Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Week and a Little Update

Good thing all of the thousands that read my blog don’t pay money for a subscription, otherwise you would be mighty upset with the time between this post and my last. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.
My last week was great! I had the chance to go to Dakar and stay in a fancy hotel for three nights with some of my best friends in my stage (training class). Our time was filled with air conditioning, amazing food (great sushi in Dakar, who knew?), laying by the pool, watching Christmas movies, exchanging Christmas gifts, and in my case sleeping three to a bed in search of a cheaper vacation. I am sure you have seen the pictures that I posted on Facebook so I am not going to go into too much detail but I received a hand woven little basket that now houses my jewelry along with a necklace and bracelet made of elephant tusks. Shout out to Marsha who was my secret Santa, great gift!! I was given the wonderful opportunity to get a secret Santa present for Trevon who just so happens to be the pickiest person I know, he might argue he just has great taste. You could just about imagine how much fun it was to shop for him and being my predictable self I waited until the day before I left site to try to find him something. He “non-chalently” told me on the phone one day that if I had him I could just get him a Pular hat. Acting about as sly as I could muster up I laughed it off and told him he wish I had him. So it was official, I now had to find a Pular hat for him. I know he wants one and I live in Pular country. What is a Pular hat you may ask? Well Pular is an ethnic group originating from Guinea but are all over Africa now. I am apart of this group as I learned Pula Futa during training, which is just one of the many dialects of the Pular group. The Pular people live in the south of Senegal, as do I, and are known to work in fields. They have this infamous almost Chinaman-like hat hand woven of wood used to keep the sun off them in the fields. You can find people wearing them everywhere down south and though they look a bit ridiculous the hats are great for protecting yourself from the sun. I ended up finding a man who makes them and he told me he could come up with something in the 24 hour deadline that I had before I left for Dakar. I was expecting something with brown or black leather but the artist was feeling fancy I guess because on the hat there was red, green, and yellow died leather. Oh well, it looked great and he loved it. Success.
Being away for Christmas is always hard but it makes me even more thankful for everyone that I left behind. I truly do have a great family, and I am not just talking about my immediate. I am fortunate to have people back home that care enough about me to Skype with me or send me care packages of all the things I am missing back home. Every day that I am here I am reminded, literally reminded by people telling me, that I am getting older, I need to get married and start a family. Though I do support people who make those decisions for their own lives it is not what I want, at least not right now, and I am thankful for a family who respects that. If I belonged to just one of hundreds of other cultures around the world I would not have the opportunity to further my education, travel, and have a career. Thank you family for being who you are, the loving, noisy yet ever so entertaining group that you are; this goes for both sides. It’s late but Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël (French), and Ala Okuma Ko Moyi (Pular).
I am planning on staying in Velingara and spending the New Year with my family. I have been traveling a lot lately with the holidays and mandatory trainings and am honestly a little interested to see just how the Senegalese welcome the New Year. Omar, a friend of my brothers, said they kill a chicken, make salad and the kids light off fireworks. Besides the chicken part it sounds like a great time to me! Updates to come.
And as a side note I feel like I need to mention the latest intruder that I have found in my room. A toad. Or maybe it was a frog. Not really sure he was too hoppy for me to take a good look at him but he was less of a hassle to chase out of my room than the usual suspects so I am thankful for that.
And finally, as sort of a time filler and to help out my fellow volunteers I have been writing articles for our CED Newsletter (Community Economic Development, the program that I am in if you have been following along in past posts). None of the pieces are works of art but they are informative. The newsletters come out quarterly so it’s not too much of a commitment, which I like. I will start to post either my more interesting articles or the whole newsletter in case any of you feel like you don’t read enough about life on the big continent. Take care my fellow readers, thanks for taking time to see life through my eyes and until next time.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Spiderman & Batman

This last weekend I was in Tambacounda, only about two hours north east of me, for the annual Marathon for Girls Education. This was the second time that the marathon was held and I would consider it to be a huge success. There is a small entry fee, 1000 CFA that is the equivalent to about $2, and money earned both in fundraising and donations is given towards girls’ education in Senegal (scholarships, girls camps, youth groups and other empowerment activities).

Sunday, December 2, 2012

This Awkward Chapter In A Story Called Life

There are things that everyone who lives abroad experiences; those awkward moments that occur because of a lack of complete comprehension of our cultural differences. The simplest form of this would be language. Sure you can study a language in school or visit somewhere and read Survival French on the plane but until you are truly fluent in a language awkward moments are a sure bet, and honestly even then can never really be totally dismissed.
Being a volunteer immersed in a culture where the interactions that I have with people are 80% of the time in a language different than either of our firsts there are bound to be moments that you walk away from saying, did I really just say that? A perfect example would be the other morning I was at the bank with Amadou, my wonderful work partner, and while leaving I said to the security guard “nous sommes fini,” which translates to "we are finished." I thought I was joking with him because we were at the bank all morning and I wanted to emphasize that me and my work partner were finally done with everything there so we were leaving. Though I said “we are finished” in the context it was interpreted as though "I am done being friends with you;" I should have said “nous avons fini.” On top of all of this he is related to my family in some long complicated way so adding to the awkwardness of telling the security guard at the bank that I see on a weekly basis that I no longer want to be friends with him, I get to see him when he visits my house. Don’t worry Amadou informed me of what I said after we left the bank and it was too late to correct my misspoken words and misinterpretation of the French language. Amadou just laughed but I continued on our walk home with a lack of excitement for the next time I see this security guard that is probably questioning what he did wrong.
Another perfect example; I was on my run the other morning and there was a donkey cart carrying fencing with a boy standing next to the donkey adjusting his harness. As I was approaching, I was preparing to pass the donkey cart on the right and thought nothing of it; cars pass these carts all the time. The cart started to move and, what looked like the boy getting ready to take off again, he started yelling something at me. With my headphones in I couldn’t quite hear what he was saying. Once the donkey started moving a bit quicker with the boy appearing to chase him and waving at me to go to the other side of the street I put two and two together; the donkey thought I was chasing it and with cart still connected started to run from what he thought was a threat. Just before passing the boy and cart I quick jumped to the other side of the road apologizing while continuing on my way. I let out a little laugh and shrugged my shoulders and the boy smiled. Who would have thought that’s its ok for cars that are ten times my size and weight to pass these animals without a problem should you come up to one on a run you should cross to the other side of the road out of respect.
My last example I wanted to share because it was an awkward moment that I actually benefited from. I went to the corner shop to buy laundry soap when I suddenly got a hankering for a bag of Crax Chips; comparable to Cheetos but not nearly as cheesy. Apparently Crax makes both a cheese and a sugary flavor of these puffs so I asked for the cheese kind. I shared a look of confusion with the boutique owner, who doesn’t speak much French, but didn’t think much of it. I paid him before I received my goods so when he turned around with my items I could no nothing other than accept the misunderstanding and continue on my way. What was this miscommunication you ask? I got my bag of puffs, which was the sweet kind that I hate, and a slice of Laughing Cow cheese that, unknown to man, never needs to be refrigerated. I secretly love Laughing Cow triangles but never buy them because I am not even sure that they made of. I gave the puffs to the kids and ate the cheese.
While in the moment it’s hard to think how these awkward situations are going to benefit me in the future but I know they will. Everything that I am doing in my life here is preparing me to live and appreciate life back home. I can’t imagine using these tricks very often but when the time comes to dismiss a relationship or dodge animals in the road I will be a pro. 

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