Parting Thoughts & Reflection

I feel…numb. Numb to my surroundings as if in a state of shock as if my body is trying to find a way to cope with my looming reality shift. What I have grown to know as my current reality for the past 2 years will soon revert back to my previous reality that I have known for the first 23years of my life, yet I will not be returning as my former self. My current reality of roaming farm animals, talibe children, poverty, malnutrition, trash lined roads, dust storms, diarrhea, darkness after sundown (but who needs electricity when you have those stars!), bucket showers, malaria prophylaxis, internet free peace and quiet, loneliness, isolation, uncomfortable travel, drowning in my own sweat, call to prayer ALLAH AHKBAR, crying babies, Wolof rekk, my PCV community, St. Louis, those stars in village, my village Temey Lewa, ceeb bu jen, my babies, my namesakes, my counterpart Aissetta, my friends Oumy, my girl’s club, women group meetings aka dance parties, my host family, my hut, beautiful fabric, cheap tailors….Senegal. I will be leaving all this behind to return to a life of comfort, a life of immediacy, reliable transportation, family, best friends, money, my future, internet, electricity, running water, natural beauty (landscapes), fertile soil, trees, flowers, gardens, cool weather, ENGLISH, my culture, endless options, endless food options, athiests, religious and cultural diversity, freedom of speech, liberalism, knees?, open minded people, jam seshes, climate control, live music I want to listen to, forks? Personal plates? What? Endless opportunities..not without my fair share of run-ins with ignorance, questions about my plan for what’s next..(*spoiler alert: I have NO idea. Please stop asking)

As excited as I am to return home, to spend time with family, reconnect with friends, and eat tons of tasty foods, I know I will not return the same Lindsay as when I left. At the core of course I am the same, but 2 years living in the harsh environment of Senegal, the abrasive, unforgiving Wolof culture, living in an amazing yet often tough small village without electricity, food choice, or Americans, takes a toll on a human. For as much as my PC service has taken from me, it has given me so much more. It has given me a new found resilience, a fresh, humbling perspective on life, a powerful sense of independence and self-reliance I have never felt before. Anything compared to this will feel like a cake walk. “Oh, you want me to give a presentation in front of a room of important people? But I can do it in English? Sweet. No problem.” I have an empowering sense of confidence and connection with the world. I never want to stop traveling, experiencing, and learning. I have learned so much about international sustainable development work, about myself, but this is just the beginning. I have been pushed to my physical, emotional, and mental limits and then some. I have gotten giardia 4x, amoebas, mango worm, but I am still here. During this emotional roller-coaster of an experience, I have felt absolutely insane. For someone who’s pretty emotionless, I would find myself breaking down crying for NO reason at all. That being said, I feel a lot more comfortable with my emotions and am well more aware of my limits. I have also learned a completely foreign language only spoken in Senegal and I had not known existed until I arrived here and now I have reached an “Advanced-mid” level of Wolof, whatever that means.

My friend once said, “The thing I respect most about PC volunteers is that not only do you guys go out of your comfort zones, you go out of your comfort zones and create a new one.” This is spot on. Thinking back to the day I was dropped off in my village and the PC car pulled away, leaving me there alone in a small village in Northern Senegal where I was to call home for the next 2 years, despite the fact I couldn’t communicate, I was terrified. Now I couldn’t feel more at home. I have been accepted as part of this beautiful community that I call family. They will forever be marked in my heart. In Senegalese culture you are expected to come back and visit. That is not something I can promise, but one promise I can keep is I will NEVER, can NEVER forget them, forget Temey Lewa, or forget my experience here. So to that I say- despite all the hard times, all the extreme ups and downs, Thank you Senegal, for everything, for this experience, and for making me the woman I am today! Here’s to making the world a better place! Much love to my fellow PC volunteers who served with me, to my friends and family back home and around the world, without yall’s support I would not be here today.

