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.