Saturday, December 31, 2011

Waterfall Holiday

Christmas is Kedougou was a great idea that manifested into nothing less than an unforgettable trip. On my way out of vil, I met 4 volunteers from different regions and a traveller from Colorado to share the cozy ride from Tamba to Gou. Going to the garage is always an event, so we started out strong at 7 am by buying out the sept place (7 passenger car). The garagemen twiddled their thumbs, our driver didn't come for another hour, and they still had the nerve to ask for more money for our baggage. After much banter, we were on route and did not pay a cfa more.
The 232 Km road is under construction, which begins to explain the creatively masked volunteers, but to fully understand, you have to see the clouds of dust that are kicked up and consequently caked onto our once (somewhat) clean clothing. Kedougou is beautiful and has a much more curvaceous landscape than Kolda (my region), but with that also comes this orange Georgia-like clay.

Christmas was merry, warm, and involved a volunteer style gift exchange. Several gifts (like Frank's bike seat cover hat and small shorts) were rather comical, as depicted. My first gift of girly bin bins (tummy necklace) and a skirt wrap were stolen, naturally. I became a gift thief in return and made off with 4 pair of toe socks that I can concider pairing with my chacos, Christmas lights that I donated because I dont have electricity, and a spongebob shirt that surprisd me with creepy glow in the dark eyes. We had live music from the very best Gou volunteers and plenty of shared treats.

The day after Christmas may have been a relax (or perhaps recover day), but we still planned a 20 Pizza dinner feast (which may have surpassed Christmas dinner). We made an impressive assembly line through dough and veggies to our outdoor oven pit. My nana would have fell out if she saw the kitchen aftermath.

More funfilled activities followed during our holiday week. We biked southwest of the city for about 2 hours to Dindefelo, which offers a little hike to waterfalls! We stopped several times along the way to ask locals if we were headed in the right direction. Although we made it, we still didn't follow the fun bush path that we wanted. Dindefelo is an odd city that has a surprising amount of tourism and as a result, a load of grumpy locals. We stayed with the patron man of the town. Within his compound sat at least 50 locals, surrounding a small tv. This man runs town. He offered us a hut, dinner, broken Engish conversation, and breakfast the next morning. Because I was so tired from biking and hiking, bed was the only thing entertaining my mind.
The next day we were somewhat recharged and able to visit the 2 nearby villages that house new volunteers. Its always refreshing to see other sites, what they have going on, and to talk to a different set of people (or at least try). Old men that sit under shade trees seem to be the best teachers. They have all the time in the world to sort through my nonsense. We kicked off with our bikes just before dark for a beautiful sunsetting ride that ended under the moon, just after fighting our way up what I complained to be a series of ten-minute hills.
I love Kedougou.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in Kedougou

Summer seems to have drawn out over my nearly 4 month stay in Senegal, but it is now December. Although it may not feel like it for several unfamiliar reasons, its Christmas time!
Being away from my family for the holiday has phased me a few times, but spending it with people that can relate and cooking deliciously fatty food all day makes a world of a difference.
--Merry Christmas--
Im somewhat of a traitor to my region of Kolda (dont let them hear that thought), I have ventured out for yet another holiday to visit my distant neighbors in Kedougou. I've been spending this time lounging in hammocks and sharing marshmallows (sent from the States) by the fireside with a handful of volunteers, all dusty from their persistent Kedougou dirt.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Marathon for Education
Help the young women of Senegal! We are having a Peace Corps Marathon in the picturesque city of Tambacounda (Tambacounda Marathon)to raise money and awareness about the importance of keeping the rising leaders of Senegal and West Africa in school, especially the young and inspiring Senegalese female students (because as Beyonce put it in her catchy song, Girls Run the World). What we truly need from you is your support and even the support of your company. It has been made easy to donate, just follow the link and click "donate" with the comment memo section reading "Marathon for Education." Dont forget that this is Tax Deductable!
Our goal is to raise lots of mula for girls' scholarships, leadership camps and youth groups. No amount is too little or too big!
For donations:
*Click on donate and write 'Marathon for Education' in the comment section.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kolda Regional House

Im at the Kolda Regional House, which surprisingly took only 2 hours by car (115 km). We came together for regional meetings to discuss current projects and future interests. I still need to find out what my village is truly interested in so they will work on it without depending on me. There are a plethora of projects that I would love to stick my thumb into, but people often make the mistake of talking the community into projects that later fail because they they only showed interest to make the volunteer happy.
1.) With support, I would love to work on pre-elementary education because children here do not get the chance to do basic things like define motor skills by coloring or learn the importance of handwashing before snack time. As a result, they go to school without ever holding a pen, writing their name, oh, and speaking french, the language of schoolhouses.
2.) I am also interested in the collaboration of a fruit orchard with bee keeping. There are more than enough mango trees around, but cashew and citrus expansion could be a focus.
3.) Speaking of Mangoes, I will soon have the opportunity to learn about solar fruit driers. If my village (or a surrounding vil) could package mangoes, they could even have the chance to market them. Lets take this one step at a time.
4.) Agroforestry is my title, so trees are my game. Along with drying the fruit, I want to learn about grafting for improved varieties of fruit.
5.) The obvious: I will be trying to teach better gardening techniques, implement the use of compost, and discuss nutrition and health practices.
After the meetings, we decided to spent our night together at the kitchen table with arts and crafts. (crayons, scissors, stickers!) Yes, it may have been a little resemblant of a fifth grade group project the night before the due date, but it was heart-warming nevertheless. We colored 40 nametags and posted them by our beloved hometowns.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


If only I knew how many pounds, or rather kilos, of food I consumed during Thanksgiving in the Tamba house with about 20 other volunteers. Luckily we had a few older volunteers with mothers that sent over a few very precious ingredients for the day including Marshmellows and cider drink mix, which was out of this world. Because the turkeys were a little pricy and the processing of the frozen birds is unknown, we got 5 chickens instead. Five. We baked two and beer can grilled the rest. We benefitted from the delicious taste and protein, but bypassed the tryptophan! Mind you, we managed this entire familiar, comforting feast on mostly substituted ingredients and a lot of work in one small kitchen with a gas oven (that I needed help lighting).
Summary: Thanksgiving was a success.