So Thank you and Jamm Rekk (Peace Only)

Gite Der

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Who knew there was to be a coup

Hey everyone! I know it’s been a HOT minute since I blogged so thought I would update yall. Also keep a lookout for many more posts to come, especially as my service comes to a close. I won’t write too much in this post, since I rather just show you in pictures.

Anywho, Ill give a quick rundown on my holidays, starting with Thanksgiving. I spent Thanksgiving with a solid crew of Peace Corps volunteers up in Northern Senegal, traveling to Ndioum, where there is a huge regional house. We cooked a glorious feast, complete with a turkey and several chickens which we killed and prepared. After the festivities, I traveled deeper into the Fouta(NE towards Mali) to visit my friend Emily’s village. She lives in one of the more conservative Pullar villages (everyone in her village believes she has a husband and she has to keep her head covered with a scarf most of the time). I don’t speak Pullar, so it was an interesting experience which I sought as an opportunity to pick up a few new words. We also brought some Thanksgiving leftovers and more chicken to recreate a second lil Thanksgiving feast for her family and some people in her village, bringing an American holiday to them.

To celebrate Christmas, two good PCV friends of mine and I travelled to Gambia (the lil country surrounded by the one I call home). It was a lovely beach vacation in a more laidback island vibe kinda country. We embraced our Touristy, Toubab spirit and hit the sites and several restaurants. English is spoken there with a mix of Wolof, so our language competencies fit nicely.  It was a lovely, relaxing visit up until the day we tried to leave to head home. The day started like any other travel day, woke up early hoping to get an early start. We were on our way before day break, when our taxi was stopped by a few armed men with AK-47s. They said we were not allowed to continue on our way to Banjul, the capital to catch the ferry. Barely awake and confused, we heard our taxi driver repeating the phrase “Dafa am coup d’etat” which in Wolof translates to “There is a coup d’etat”…uhh..so we headed back to our hotel to seek shelter, alerting PC, and frantically trying to check news sites for any update. I could feel the rush of excitement, confusion, panic? Ive always secretly wanted to be in a country during a coup. How exciting and how many people can say they lived through a coup. Well it turned out to be a failed coup attempt and the ex-pats seemed to be pretty chill about the whole matter, so we relaxed a bit. After reading more up on Gambia’s current president, I was less surprised about a coup attempt. (To know more and be entertained, check out http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-30655799) The next day we gave it another go, 6am here we go again. Thank goodness we left early because it took about 4hrs to go 15km to get to the capital, Banjul. We would get stopped by an armed militant, he would proceed to yell in our cab driver’s face, force us out of the car, go through our bags, all while a huge gun is pointed in our faces. We were barely waking up and this proceeded every few feet as the military deemed fit. But alas we finally reached our destination to the ferry, where we began our 14hr journey arriving in Senegal’s capital, Dakar just before midnight of New year’s Eve. As exhausted as we were and how tempting beds sounded, it was NYE! So we proceeded to force ourselves out to the bars to meet up with friends and force our enthusiasm for a new year. Happy New Year 2015, thankful to leave behind the coups.

In Girl's club we made hand turkeys for Thanksgiving!

In Girl’s club we made hand turkeys for Thanksgiving!

The American embassy donated backpacks to give out to our villages!

The American embassy donated backpacks to give out to our villages!

Yes, that is what his shirt says..though he doesn't know

Yes, that is what his shirt says..though he doesn’t know

My gris gris guy Aladji, who taught me Arabic in my spare time

My gris gris guy Aladji, who taught me Arabic in my spare time

What the paper in my gris gris says, when worn it is meant to offer me protection

What the paper in my gris gris says, when worn it is meant to offer me protection

My baby Moustephay!

My baby Moustephay!

HIV/AIDS talk in a small Pullar village next door

HIV/AIDS talk in a small Pullar village next door

AIDS talk

AIDS talk

Prosthetics

Prosthetics

Technician adjusting the prosthetic

Technician adjusting the prosthetic

Prosthetic feet

Prosthetic feet

Mobile HIV testing

Mobile HIV testing

A prosthetic foot

A prosthetic foot

The ndioum house on Thanksgiving

The ndioum house on Thanksgiving

Lets go fly a kite.

