The Story About Dakar and Thanksgiving
Trip Start Jun 13, 2013
39Trip End Ongoing
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All the volunteers that belong to the Dakar region decided to set a day to deep clean the house and vote on their WAIST (West African Invitational Softball Tournament) costumes; a tournament put on by expats (expatriates- a population living abroad usually for work) each February as an excuse to drink alcohol and be American. The house cleaning was very productive and the house looks more like a Goodwill store now than a dumpsite, which is good. There is always an allotted plot at each regional house where volunteers take and give their old clothing. Some things are so ridiculous and were hopefully only purchased to wear as a costume (tutu, glitter blazer with shoulder pads, track suit) but there are things that if you are willing to take the time to go through it makes a great addition to any wardrobe.
Thanksgiving was hosted at the American Ambassador’s house, as he does every year. Last year the guest list was too large and some people came without bringing a side dish, the Ambassador provides the turkey, beer, and wine and the side dishes are up to the guests, so they ended up running out of food. With that being said this year the number of attendees was limited and I would guess that Peace Corps took up more than 80% of everyone. We were reminded, on several occasions, to act as though, well, we were not volunteers.
About a year ago I was hustling through a crowd at the Mall of America’s Best Buy trying to find an external hard drive at a mega discounted price and this year I will be sleeping in, eating a bean sandwich for breakfast and taking my $4 cab ride to the Artisanal Fair. This fair or expo, whatever you want to call it, is a chance for a group of artists that work with volunteers to showcase their products and sell them to the expat market. All the products are hand made in Senegal and offer a higher quality than the normal touristy products you find. Some of the artists that they work with ship their goods overseas and even a few are featured in stores like Pier One. Woven baskets, paintings, jewelry, wooden statues, and tapestries are a few of the things that you can expect to find. One little trick that the volunteers are teaching the artists is pricing, in a simpler form of course. They teach them that even though everyone sells a certain basket for a certain price does not mean your basket has to be the same price. Maybe you use better quality products to make your basket or it has features that you can’t find anywhere else? Your basket should cost more. It’s amazing how we take even the little things for granted such as knowledge. It takes some time to get used to not assuming that the things that I learned in high school are not common knowledge.
It is just about time to go back to site and I am both excited and dreading it. I love hanging out with volunteers, watching movies and making fancy dinners but I have to remember that that is not why I am here. At this point I am just waiting for mandat (our monthly living stipend that includes money for food, housing, transportation and walk-around) to get deposited into my account so that I can get back to site. We usually get “paid” around the 23rd of each month and it’s the 25th and I don’t have a penny to my name. So in summary I am stuck in Dakar until I get paid so that I have enough money to buy my bus/car ticket back to site. Boo.
Between IST and Thanksgiving I have spent the last three weeks with my fellow volunteers and it has been a great time. Dakar and Thies are so different than the Senegal that I know and live in it’s a good escape. They have malls here, fancy hotels, pet stores, grocery stores with actual carts and air conditioning. It’s like a different world, but the world that I am used to and love. Someday America we will be reunited but until then, peace.