Monday, August 23, 2010

Two Weeks in Senegal

I cannot believe it is already two weeks: sometimes it feels like of just left, but mostly it feels like I've been here for months already. The first week of training was relatively uneventful: tons of training sessions and vaccinations, and I don't do well with long bouts of sitting. Worse still, we were not supposed to leave the the training center for the first four days... cabin fever. And all I wanted was to go out and get some street food! We only got to explore the city of Thies the day before we left for homestays, when Ramadan had already started so the market and street food scene was a little bit down key.

Homestay has been an awesome experience! I am learning Fulakunda, a dialect of Pulaar spoken in the Kolda region of Senegal, which I'm super happy about because dialects of Pulaar are spoken throughout West African. I'm staying in the city of Mbour, which is apparently on the Atlantic Ocean, but I'm on the outskirts and the only hint of beach are the seashells and the sand that are the roads and the yards. We are making a garden at the local elementary school; I'm not sure how that's going to work in the sand, but we'll give it a try. My family is on the small side: mom, dad, five-year-old brother, an uncle, and two cousins visiting from the south, but I have a ton of aunts and uncles that are neighbors. I have electricity but no running water: we collect rainwater or have to go to the well.

There are four other volunteers staying in the same neighborhood. Saturday we finally felt comfortable to go visiting each others families and introduce ourselves. Mostly we wanted to go to the Mballo household, where one trainee has been enjoying a "limonade" every night to break the fast that is supposed to be divine. So we asked his mom about it, and she sent a sister to take us to the boutique down the street to buy some. But of course when we got to the store the girl had no clue what we wanted to buy and we didn't have enough Pulaar to explain it very well - just confused her more. After searching in two boutiques we decided to buy a pineapple soda, mostly because it was the coldest drink we could find. Since its Ramadan and just about everyone is fasting, we hide it in my bag and sneaked back to Mutaaru's room, where we secretively passed the bottle of soda around and called to his younger brothers and sisters to come have some too secretly. It was just soda, but we felt pretty cool.

Mom wasn't too happy that I came back home for lunch. My mom is into tough love; I think she likes me, at least she said she'd miss me when I left Sunday, but a lot gets lost in translation and she isn't very patient. I'm the only trainee that has set chores at home, dishes mostly; she just tries to give me commands and I guess what she wants me to do. It beats sitting around staring at the wall though. And I'm learning how to cook Senegalese style. My dad has a different strategy: we go over the Pulaar textbook for an hour every night when he gets home from work. I'm not sure (language barrier) but I think he has made a bet among the other host families that I will speak the best Pulaar among the other trainees. Gotta back Baaba proud!

Well, that's two weeks in a nutshell...

Pulaar is coming slowly, unfortunately I was finally starting to understand the day we had to come back to the center for more training.


  1. Ally you are going to rock this so hard....kind of like I rocked "your dad" last weekend.

    Keep posting <3

  2. hahaha. deirdre?

    you are such a badass. just in case you didn't know. ;)