Lets go fly a kite.

The well in Katote, Emily's village

The well in Katote, Emily’s village

Thanksgiving turkey

Thanksgiving turkey

Village Thanksgiving plate

Village Thanksgiving plate

Emily and I in her village

Emily and I in her village

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Lost in Pullar land

Welcome to Banjul, GAMBIA!!

Welcome to Banjul, GAMBIA!!

Yummm breakfast at the hotel in Gambia

Yummm breakfast at the hotel in Gambia

Marching band on the beach?? Probly!

Marching band on the beach?? Probly!

Christmas dinner with my 2 best gals @ an Indian restaurant

Christmas dinner with my 2 best gals @ an Indian restaurant

Us at the crocodile petting zoo

Us at the crocodile petting zoo

Croc mouth

Croc mouth

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Me and my two best gals

Me and my two best gals

Tam Kharit + 5 MORE MONTHS!! Whaaaaat?!

The whole crew of goof balls for Tam Kharit (I'm the one in the bucket hat)

The whole crew of goof balls for Tam Kharit (I’m the one in the bucket hat)

lookin good!

lookin good!

Oh Fait..

Oh Fati…

So here’s what I’ve been up to lately. Since last I blogged, I celebrated Tam Kharit, Senegal’s version of Halloween (imagine a little more sobriety and less slutty outfits-it being a conservative Muslim society and all), but it’s still probably my favorite Senegalese holiday. Also there is cross dressing. Yup, the little boys dress up like girls and vice versa. Everyone also sports “white face” and goes around village chanting “TAJA BUN!” and dancing for rice or money. It’s mainly for children, but some of my friends in village are ridiculous and get in on the fun. I rocked my brother’s boubou, typical Senegalese male dress, and walked around village dancing compound to compound. Everyone couldn’t stop laughing. *see pictures*

I also don’t know what triggered it but I am incredibly homesick these days to the point that I am so ready to come home. I’m ready to get back to my culture and home (although I expect it to still feel as if I’m still in limbo, a cultural limbo. I feel a distance from my American culture due to my cultural immersion here and lack of people back home understanding my life here but as much as I integrate here I will forever be reminded that I am not Senegalese, due to the frequent group of children chanting “toubab” (foreigner) at me.) I expect the transition to be difficult, but I can’t wait to be comfortable again. I realized that almost everything about life here is uncomfortable. Uncomfortable travel (overpacked bush taxis), uncomfortable climate (constantly sweating), uncomfortable isolation (I live alone in hut in a village of 600). But then again I didn’t sign up to live in a developing country for 2 years to live comfortably. Don’t get me wrong, I love my village Temey Lewa. The people of my community have truly accepted me into the village family. I now feel comfortable with my Wolof, the local language I speak all day everyday, but I can’t help but feel my mind wander to America and my friends and family. Maybe my site visit triggered this premature “checkout?” I recently had one my bosses from PC headquarters in Dakar visit my village. We sat and talked with my family and working counterparts. She debriefed them on concluding my 2 year service, last projects, and the more than likely replacement volunteer to come after me. Also there is a group of PC agriculture volunteers that just finished their service and are traveling back home. It just hit me recently how long 26 months really is and I’ve been here for 20 months already! That’ a really long time!! Anyways that’s where my heads at these days. Can’t wait to see all your beautiful smiling faces! 5 months; I can make it! In the meantime, feel free to send me your words of encouragement and life updates: B.P 32 Richard Toll, Senegal West Africa (mail plug) had to 😉

Back to village update. Since I last blogged, my host family had an important moment occur, the end of mourning for my moms. It had been 4 months and 10days since my host dad died. In Senegalese culture, the widow mourns for 4months and 10days after her husband has died. There are also several restrictions she must adhere to such as: she may only wash & wear 2 simple outfits, no jewelry, no parties, no fancy outfits, use a separate bathroom, pray & sit on a separate mat from the family’s. Unfortunately almost as soon as we were done celebrating the end of mourning, my Uncle Ablaiy succumbed to his battle with prostate cancer. I managed to visit him at his house hours before his death. By that point he looked like a skeleton with black, leathery skin draped over him. Sweet man. Now his sweet wife will start her 4months of mourning.

