Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Playing Catch Up

I have spent the last month or so at site and it, thank god, did not seem that long. Lately I have been getting out of site every two or three weeks because of an event or work function taking place and I am pretty sure my family thinks one of two things: 1) I am the typical American that has a lot of money and just travels all the time – not true except for the love to travel all the time or 2) they believe me when I tell them that I am leaving for work and they think I work all the time. Either way having some time apart keeps me sane, like most families I enjoy them more when I get breaks from them, and they don’t have a foreigner on their hands so we both win.
Trevon and I told Alexx back in September that we would help her with a week long fieldtrip at her site for the kids in Dakar that attend an international school; they are made up of kids who parents could be military (very few) or working for an organization be it governmental or not.  So we are in Palmarin this week staying at a lodge entertaining a group of 14-16 year olds. My tiny contribution in helping Alexx plan small events to keep the kids busy during idle times was to come up with a star gazing activity. I figured we could search for some constellations in the sky, point out some planets, and just take in how beautiful the sky is when you are out of the city. Of course this took some major research on my part since I don’t think I have actually studied the stars since the 8th grade. It was a good review and I found out some very interesting facts! Did you know stars that have a bluish hue are hotter in surface temperature than those that give off a reddish hue; opposite than you would think? Also a shooting star is the visible path of a meteoroid entering the earths atmosphere and burning up resulting in the light; not a star at all! The best part of volunteering to help with the trip is that our lodging is on the beach and the school is paying for that and our meals. Sounds like a mini vacation to me. I will be sure to report more at the end of the week once they leave.
So I think by now you all know about my project with Waste Management, cleaning up Senegal one village at a time. I have been trying to get Amadou more involved in the books side of things with our organization so he can keep and analyze our records from a business point of view. I finally have him recording each deposit and withdraw transaction at the bank and also purchases we make (repairing our cart, buying donkey food, ect.) for the business. Before I left we actually totaled up the amount of money we should be earning each month if all of the households pay and, no surprise there, we are making less than it costs of the salary of our only employee. Well that is obviously not the business strategy that we were going for so we are going to have to refigure some things and gain new clients. This will be my main focus when I get back to site. We also want to start buying plastics from the community and selling it back to a company in Dakar that reuses it to make all sorts of plastic items from chairs to buckets, just another way for our organization to earn some money. I have a meeting with the plastics company in about a week or so, so hopefully that goes well and we can start the buying of the plastics.
A smaller side project that I have been in works with is a letter exchange program with a school in Minnesota with some students in a nearby village; the teacher, Mr. Ba, is starting an English club and wants my help to expand the program. The teacher that I am working with in the states has more than 200 hundred students so we are working on narrowing down the pool to less than 50 because there are nowhere near that many students here with enough English skills to communicate with a pen pal. Also, randomly, there is a teacher in England that contacted me looking for French speaking students to correspond with some students in her French club. I hope it all works out because it will be a pretty cool way for the students to interact with kids their own age and learn about a new culture.
Of course my day is filled with awkward moments but one of the more recent events that comes to mind is talking money with my host brother. I recently overheard him talking to potential renters about the price it would be to rent a room in the house and I was both amazed and appalled that he was charging me twice as much (I was also very excited that I knew what he was talking about since it was a mix in French and Pular). One minute I hear that I am like a part of the family and they would have no problem if I didn’t contribute anything to live there but then the next I am being charged like some foreigner that doesn’t know any better. So after much consideration, about five seconds, I decided to confront him about the money situation. It took me a couple of days to come up with enough nerve to ask him, and careful talks with Alexx ensuring me that I could do this, but once I did finally talk to him I felt a huge sense of relief.  My work partner came over, we had a meeting with him, my brother, and my mom and we sorted things out. He basically said that he doesn’t want me to feel like the family is taking advantage of me and that I could pay nothing and it would affect nothing (still trying to figure out why I pay rent then, urgh?). My new years resolution is to speak my mind more because I feel like things either happen to me or I witness things where after I look back on it I wish I would have said something, especially since it will give me a peaceful mind if I would just speak up. So I am working on it and I feel like I am doing a pretty good job thus far; 11 months left in order to ACTUALLY keep a resolution that I made.
Take care everyone, thanks for reading again its great to know that there are a few people that are following along with my adventures.


Carol Blodgett said...

Again my love you did a wonderful job.I enjoy reading them. Did you get any packages yet?

Kari Cinker said...

Agreed! I love reading your blogs. Keep me posted on the business, I think it's really interesting and it's such a great experience for you :) When can I come visit?!? Have you gotten my package yet?!?!?!?


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