Sunday, January 10, 2010

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.

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