On a positive note, I attended a marriage ceremony. Unfortunately it was during the 3 days of mourning for the whole village. So there was no music or dancing, poor girl. Guess the guy was impatient. So late at night people from village gathered at her house, giving speeches about the new bride. Then the whole village carried a suitcase and some of belongings over to her new home, a 5minute walk ha. Everyone checks out the room the new groom has decorated for his new wife. Her head has been covered with fabric this whole time and he then covers his head and they cross paths as she enters her new room. Then back to sitting down listening to speeches about marriage advice. Where’s the drunken dance floor?

With a wandering mind, I’ve been trying to stay busy. I started a girl’s club at the middle school in the village over, Mbane. We’ve only had a couple meetings, so I only have about 7 girls who have showed up; hoping that’ll grow. I’ve had them write down their dreams and aspirations, which they will get back on the last day, and we had an arts and crafts day where I taught them how to make friendship bracelets. I also had them choose a name for their club and they chose the girl’s camp some of them participated in, Gem sa bopp (believe in yourself in Wolof). I still have been teaching English at my elementary school twice a week. They now know the alphabet, numbers 1-20, and basic greeting, inchalla. I’m now up to 29 students, the oldest 2 classes combined, which tests my patience sometimes. I also have picked up gardening. I have never gardened in my life, so looking to study something new I thought no time like the present. I started my first compost pile, 1m3 and a couple pepineers of tomatoes and lettuce. We’ll see if anything actually grows because I do live in a desert..

My girls club Gem Sa Bop!! Making friendship bracelets.

My girls club Gem Sa Bop!! Making friendship bracelets.

Composting!

Composting!

Full compost eyoo!

Full compost eyoo!

In exciting news, I got my Windows surface tablet computer back!! After nearly 6months, passing through numerous hands, many thanks to everyone who helped in its journey from Senegal to America and back. This means I won’t have to go into my regional house in St Louis as often, and I can just come into my roadtown of Richard Toll, possibly weekly! Also received mail from a couple of my best friends stateside after over a year receiving only letters from my mom and 80yr old grandma! Woo! Always nice nice to hear from you. Due to the shitty internet, mail is a lifeline for PC volunteers.

Lil Aliou lookin good in his boubou and milk stache on a Friday, holy day to go to the mosque,

Lil Aliou lookin good in his boubou and milk stache on a Friday, holy day to go to the mosque,

Up next: Thanksgiving!! Woo! I will traveling to a city called Ndioum in the Fouta, a region hotter and more desolate than my own, to meet up with other PCVs to celebrate thanksgiving and cook a feast. Then I’m hoping to visit my friend’s village.

Also one of the main things getting me through this holiday season is looking forward to my trip to the GAMBIA for Christmas with 2 of my bffs here!! Couldn’t be more excited. Explore another country, which happens to be situated in the middle of Senegal. However due to my poverty stricken status, I ask anyone who feels the holiday spirit compel them to donate to a worthy cause, giving a poor PCV a lil holiday vaca. 😉 Feel free to email my mom with further steps (jpadell@gmail.com) Thanks! Holiday cards are welcome! And Happy Thanksgiving!

I survived October!!

