Sunday, December 9, 2007

Pictures

These are a couple pictures of Luci's senegalese birthday party. We all got matching fabric and had dresses made. As you can see some people were party poopers and didnt wear the required attire. *Pointing downward*


The Homeland

I am in Dakar awaiting a medical appointment and my 2:55 am flight tuesday night to AMERICA! I cannot wait to spend time with my beloved family and friends, and what better time than Christmas!!

I cant wait to see everyone and if you would like to get ahold of me (from wednesday on) call my old cell phone number or drop on by. Bring wine and cheese.

Anyhoo, just wanted to let my devoted readers know that Im taking a break from saving the world for a short while so don't be worried. ;)

yahoo

Thursday, November 8, 2007

HO hum

Mosquito net nipping?? I need to pay better attention to my spelling. In case there was any confusion, mosquito net DIPPING was meant; the process of dipping nets in chemicals to repell mosquitos. Clear? Good.

Bernard and I painted a map of the world in one of the rooms in my school last weekend and I am slightly angry at God for not making the world easier to draw. Have you ever tried drawing the world? There are some MESSED up countries. Not to mention all those puny islands hanging out everywhere just LAUGHING at my distress.

Anyhoo, Its done and I hope to show the children and teachers how to use it. You would think that teachers would know what a map is and what countries are where, but not so much. I mean, I very much lack any sort of geographical skill (just ask Bernard---ok, dont ask him. He knows) but I can at least name all the continents.... for the most part. Russia's one, right? People here have no real idea of what the world looks like or where things are in relation to eachother. Thats why this map project is such a great project for Peace Corps volunteers.

This saturday Luci, a third year SED volunteer, is throwing a "Senegalese" birthday party for her 30th birthday. She rented out the local youth center, hired a drum band, and arranged for the fete to be catered, Senegalese style of course. She invited her Senegalese family and friends as well as the volunteers. Im looking forward to rocking out to some Akon and Baba Mal.

November 22nd is thanksgiving and we're all going to the regional house for a thanksgiving extraveganza. Im in charge of pies.

Then December 12th I will be gracing the wonderful continental U.S. with my presence for a few weeks. Can't wait!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Travialle, c'est vrai?

On the work front (the actual reason I'm here), things have been a little rocky. My counterpart has lent me a scale in order to do weekly baby weighings but no one seems quite motivated to help me clean up the health hut in order to have a place to do them. Everyone I talk to tells me to talk to someone else and I was then told recently that I'm going to have to wait until people are done working in the fields, which I'm told could be as late as January. The health hut has been neglected for about 5 years so getting it functioning is more than I person job. I could try holding the weighings somewhere else but the only place with a sufficient flat surface is the table in the health hut, (tables are not in abundance in villages). I just hope I get to do this project before my rocky relationship with my counterpart dwindles and he demands his scale back

Earlier this week I attempted a mosquito net nipping that sort of failed miserably. I had problems finding a place to do it, first off. The chief refused to let me use his... sand because he was afraid the chemicals were bad for the cows. One of my relais, people from the village that I work with, offered to let me use her yard. I met with a few people about when and where to do it and what I should charge. I decided to charge 100 cfa per net, which is about 20 cents. The bottle itself cost almost ten bucks and I know I wasn't going to get all that back so I didn't think it was a bad price, nor did the women I asked. So the day before I planned to dip the nets I walked around and told everyone and when the day came only a couple people brought nets. I was told to come the next day because hopefully more would come.....they didn't. I dipped about 12 nets in a village of more than a thousand people. Needless to say I'm disappointed. I later heard some women saying that it was too expensive and that I should have done it for free, which I thought about, but concluded that in order to get these people to take control of their own health, they should not just be handed things. That and I do not wish to perpetuate the idea that I am only in the village to GIVE them things. I am putting much effort into dispelling that myth.

I met with the principal of the school a couple days ago and he seems really eager for me to start some work in the schools which I'm really looking forward to. The volunteers here have griages, stencils, for painting maps on the school walls and I'm planning on starting a big painting project of the world map this Saturday. Bernard, a fellow environmental education volunteer is coming to help. Paint party!

A Tale of Two Flip Flops

In Senegal most people wear a single type of flip flop (probably imported from China or Japan) that for the most part come in two colors; white with green straps or brown with brown straps. People don't tend to stray too far from this norm. Because everyone wears the exact same type of flip flops, you can imagine that this sometimes becomes problematic.

When entering a room or stepping onto a mat (where most Senegalese life takes place), it is customary to take off ones shoes. Since this occurs many times throughout the day, I am constantly taking my shoes on and off. It has been experience that after entering a room or stepping off a mat that I can never figure out what brown, dollar flip flops are mine. I often try on many pairs before guessing which ones are the right ones and I'm sure that many variations of others' shoes have passed through my possession.

A couple nights ago, I stepped out of my flip flops to step onto a mat. While waiting for dinner at night I fell asleep briefly (per usual because dinner is not served until after 10 at night) only to wake up to find that my flip flops were gone (quite a frequent occurrence). When I groggily announced that my flip flops were gone (honestly it was more of look of sleepy bewilderment more than words) I was brought 7 shoes resembling my own, three pairs of varying sizes and a random left foot. After sticking my foot in each and trying to recognize my own from sensory memory, I was able to retrieve my "borrowed" scandals.

Because everyone is constantly taking on and off their shoes its common for one to simply take the closest pair of whosever are around. I always chuckle when men take my flip flops for a moment to attend to some brief task, their toes sticking far outside the perimeter of the front and their heels hanging off the backs. My counterpart (an older man who works at the health post) "borrowed" my flip flops the other day for almost an hour while he went to the mosque to pray, first asking of course if I was going anywhere that might require shoes. I didn't really get a chance to answer before he was already out into the village.

Something horribly unrelated: moments of conversations lost in translation.

I was discussing work with my counterpart and was trying to discuss the matter of breastfeeding. I was trying to say that proper breastfeeding and infant nutrition was a problem Ive been trying to work on in my village and he seemed really confused. It was finally realized that the word I was using actually means "to pound food"--muynude vs. muyninde. He then told me that in order to eliminate such problems with vocabulary in the future, I should grab my nipples when referring to breastfeeding to get my point across. I'm going to have to work on that one....

Monday, October 8, 2007

Sad news...

I am in Ourosogui originally with the intention of meeting the new Peace Corps Senegal Country Director for lunch but unfortunately that could not happen today because the CD had to abruptly cancel his plans and head back to Dakar. Last night we (Caitlin was in my village visiting) recieved a call from another volunteer informing us that our security officer, Lamine, had been killed in a car accident while going around visiting all the volunteers' sites. The driver was apparently uninjured but we have no other information or specifics as to what happened. We all knew Lamine pretty well of course and he was a wonderful security officer, he sincerely cared immensely for the health and safety of every volunteer and was also an all around great guy. As you can imagine, this comes as a shock to all of the 142ish volunteers currently serving in Senegal.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Henna; friend or foe?

If you look to the upper left hand corner you will see the outcome of a pretty in-depth process in the Senegalese art of henna. In ten days Ramadan comes to a close and is followed by a three day party in which everyone cooks and eats lots of meat and "sauce" and everyone buys new clothes, gets their hair rebraided and of course gets "fudaaded" or hennaed. I was hanging out, not doing much of anything in my village and after about the 500th suggestion of getting hennaed, I figured, what else have I got to do? So I was instructed to buy this greenish powder and white, first-aid like tape and come back the next morning to get this done (this is my friend Rougii's house who sold me the powder). So I come back the next morning with my powder, my tape, and the socks I was instructed to bring. Rougii sits down with me and begins the process that wouldnt end until nearly 11 hours later, much to my relief.

First she tapes the peices of tape to a plastic bag and then cuts the tape into long thin strips with a razor, (the razor is an important item in henna and is used throughout). After this is done she starts designing patterns on my foot in various designs with checkers, boxes, stars, and other shapes. While she does this, she uses the razor to cut off the peices as she tapes them and wasnt very cautious about not cutting me, I have many tiny cuts; this is not a painfree process. Each foot took at least an hour and after, an extra set of hands was brought in to help mix the henna and apply it to my feet and hand (yep, just one, cant do both or else Id have problems doing life's little necessities if you know what I mean). After caking on this mud-like substance to my feet, they double wrap them in plastic bags, put socks on, and tell me I cant take them off until after Takusan (the evening prayer). Im like, "ok great. This isnt so bad," and I hang out for a while laying on mat (listening to how Americans have a lot of money and how I can't speak Pulaar) when it gets to be pretty hot and I am dying for some water (that I cant drink in public) so I get up to hop back to my hut for a sec, much to the chugrin of my fellow hennists.
"NO, you have to stay here all day! You're going to mess up your henna!"
Theres no way that was going to happen so I tell them I must and that Ill be back and promise not to touch it before I come back. However, I didnt plan for how hard it was going to be to walk with henna mud, two plastic bags, socks, and flip flops. Its horrendously hot and my feet are sweaty and sliding all over the bags and henna and I can't keep my flip flops on so Im basically kicking them in front of me and shuffling as if I have a debilitating disease, (and a very forlorn expression I'm sure). Adding to my misfortune, there had been a death in the village earliear that day in a compound I have to walk by in order to get to mine, so not only do I look like a doofus, I look like a doofus walking by a throng of mourners I have to politely greet, giving them my bagged hand in salutation. I suck.

