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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Little things I've been up to....

I haven’t written in a while because A) not too much has been going on that felt worthwhile to document and B) the internet went down last time I made a trek to a town with electricity (right in the middle of an attempted skype call with my grandma - rude.)  But, I want to get in the habit of writing even when nothing big happens, or else I might far so far behind that the task of catching up will become daunting…and I don’t want that.  So:

Little things that have happened in the past week:

  • I got my first real Senegal illness.  I don’t want to get too graphic, so I’ll just suffice it to say that I couldn’t leave my hole in the ground for longer than a half hour for about for 2 days.  Since this is Senegal, I of course had a steady stream of visitors coming in to sit with me in my room during this time, even though all I wanted was to be on my own because I felt disgusting.  Apparently you learn to love never being alone…
  • There’s a USAID hut-spraying program making its rounds throughout southern Senegal, treating residencies with insecticide, since rainy season will start any day now and with the rains will come malaria-carrying mosquitoes.  The sprayers told me I needed to move all of my stuff outside and take everything off of the walls so they could spray, then leave everything outside for the entire day after the spraying.  I then told them I chose to opt out of the spraying, because my walls have a ton of stuff on them (see previous blog post here) and I didn't want to take it all down.  Plus, the sun was already waaaaay too hot, and I have more possessions than anyone in my village. It would have taken me at least an hour of sweaty work to get it all outside, where all my stuff would be ogled all day and everyone would have demanded that I give things to them.  Additionally, since I’m a Peace Corps volunteer, I’m on a mandatory anti-malarial medication, and I sleep under an insecticide-treated mosquito net every night, so my risk of getting malaria is very minimal.  The sprayers weren't too concerned, but by that evening EVERYONE in my village knew that I hadn't had my hut sprayed and was teasing me about it, which I think hurt my reputation as a health worker here.  I should have just sucked it up and moved my stuff outside.  Hopefully everyone will forget soon.
  •  My oldest “brother,” Bubacar, has a daughter, Suffee, who looks like she can’t be more than 14.  She is unmarried, and she was very pregnant when I met her last week.  Two days ago she had her baby.  Babies here don’t officially get a name until their dennebou (naming ceremony) when they’re a week or so old, but my host mother and niece both confided in me that the little one will be my tokara (namesake…AKA another Kadiatou Sabaly).  I am honored, of course, but I wish there was a way to give me this honor without sidling this kid with a name that dozens of people in the community have already.  Nothing is certain until the naming ceremony, but if she is going to be my tokara, I’m sure I’ll have regular updates about the cute lil bastard in coming weeks, months, and years.  I went to Suffee’s hut the morning after the birth to give her a gift (soap, baby powder, laundry detergent, and a few packages of cookies, because the poor girl had to give birth without any anesthetic, so I figured she needed some chocolate) and I found that in my community it’s the mother’s job to greet and entertain a steady stream of visitors literally hours after she just gave birth.  Suffee was serving tea and allowing the whole neighborhood to hold and ogle the new baby, when I’m sure all she wanted to do was sleep.  Poor kid.
  • I have a whole other blog post about the Michelle Sylvester Scholarship, so please look there for information about it or if you want to donate money (please donate money!).  I have been working with a PCV in a neighboring village to visit the girls’ homes and interview them about why education is important to them. We want to make sure the girls chosen are actually dedicated to continuing their education and aren't just looking for a handout.
  • I somehow became president and founder of an English club in my town’s middle school.  School in Senegal is big on rote memorization, so the kids are great at grammar (they're better at "passive voice" than I am...), but not so great at reading comprehension or speaking.  We meet every Monday and Saturday.  They bring their school notebooks, which are full of perfectly copied paragraphs from their English class at school.  Unfortunately they actually understand very little of it.  Usually I write one of the paragraphs on the board and we go over what it means in a mixture of English, Pulaar, and pantomiming.  Usually I learn as much as they do, especially on the day where the paragraph was a story about a mother whose son had a cocaine problem and the son refused to seek treatment until his dealer died of an overdose.  It's fun to pantomime dying of a cocaine overdose in front of a room of 14 year old boys.
  • In the afternoons I usually wander around the neighborhood greeting people, drinking tea and eating mangoes and practicing new Pulaar words.  Being a second volunteer in an area with many other volunteers is harder than I thought it would be.  It’s no longer novel or exciting to have a foreigner in town – they’ve been there, done that.  They’re not delighted that I can speak a little bit of their language, because the foreigner that was here two months ago was fluent, as are all the others in nearby villages.  Most interactions end with a disappointed head shake and a “A waawaa Pulaar!” (you  can’t pulaar!), which I laughingly agree with….but it still hurts when that’s all I hear, day after day, no matter how hard I’m trying.  On the other hand, it’s motivating me to study a lot, so that’s something.
I’m gonna leave it here.  Hope everyone’s doing well!

~Kadiatou (apparently I've been spelling my name wrong for the last month, whoops.  It's still pronounced "Kadjatu.")