Friday, September 21, 2012

Its The Simple Things: Waterfalls and Teddy Grahams

I just spent six nights in Kedagou, another region here in Southern Senegal, for a language seminar. About a month after install everyone meets up with a few people from their class, who also learned the same language during training, to answer any questions that may have come up regarding language during our first stint at site; many volunteers find it to be more of a review.
Since language seminar is more relaxed than actual PST we had plenty of free time. Something that volunteers tend to do a lot in their free time, especially while at regional houses where there is the luxury of a stove and oven, is cook. We made a good combo of foods from all around the world. One of the foods that I made, and was very proud of, was boiled peanuts. Considering my cooking abilities I was surprisingly shocked on how they turned out. Peanuts are in season here, and like all foods that are in season, you tend to feel like you are overdosing. Since I couldn’t think about eating any more roasted peanuts, looking for another texture, I remembered my mom boiling peanuts as sort of a treat. They tasted just as good as I remember.
To take up some time Diane, Anthony, Kyle and I decided to bike to a waterfall that is about 5km (about three miles) from Kyle’s village. Considering we were about 25km (about 15.5 miles) from Kyle’s village in the first place this was just the thing to take up a good part of the day. Our language teacher is not much of the outdoors type so she decided to catch a ride with one of the house’s security guards on his motorcycle. The bike ride took us about 2.5 hours to get there and it was quite the ride. 25 miles is a good distance on a bike in the states but considering we are in Africa it’s a hell of a hike. We are riding in the rainy season which means, even though it’s not raining, the roads consist of mud and potholes filled with water. Have you ever tried biking in wet mud/sand? It’s hard to say the least. We were all champs and I think I did pretty well keeping up with the pack considering I have never biked that far at once in my life. Once we got to the closest village to the waterfall we devoured an omelet baguette sandwich and then started our 45-minute hike into the forest. This is something that I was more used to; it reminded me of a lot of the hikes that I used to do in Hawaii.  After passing streams where women washed cloths, trees where orangutans howled, and paths where centipedes were making themselves known we reached the waterfall at last. It was a long day but well worth the trip. Kyle told us that apparently the waterfall we were at, Dindefello, is taller than Niagra Falls; not nearly the width which made it appear to be smaller but in fact it was taller. We swam in the cold water, not as cold as I remember Hawaii’s waterfall swimming holes to be, and lay out of the rocks. It was a nice break from the Senegal that we were more familiar with.
We were reassured that there would be a car waiting in the village; they leave regularly from this spot considering it is mildly touristy. I am not sure why I believed a small village 25k off a main road would have cars that leave regularly but needless to say, it didn’t. Diane and Anthony said they would bike back to Kedagou if it was the only option while I said that I would be willing to try ANY other option, ie sleeping at Kyle’s until the morning when there is a car. By a stroke of luck another local NGO, AfriCare, would be riding through Kyle’s village a couple hours later and going straight to Kedagou. We took the ride. Four grown adults in the back of a pickup; air conditioning blasting (almost too cold but I was not about to complain), smelling like we have been biking and hiking all day while our heads are filled with a hint of motion sickness from dodging potholes, but we made it just as it was beginning to get dark. Once we were home, showered, and fed, I can honestly look back on the day and say it was great.
I am not sure if I developed sensitivity to dairy or had a stint of bad luck but I believe the strawberry milk that I indulged in the following night was trying to end my life. I was tired from the day before, and looking forward to continue my book by Bill Clinton called Giving, so I went to bed early after drinking strawberry milk, made of whole milk, with dinner. Upon falling asleep I was awaken a couple of hours later with stomach pains worse than I have ever had in my life. The stomach pains were accompanied by bowel movements, no details needed, and this went on all night. There was no sleeping, just laying, staring at the ceiling trying to convince myself to fall asleep. I would get up to grab water, though I didn’t want to drink much because it would just make me have to go to the bathroom even more than I already had to. While getting water the smell of the kitchen would make me nauseous so I would lie down in the hammocks, then I would get cold and move inside, to then be interrupted into going to the bathroom again. This rotation happened about four times in the night resulting in about three hours of sleep. The five-hour car ride back home, not including waiting time for public transportation that ended up totaling eight hours, seemed longer than it already was. I am only sticking with fake dairy from now on, if any.