Later, after trudging back, I cannot wait to get this stuff off me and let my appendages breath. Rougii takes the bags off and scrapes the mud off but leaves the tape on, and then.... no... she can't be.....mixing something else and slabbing that on my feet as well! NO! Dont put the bags back on my feet! CURSES! Apparently they put this other stuff on in order to turn the henna black. You only leave it on for an hour or so and the glop gets really hot on your skin. Finally after thinking I was never going to escape the bagged limb torture, I am brought a bucket of water and told to wash. PRAISE ALLAH!

Alas, the henna is quite neat and everyone I come across tells me how pretty it is and how I am now Senegalese. There has to be an easier way to gain respect.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lets talk Malaria ...and books.

As the rainy season is coming to a close (I will miss you and always think of you fondly) malaria is becoming a concern for health volunteers. Fortunately in the north, because its so hot and dry, the occurence of malaria isnt as prevelent as other parts of the country because there are very few mosquitos except during and after the rainy season.

As a little backround information malaria is one of the leading causes of death for young children in sub saharan Africa. Malaria is contracted when a person is bitten by a female anaphelese mosquito. Symptoms are similiar to that of of the flu but the disease can escalate incredibly quickly in a matter of hours.

In order to decrease the risk of contracting the disease it is best to sleep under an impregnated mosquito net, limit the amount of standing water that attracts mosquitos, and wear repellent. Unfortunately many people here cannot and do not follow these precautions. Often the adults or the men will sleep under nets but the children are left unprotected. I've noticed that most of the villagers I see do use mosquito nets but Im sure they dont have them impregnated regularly, (with a chemical that repells mosquitos from the net). I want to do a mosquito net dipping in my village but there are only two places nearby where the chemical is avaiable; in Matam, about an hour and 20 minutes from Boki Diawe, or Ndioum which is 6 hours away. Obviously Matam is the best bet but finding the person who has the chemical is going to take some work. I guess you have to go meet with him and convince him that you're going to use it for your village. I hope to do this next week while on my way to Kanel, Caitlin's site, to do the nutrition activity with her health post. Ill let you know how and if it goes.

Oh a little note to those who are worried about me getting malaria, all pcv's are required to take one of two anti malarial drugs. If a PCV is found to be "noncompliant" with this rule he or she can be administratively separated. Yes I take my drugs, even though it gives me weird dreams, so dont worry about me.

Also, to all you fatefull readers out there: a call to action!
There is a middle school near my village and Jane and I are friends with an English teacher that works there. We were wanting to start an English library as a resource for the school and are asking for help in attaining, old or used books and magazines. The students are teenagers, around 15 to 18 years old but their English is obviously not spectacular so nothing too difficult. You can leave your copy of the "Iliad" at home. But if you have any old or used books or magazines lying around and are willing to spend the money on postage, the school will surely appreciate the contribution.
You can send the books and magazines to:

PCV Ashley Goodson (or PCV Jane Kleven)
B.P. 83
Boki Diawé
Senegal
West Africa

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

And I was afraid no one would show up!

This is when I was measuring arms and recording the names and ages of the children, right before things got a little out of hand.
This is Jane's village. Villagers gather to watch me cook the porridge while Jane measured arms.

So I tried to upload more pictures but am not able to at this moment. This past Saturday, Jane and I did a nutrition program in our villages. I wanted to have it at the health hut but that didnt work out so we camped outside the chief's house on mats and measured children's arm widths with bands to determine whether or not they were malnourished. We also made a healthy porridge (called "bouille" in French) and gave some to all the little kids. The villagers were really receptive and came in droves, with their children in tow. At one point it got a little out of hand with mother's throwing their kids at me and people crowding around. I am not so sure if they quite understood the correlation between measuring arms and giving out porridge in the hopes that they will learn to make the porridge as well and give it to their children in order to combat malnutrition. But if feels good to get some work done and the village has a better understanding of my reason for being there. One of the ladies from my village was a huge help and seems really motivated to do similiar projects with me in the future. When we were done she asked, "So when are we going to do this again? Next week?"

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Goings on and goings off....

My homecoming to the village was less dramatic than I would have thought. Lots of people were eager to greet me but no big parties or scenes. Life seems exactly the same as I left it. My room has had no flooding and is in tact. The biggest change to life in the village is now Ramadan which is proving to be a cultural and difficult experience. At around 4:30am the mosque sounds reminding everyone to wake up in order to eat and drink something before the sun comes up. Everyone gets up, half asleep and eats a bowl of a sour milky substance, in silence, and immediately goes back to bed. While the sun is up everyone goes about their business as usual save for a little slower and more frequent napping on mats. By the evening things get pretty quiet as Im sure the hunger and thirst are coming to a head. At around 7:30 (sometimes earlier) everyone asks around to see if its time yet to break the fast. Then they make juice and drink water and eat dates, happily. Spirits instantaniously lift. After this little "fete" they proceed to eat every meal they missed in succession. First comes breakfast (coffee and bread), then a little while later, lunch (rice and fish). Ive been told that they eat their dinner before going to bed but Im never present for this activity because I cannot stay up that late.

I'm sure while reading this, your silently asking, "sure THEY do all this, but do YOU, Ashley, participate in the fasting?" They answer is kind of. And as far as they know, I do, but I drink water secretly in my room, because dehydration is not pretty when you're a two hour walk to the road in 130 degree heat and the nearest hospital is an hour away. And I also eat a cup of cereal in the morning. Other than that, I'm trying my hand at fasting the best I can. Its not easy. The hours from around 3 to 5 are the worst. Either way, eating or drinking in public or in front of people during Ramadan is extremely rude and Im sure you would get some pretty harsh looks. They feed the children during the day and technically women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are not required to fast but at least in my village, they are, which is something us health volunteers are trying to fight. Obviously not drinking water or getting any nutrition during the day is not healthy for your unborn child or your breastfeeding infant.

I'm anxious to see how successful any work will be during Ramadan as well. Jane and I have a nutrition program planned in my village next week where we plan to do a short demonstration on how to make a nutritious porridge for weening babies and make arm bands to measure proper weight gain in babies. My village has a health hut (a building intended to be used as a health resource for the villagers, a place to go to get guidance on how to treat diarrhea, basic first aid, and a place for women to give birth), however, it stands empty having never been used. My goal is to get it up and running and I thought having this program there would be a perfect start. This is proving to be difficult. Nobody seems to know who has the keys or which keys go to which doors and after many questions and attempts, the hut remains locked and I have not been able to get in. Something that seems so simple is turning out to be so hard.

In other news, I went to the bank a couple days ago and after signing the little slip and carbon copy you have to when getting money out, the teller slides me my money, my copy of the receipt and a little note that says, in perfect english, "give me your telephone number." At least he didn't ask me to marry him and take him back to America with me! Its a nice change. I just laughed and took my money and left.

Have I mentioned that its hot here? Really..... hot. And where the hell did all these flies come from?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Riots and Ramadan

So after about six weeks of galavanting around the country I am now heading back to my village. There has apparently been a lot of flooding and I've heard some horror stories about huts, compounds and entire villages being flooded out so I'm a little scared.

The ride up here yesterday was quite the adventure and probably the first time I've ever truly felt unsafe being a "toubak" in Senegal. 7 volunteers, including myself were riding in a car up the northern border on our way to Ourossogui when we came upon a small town with lots of people in the road. This isnt really uncommon to see at road towns, people waiting for busses and such, but we quickly realized that that was not the case. We drove up and there immediatly appeared at least 50 people that rushed the car, pounding on the windows, yelling, throwing things, and there appeared to be some guys at the front of the car attempting to lift the car and perhaps flip it over....? Anyway; the driver realized that this wasnt the greatest situation and turned off into the village and turned around. When we got further out we noticed that they also appeared to be burning things as well. We called a volunteer that lived there and she said that people were upset because a soccer match had been canceled and a riot broke out. We called our security officer and ended up just paying a little kid to direct around the rabble. We had to convince the driver to go, cause I think he was a little shooken up, as was I. But Im fine and no harm befell me.

Back to the village I go.
Oh and Ramadan starts today. No food or water when the the sun is out. Im scared.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pictures

Unfortunately I never have any pictures of myself because the villagers cant use my camera, partly because I dont let them touch it and partly because my camera is pretty finicky and they wouldnt be able to figure out how to use it.

