So THAT’S Why They Call it a Farmer’s Tan: Jamie in the Field

11:45 PM (local time), Saturday night:

So I am writing this post on Microsoft Word because, currently, the internet is down. I will upload it as soon as I can get on a comp and access the internet.

Today was hella tiring. We got up and had breakfast, then went to an ag meeting. The PC likes shortening everything/acronyms (<~~ reason I am here…these are my people). UAg = urban agriculture (aka ME…there are only 10 of us). Ag = rural/sustainable agriculture. Agfo = agroforestry. SED = small enterprise development. At the meeting, we learned about composting, and we finally left the classroom to go do things. All the aggies made a meter-tall compost pile. Twas interesting. We combined dry leaves with green leaves, dirt, and manure. We built it up in a pile then stuffed a stick in it. A couple hours later, we pulled the stick up, and it was super hot. Compost is really good for plants.

We then broke for lunch. More “around the bowl”. Dessert was apples (golden delicious).

We went back and started a demo plot. I have very little agricultural experience, so this is all very interesting to me. I learned SO MUCH today. Every aggie should have a demo plot to show people. It’s necessary to prove that you know what you’re talking about, and you can actually grow. They make great examples. Ag volunteers are merely catalysts. We don’t come in as experts, expecting everyone to trust/listen to us. We come in and introduce new techniques to local farmers, teach them, and help/answer questions. The demo plot had 3 techniques (and for those of you who don’t care, skip down):

DOUBLE DIGGING: Basically, soil is super compressed, and a lot of farmer’s plant too shallow. Double digging is when you dig down, then dig down again, so that the soil is loose, which makes it easier for the plants to grow and the roots to dig.

TARP (I DON’T KNOW THE REAL NAME): You build a shallow pit and line it with tarp. You then cut holes in the tarp and fill in the hole with dirt. You plant a bed. This technique keeps the water in one place (but the holes are there so the plants don’t flood). It waters the plants slower.

SINGLE DIGGING: Double digging, but stop after the first dig.

We also planted a “nursery” bed, where we will plant some things, then transplant them to the demo plots later (idk why).

I actually liked it. It was HOT, and I got a little burned (say nothing, Lindsey/Mama). My normal Florida farmer’s tan has evolved into this epic, Senegalese, holy-shit-the-color-difference-is-ridic-/-embarrassing-for-me farmer’s tan. Tools I used: shovel, rake, hoe (the joke’s too obvious, so I’ll refrain…haha…hoe), MACHETE OMG (not kidding…I rocked the hell out of it, and all 7.2 of my toes are still intact). Number of blisters: a lot. Makes me think of rowing in HS. My calloused hands turned to butter these last 4 years, and now I have to dirty them up again.

After growin’, we broke for security training. We learned how to protect ourselves in cities and what to do when hailing a cab, etc. We then, and I am not lying, LEFT THE COMPOUND. We have been cooped up in here like British Claymation chickens for five days, and we finally left. Apparently, right outside the PC Training Center, it’s super dangerous. They call it THE RED ZONE. We aren’t allowed there. They gave us a map which tells us the safe route through it to the main road. We stayed with the security guy, Etienne, and stayed all together. The locals were nice. Here’s what went down:

They waved, and we waved back.

They called us “foreigners” in Wolof (which is “toubab”), we still waved.

One woman tried to sell Tatiana her baby. She was like “WTF”, and Etienne had to fix it.

Ya know, normal stuff.

After security training, we had BIKE TRAINING OMG. I have a bike now! It’s blue (Sca-rah, name it ASAP). I got to pick one and test drive it, and I got a sticker w/ my name on it, and it’s on the bike. It’s mine for the next 27 months (then I have to give it back). The bike comes with tools to fix it (pump, etc). I am excited about the bikin’.

Tomorrow is gonna be good. We get our training site assignments! Basically, training is here in Thiés for 9 weeks, but we are separated depending on the language we speak. We have a host family (that we move in with Monday), and then we switch to either an apartment or a different host family in our real sites. I learned today that, of the 10 assignments (there are 10 UAgs), 7 are Wolof (pronounced wall-off) and 3 are Pulaar (another local language). That means I am either gonna learn Wolof or Pulaar. I still have to learn a lot of French though because French is thrown into everyday conversation A LOT. I kinda want to learn Pulaar because apparently they speak it in 27 African countries. There’s a 30% chance I will learn it, I guess.

So, I am going to bed. It’s annoying that I can’t post this. It’s just gonna uselessly sit on my desktop, unread by the general populous, for a number of hours. These posts WANT to be read! Feed their hunger!

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    • Gale (aka mama)
    • August 15th, 2010

    You make me laugh and I love you for it! I can hear you talking, I can see your hands gesturing, and I see your face – thank you for the gifts! As I sit here with an iced down face, black and blue eyes/cheek, and bandage, one word – SUNSCREEN! I sit in the derm’s office with lots of farmers. “Internet is down,” “hella tiring,” “manure,” “super dangerous,” “tools to fix it,” all in the same post as “I actually liked it,” “I am excited,” and “tomorrow is gonna be good” – you know how to make a mama happy and the PC a solid choice! You are rockin’ it!

  1. What part of town is the PC compound in? I have a map of the city and would like to know to whatever specificity you can manage. Also, when you get your new home, I would like the same info.

      • jamiew1288
      • August 16th, 2010

      I do not know where the Training Center is. They have barely allowed us outside the compound.

    • Lindsey
    • August 15th, 2010

    You need a hat, James. Hat + sunscreen. I’m not even kidding, fair one. (So much for your disclaimer that Mama and I not nag you about getting sunburned!) Now remember, if someone tries to sell YOU their African baby, you check if it’s cute then FedEx it to us. We’ll dress it in Baby Gap and read it Berenstain Bears books.

    • Kittie
    • August 15th, 2010

    I’m dying over Lindsey’s answer…”Baby Gap…Berenstein Bears” OMG!!! Oh yeah, as another fair skinned person…hats rock for protecting head & face while the sunscreen can get the rest of you…don’t forget your ears…totally sucks to burn them. I really love that you write like you’re talking. I have a compost in my backyard so cool that you’re learning how to use that to help things grow better. Keep learning new stuff & enjoying the process while sharing it all with the rest of us. I’ve been living vicariously through the adventurous people in your family so keep up the lovely blog! Hugs to you oh sunburnt one:-D

    • EAlv
    • August 17th, 2010

    We were fools for trying to steal you a baby here when you can just buy one there! I’m excited for your new biking adventure, I am tempted to get you some bike bling. It had been almost 5 days since I checked your blog (Key West/rude roommates) I missed you. Can’t wait to hear about all your new adventures with your host family. (BTW rereading PJ, still good the 2nd time around).

      • The Amazon
      • August 24th, 2010

      We were fools for trying to steal him a baby here… what the hell were we thinking?!

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