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!