This is a picture of my host father, the chief, my host mother and their neice Aissata who wanted me to take a picture and send it to her in an email because she lives in France. She was only here for a day and couldnt believe that I was going be here for two years. She spoke English and obviously french. She was really nice.
This is Aissata and her sister on the far left, Naffi, and some other ladies au village.

PICTURES

These are some pictures I took of the "Chossan" in my village. Im not really sure what it is specifically but they dress a bunch of kids up in tradional clothing and parade them around. Then they ask them one by one what they're going to do for the village. Some responded with things like "Im going to raise cows so the village can have meat and milk" others said stuff like, "Im going to take care of the children."

This is a little girl whose mom saw my camera and made me take a picture of her daughter, but I didnt mind because she was cute.
These are a bunch of boys that go to koranic school in my village. Do you see the one to the left giving the 'thumbs up'? I love that.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Finally!

After three months in the village, a 12 hour car ride with a driver who must have " forgot" to get gas at the many stations we passed along the way and seemed surprised to learn that we RAN OUT OF GAS, and quite a disgusting little bout of stomach trouble, I'M HERE!

I'm back in Thies and happy to see my friends and host family. Two of my syblings have gotten married since I left and my brother's wife, who is very nice, has moved in. They've also acquired a bucket of turtles that they like to set outside my door at night which was to my great surprise the first morning when I awoke to find them. (I almost stepped on them in my sleepy stupor.)

The weather is great and the food is even better. Today we had CHICKEN. CHICKEN! You can not imagine what a delight it was. I ate probably at least 5 more bites than I should have but I have to store up for the village. This weekind we're all going to Dakar for a party that they American Club is having for us. Im going to be so spoiled with food for these three weeks.

Our training consists of mostly health technical training and a little language. I've decided to take French this time for a much needed review.

I could write more but theres not much more going on and I've got to go eat some food anyway.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Unpleasantness

Life in the village has been a little "bumpy ," both figuratively and literally, lately.

Figuratively:
Unfortunately an incident occurred a couple days ago that made me feel powerless and horribly uncomfortable. Everyone from my compound and I went to a baptism (where I got to eat MEAT and drink cold water, but not without the constant scrutany of the villagers who seem to find it remarkable to see a white person eat with her hands). Afterward we all wandered back to the compound in good spirits. Everyone including myself were all sitting outside when Demba started yelling at Miriam (the family I live and eat with), about what I do not know, and all of the sudden he hits her across the face. She sits down and starts crying and everyone in the compound sits silently while eventually she goes inside to get her things and goes to her family's house in the village. I had actually found out from another woman in my compound earlier that day that he had been married before but she divorced him because he hit her and the child that I thought was their's is actually his from the previous marriage. When a woman gets a divorce it is a very shamefull thing for the family and the father can refuse to accept the children, which is what happened in this case with the 7 year old girl who lives with Demba and Miriam. Obviously this situation is horrible and made me sick to my stomach knowing that here men can hit women with absolutely no repercussion. (Just a little note: in the Koran is says that its ok to hit women as long as its not in the stomach if they're pregnant). Secondly, Demba was my friend. Demba and Miriam feed me and look out for me, and with Miriam not there, I don't eat. This makes my relationship with them a little awkward considering I wouldnt know what to say to Miriam even if I knew how to say it. Anyway she's back now and all seems well for the time being. Theres even a verb in Pulaar for when you send someone to the wife's house to get her to come back after a fight. Go figure.

Literally:
This morning while riding a horse cart to the road from my village, I was staring off absentmindedly into the rolling desert when the horse tripped and fell to the ground taking the cart with it. The front of the cart went down while the back end flew up, throwing me into the air and on the ground before I could even tell what was happening. Luckily my body was there to break my fall. ;) I sort of summersaulted in the air and landed on my right shoulder and rolled onto my side. My right arm is scraped up but other than that Im fine, just a little shooken up. (The horse seemed to be alright too for any of you animal lovers out there). I just keep thinking that I'm so glad I decided to wear pants today because a fall like that could have been a lot more embarassing in the presence of the two boys on the cart and one man passing by if I were wearing a skirt.

Never a dull moment here in Senegal.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Work? What?

Abby, good question. My response: DON'T JUDGE ME!! You're right in that I dont really write much about work partly because Im not supposed to be doing any and partly because I think the other aspect of my life, the Senegalese quirkiness is more interesting. But anyhoo, in answer to your question, I am a preventative health volunteer. For the first three months at site I am supposed to be "assessing the needs of my community." In other words, I need to learn the language and the health problems of my village before I start any big projects. In another couple of weeks I go to "In Service Training" where I will recieve more technical, specific training geared towards that of my village. Although, technically I am not "supposed" to be working, I have been involved in some work. The volunteers in our area have a radio show every other week where we play American music and in between songs we do health skits about nutrition, malaria, pregnancy, dehydration, etc. I've helped write a couple and been in attendance at two. Also Jane, my nearest neighbor, and I did a training about first aid and nutrition a few weeks back. In addition, because I've noticed lots of skinny babies and talked to a few struggling mothers, another volunteer and I are working on a presentation about breastfeeding. (The other volunteer is a liscensed dula.)
My work is basically teaching the village about health practices, whether it be washing your hands before eating (out of a common bowl), sleeping under mosquito nets to prevent malaria, or building latrines to reduce the occurance of diarrhea or parasites.
But yes, most of the time I just hang out with people in my village and jam to 2Pac. But don't get me wrong, this is still work. Its not easy being around people all day who speak another language and ask you for money, medicine, food, the clothes that you're wearing, or visas to America; thats work, at least in my eyes.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Its been a while

I cant believe its been almost a month since my last entry, I guess you could think of that as a good thing. I'm so "integrated" I barely have time to piddle around on the internet. The truth is I just havent had enough time and when I dont have something specific in mind to write about then it takes me time I dont necessarily have.

Things on the Northern Senegalese Riveria front are pretty good. The rainy season started out with a bang and left me sitting in the corner of my hut, in the middle of the night, terrified. I was sure that the storm was going to blow my roof off, and me along with it. But alas, all is well and I think everyone has been in higher spirits now that the rain has come. Oh and the forage was fixed so I dont have to go to the well anymore, Im in heaven. I have ALL THE WATER I need, I can even take TWO bucket baths in ONE day if I want!

Jane has been on vacation in AMERICA for the past few weeks but she gets back today which is exciting. She has also brought her father and brother with her.

Ive had some pretty funny conversations lately with the people from my village. A few days ago I was hanging out outside a house in my compound and this boy, not from my compound, kept trying to talk to me. He just kept asking about Courtney (the old volunteer who moved out to live with her boyfriend, her name was Fatimata). I kept saying I didnt know her, never met her, blah blah blah, and he just wouldnt stop. So eventually I just turned around and said,"Mi yidaa haldude ma," which means "I dont want to talk to you." Everyone around just thought that was the funniest thing anyone could possibly say. They're still talking about it. I'll pass by and they'll say, "mi yidaa haldude ma" and just crack up.

The other day while eating lunch at my "host family"s house I was asked if I shaved my armpits....then was asked if I shaved other .....things. Usually my mother is always running around doing chores and stuff but when a woman asked me this, she stopped dead in her tracks to hear the answer.

I also had a conversation with an English teacher while watching an American rap video (downloaded from the internet) as to what a P.I.M.P. was and whether or not he would constitute as one. We decided he didnt. I still don't think he understands the term, but how would you describe a pimp to an African? Sometimes when I go to my local counterparts house, (he has a lot of sons) they will put some 2Pac casettes into the tape player, because its English and they assume I'll like it, and then they'll all bob their heads up and down and try to say the words. Its almost the funniest thing I've ever seen. Imagine a 3 year old, half naked, little boy jamming to the fowl language of 2Pac and having absolutely no idea what it means.

Anyway, as you might imagine things here are good and getting better everyday. I would even dare say, at least most days, that Im happy. Although I do get to go to Thies in three weeks for a month of In Service Training where'll I'll get to see volunteers I havent seen in three months. We will also inevitably hit up the beach at least a couple times while there. Its going to be a LOT of fun. IST got moved up one week so it starts August 6th instead of the 13th. I can't cait to see my Thies host family and drink all the cold drinks and eat all the hamburgers I want.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Goat urine, scorpions, wells.

I have proven myself as a woman to my villagers, for although I wear pants, do not wear earings, and neglect to cover my head, I CAN carry water on my head. Our forage is not working so what used to be a simple walk to the other side of my compound to the spicket, is now a trip to the well, on the outskirts of my village, where I have to pull water and carry it back to my hut, which is almost a kilometer away, multiple times. My life has become a LOT harder.

