Posts Tagged ‘ Pulaar ’

My 2nd 4th in Senegal

Last week I made the trek down to the southeast corner of Senegal for the annual Peace Corps 4th of July bash. I spent a few days in the city of Kedougou, which is a regional capital a little north of the Guinean border. I went last year, but of course I had to go again. It was FAR though.

Sokone to Kaolack: 1 hour
Kaolack to Tambacounda: 4 hours
Tamba to Kedougou: 4 hours

We left at 6:00 am on the morning of the 2nd, and we arrived at around 2:30 pm. It was an exhausting trip overall, but it was good to see people that I don’t see that often. The 4th was spent eating pig (which was roasted in the ground!), drinking beer, and dancing. Typical American stuff.

As fun as Independence Day was, the 5th of July was actually more fun for me. We decided to be adventurous and go tubing down the Gambia River.

Step One: find tubes. We ended up going to this junk yard filled with old car parts and asking the men working there to sell us tire tubes. New tubes were around $12, which was pricey for us, so we decided to buy used tubes for $3. Of course, the men had to patch each tube up, and there were eight of us, so a lot of the day was spent loitering around a junkyard, basically.

Step Two: walk to the river. A PCV stationed in Kedougou gave me specific instructions on how to get to the river from the regional house. After two minutes, we were completely lost. We ended up walking into a lot of people’s compounds, which was weird because none of us speak Pulaar, and we were carrying huge inner tubes. People were polite though and helped us out. We DID end up in a thorn forest though, and I was wearing shower sandals (my footwear of choice) I got a few scratches, but these were nothing compared to what was to come.

Step Three: get in the river. So there were eight of us, and I’m pretty sure only one person didn’t eat shit trying to get into that river. I’m sure if we had gone the right way, we could have easily slid into the river, but we ended up in this jungle of thorny tree species with lots and lots of mud. We get in the river and try to get out of this jungle. These trees were highly deceptive though. We’d come up on a small twig sticking out of the water, but that twig would end being the thorniest bitch yet. It’s like these trees were icebergs. Most of it is under the water.

Of course we got a little separated, and if you were in the back, you’d hear screams up ahead, and you knew there’d be trouble. The people up front would scream “AVOID THAT TWO FOOT TWIG! IT JUST SCRATCHED UP MY ENTIRE LEG!”

We did well though, and I had a lot of fun. I didn’t see any animals (I was told hippos hung out in the river a lot), and thank G I didn’t see any snakes. Woulda freaked.

So to get back to lovely Kaolack, we decided to change it up and take the night bus, which leaves at 6:00 pm. It’s supposed to take around eight hours, but it ended up being 11 because we, SOMEHOW, had to stop every 20 minutes for no reason. We also got pulled over by the local police and discovered that our driver didn’t have a driver’s license. Everything a mother wants to hear, right? A random man driving a bus filled with 50 people through the jungle in the middle of the night. So we sat on the side of the road at 4:00 am and chit-chatted. Finally, we got back on the road. I’m assuming the driver either bribed the cops, or they just let him go. Either way, the system is sketchy.

Anyways, so I’m running on three hours of sleep, which is strange because normally I sleep about 12 hours a day. I’m exhausted, and I also have cuts all over my body, some of which are infected. Just a heads up: if you want to go to the jungle, avoid going during the rainy season. Things get infected SO FAST.

I’m gonna wrap up this post by saying this: in 10 weeks, I’ll be in America!

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Le 4 juillet 2011

BAM! I’m turnin’ out these blog posts like there’s no tomorrow. I guess this is because I am having a busy summer (lots o’ work and lots o’ play).

Well, yesterday I returned from a mini vacation to the region of Kedougou for the 4th of July. It was probably one of the most fun times I have ever had in my life. Kedougou, if you didn’t know, is down in the southeast corner of the country. It’s so far away that you can see the country of Guinea from the city of Kedougou (“I can see Guinea from my house!”).

Sorry for the back-to-back Sarah Palin jokes. I’m done now.

Anyways, so Kedougou is like a different world. Below you will find a map of Senegal. I am being wildly high tech and fancy doing this, but I feel like this post requires visual aids in order for it to be understood properly.

