I have a good excuse though, two actually. First, rainy season makes communication and electronics even more dicey than the already are. Second, the wrapping up of my service and mad scramble to say good bye to so many friends I've made here has kept me busy. Blogging, alas, just has not been high up on the to-do list in a while.
So what have I been doing these past 3 months?
Saying goodbye to my Community Enterprise Development (CED) friends... Senegalese style! We all came here together, but our goings have been staggered. My neighbors, Pam and Sam, have been my closest friends during my service. Watching them leave was sad, but they know how to throw a great Senegalese party: music, dancing, deliciously greasy food, chair rentals, etc.
Dance off with my Senegalese twin, Nenegalle!
Traveling to see sites and help friends with projects. I finally made it out to beautiful Bakel, which really is beautiful and nice town despite being way aways from everything. Brian showed us everything: from his work at his Master Farm demonstration site to the majestic Fort Bakel, from his village nestled in the rocky hills outside the city to all the best bars in downtown Bakel. And we ended our visit with a stay in a barbershop. Anything can happen in Bakel!
Longingly looking out to Mauritania
Planting mangroves! Volunteers in the Kaolack region organized huge reforestation efforts to reforest the Sine-Saloum deltas with mangroves. Mangroves provide a habitat for the marine life of the delta, flowers of local honey bees, firewood for villages, and shelter for migrating birds. Not to mention, the mangroves are beautiful! The mangroves drop seed pods into the water, where they float until they lodge in a bit of mud and hopefully take up root. We sped up the process by collecting and sorting through the seed pods before planting the healthy pods in the mudflats.
Cuddling with lion cubs! After the Toubakouta Mangrove Refoestation day, volunteers headed to the Fathala Game Reserve, where the park is trying to familiarize 5 lion cubs with people. The cubs were surprisingly friendly. Other highlights of the park included zebras, giraffes, and antelope. So I can cross safari off the bucket list.
Experimenting with henna! After one last shopping to Diaobe (maybe the largest outdoor market in West Africa), my neighbor Jessica and I decided to try and dye our hair with henna. Only 40 cents! It sort of worked... More importantly, we got gris-gris made by a traditional medicine man. Gris-gris come in all shapes and sizes; they can be a necklace, armband, anklet, or strip of leather to wrap around your leg or waist for protection from just about anything.
Henna got messy
Sewing mosquito nets! My friend Sarah organized an epic tour of Kolda region, going village to village showing people how to mend and take care of their mosquito nets. Mosquito nets are essential in protecting people from the Anapheles mosquito, carrier of the parasites that cause malaria. Malaria is a huge problem in Senegal, particularly dangerous among young children and pregnant women. The disease kills hundreds of children in our county every year and infects many more, driving down productivity and life expectancy in the region. But something as simple as sleeping under a mosquite net everyday can drive down infection rates. I only helped out at a couple villages, but Sarah went to over 15 villages spreading the good word of the mosquito net.
And of course, farming! Another season of planting thousands of trees and setting up field demonstrations is finally over! And I am ready to leave, ready to move on. Senegal has been lots of fun but I am looking forward to the next adventure.