Ive just got back from our little retreat on our regional house. Its hard to work up the courage to go back to my village after having running water, cold drinks, and a DVD player. We did, however, have a few run ins with scorpions in the house. Caitlin and I killed one and if you turn your attention to her blog you can see pictures of the poor dead creature. (caitlininsenegal.blogspot.com) and theres a link to her pictures on the right hand side.

We also got a wonderfully refreshing goat urine shower on the way to Ndioum when two goats were tied to the roof of the car and neglected to ask the driver to pull over. Goats.....

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

some pictures, I would do more but this takes FOREVER

Laundry day!
My luxurious bathoom, thats not pee by the way, I had just dumped something out.
Thats the mosque that wakes me up at 5am everymorning. Praise Allah. See the cows?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

An ode to African animals...

Things here are difficult but everyday my feelings swell and strech. My family still seems to dislike me immencely and never misses an opportunity to tell me that I am bad at Pulaar and then proceed to talk about me, in front of me, for hours. Im not quite sure what they're saying, obviously, but they defintately throw in a couple "she can't speak pulaar" and "she cant do anything"s. It gets very frustrating and I dont think they realize that it hinders me actually wanting to talk to them and practice when all they do is put me down.

The other day I tried to win some points with the fam and offer to help cook lunch. The wife that was cooking told me to buy my own food and cook for myself in my room. I told her I didnt have an oven, and her exact words in pulaar were "then buy one. Go sit back down over there." How's that for headway? I think I've decided to spend less time over there.

Theres a family in my compound thats very nice to me and theres also a girl that likes to come "visit me" everyday, which just means she comes over and sits in my room in silence. I go to her family's compound once in a while and they're awesome. The other day she came and said she was going to go work in the garden so I asked if I could come with. The garden is amazing, I mean its amazing that anyone can grow anything up here, right? Its a village garden thats fenced in and every family has their designated space. They grow hacko, the leaves that they boil and eat for dinner EVERY night, onions, and I dont know what else. Everyday after Takusan (the evening prayer), all the women come with their buckets and water the garden. This is a daunting process because they walk from the trough to the garden over and over, with huge buckets of water on their heads. I was just walking with Rougii and I still had so sit down at a nearby compound because I was tired before she was even done. I tried to offer to carry the water for at least one trip but she wouldn't let me. I'm determined to impress the village women with my carrying-water-on-my-head skills. I do carry water on my head every morning when I get water but I only have to carry it like 5 yards.

I've had some interesting experiences with animals of a creepy crawly nature. Lizards are EVERYwhere. They crawl up and down the walls and across the ceiling, always making little lizard shuffling noises. They're pretty big and some of them are really beautifully colored with bright orange heads and blue tails. Lizards dont bother me usually and I like to watch them run around. However, the other night, I came into my room just as it was getting dark and got some water. I raised the bottle to my mouth and spotted a huge lizard on my chest. I freaked and probably made one of those girlish shreaks, dropping my bottle on the floor. It worries me that a lizard could somehow get on my chest without me realizing it.

There is also the case of the huge ass spider that crawled out from under my mattress as I was setting up my bed to go to sleep. This thing was huge, almost as big as my hand, brown, and had just crawled out from under the mattress I was about to SLEEP ON. Yes, I freaked out.

There are also these big black beetles that hang around, that Im pretty sure are harmless but one got caught in my mosquito net one night and whilst trying to escape made various writhing noises that convinced me that something under my bed was try to eat me. I didnt get much sleep that night. I sleep outside by the way. Everyone does, its too hot.

My village also has many, many, many cows-big ones with huge, scary horns. I know you're thinking, "wow, ashley, big frickin deal....cows, get over it" but Im not talking cows at a distance, I mean in your face, right next to you, while you're lying on mats on the ground and they could easily trample you. Its also not so much fun walking in between sleeping cows in complete darkness walking back to my compound. I have seen them charge little boys. These are not friendly animals.

I know you'd think being Africa, the animal life would be a little more exotic, its not, its just more in your face. People here LIVE with their animals. Sheep, goats, chickens, and donkeys are everywhere, as are the sounds they make.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I'm that kid....

You're horrible people, all of you. Do you remember being in middle school or high school and making fun of the foreign kids with the funny accents? I know you did (I know I did). Shame on us, shame on us for making fun of somebody thrown into a new culture and trying to learn a new, dificult language.

I am now THAT kid. I am the funny german kid that you teach to say funny, innapropriate things, all the while making him believe that you're laughing with him when you're actually laughing at him...but hey, they cant speak English so they dont know the difference. Its not fun. None at at all.

My installation was a little less fun that I had hoped, well, a lot less actually. After being ignored for many hours and being given no straight answer as to where my room was or when I could unload my stuff, the lock on my door was broken off to let me in to a filthy room with remnants of the former inhabitants. Apparently they "didnt know I was coming," which is bullshit, and the person with the key was out of the village. After buying and installing a new lock, the disgruntled Peace Corps employees drove off leaving me alone with the village....

Things are not easy. My family is not nice to me, basically ignore me except to make fun of me for not knowing Pulaar. The people in my compound (I dont live with my host family) get pissy with me because I dont eat with them eventhough I was specifically told to eat all my meals at my "family's" house, which is funny because I go over there all the time and am not always fed.

My village is 8km off the road, not 6, and probably 10 to 12km from the little town where I get my mail and can buy stuff (Boki Diawé). I walked it yesterday, about an hour and half to 2 hours. Unfortunately its impossible to bring enough water to drink while walking this far through the desert so by the time I got to Boki I nearly collapsed.

My address:

PCV Ashley Goodson
B.P. 83
Boki Diawé
Senegal
West Africa

You can leave off the Jane Kleven, I am now my OWN person! Plus, she sucks and would totally steal my packages and eat my food.

I dont have good cell phone reception and can only get a signal when I stand on the roof of my compound. I also dont have electricity so my plan is to maybe hang out on the roof at around 11pm everynight around the same time so if people want to call they can and that way I dont have to have my phone on all the time and waste the battery. If it gets to around 11:15 or so and no one has called Ill probably go to bed.

I will also be here in Ourosogui about once a week and I would EXTREMELY love some emails or messages. Im having kind of tough time and I could use back home support, in English.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Oh I forgot...and baby powder. Sweating creates problems when your wearing a pana (a long wrapped skirt that goes to the ankles).

I forgot to post this but I did get another cell phone and was able to get my old number back, so if anyone would like to call me, its the same, and if you dont know it, let me know.

Also my Millikin email account is finally being shut down so use ashleygoodsonis@hotmail.com if you need to email me something.

The heat:
I think its around 120 during the day and around 100 at night. I dont have a thermometer but this is what Im told. We re also near the river here in Ourosogui so its a little cooler, my site is 6km into the bush (on the other side of the road away from the river).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Every story has a beginning...this is mine.

So I am in my closest road town in the Northern border of Senegal, called Ourosogui. This is where I will do my banking and internet for my next two years of service.

I will be installed into my village either tomorrow or the next day. It is very hot, which is probably 90 percent of the topic of conversation here in the Fouta.

"Ina wuuli?"
"eey, Ina wuuli no feewi."
"Ina wuuli."
"eey, ina wuuli."
"Nder Fouta, ina wuuli."
"eey."

Translated:

"its hot, right?"
"yes, its very hot"
"its hot."
"yes its hot."
"Its hot in the Fouta."
"yes."

This conversation will take place numerous times with every single person you meet.

Sweating has become a way of life and quite a necessity. Speaking of, some new ideas for care packages: sports bras, tank tops (cheap wife beeters), kleenex, some C batteries!

I dont know yet about my cell phone or electricity situation but Ill keep you posted. or maybe not, since I wont be able to call you.....maybe..... here it comes.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Bad day, no cell phone.

So, yesterday, I kind of got mugged and my cell phone was stolen. So whoever reads this, if anyone, dont try to call me. Well I guess you can but it wont work, whoever stole it popped the sim card out almost immediately because we all tried calling it, so dont waste your money.

The story is that Im pretty much stupid. Usually I keep my cell phone in my small purse thing that it strapped around me but this particular day, it was really hot and I figured the less things hanging on me the better, because I had my backpack too. So I put my cell phone in the outside pocket, and it was zipped up and everything. So anyway, a couple of other girls and I are walking in a really busy, crowded spot in the market, in this building sort of thing and were on our way out. Some dudes hanging out in this alley saw me and started trying to get my attention. I just turned the other way and ignored them and started to walk to the inside street, but everyone else got caught up for some reason and stopped so I was by myself for only a couple seconds. So this guy, I couldnt even tell you what he looked liked, walked up quickly behind me and I felt a yank on my back and by the time I turned around, he was gone, my bag was open, and I knew instantly that my cell phone had been stolen. We called it immediately and walked back up to a couple shady guys hanging out in this little alley way and they said to just go to the police, but theres nothing they can do. The phone didnt even ring and thus ends my tragic story. I am without phone, and without money to buy another....and so it goes.
I try to think about the postive outlook to this event, like for instance, my digital camera and passport were both in my bag and are still there. I have also learned a VERY valuable lesson, keep your shit hidden, or dont have shit.