Okay, so Kedougou is that city really far away in the bottom right corner. I drove from Kaolack to Tambacounda, which took over four hours. We stopped in Tamba to stretch our legs, and then we moved on and drove the four hours to Kedougou. After we left Tamba, the world suddenly changed. We entered the Niokolo-Koba National Park, which is a World Heritage Site that is so insanely beautiful that I forgot where I was for a second. It’s so incredibly green, and there was MOUNTAINS. I saw warthogs frolicking and baboons (TONS of baboons) running across the road. They’d be chillin’ in the middle of the road, and our driver would get so mad because they wouldn’t move as he honked furiously.

Luckily, we only had one car problem, which arose as we were entering the city itself. We were crawling at a snail’s pace.

Us: Um, chauffeur. What the hell? Why are we going so slowly? It’s hot.
Driver: We ran out of gas.
Us: Oh…is that why we’re COASTING down this hill?
Driver: Yes.

Finally, we puttered to a stop right on the outskirts of town. The driver took a can and walked to the nearest gas station. As we waited, I decided to walk to the nearest boutique to buy water. I quickly encountered a problem when no one in the building spoke Wolof. I had stepped into Pulaar country and completely forgot. I did everything in French, which was bizarre. Good practice for France though, I guess. Luckily, I did find a lot of people who spoke a little Wolof, so I could easily get around.

Kedougou is an interesting town. It’s not very big, but it’s really spread out. There are no taxis, so you either have to walk or ride your bike. I was told this beforehand, so I brought my bike with me.

The 4th of July was really fun. We all hung out at the Kedougou regional house. Two pigs were roasted, and there was lots of delicious food. We set off fireworks, which was scary. It was probably the funnest (yes, FUNNEST) party I have ever been to.

The next day, we all walked down to the Gambia River to go swimming. We forded the river, which was scary as hell because the current was REALLY strong. Like, my friend got whisked away and had to grab a tree branch in order to stop herself. Several people lost shoes and other items.

So we swam in the river. There was a massive tree that had branches hanging over the river, so we climbed it and jumped in. Apparently there are hippos further down the river. I saw none. I did see two snakes though, which was awful and horrible and scary. I held my cool, and everything was fine. Maybe I am growing up. Hopefully.

Overall, Kedougou was a lot of fun. As a rode around the red dirt roads, staring at the greenery around me and mountains above me, I realized that this sort of scenario is what I thought Peace Corps Africa was going to be like. Biking around and greeting people in a beautifully lush environment. My Peace Corps service is drastically different from what I expected. Luckily, I think it’s better. As quintessential as Kedougou is, I’m glad I don’t live there. It’s so far away from the rest of the country, and there are scary animals (i.e. scorpions, huge spiders, snakes). It’s a wonderful place to visit, but it’s definitely not a place I would want to live for two years. I was glad when I pulled into Kaolack and the smell of garbage met my nostrils. I was home.

Meet Medoune Diaw (Part 1)

I’M BAAAAAAAACK (and obnoxious now, apparently).

This past week has been a blur of ups and downs (mostly ups though!). I now live in Mboro with the Diaw family (pronounced jow). Mboro is GORGEOUS. I will post pics on FB sometime this evening (I am now back at the training center in Thies, hence the internet and excessive use of exclamation points proving my excitement). Mboro is right by the beach (30 minute walk). I haven’t been yet because my schedule has been PACKED with Wolof, Wolof, more Wolof, and other Wolofian-based languages (i.e. Wolof). Pulaar? Nope, Wolof.

Where to begin? Let’s see….how about at the beginning? There are two PC groups in Mboro. Each group consists of one LCF and four trainees. So on Monday, the eight of us piled into an SUV and drove to Mboro. Took about 30 minutes. I was the second person dropped off, which freaked me out. The first night was…interesting. The power went out (yes, I have power!), so I sat in the dark with my family, and they spoke Wolof, and I was freaking the hell out. That was my worst time in Senegal so far. I was alone, in the dark, and sad. I ended up calling my family, which helped. When I got done talking to them, the power was back on. When I came back into the “living room” (basically a porch), the family was watching a black-and-white TV that showed a French soap opera. I was like, “I’M GOOD”. Two men were fighting on the soap. My family laughed. I laughed. It was great. The soaps are just as dirty in Africa as they are in the U.S. (shout-out to my soap lovers, Megoosh and Sca-rah!)

