Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chickens, Chili and more...

Korite marked the end of Ramadan. Everyone in my family spent the week leading up to it getting ready. My host dad and I went fabric shopping and then to the tailor together. I spent most of my allowance on a fantastically embroidered matching wrap skirt, shirt, and head scarf.

Dark blue eyebrows for Ramadan
Throughout the rest of the week, perfumes, make up, new curtains, and a mirror also showed up at the house, which my host "mom" happily showed off. She even tried to pull out my eyebrows and paint them back navy blue with her new eye pencil... not a good look! My mom and cousin spent an entire night getting their weave done and went back for touch ups in the morning. Finally the night arrived when we could see the silver of the new moon to mark the new month. (Islamic calendar is lunar.) My cousins and "mom" were so excited about the feast day, they started jumping and singing; happy times had by all.
Korite itself was actually much less exciting. I spent the morning helping around the house: cleaning everything,  catching and slaughtering two chickens with my cousin, cleaning the chickens and chopping potatoes and onions for lunch. Needless to say, I was not wearing my beautiful new outfit. Lunch cooked for hours and wasn't ready until almost 4... kind of like Thanksgiving in the States, but with neighbors involved. Everyone goes house to house and crashes each others lunches, which were all pretty much the same. Only the men dress up during the day to go to mosque.
At 5pm, my "mom" decided that we were done with house work for the day and she, my female cousin, and I could finally shower and dress up. The two of them spent a good hour putting on make up and taking it all off again. We were not ready to go show off to the rest of the neighborhood until 7, nearly sunset when it's dark and no one can see your gorgeous new complet anyway.
All dressed up for Korite

Most underwhelming part, when we did go visiting, we only walked down the block to my uncle's house, where we spend a good portion of most days anyway. But everyone was really fancy and we took a ton of photos. I got special permission to go and greet the families of other Peace Corps trainees in the neighborhood, but only briefly because my "mom" is overprotective and hates me being out of the house after sunset. When I got home the new clothes were already put away... just don't quite get it.

After Ramadan, the food at my homestay house become rather meager: rice and leaf sauce everyday, and maybe a fish or two (split nine-ways). The big meal is lunch and we set aside leftovers for dinner, usually not served until 9 or 10pm. On a bad day, dinner is not reheated and my "mom" has already eaten a good portion of the leftovers.
Cooking for our host families
So I decided to intervene and introduce my family to American cuisine, namely Chili & French Toast. I made a giant pot of chili with two other trainees for dinner one night. It was an adventure to get all the ingredients and it was met with mixed reviews by my family and neighbors. (The corn we added never fully cooked through even though we left the pot boiling for over an hour; we didn't think this would be a problem since corn roasted over coals is a common though rather crunchy Senegalese snack.) However, that was the first night I have felt genuinely and contently full in a while, so the Americans and a couple Senegalese went to sleep happy.
French Toast was much easier and well received. My host father even went out to buy more ingredients so that I could teach him how to make it and he could have more to share with my uncle down the street. French Toast will definitely be making an early appearance at my permanent site.

Which brings me to the end of this post: I now know and have visited the village where I will be working for the next two years! I am going to Goundaga! For those of you who will actually take time to look this up, it is a small village (only 400 people) located near Kounkane in the Kolda region of Senegal, formerly part of the Casamance. And it is beautiful! I have a cozy hut with a couple papaya and a guava tree in the backyard; and a bunch of little brothers and sisters running under the mango trees in the compound. My host and counterpart, Demba Balde, seems very sweet and intelligent, and I look forward to working with him.
Goundaga is on river, which means fresh fish and swimming! While Goundaga does not have any running water, electricity, or cellphone reception (yet), it also happily lacks the garbage and disease-infested puddles that plague the towns and cities of Senegal. But once I am settled in, I will find ways to communicate and update the blog from the nearest town, Kounkane. Goundaga is about 7km from Kounkane, mostly on narrow bush paths that work nicely for biking - and I now have my Peace Corps issued bike. And there are tons of colorful birds in the fields and forest along the bush paths. Sadly, I've seen some of my little brothers and sisters catching some of these beautiful birds with the other village kids, tying string to the birds' legs, and then "playing" (read plucking off their feathers and swinging around) until they die. Maybe these kids are jaded by all the beauty that surrounds them, maybe it's just cultural differences, or both. Anyhow, everything about Goundaga looks like it is going to be a fantastic experience and I will have friendly Peace Volunteers in nearby villages and towns to collaborate with.
View of the river near Goundaga

Two more weeks of training! Cannot wait for install!


  1. Hi Ally!

    DPW misses you !!

    <3 DPW


  2. rich says hi

    - Anna

  3. The world is waiting for photos of these navy blue eyebrows. Or at least I am...