One more week of training and swearing in is on saturday. We leave sunday morning and spend that night at the regional house in Ndoum. After that we got to Ourasogie and stay in a hotel and wait for our installment. Im the last one to be installed in our entire stage. I have to spend the night alone in Ourasogie and I be installed friday morning. Hopefully other PCVs will be around. Its also gonna be...a little hot.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Drive-by-slapping

So we have our bikes which has actually been one of the coolest things. I feel like I finally have some control over when I get up, go to the center, and where I go after "school".
HOWEVER, I have come to learn that there are some hazards to riding a bike in Senegal, especially if you're white.
So my friend Krisin and I were leaving Pamanda's yesterday, just pushing off onto the road, when we pass a gas station on our right hand side with people everywhere. I ride past this old, Senegalese man, I kind smile, and next thing I know he SLAPS ME! Not in the face or anything, in the shoulder, but HARD. Im so stunned I almost swerve into traffic and I finally stop and look behind me to see if Kristin saw this. (obviously she did), she rides up saying, "he got me too, just ride!"
I couldn't believe it. I got SLAPPED by an old African dude. The kicker is that when I turned around he was smiling like he thought it was the funniest thing he had ever done.
What was up with that? Since then I can only assume that any innocent pedestrian is a SLAPPER.

I found out today that I am indeed serving in the village originally thought, sigh of relief. I met my counterpart today, he seems cool, and the coolest part about him is that he speaks a little ENGLISH. Raise the roof.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Africa is SOO hard, they make us eat pizza and drink beer and hang out on beautiful beaches.

I am sitting at the computer, red faced and content. This weekend we went to a little fishing town called Toubab Dialaw, a little North of Dakar. Today on the way home, riding in an Alham (an oversized van with really crappy seats, this one also had a pretty big hole in the floor but fortunately no scandals were lost) I realized that I've gotten pretty used to constantly being watched and noticed. Its seems strange that you can get used to something like that. There are very few white people in Senegal and eyes follow you wherever you go. Kids look and giggle and run home to tell their families that they just saw a white person. The reactions from Senegalese people are pretty mixed. In bigger cities, like Thies, people are semi used to Peace Corps volunteers so I either come across people really eager to talk, people who try to ignore you, or people that learn English cuss words just so they have something insulting to say to you as you walk by. Nighttime is the worst because Africans can spot a bouncing white face a mile away. Its weird to be constantly in the spotlight. When I leave this cyber I will inevitably walk out the door onto a sand road, in the dark, and trip on one of the many rocks or pieces of trash (as I always do) and every Senegalese person hanging around outside will see me and think "that stupid toubab."

We also get asked for money and other things....like ALL THE TIME.
"Dude, Im a peace corps volunteer, I make like 60 cents A DAY!"

PACKAGES

My mailing address is

PCV Ashley Goodson
c/o PCV Jane Clevens
B.P. 83
Boki Diawé
Sengal
West Africa

Im using Jane's name until I introduce myself to the guys who work at the post, so they dont steal and eat my food, enshallah.

Tomorrow we get to go to Dakar ALL DAY and eat PIZZA!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Packages

Crap, I have like no time left and I totally forgot my little piece of paper with my future address on it. I SUCK!

Anyway, I met my closest nieghbor yesterday and she's totally awesome, Im pumped for this whole "saving the world" thing now but only because someone cool is next to me

So apparently Ill have like no nutritional food up north so YOU guys are gonna have to help with that and Jane suggested sending stuff now and I will get you my number. Beef jerky will probably be the most awesome thing in the world as well as granola bars, oatmeal, mac and cheese, tuna packets....stuff like that and try to go easy on the sugar because we get enough of that here...man.

Sorry I suck, really.

Ok, these are the LESS cultural pictures of PCTs hangin and maybe drinking some beer...

This is at our cultural fair. We were in our "still too scared to dance" phase. Senegalese dancing is a little different. Its kind of this "pull your skirt up and jump and kick your legs out in all directions" kind of thing.
This is Kristin and I having NO IDEA that we were getting our picture taken... "be aloof"
Yes, this is us sitting outside of a grocery store, on a stoop, drinking beer. We had a rough day... Oh yeah, thats Bernard, Erin, and Mark. B and E are in my Pulaar class. Bernard is going to be very close to me up in the north but Erin had to be "too cool" and go to Tamba. I hate her. I let her know it all the time.
A lovely duet with my Chacos and beer can. Dad, lay off, its ART.
This is Vegas. Her name's really not Vegas, we named her that because she's from Main...no she's from Vegas, but she is sooo Vegas, not in a topless showgirl kind of way, but in a "sarcastic as hell" kind of way. I love her.
Us at Pamanda's.
Tenly and Dan playing ping pong. Might I just take this time to say that we recently held a ping pong tournament and I kicked Tenly's ace!.....yeah, I lost to Dan, which is funny because they're both in this picture.

Pictures, I've finally figured out how to post them!

Talibai's, they LOVE getting their picture taken, especially when you have a digital camera and they can see the pictures and make fun of their ugly friends.
This is my mother, Aissata Ba. Women dont change their last names in Senegal when they're married.
This is my sister, Rougii, and her beautiful daughter, my neice, Sahli. Shes 10 months old.
So a little backroud info, in Senegal there are what we call "Talibais" which are boys that are sent from all over Senegal to these "schools" to study the Koran. Some of these schools are pretty awful and dont feed or clothe the children so they go begging on the street for food and money. I usually give them candy if I have some with me, they love that. Anyhoo, I had to take a picture of this one....
This is my Pulaar teacher, Sakhir, cutting a rug at one of our cultural fairs. I love it when he dances.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Stupid Americans

Sorry about that, my time ran out.

So after, naturally, we decide to hit up a sketchy bar nearby because, well, we're not very smart and as we were walking in, the song "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" was playing....in a trashy bar....in Africa. I love it.

Today in language class we were discussing our previous night adventure and our language teacher was astounded that we sent to this place because apparently O susaa (he's scared) of that place. Did I mention that we're smart? Oh and "holko fiirti" means "how do you say" in Pulaar, a popular question in language class.

Next tuesday is another language assesment so I'm going to go jangat some Pulaar.

Oh yeah 4 of us are going to Dakar tomorrow for the day, should be exciting.

So yeah, more drama surrounding my site placement; apparently I have no where to live because the Chief rented out my place so I may be serving somewhere, not far, from Goudoudé Ndwethbé (my original placement). Yeah, whatever.

Holko fiirti "Blood Warriors"?

Last night was an interesting and cultural experience in the city of Thies. A couple of us daring volunteers heard of an outdoor movie theatre that plays HORRIBLE American, kung fu type action movies dubbed in French. Little did we know (how would we) that this place was a little.... sketchy....ok, Ill go ahead and say probably way sketch, but hey, it was a movie, under the stars, and who cares that a creepy drunken man sitting to the left of me, downing pints of gin, wouldnt stop grabbing me and saying things I obviously didnt understand. No biggy. The important part was that we were watching an enlightening movie.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Ashley's living in the bush.

So today I found out a lot more about my site placement from a COS'ing PCV that lived right next to the former volunteer at my sight. Apparently there was a big "too do" about this chick. I guess she didn't get along with her counterpart at all and had a Senegalese boyfriend whom she moved in with during service and no one (including peace corps staff) even knew. So she just moved out of her village and stopped working altogether. Im hoping this won't reflect poorly on me, which inevitablly will. When I was on demyst, villagers were still calling my volunteer by the name of a previous white NGO worker who had VISITED two years prior. Its also disheartening to know that I will have the same counterpart.

As far as specifics go, the uncommon part about my situation is that I don't "live" with my host family. I live in a house thats rented out by teachers in the village but not in my host family's coumpound, which is weird. I've never heard of that before. So I'm supposed to go eat meals there everyday and just..... I dont know, hang around? However, I was told that my setup is pretty sweet comparatively. My house has solar panels and a television. I have two rooms that are supposed to be huge.

As far as geography goes, I'm pretty far into the bush and about 15km from the nearest PAVED road. So I will have to take a sherette (a horse or donkey drawn cart) or ride my bike (which is supposed to be almost impossible given the needles, sand, and puddles during the rainy season, not to mention what to do with it once I get to the road).

The village is very conservative and I will have to wear a long skirt to my ankles and probably have my head covered when I'm in public. This PCV did tell me, though, that her village seemed really eager to work and that there were a lot of educated people in the village. I guess the fact that they requested another volunteer after the last one says something about their motivation.
I'm trying to keep a positive attitude.
"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darnett, people like me."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I am hardcore....or at least I hope so

Yes, yes, those who know me know that manners at the table are not my strong suit. Fortunately for me, in Africa, we don't eat at tables. BOO YOW.