Let’s break down my family (and I don’t know how to spell any of theirs names, so I am gonna guess):

Mama: she is my Mom (“sama yaay” in Wolof). A large woman who is not afraid to show her above-the-waist bits (apparently in Senegal, the waist to the ankles should be covered, but everything else is free to hang out…literally). She is nice, but she doesn’t help with my Wolof much. She doesn’t really talk to me a lot.

Papa (“sama baay”): he is AWESOME. He’s this older man, and he loves to teach me. It’s annoying though because he’s SUPER bad at it. The first day, he spent 30 minutes miming something to me, and when I finally figured it out, it ended up that he was trying to say “This is where we keep the cup.” NO JOKE. I was like, “Thanks, pops.” Luckily, he speaks French, so a lot of the time we speak a little French. I say, “Naka lanuy waxer _____ ci Wolof?” (How do you say ___ in Wolof?”). I use a French word, and he tells me in Wolof, then he asks me the word in English, so I tell him. I teach him English, and he teaches me Wolof, and our common language is French (which is coming out of the woodwork!).

Sadumay (sod-oo-my): she is like 6 and feisty as hell. In the beginning, she called me “toubab” over and over and over (toubab is Wolof for “white person”). Then, when she learned my name, she switched to this charming little scenario, which occurs frequently: we are watching TV, and I look over at her, and she is staring at me. When we make eye contact, she mouths the word “TOUBAB” really slowly. It’s creepy as shit. That girl knows how to get under my skin.

Mustafa!!: he is 3 and HILARIOUS. The game I play with him is, every time I see him, I go “MUSTAFA!” He ignores me. Actually, it’s less a game and more me saying his name over and over again, and him doing absolutely nothing. Him and papa are bffs. They hang out all the time. I know Mustafa and Sadumay are brother and sister, but I, for the life of me, cannot figure out who their parents are. I think they’re Mama and Papa, but I don’t know because they are both older.

Haty Gaye (hot-ee guy): she cooks the food, which is delicious (her ceebu jen is to die for). She is married to Mama and Papa’s son, who lives with his other wife (I think) in Touba, which is east of Mboro. I have never met her husband (my brother), but she lives with his family. The arrangement is odd, and because of the language barrier, I may be completely wrong (there’s a good chance). Haty Gaye is nice and helps me with Wolof.

Amy (om-ee): she is a teenager, and she doesn’t speak much. She is nice.

Medoune Diaw: yes, we have the same name. I got my Senegalese name the day after I got there. Apparently it’s normal to have the same name in one family (which makes sense because there’s only like 20 Senegalese names). My name is Medoune Diaw, his name is Medoune Diaw, and Papa’s name is Medoune Diaw. No joke, Papa calls himself #1, Medoune Diaw #2, and me #3. In Africa, I have been reduced to merely a number.

Leiy Kane (lay kaan): He is my BUDDY. He is so cool. He’s a tailor, so he always has cool fabrics, and he tries the hardest to teach me Wolof. He is super nice.

Share Kane (sp?): HIS NAME IS LIKE THE TIGER FROM THE JUNGLE BOOK. He is intense. He is mute, so he, legit, makes Darth Vader breathing noises. He is SUPER nice though! Seriously, I can’t make someone like this up. Every time I talk about him with my group, they’re like, “I keep envisioning the tiger with the flaming stick tied to his tail!” He is super cool, and he is actually better at teaching me Wolof than Papa is. He motions, and I get it. Somehow.

Yep, so that’s my family. It’s weird though, this whole other family lives in the same compound, but they don’t eat with us, and I never see them. They are gone all day. It’s strange though because I live in their half of the compound. My family all lives in these block of rooms, and I live across the courtyard and down this hallway with the other family, who I share a bathroom with. Senegalese architecture is strange. Everything is centered around a central courtyard, so basically it’s a bunch of bedrooms leading from the outside. There is no furniture, but everyone sits on either plastic outdoor chairs or on colorful, straw mats called bisaans. I want one for myself! They are super durable, and you take your shoes off before walking on it, so generally it’s pretty clean. Sometimes we eat out in the courtyard, and sometimes we eat on the covered porch area. We just drag the bisaan from one location to the next.

Okay, I don’t want to overload you, so I will update again tomorrow with the rest of my week. Part 2 Preview: Wolof Lessons with Sidy the Rapper, Jamie vs. The Toilet, and “Guess the Toubab”.

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!