how far I was going to go, or where I was headed to, but that didn’t really matter. I went out to the main street and started heading towards the island. My host family lives on the mainland, also known as Sor, and the original city was built on the island in the Senegal river. The island is also known as Ndar. On the island there is the north side and the south side. Today, I walked around the north side. But before getting to that point, I had to walk through the market. One major difference I noticed while being here is that not a lot of people acknowledge me. Some of the salesmen do, but other than that, I can walk along minding my own business. While in Morocco and Egypt, everyone was very forward and constantly trying to get us to go into their shop to buy perfume or jewelry or papyrus, or whatever really. But here, it is not the case. Even if they weren’t trying to get us to purchase something, they wanted to follow us and talk to us. While I was walking through the market area, only one person tried to get me to stop and talk to him. This surprised me, because he actually reached out and grabbed my arm. In Morocco or Egypt, this never would have happened. So, while I was relatively ignored, when I wasn’t ignored, it was a little more forceful.

I walked across the Pont Faidherbe, the bridge that between the mainland (Sor) and the Island. I wandered around the island until I got tired and took a Taxi home. I took a few pictures, which are also attached.

There was nothing relatively interesting during the walk. A bunch of goats running around unleashed, a plethora of garbage in the streets, beggars, salesmen, etc. But there was one interesting event that you might appreciate hearing. As soon as I got on the island, I decided to walk around the edge. My ambitious goal was to walk all the way around, but I got tired before then and didn’t finish. However, when I first started walking, this man came up to me and started pestering me. He wouldn’t stop. I said “Bonjour” and “Je ne vous comprenez pas” Which means I don’t understand you. THEN that wiley salesmen switched to English! I didn’t respond, then he tried Spanish. At this point, he had been following me for about 20 feet, so I turned to him and said “Jeg kommer fra Norge, kan du snakker norsk?” Which means (in Norwegian, obviously) I am from Norway, can you speak Norwegian. He kept trying languages, and I spouted a couple of non-sensical things like “Jeg er sulten,” “Jeg vil ha vahn” and “Je vil ha flaere vafler.” Which mean “I am hungry,” “I would like some water” and “I would like another waffle.” Yeah, he stopped following me. :D

The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful, and I successfully returned to my homestay, took a nap, ate dinner, finished the book: A year of living biblically, and started reading The End of Poverty.

Disclaimer: I can't figure out how to not have that underlined above. Sorry.

Photo 1 - Pont Faidherbe. Sorry about the awkward corner things. It was the thing on my camera, I didn't notice it while taking the picture. But you get the point. The bridge is also falling apart, so they're in the process of fixing it, which makes traffic a complete nightmare. Their solution for when they start tearing the thing apart - Ferries...

Picture 2 - Random goat.

The river between the Island and the peninsula.