So yes, I have gotten my site placement. It is a small village near Matam which is on the Northeastern side. Its the desert. Its hot. Like really hot. Last year this area officially won the number one HOTTEST place IN THE WORLD. Last year a temperature of 145 was reported.
But Im thinking that after a 110, 120 or so, you really cant tell the difference between really f'ing hot, and a little bit f'ing hotter. You know?

The other sad part is that although I will have a bike, I wont be able to ride it around my site because the only real vegetation that grows there is this bush with huge spikes that fall off and get everwhere, like the soles of your shoes and, consequently, bike tires. So I really wasnt joking when I said screw the helmet (or heltmet which I just noticed.)

Im not really near any of my good friends. Bernard is the closest to me and Angela's not far.

I dont know very many specifics about my site because the info I got was from 2005. Apparently the girl before me Early Terminated *cue dramatic music* so I don't get a COS report like most other trainees.

Honestly I am kind of bummed, but someone has to go and help and I didn't come thinking this was going to be a vacation.

So this weekend we went to a little beach town called Mbour. We rented this awesome house that had a fridge and a kitchen. We made spagettii and it was awesome. Our house was right on the beach and at night we hung out on the roof/patio under the stars and listened to horrible 80's music on Laurens iPod. Lauren is the MAN, by the way.

Anyhoo, its nice to be back in Thies and with the family. Week 5 starts tomorrow. In order to swear in we have to reach an "intermediate low" in our language. This has been an ongoing joke between the trainees. High standards, I know.
"Hey guys, hows it going?"
"I'd give it an intermediate low."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

You know what? Screw the heltmet!

Why? Because the bike safety trainer cant come until a week from next wednesday at the EARLIEST and of course, we cant RIDE our bikes until we get our THREE hours of bike safety TRAINING. Yeah, I guess that makes sense... I really need someone to show me how to move my legs in a circlular motion..... yeah yeah.... theyre probably right. Are you seeing the sarcasm on my face? yeah

SO this is offcially my one month anniversary of being in Senegal. The time went by SO FAST. It seems like just yesterday I was stepping off the plane and being bombarded by scary women with needles.... oh wait... yeah that WAS yesterday! We had our first assessments this week and it turns out I suck at helping people and they told me to get the fundey OUT. But not really.

So the other night I was eating dinner with the family and afterwards I asked where my host mother was. This wasnt because I didnt notice her not being there but it just takes time to think of the words and build up the courage to start a conversation I have little luck in understanding. SO anyway my brother in law proceeds to tell me that because I waited until after dinner to ask that I should give him my shirt. I thought this was weird and awkward so later I asked my Pulaar teacher what this was all about. He says that Pulaars have this sort of running joke called SALAT. Its basically that being hungry makes you forget things and if someone calls you out on being a "hungry space cadet" you have to give them something, like your shirt, for example.
So what is our Pulaar word of the day?
SARAT: to remember things after eating.

So tomorrow is site placement. This is big, guys. BIG.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Always wear your helmet!

Yes its been awhile since my last post. I hate to dissapoint the NUMEROUS people who check my blog daily (yeah right) but the internet has been sketchy lately. Especially when I typed a really long email to someone yesterday and the power went out and I lost 20 mintutes of work. Such is life in Africa.

Another such instance power related occured last week when a few of us went to a little restaurant here in Thies. We ordered food (I ordered a club sandwhich) and the waiter comes out 45 mintues later to tell us the power was (and had been) out and that they couldnt cook our food. He then asked us if we would like some burgers instead....? This is me shrugging my shoulders. 30 mintues later we got our burgers and ate them happily by candle light.

Im getting more used to the bugs. The other night we were at Pamandas having a beer, yes dad, a beer, and we were eating the complimentary peanuts (that we love because, hey, its not fish and rice) and we noticed there were many big ants crawling around the bowl. We ate them anyway. Ants are supposed to be good for you, right?

Pulaar is nuts in many ways. They have a verb for EVERYTHING. Like we would say, I ate lunch: ate being the verb, THE ONE verb. In Pulaar there is a different verb for every meal you eat. There is also a verb for every body part you wash. Oh and lets not forget the great ones like "to be last named" and "to feed the sheep." I dont know if that one actually exists but I wont be surprised when I find out. Theres also ones I cant get used to like "to cure oneself." I just dont get it. Ah well.

So next week is a BIG week here in Peace Corps Senegal. It will be our official one month marker. We get brand new bikes, with helmets of course. We also get our site placements which is BIG. We are also growing up because we are ALLOWED, yes, I said ALLOWED to leave Thies for the weekend. Not the whole weekend, because we have class on saturdays but for a WHOLE NIGHT. Me and 9 other people have rented a beach house in Mbour and its supposed to be SWEET!

Well I have to go study because we have language and technical (health) proficiancy tests this week. Hope I dont fail and get kicked out! ;)
I love Pulaar....right?

Monday, April 2, 2007

Time time time, see whats become of me

First off, Dad, those are not shorts. I thought we had this talk about how women arent allowed to wear shorts unless theyre prostitutes. In the picture, I am wearing a pana, the n has one of those things over but I cant find the key for it on this computer. So, a lesson:

In Africa it is totally cool for a woman to whip out her breasts or go topless; which my mom does all the time, but if you show any skin above the knee you are a floozy. Got it? Good.

So this is going to be one of those frustrated, venting emails. Senegal sucks for those of us humans who like this past time called sleeping. Let me give you a little snippet as to what a typical night in Ashleys night is like...

I come home around 7, maybe hit up a cyber, maybe chill with the fam. My dad makes me bring out my Pulaar notebook and review and we sit and watch tv for a couple hours while the family takes turns asking me things I dont understand. We finally eat dinner around 9:30, and by this time I am so exhausted. Promptly after eating dinner (never enough apparently) I say good night and ATTEMPT to go to bed. At this point, the family spontanteously decides to relocate to the 4 by 8 cement room outside ma chambre, and proceeds to yell across the house at eachother, slamming metal doors, all while the babys crying. This lasts until sometimes 2 in the morning. BUT WAIT, silence does not prevail because then the sounds of repetive, chanted prayer is played over a loudspeaker at a nearby mosque ALL NIGHT LONG. At around 6, I am delightfully woken up by the pleasant sounds of roosters crowing and sheep bahing that are oustide my window. Did I mention the howling, gutteral sounds of cats whining last night? That was nice too.

Oh lets not forget the 3 inch long bug that crawled out of the toilet whole while I was squatting over it at 4am this morning either. That was the high point. But hey, at least it wasnt a snake!

More shots tomorrow!

Friday, March 30, 2007

The bigger the better.

So I'm finally beginning to understand when PCV's say that the good days definately outshadow the bad. There's been so much going on (and there still is) but I really appreciate the little moments and accomplishments that mean so much to my success here.

I'm learning the language slowly but surely and growing closer to my peace corps friends, trainers, and even host family. Last night my house was hoppin with family and visitors. I got home and as usual my father told me to go get my notebook so we could study. He usually opens it and makes me read everything, and corrects my mispronunciations, but this time I wouldn't let him and I just kept it closed. I held my notebook on my lap and started asking him questions, in Pulaar, about his family. He loved this, and started asking me all kinds of questions like what HER name was, and what HE does, and what this and that are. It was awesome. At one point he said he had an older sister, so I asked him what she did for a living. He responded with "she's an eater." Everyone, including myself, just lost it. It was the first time I felt like I could portray even the tiniest bit of my personality to the people I'm living with, and that means SO much. We (father and sisters, my mom doesn't speak french,) also spoke in french quite a bit about my family and American life and it felt so good to be able to actually converse and understand someone else.

Language in Senegal is kindof a mess. French is obviously the national language but that doesn't mean that peope speak it, or even if they speak it, that doesn't mean they understand it. The reason for this is that schools only teach in french and most kids come to school never speaking a word of it. This makes learning difficult for the child and teaching difficult for the teacher. Teaching is composed mainly of writing french sentences on the board and the kids memorizing it. So kids will walk up to me and say things in french like "how are you" and "what is your name" but if you ask them the exact same question, they have no idea how to answer. So what I'm getting at is, the only Senegalese who REALLY speak french are teachers or very well educated people. In villages, these people are very hard to find, especially girls because they are taken out of school at about age 12 and married off. So there are like 6 other languages spoken in this country but they change too depending on where you are (Pulaar for example). What's my POINT?? Communication in Senegal is hard.

