Friday, May 8, 2009

My bucket is my everything

Hello from Linguere, Senegal. This is the first time I've actually gotten online and written on this blog-site since coming to Senegal (and only my 2nd post altogether). What can I say about Senegal...? Well, it's hot for one thing. I am living in a Sahelian village in north central Senegal where currently the daily temperatures are averaging 115 deg! For a girl from the Northwestern part of the U.S. this is crazily hot. The name of my village is Mbadienne and is the home of about 200 souls. The language spoken there is Wolof. So as I adjust to the heat and slowly begin my work as a Peace Corps Volunteer (working as a rural health educator), I am also undergoing the exciting challenge of learning this Senegalese tribal language! Lu ci epp dafa jafe, wante itam baax na!

I am so glad to be here. Some might call me crazy, but it's true nonetheless. I will and am adjusting to the heat, and besides which the rainy season comes next month and things cool down. I find this area beautiful; it is essentially a desert, but with plenty of green trees and vegetation. I pass camels on my 2 kilometer bike ride between Mbadienne and Linguere. The pace of life is relaxed here and everyone takes a siesta between 1 and 3 or 4 in the afternoon (mostly because it's so hot- at least at this time of year). I really love the idea and practice of siestas, though, no matter what the weather is doing.

 I also have a really great host family. My dad, Aada Poumane is the chef de willas (village chief) of Mbadienne and my family consists of my parents, 2 sisters at home and 3 brothers. There are also 3 sisters away from home. Some of my siblings are cousins, but one of the wonderful aspects of Senegalese culture, I think, is that extended family really is "family." Cousins really are looked at as brothers and sisters, and so are friends a lot of the time. Same goes with aunts, uncles, parents, etc. Want a mom, you've got 5.

Speaking of moms, I really hit the jackpot as far as host moms are concerned. Granted I've only been in my village for 2 weeks, but some things are just obvious from the start! My mom talks to me all the time and somehow we understand each other even though my Wolof is pretty minimal still and she speaks no English (and suddenly my Wolof is improving in leaps and bounds)!. She brings me ice for my water from nearby Linguere every day after working there in the daily market as a vendor. She feeds me as though I were starving, (and is a wonderful cook, too). I could go on about how great my mom is but will leave it for another blog posting.

Getting back to why I'm enjoying being here ('cause at this point I don't want to stop), I also love the fact that people here dace. Music and dance are so ingrained in the culture that 3 and 4 year olds get up and throw down amazing dance moves while 6 year olds pound out tight rythyms on buckets or whatever is handy and somewhat resembles a drum.
 Another thing I love is the relative simplicity of life here. For example, one big bucket serves as my shower, my dishwasher, my clothes washing machine, and my toilet flusher. On that note, my toilet is a hole in the ground! I couldn't be happier with the current state of my daily water and electricity usage which is 0 electricity (since there is none in my village) and one big bucket of water, (and part of that bucket of water also goes into my water filter and is what I drink throughout the day). It's amazing how little we need to get by when it comes down to it. Of course air conditioning would make life a lot more pleasant when it's 110 deg in the shade, but who really needs it?! I am glad to be learning the value of living with less, that's all I can say!

Speaking of less, one thing that I could do with less of is scorpions in my back yard. In my 2 weeks here I have seen 3 of them, and alas, they really freak me out. I need to come to terms with them I've decided because they are the neighbors that simply aren't going to leave. My desensitizing myself to the fear of them, however, might take a while. I currently sleep in my back yard which is an enclosed area behind my hut, and so what if my yard is sand, it's still my yard! I have a camp cot out there with a mosquito net jerry- rigged over it and I only somewhat jokingly call it my scorpion net.

Yep, life is interesting. There are many things that I could be doing with my life other than this right now, but why?! Peace Corps is not easy; my work projects once they really get started undoubtedly won't be easy. But I am so glad the have followed my desire to do this. For when some things call I really believe we have to listen.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Getting there

Here I am with 2 days to go until I head to Senegal (through the Peace Corps). I am scared, sure, but also incredibly ready for this change in my life. I am even excited at the prospect of mostly leaving the use of English behind. Yes, there will be challenges, but hey, what's not to like about a challenge?