The End of a Great Beginning

Trip Start Jun 13, 2013
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Senegal  , Kolda,
Tuesday, August 28, 2012

When I started writing this post it was a rainy Saturday late afternoon; I was pinned to my computer as it stormed outside. It is rainy season here and I have found the rain has engulfed me with a sense of security. I sit in my foam mattress that rests on the floor listening to the rain hit my tin roof as if two small armies were having a civil war. In attempt to hear my iTunes I have it on full blast though it still sounds quiet.
Since arriving to Vélingara I have been meeting city officials, work partners, family members, friends of family members, neighbors, and about everyone in between who doesn’t somehow fit into an above category. I am trying to remember names but considering how horrible I am with remembering even American names to no surprise I am doing no better here in Senegal. There are, what seems to be, less than a dozen last names, which a majority of everyone falls under. Conveniently enough, you can refer to someone by their last name so I figure if anything I can just start throwing out names. It also helps that you can call people something simply by stating the obvious; any older woman you can refer to them as Nene (mom), older male Baba (dad) anyone above that generation who is female you can call mama (grandma) and so on.
Korité marks the end of the month of fasting, also known as Ramadan. Since I arrived only three days before the celebration I was unsure as to how the day was going to go, but it all ended well. After breakfast I went with Nene and my two nieces to the park in town where the “service” was held. I put service in quotes only because I am unsure of what to call it but I got a service-like vibe from everyone while there. There was prayer, preaching of some sort, and greetings to neighbors. The boys of the house were all front and center at the park while Nene and the girls were near the back. While attending a religious event at the Mosque, or at the park in this case, it is imperative that men are in the front while women are in the back. 
I am not sure as to why this is but I am guessing is has to do with some ancient “women are less equal” belief that has never changed. My work partner Amadou was nice enough to grab my camera for a bit to document what was going on up front. Since I was acting as a “tourist”, walking around taking photos and not praying, I am sure that it would have been fine if I had gone up front but it just seemed a little awkward. After service we went back to the house where Mari prepared a wonderful lunch! While dining an authentic Pulaar band came to our house to play music, while asking for donations in return. You can see the band from the videos that I posted; it was a lot of fun! The rest of the afternoon was spent with Amadou, my work partner. He wanted to walk with my around my quarter to meet some of the families that are using the trash service, as a way to meet our customers. This turned into us walking around for two hours talking with not only customers but I am pretty sure every member of his family. Though I don’t remember a single persons name it was nice seeing how excited Amadou was to introduce me to his family. Every house he told me “my family is now your family”, he is too nice. I finished off the night laying under the stars playing with the girls and talking to Abidina. What a great day.
I think it is safe to say that I attended my first Baptism ever.  Since I am no expert on Baptisms, or anything too religious for that matter, I will give my understanding of events here in Senegal and feel free to compare and contrast with American culture. A baptism in Senegal usually happens about a week after the birth and is not only a celebration but also acts as a naming ceremony. Now I am not sure if this is how it works in all of Africa but here in Senegal it is considered taboo to name a child in the first week or so after birth in fear of jinxing their health. At the ceremony the baby is sort of passed around, mostly amongst women while the new mom is dressed in her best- hair and makeup fully done. The other women of the family cook a huge meal for everyone, usually similar to normal daily meals but kicked up a notch, as Emerl would say, with some sort of meat like sheep, goat or cow. Before eating I spent time talking to my moms family and drinking real milk, straight from the tit! I hear this is a great way to get TB but I figure there are worse things that I can get while here and there is no sense in limiting myself and living in fear of things that may happen. After a few hours of people watching I started to get bored and started playing a game with Salimatou that quickly turned into what I believe was the largest tournament this village has ever seen. There were at least 20 kids gathered around as three raced to be the first to gets all of his/her rings over the poles in an imitation telephone. It was entertaining to say the least and I posted a video of it if you care to witness a true battle.
While there are small things that I will be doing to keep up with the waste management service the Peace Corps is adamant on Volunteers not working during their first three months of getting to site. This time is used to integrate and learn the language better. It makes sense if you think about it- I have all these ideas on how to grow our business and start to turn a profit but if I can’t verbally express myself I will 1) not be understood and 2) not taken seriously because my knowledge of how to speak the language is that of a child. For now I speak to Amadou in French about things that are crucial that I know now but he is slowly speaking to me more and more in Pulaar. I keep telling him I have only been here a week and that its ok to speak to me in French still but he insists on me learning Pulaar sooner than later. So besides not working these are a few of the things that fill up my day:
• Going to the market with Mari to buy produce for lunch (always an adventure)• Eating A LOT• Watching my brother make tea (its truly a craft)• Practicing French by speaking to my brother and other community members• Post-lunch nap (mandatory)• Reading American books (my new favorite thing)• Convincing myself that I practice Pulaar enough (even though I know I should more)• Trying to figure out a workout routine (anything is better than nothing at this point)• Calling other volunteers whom I miss with our FREE VOLUNTEER TO VOLUNTEER CALLING 
So as you can see I have little time to do the things that I find entertaining or the least bit interesting (insert a tone of sarcasm here). Though with this being said I can’t wait until IST (In Service Training) in three months; that is the official marker for when us new Volunteers are welcomed into the working world. I believe it is a weeklong event at the Training Center in Thies. It is designed to help us further more with our projects; we will be able to ask specific questions concerning our particular projects. 
Well that is all for now folks. Stay tuned for more to come this week; I am sure I will have lots to report. Until then, if there is anything specific that you ever wonder about or think only in your head for fear that the question may be inappropriate, please do ask in the comments section. I will start to blog about things that interest my readers, not just me.
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