I'm learning that there are some aspects to senegalese culture that are awesome. As opposed to Americans, who value independance and privacy, Senegalese have a very strong sense of community and family. Whats theirs is everyone's and what's everyone's is theirs. Its perfectly acceptable for a cousin or friend to show up at the door of a family member and stay for days, or even years, no questions asked. And EVERYONE eats. Oh my lord. If anyone in Senegal ever goes hungry then they are doing something seriously wrong, because there is always a whole lot of eating going on. (To my detriment.)

Did I mention that somewhere along the lines of like 80 percent of the muslim population in Senegal is polygamous?? For some reason I didn't really think about that a whole lot before coming here. I'm not sure if my father has multiple wives because there are always so many people around, but I will eventually get to the bottom of it. There are a couple women whom I'm not sure of their relation?? The whole idea here is that the Koran says that men should have as many children as possible to populate the world with muslims. So if a wife can't have children, or doesn't have them fast enough, the family pressures the man to get a second wife. The number of children the wife has gives them status in the family. This is going to be a huge challenge for health and environmental education volunteers. We as health volunteers are trying to promote family planning, and environmental education volunteers are trying to promote population control. These ideas and polygamy don't quite mix.

Oh yeah, I have a cell phone! I probably shouldn't post my number on the internet but if you want it, email me and I'll email it to you. You could also email/call and ask my mother or shaun.
You should probably buy an international calling card to call me because it could be pretty expensive. I do however get free incoming calls and texts. Just keep in mind that I'm 5 hours ahead, so if you call at like 8pm, it will be 1am here and I will be very upset with you. I have training from 8am-12:30, and 2:30-6pm my time, so figure that out. ;)

Chris--i would LOVE pictures, or any sort of mail really *hint hint.* Mail here has been pretty good so far, like 5-7 days. If you want to send something bulky, or like a package, be sure to put it in an envelope because its a lot cheaper.

This is for everyone**: Don't send expensive things because the post offices here can be corrupt and they will go through stuff. Someone told me today, though, that if you do send something you don't want to get swiped its a good idea to put a bunch of tampons or pads in the box or envelople. Apparently Senegalese freak out at the sight of them and just leave whatever it is alone. *shrugging shoulders* A dude PCV actually told me this.

Till next time.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Our little girl is growing up!

This morning, after being woken up and "unlocked" I was allowed to walk to the bus stop ALL BY MYSELF! The bus stop is across the street, no joke, and my host father walked me yesterday and waited with me until the bus came. He was also there to pick me up. This is sad and cute at the same time because everyone else's host MOM walked them. But NO, my DAD walked me. (Yeah, I'm 23, did I mention that?) But yeah, this morning, my dad opened the door and sent me off on my own. *tear*
He did, however, stand at the doorway and watch.

Today was an interesting day because I was finally forced to think about the actual reason I'm here. I came to realize that I hadn't almost the entire time I've been here (except for maybe during demyst). This whole process is just so overwhelming I haven't gotten the chance to sit down and contemplate my task; health prevention. Since arrival, my life has been filled with new culture, new language, new customs, NEEDLES, packing and unpacking, traveling, the heat, feeling sick, trying not to feel sick, deciding whether or not my malaria medication is MAKING me sick... etc.
It was profound to sit back and discuss, specifically what we are here to do, which I have come to believe is extremely important. Common illnesses here are far more dangerous than in the US because of the lack of knowledge and resources to prevent and treat them. Malaria is of great concern. To us, this might be a nuisance and uncomfortable, but many Senegalese die from this disease every day. Small villages lack the knowledge to treat minor injuries. Therefore, minor cuts are often infected and the result is debilitating. Villagers will use tomato paste, toothpaste, or even charcoal to treat a wound (this is all done without washing the wound first, of course.) Washing hands is a big issue too, considering everyone eats with their hands from a communal bowl.

My host family, for instance, will bring soap for me before we eat, knowing that I will want to wash my hands, but they don't wash theirs. Obviously, that kindof defeats the purpose. Malnutrition, food sanitation, and family planning are all major issues as well.

My work here has not even begun. Now, if I could just get this pesky language thing down, I could put my cape and "s" labeled leotard on and get to WORK!

My family was so excited, I can now say simple things like, "how are you? peace only. How is your mother, father, wife, teacher? How are you doing with work, mosquitos, learning pularr? I rock.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Another day, another franc.

I just posted yesterday but obviously, I have some time on my hands since I can't do much else. My sister, Khadia (my namesake) is home from college this weekend which makes things even more confusing for me. Is she talking to me or to her?? I have no idea, but it doesn't really matter because I can't understand what you're saying ANYWAY!!

There are little nuances to African living that I'm still getting used to. For example, at night, it is customary for the father to lock all the doors (and sections) of the house. He is the only one with the key so essentially, I am locked in until someone gets up and lets me out. One volunteer had a particular problem with this when she had to use the toilet (which is outside) at 4:30 am. Her host mother heard her and came knocking on her door. The volunteer opened the door to find her mother holding a bucket. YEP! This is what we call "improvisation" which is the concept for most of my stay here!
No toilet paper??--improvise.
No running water??--improvise.
Don't speak the language??--improvise.

Simple isn't it?

My host father is pretty cool, he tries to speak french to me and teach me Pulaar, even though I have no idea what he's saying or even how to repeat it. I asked him what he did for a living and he pulled out a big bag full of dentures. Ah ha. He is a dentist. He showed me his office....not a place I'd want to get my teeth worked on. There are always people coming and going in my house, but there are these two ladies with children who were never introduced to me. I asked who they were a couple days ago and one of my sister's just said, "they don't live here." But they were still there the next day. So I asked Khadia and she explained that they were there to get their teeth worked on. So they have been sleeping, eating, and hanging out around the Diallo house for the last few days and when they leave, they'll have a shiny new pair of teeth. Africa is so hospitable.

I can't come up with anything new or exciting so I guess I'll end it there.

A demain.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The death of Binta.

My name is now Khadia Diallo and will be so for the next two months. I actually like Khadia better, because if you live in Senegal, you learn that names are very unoriginal. There are thousands of Binta's, and even more Mamadou's and Amadou's. Its tres confusing. Especially when you're thrown into a family and expected to know all of them (oh, like last night!) I actually have a sister named Binta, but in Pulaar its spelled "Bineta" but pronounced the same.

The rest of my demyst was alright. I worked at a med post and held babies while they got shots. They loved me for about 30 seconds and then immediately despised me and probably all white people (and probably will for the rest of their lives). If only they could understand that I, too, know the pain of the dreaded needle. Got another one yesterday and we get more next week!! Hooray!

So I moved in with my Thies host family last night which proved to be quite an experience.
"Tell me about it, Ashley."
Ok. So they speak Pulaar, which is what I'm going to speak (found out yesterday) but unfortunately I don't speak Pulaar yet, not even close and they don't speak french (maybe a little). But they have also been instructed NOT TO speak french or english to me so that I learn Pulaar. THis means that I sit awkwardly while people attempt to talk to me and eventually give up. We then sit in silence until someone decides that they're bored and turns the tv on. There are a couple babies, who would be my best friends (since they don't speak pulaar either) except they scream everytime I come near them because of my scary white face. This is my life.

The up side is that there is a cyber cafe right across the street and the connection is the best I've seen. There is also electricity although it goes out a lot. I've gotten into this soap opera called "The colors of love" but the power went out RIGHT as something (I don't know exactly what because I can't understand it all) big was going to happen. Oh the ups and downs of living in Africa.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sinthiou Mbal

So I'm in a small town called Aura Soge but am staying in a small village called Sinthiou Mbal, I don't know if I've spelled either correctly but I think they're close.

I'm in the north, (the dessert) and it has been very hot. I've heard it only gets hotter. We've walked around the village and talk to people and everyone's always interested to talk to us (Teresa and I) but even when Jennifer tells them we don't speak Pulaar they keep talking to us. Sometimes they start to get really mad that we don't respond to their greetings even after Jennifer explained that we just got here a couple days ago and don't speak Pulaar. The children constantly talk to me thinking that I'll understand them. THe kids here are awesome. THey're my favorite and biggest fans. They love to carry my water bottle for me and hold my hand and play with my hair. WHenever we're sitting in the family compound they'll come up and sit really close to me and just stare. At dinner they pick off some meat and throw it in front of my spot in the bowl and make sure that Jen tells me that its from Her (this is a sign of respect). Most of the food has been pretty good, except our dinner the last two nights have been HACO which is boiled leaves rolled in millet. This basically tastes like soggy leaves rolled in dirt or sand. ITs awesome. And of course, we never eat enough according to Jennifer's mother. So we always have to eat more than we'd care to. After dinner the family loves to pull out the tv (this family has electricty and a refrigerator which is a HUGE status symbol, the mother showed me her fridge seconds after meeting me. She also offered some cold water but I couldn't drink it because it wasn't treated) Wow that was a long aside, anyway, the family pulls out the tv and watches french soap operas for hours which is funny, because they don't speak french. They just like watching the pictures of kissing and lovemaking. The music videos are pretty kick ass too.
Yesterday while doing our rounds we stopped at a hut and layed on a mat and napped for a couple hours while the lady sewed. This country's awesome. Its totally acceptable to go to someone's house and lay around.

