Cliffs, Monkeys, and DAKAR OMG

So it has been a whirlwind week. I was in Thies for seven days (pretty much). I survived my first (and only) counterpart workshop. I went to the beach (again). I saw two monkeys in two days. I jumped off a cliff into the Atlantic Ocean. I went to Dakar. All of these things will be explained.

Okay, so counterpart workshop. Every volunteer has a counterpart that lives in his or her town/village. Their job is to help network, meet new people, etc. It’s good because there will be a local person in your town who can show you the ropes. OF COURSE, my counterpart did not come. In his place, he sent a woman from Sokone who has a garden. My counterpart, allegedly, is a farmer. Now, I know I haven’t been in the agricultural field for very long, but I know there’s a big difference between a legit farmer and a woman with a garden. The woman, Khady, was really nice. Unfortunately, her Wolof is REALLY hard to understand, and the workshop itself was stressful, so my two days were not good. I was exhausted, and there were people everywhere (night and day because the counterparts stayed at the center with us). We basically went to a bunch of seminars. The workshop is for the counterparts, not the volunteers. Everything said in the workshop was stuff I already knew (What is the PC? What are our goals? Etc.)

After counterpart workshop was POPINGUINE. Basically, the most popular beach town in Senegal (for locals AND tourists) is called Popinguine. It’s tradition for every stage to have a fun weekend in Popinguine during PST. We went out a MASSIVE house (it was beautiful) and let loose for the weekend. It was good because I got to know other people from my stage who I had never really had a chance to get to know.

The beach was beautiful. Down the beach was a massive cliff, which was totally picturesque (I forgot my camera because I’m a dumbass). Also in the water was a massive rock that was probably 50 feet tall. The first day, a bunch of vols decided to climb the rock, which is several feet from the beach, and jump from the other side into the deeper water. Initially, I was like, “HELLS NO”. Then, on the second day, I decided to. It was worth it. It was scary as hell though because we had to climb the vertical rock wall to get to the top, which we did barefoot and in bathing suits. I have never rock climbed in my life, so it’s funny the first time I did it was half naked, barefoot, and wet. Four of us went the second day, and I went second. I got to the top and was freaking out, but literally the only way down was to jump. I did it though.

Driving back from the beach (we took two Alhams, which are the big Senegalese buses) was when I saw my first monkey. It literally ran across the road in front of us. I busted out laughing and said, “Did anyone else see that?” Only a few people did. It was a legit monkey, too. Prehensile tail and everything. The next day, when we were headed to Dakar, I saw my second monkey. This one was rooting through luggage sitting on top of an Alham. It was hilarious seeing a monkey on a city bus on the outskirts of Dakar.

Monday was Dakar day. Considering I was only in the Dakar airport the first day I got to Senegal, it was good to go back and see what’s up. We walked around the city some, which is HUGE and super Western. Everyone says Dakar is NOT Senegal, which I can see. I literally felt like I was walking around downtown Orlando or something. Big buildings, cute little parks, beautiful statues, people selling souvenir artwork on the road. It was crazy. We had lunch at the American Club, which is connected to an international school. I had a chicken wrap and fries, which was BIZARRE considering I have only eaten ceebu jen for two months. We also visited the American embassy, and we went to the PC office in Dakar, which is also awesome and huge. The med hut is there, so if I ever get super sick and have to go to Dakar, that’s where I’ll stay.

Also in Dakar is this MASSIVE statue built a few years ago for the African Renaissance. It’s bronze and bigger than the Statue of Liberty. It’s on top of this hill, so it can be seen from everywhere. Google it. It’s awesome. It’s this man and woman holding this baby into the air. Its’ size reminded me of the big statue of Jesus in Brazil, majestically hanging out atop a hill.

Every vol in Senegal goes to Dakar every few months for some reason, regardless of how far away they are. There is always a conference there or something going on. I am going there in December for the all-volunteer conference that is held there every year. I am going back in February for this big softball tournament that everyone attends called WAIST (West African Invitational Softball Tournament). It’s good that I’m at least a little familiar with the city now because I will return, and it’s definitely intimidating.

Now I’m back in Mboro. It’s my last week here. I go back on Tuesday for good, which is sad. I swear-in as a real volunteer (In Dakar, of course) on October 15th, and I install on the 20th in Sokone. It’s bittersweet. I want to settle down in my site, but I have made some unbelievable friends during PST, and now we are going to be scattered all over the country. It makes me sad. I will see them often enough, but everything is going to change.

Moving forward, I will leave you now. Sorry it took so long to update. A lot has happened this past week, and I had little downtime. Until next time, friends.

    • Sca-rah
    • October 8th, 2010

    Look at you knowing the monkeys after taking that anthro class.

    The beach sounds nice. Wish you had your camera. I want to see more pics in general so get on that please.

    • The Amazon
    • October 8th, 2010

    Sounds incredible Jamie. There’s so much I want to comment on but I actually need to get back to work. Love you!

    • Lindsey
    • October 8th, 2010

    Glad you jumped off the cliff. I would have been too scared – the top platform at Wakulla Springs freaks me out.

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