Goodness gracious, this Five Week Challenge sucks. The first three weeks have past, and I was doing fine. I was visiting fields, walking around, setting up my house, hanging out with my family, reading lots and lots of books, etc. Now, I am going a little crazy. I still have two weeks to go, which I know I am capable of, but sometimes I just want to up and go to Kaolack and excessively use the Internet and speak in English. Hopefully I will not do that.

MAJOR UPDATE, PEOPLE: I have electricity now! I no longer read/write in my journal by candlelight in the evenings. AND, I was worried the electricity would make my little house depressing (because, in Mboro, my cell/room was super dingy and depressing at night), but it’s still pleasant at night. I have been watching episodes of 30 Rock before I go to bed, which is bizarre, yet I love it. My family has about 25 people in it, and there is always someone in the compound. Well, of course, when the electrician came to turn on the electricity, everyone disappeared, and I had to explain everything in Wolof. I did fairly well, considering I was discussing electricity and installations and such.

Sunday, another volunteer and I biked down to Toubacouta, which is a town 20K (12.4 miles) southwest of Sokone on the delta. Sokone has some tourists, but Toubacouta is a destination for European travelers (and some American). It’s gorgeous there, let me tell you. There are two super nice hotels, which we walked through to get to a dock on the river (there’s a SED volunteer there who knows some of the employees, so we could go on the hotel’s dock). I felt like I was in Key West or something. There was a gorgeous pool with several Speedo-clad Frenchmen lounging around its’ perimeter. Next to the pool there was a bar, and scattered throughout the pool area were several comfy little nooks, which were filled with other toubabs using the hotel’s free Wi-Fi. There have been only a handful of times in my three months here where I didn’t feel like I was in West Africa, and this was one of them.

There are also 11 campements in Toubacouta. A campement is very similar to a hotel, but instead of indoor rooms, there are several bungalows where guests stay, and usually dinners are eaten with the owner’s family. It’s for the traveler who wants a more Senegalese experience, which is ironic considering each bungalow has flush toilets, showers, and A/C.

Toubacouta, being so touristy, also is a hub for local artists. I saw some really cool art there, and there were lots of artisans and such yelling at me to buy things. If anyone comes to visit me (hint hint), we will definitely head down to Toubacouta because it’s gorgeous and a lot of fun.

You’re probably wondering about the 25-mile bike ride. I was wondering about it before we left, too. Since installing, I had ridden my bike twice, and both were short trips I took to explore the area. I was nervous the other volunteer was going to have to drag my lifeless body back to Sokone at the end of the day. It actually was okay. My legs burned on the way down and on the way back up, but it wasn’t bad at all. I was kind of sore when I got back, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle.

The road from Sokone to Toubacouta is in really good condition, unlike the road from Kaolack (which, by the way, is pronounced cow-lack) to Sokone (so-cone, like snow cone but without the n in “snow”), which is horrible and jarring and frightening. The surrounding wilderness is also SO beautiful. Of course, I did not bring my camera, but I know I will bike down there again.

Nothing much else has been going on. I have been going through books like there’s no tomorrow. I have also mastered the art of making coffee every morning, which is NOT easy in this country. I have a tiny gas cooker thing, and the Senegalese LOVE their instant coffee. I, unfortunately, don’t have a French press (family, take note….Christmas is around the corner) or a fridge, so I buy crappy Nescafe and crappy powdered milk from the boutique around the corner. The coffee tastes coffee-esque, just enough to make me happy every morning. My host-mom sells bean sandwiches (the breakfast of choice in Senegal: beans, onions, and spices on half a baguette; it’s ridiculously good) outside our compound, so every morning I buy one of those and take it back to my room. I have my sandwich and coffee and listen to music. It has become a splendid routine of normalcy in my otherwise abnormal day.