Yesterday we went with Jenny while she taught a brief class at school about washing your hands. Everyone was more interested in asking us what we ate in America and what our parents names were. They have a really hard time pronouncing my first name and an even harder time pronouncing my last name. Corinne was easy, but boy, Eric Goodson was impossible for them to wrap their mouths around. IT was nowhere close to anything distinguishable. My name usually turns into "AshAlee", "AshKAlee", or "Asslee" stressing the LEE. One boy renamed me Binta which turns into Binta Ba because of the family I'm staying with. I like that. I might stay with it.

Village life is quite different from the sheltered life at the center. But the perks are nice as well. Sleeping outside is one of the greatest things. Feeling the wind blow and watching the stars is amazing. The only draw back is the f'ing sheep and donkey's that wail ALL NIGHT LONG. The rooster's are loud too and wander around so sometimes you get a rooster crow right in the ear.

Oh yeah, for those of you that know me, I'm kind of a spaz in the car (to say the least). NOT a good fear to have in SENEGAL. WOW. I thought I was going to die at least ten times on the way up here and that was a Peace Corps van. We almost pummeled two donkeys and a cow who apparently had a death wish. Public transportation is even worse which I had the privelage of experiencing this morning while getting on a bus made for 10 but carrying 15. Rock on!

Well, thats it so far. Love and miss you all.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

comments

SO I just read the comments, should have done that first... But thank you Chris. Shaun I thought about you yesterday because we were learning Wolof and in Wolof saying how are you is " naaga deff" so I kept saying "naaga...naaga....naagana work here anymore!" No one saw the humor.
Dad: care packages are awesome. One suggestion: some underwear. yeah. And I don't know anything about the hats??? *shrug of shoulders*
Mom I love you. Stay cool.

Again

For some reason my first one doesnt show up on my page so Im doing it again; so it might do it twice
_________________________


So I finally have some time to write. The problem with being in a group of 43 Americans is that when you want to go somewhere (especially to an internet cafe or use the phone) is that everyone wants to come with and obviously when using these things, it hinders the process quite a bit when there's 10 of you. Technically, we are told not to go anywhere alone but its daylight on saturday ( lots of people around) and my french (and a little Wolof) are pretty good. So yeah, broke the rules and came here by myself. Do not call the Peace Corps office and tell anyone.

Thies (pronounced "chess" I have learned) is great but our center is beautiful. Lots of trees and benches. We are staying there at the moment but after demyst we will stay with our host family and only come to the center for training (monday thru saturday) 8am to 7pm. Obviously Thies is not what I would call nice by American standards, but usually when someone says is nice it ,eans that the people here are nice to Americans.

We've been completey spoiled since we've been here; beautiful, cool weather, running water, flushing toilets and every dinner so far has been quite American. Last night we had FRENCH FRIES! Can you believe that? The night before we had spagetti.

The trainers here are all amazing and completely understanding of our plight. THey're teaching us Wolof and they get such a kick out of it when we ask them "Nakanga deff?" which means "how are you?" They are all Senegalese of course and most speak very good English although we speak french most of the time (le plupart des temps).

THe sounds and smells here are very distinctive from America. There are the constant noises of a man chanting muslum prayer over a loudspeaker. Also, we are called to each class and meal by a "tum tum": a drum. We do sleep under mosquito nets.We have many safety and health classes that obsess about malaria and diaherria which are commom problems...can't wait for that. I also had to get three more shots yesterday :( But this time I asked for them in the butt ( I know that sounds dirty) but it was so much better. I didn't feel fainty at all. We get three more next week when we get back from demystification. To clarify: demyst is when we go stay at another volunteer's sight for a few days. I leave in a peace corps van tomorrow morning. I am going to a village near Matam to a volunteer named Jennifer Kline. I'm really looking forward to it and hopefully I will be able to send those letters I've written to Mom and Dad and Jerry. (We only get stamps on wednesdays). Ive also heard that mail doesnt take nearly as long to get here as we previously thought. If ONLY I had the STAMPS!!!! I suggested going to the post office myself but they didnt think it was a good idea. Baby steps, Ashley, baby steps.

Anyhoo, I cant think of any more at the moment but I will write agan soon.
I love and miss you guys!

Finalement! Assalaam Malekum!

So I finally have some time to write. The problem with being in a group of 43 Americans is that when you want to go somewhere (especially to an internet cafe or use the phone) is that everyone wants to come with and obviously when using these things, it hinders the process quite a bit when there's 10 of you. Technically, we are told not to go anywhere alone but its daylight on saturday ( lots of people around) and my french (and a little Wolof) are pretty good. So yeah, broke the rules and came here by myself. Do not call the Peace Corps office and tell anyone.

Thies (pronounced "chess" I have learned) is great but our center is beautiful. Lots of trees and benches. We are staying there at the moment but after demyst we will stay with our host family and only come to the center for training (monday thru saturday) 8am to 7pm. Obviously Thies is not what I would call nice by American standards, but usually when someone says is nice it ,eans that the people here are nice to Americans.

We've been completey spoiled since we've been here; beautiful, cool weather, running water, flushing toilets and every dinner so far has been quite American. Last night we had FRENCH FRIES! Can you believe that? The night before we had spagetti.

The trainers here are all amazing and completely understanding of our plight. THey're teaching us Wolof and they get such a kick out of it when we ask them "Nakanga deff?" which means "how are you?" They are all Senegalese of course and most speak very good English although we speak french most of the time (le plupart des temps).

THe sounds and smells here are very distinctive from America. There are the constant noises of a man chanting muslim prayer over a loudspeaker. Also, we are called to each class and meal by a "tum tum": a drum. We do sleep under mosquito nets.We have many safety and health classes that obsess about malaria and diaherria which are commom problems...can't wait for that. I also had to get three more shots yesterday :( But this time I asked for them in the butt ( I know that sounds dirty) but it was so much better. I didn't feel fainty at all. We get three more next week when we get back from demystification. To clarify: demyst is when we go stay at another volunteer's sight for a few days. I leave in a peace corps van tomorrow morning. I am going to a village near Matam to a volunteer named Jennifer Kline. I'm really looking forward to it and hopefully I will be able to send those letters I've written to Mom and Dad and Jerry. (We only get stamps on wednesdays). Ive also heard that mail doesnt take nearly as long to get here as we previously thought. If ONLY I had the STAMPS!!!! I suggested going to the post office myself but they didnt think it was a good idea. Baby steps, Ashley, baby steps.

Anyhoo, I cant think of any more at the moment but I will write agan soon.
I love and miss you guys!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Im here in AFRICA

I havent quite gotten the hang of this keyboard yet so this wont be long. Thies is beautful and so is the weather. We are staying at the training center and the trainers are awesome. Sleeping under a mosquito net is interesting. And eating so far has been great. Oh I got my first " toubab" shout today fro,m a little boy: To be white.

I have to go but Mom and Dad: I love you a ton and miss you and I might call you ( mom) tomorrow at work. Im also writing a lot of letters so be ready.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Address in Senegal

So I have my mailing address for training. Training takes place in Thies, Senegal for about three months, so it will likely change in mid-June, so check out my blog and I'll keep you posted.

My address is:

PCT Ashley Goodson
Corps de la Paix
B.P. 299
Thies, Senegal
West Africa

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My Travel Info

*Baggage Restrictions:

Checked baggage cannot exceed two items and should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 50 pounds for any one bag.

The combined linear dimensions (length + width + height) of all your checked baggage may not exceed 107 inches. The larger pieces of checked baggage may not exceed 62 inches. Your carry-on baggage may not exceed a total linear measurement of 45 inches.

--That's fun isn't it?? Pour deux ans!! Mon deur.

*Flight Itinerary

Depart
8:00 am March 12th from South Bend, IN Northwest Airlines flight number: 5850
Arrive
9:08 am March 12th at Detroit/MET, MI Total flight time: 1 hour 8 minutes

Depart
10:15 am March 12th from Detroit/MET, Northwest Airlines flight number: 228
Arrive
11:40 am March 12th at Washington/NATL, DC total flight time: 1 hour 25 minutes

From March 12th to March 14th I am staying at the Holiday Inn Georgetown in DC. The phone number is (202)338-6113 for any last minute (in-country) calls or pep talks. ;)

THEN....
Depart from DC
11:35 am Air Delta Air Lines flight number 1169
Arrive
1:20 pm AR Atlanta Total flight time: 1 hour 45 minutes.
Depart from Atlanta
4:15 pm Air Delta Air Lines Flight number: 34
Arrive in Dakar, Senegal
4:15 am March 15th total flight time: 8 hours.


YAY!