Diane and I caught a ride with a Peace Corps car to Tambacounda, which not only saved us about 3000CFA each but also eliminated having to squish in a septplace, listening to locals screaming in foreign languages, and the occasional smack on the head as a result of fans being waved. We were dropped off at the garage, what the public transportation depot is known as, and waited over two hours four our septplace to Velingara to sell all seven tickets. We passed the time with some quality people watching, drinking over sweetened juice slushy’s, eating omelet and baguette sandwiches and watching men sell car tickets as they make tea and clearly worry free that our car is going nowhere fast.
Finally reaching Velingara, after the longest 24 hours of my life, Diane told me it was not necessary to wait for her bus that takes her to her village; I was glad she told me to go home. I usually wait at the garage to make sure that 1-there is a bus for her 2-she gets on it and 3- it actually leaves town, since there is not much I can do once it leaves town, but today I could barley keep my eyes open after the night I had and the prolonged day of waiting for public transportation. I ran home, put on a smile for my family since I didn’t want to explain why I was so tired, took a bath and called it a night. Sure it was only 5pm but I blamed it on my long trip from Kedagou and I went straight to bed. I woke up for a couple hour rally at 1am to watch Its Complicated (good movie by the way), not feeling the best but better, and didn’t wake up again until 9:30am. The sleep and water was all I needed to feel back to normal. Alhamdillilah.
It had been a while since mom and dad said they sent their package so I decided once I woke up from my coma that I would rush to the Post Office. Sure enough there was a package for a Kelly Blodge, I just assumed that it was for me. I paid the 1000CFA to get it, a customs fee, and the postal worker smashed it into my bag as an attempt to help, and we will find out if anything valuable was in it I guess. Once I got home I went into my room, shut the curtain, and began to open the package from my parents in private, not wanting my family to see that I got something. There is no real reason not to show them other than the kids would want everything in it and my brother would be convinced that I am even more rich than he already thinks Americans are. Velveeta Cheese and Life Savers don’t make one rich but to an African it’s all the same, goods from America. I am not quite sure how my parents did it, not sure if I should credit mom or dad or both, but they sure did hit the nail on the head with this one; Teddy Grahams, Velveeta Cheese, Granola Bars, Furikaki Seasoning, Soy Sauce, Dried Mushrooms and Strawberries, Drink Mixes, Instant Potatoes, Trail Mix, Sprinkle Butter, Soup and Pesto Packets, Life Savers, Gum (naturally sweetened with 100% Xylitol for positive oral health benefits - thanks mom) and Werther's Candy. I did end up giving the box to Nene who was shocked that I was going to throw it in the trash for biodegradable items; I thought I was recycling but she took it a step further and made everyone in the family a fan. I have no idea how I am going to ration all of these items or what I am going to eat first, obviously Teddy Grahams were opened immediately, but what next? To make this day even better they also emailed me a code for an iTunes gift card, GREAT GIFT. I didn’t realize how much the gift card was for until I redeemed it and, again, I am not sure how I am going to ration my music purchases or what I am going to buy. Maybe a few workout tracks, some good ol’ classics, maybe something local? Time will tell.
Considering how, well negative, my last post was and to the couple of people who actually read it and expressed concern about how I was doing, I hope this post answers that. I had a great week, besides the milk situation, and now have plenty of things, between the music credit and package, to remind me of home for those hard times. A little shout out to mom and dad, you know who you are, you are the best. A strong support network back home is key to having a successful experience abroad and you guys score an A+. If your lucky when you come to visit I will cook you some noodles and Velveeta accompanied with kool-aid. Yum.



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