Also, a random thought: there are several creepy crawlies in my room 24/7. It’s good to have a roommate again, I guess, but I prefer Allyson to the variety of spiders, crickets, lizards, and the one toad I am currently bunking with. I have Yotox, which is the insect killer of choice in this country. There are other brands, but everyone calls every kind of bug killer Yotox, much like Kleenex. Luckily, my roomies just kind of chill out on the wall, and I have my mosquito net, which keeps out everything, but it’s funny how much I have changed these three months. I used to freak if there was a bug in my apartment, but now I feel like it’s useless to attempt to fight these critters, so I have given up. I have to pick my battles, and I have chosen the Jamie vs. Senegalese-Children-Calling-Me-Toubab EPIC WAR of 2010-2012.

Two weeks left. I can do this. Luckily, the end of the Five Week Challenge marks the beginning of a hectic, far-from-boring six weeks. I am headed to Kaolack for Thanksgiving (the 25th), where I will stay at the regional house for a couple days. The 27th-29th is the semi-annual UAg conference in Thies for just my sector. The 3rd-4th of December is the all-volunteer conference (also in Thies), and two days after that is IST. After that is Christmas/New Year’s, which I will spend in another part of the country. I don’t know where yet though. I will return to Sokone at the beginning of January and will begin work. Scary thought.

    • Allyson
    • November 9th, 2010

    I’m so excited for you to have electricity! Finally got Progress Energy to run that trans-Atlantic cable, eh? This is good news for me– while you may have learned how to live like a hobo some of us are still civilized.

    I cannot wait to come visit! I keep wanting to plan for it even though it’s months away. I’m so excited to SEE you.

    And lastly, I adored my shout out. I lol-ed when I read it because all I can think of is when that gecko got into our a-club apt and there was some serious freaking. Anyways, I’ll round up the critters when I come. Lots o’ love, miss ya like crazy,


    • Sca-rah
    • November 9th, 2010

    All sounds good. Thanks for putting up pics of your place so we can see what you are talking about. When I come visit I totally want to go to that tourist town but I won’t have a bike. I can just sit on your handlebars. That won’t be hard to bike right? or I could sit on your shoulders… We will work it out 🙂

    • Gale (aka mama)
    • November 10th, 2010

    I was wonderful when your roommate comments would show up and I am surprised how calm you are about the critters – much calmer than I could or would be! I am also impressed with the 25 mile bike ride – must be the Nescafe. What a brilliant director to set up a 5 week challenge, knowing that in 3 weeks toubabs get restless. Your FL fam is taking note of the holiday gift list – love you much!

    • Kittie
    • November 10th, 2010

    Haven’t commented in awhile, but felt motivated to procrastinate on my work a bit longer by writing to you! Still really impressed with you. I have to agree with your mom about the bugs….don’t know if I would be doing as well. Totally appreciating getting to follow along on your journey. However, I still haven’t really seen many pictures, but just checked & you must have cleared me for access to your facebook page…THANKS…I feel loved now:-D Will have to check it out…apparently you need to shave from what I’ve heard LOL!!! Take care & much love to you, Kittie

    • fenella
    • November 10th, 2010

    Love reading your blog, dear. Last weekend Mark and I were visiting his aunt and uncle in Spain, near Gibraltar. You can see Africa (Morrocco) from Gibraltar. It sparked a discussion of visiting you next year. Mark’s not keen to go, especially after seeing your “room” and your “bathroom”. And you’re putting me off with your roommates!!
    But I am seriously thinking about it and trying to plan it for next year. i’m hoping Lindsey will be in Turkey and then perhaps we can go together. I even began to look at how far away Timbuktu is from Sokone. … a bit too far i think, sadly.

    Glad you’ve got electricity and you’re being forced to settle in.

    And of all the battles you pick, why being called a toubab??? You even call other people toubabs.

    much love,

    • Ana
    • November 11th, 2010

    Give me your address, and I’ll mail you some books son.

    • Elizabeth
    • November 12th, 2010

    Remember the roach in your apartment?! We hunted that sucker down and gave it a three flush salute. I miss you friend. Good luck with the African insects.

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