Happy November everyone!! And Alhumdoulilai I survived October!! Not without its fair share of bumps…So I will fill you in real quick on the rest of my October. So I was so proud of my health…sadly, that didn’t last long. Due to…who knows? The sketchy week old Tabaski meat? unfiltered ice water? or could it be the million other bacteria my system tries to fight off on a daily basis?…That being said, I got Giardia…again. Numero 4. Yup, Score board: Giardia-4 Amoebas-1. (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/giardia-infection/basics/definition/con-20024686) I now have taken so much strong antibiotic packs that I doubt I have much good bacteria left in me. Yikes. I thought I could fight it off. I ate very little, fasted or just eating plain bread, but when it wouldn’t go away, I knew it must be the Giardia. After dying in village, going to the bathroom as frequent as every 20mins, transitioning to every hour, I waited until I felt well enough to travel the 2.5hrs to my regional apartment in St. Louis to recuperate. I also had to head in to town, so I could attend a debrief meeting in Louga to discuss this past Girl’s Camp. Let me just say- Being sick here in this country SUCKS!! I don’t know if I can fully convey how terrible being sick here is especially when having terrible diarrhea. You just kinda want to die, especially if you are stuck in village. So imagine, you don’t know what keeps getting you sick. It could litrally be anything. I live in a small village in West Africa. The cleanliness is not top notch- handwashing? hahaahh im sorry come again? Water’s enough right? It’s over 100 degrees, you can’t stop sweating. You can’t eat anything because it could be what is getting you sick. Plus everything is soaked in oil, so it’s not the best things to eat when you have stomach issues. Also I always feel most alone when I am sick. I am alone in a hut in Senegal. It really amplifies my isolation and homesickness. I start thinking about my family and friends back home. I wonder what they are up to right now. And Why am I doing this? Why am I putting my body though this? Anyway, yah it’s rough. But once I took the Antibiotic bomb of pills, I started to feel better. It’s surprising how quickly I can forget about being sick once I am better. I digress.

As I was recuperating, it was time for VV, which stands for volunteer visit. The new stage of agriculture volunteers come visit the villages/sites of where they will live for the next 2 years! We received 2 solid guys and it should be exciting to see them integrate into their separate sites!

I managed to heal up right in time to host a CIEE kid. There are students who study abroad in Senegal’s capital of Dakar for four months and part of their program requires them to do a rural visit. Peace Corps volunteers can host these students for a week in their village. It’s good for these students to get out of their Dakar, “toubab” bubble and see the REAL Senegal, small villages like my little Wolof village. I’ve hosted a student before, last October so I knew what I was getting myself into. This time around I was gifted Abby, a wonderful girl from Louisiana. She was such a rockstar! She put up with the uncomfortable travel, (bush taxis, sitting on top of a pickup truck, packed in hot overcrowded cars) the heat of village (although it is finally cooling down! woo!), general village life (which means no electricity-dark by 7pm BED BY 9, showering out of a bucket, the nutrient poor village food). So basically surviving a week in my everyday life. She handled it without complaint. She also is one of the strongest, most inspirational people I’ve met. She has alopecia, the condition where your immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles resulting in complete hair loss without it growing back. She prefers to sport the natural, hairless look and she rocks it too!! She is a beautiful, kind, confident woman. She lost her hair when she was just 6 years old and has lobbied for her condition with her state senator since she was 8! And she hasn’t stopped since. She’s extremely open about it and was down to answer any questions I might have had. I was curious how people in village would react to seeing a toubab without hair. Besides some children laughing, most people just stared, but hard to notice any extra stares when you’re a “toubab”(foreigner) here. Most people asked why she had shaved her head, and depending on the situation, I would say “because Senegal’s hot” or I would take the time to explain her condition. It was cool to be able to educate them on something new, that is what I am here for. Along with my work, I enjoy introducing new ideas to them. So the week consisted of letting someone into my world/ my everyday reality here. Spent the week showing off my excellent Wolof/English translation skills, which gave me a renewed language confidence as I realized “hey, maybe I can kinda speak this weird language.” SInce the school year finally started back up, I started teaching English at my village’s elementary school a couple days a week. I was not expecting to love it so much, but I secretly really love teaching those little buggers. I also took her to Mbane, a village I also work in about 5-7km away from Temey Lewa. We went to the middle school to meet up with the 9 girls I’m sponsoring to give out school supplies to them. In addition to paying their inscription fees to attend school, I also gave them all the supplies they will need to succeed in school (pens, notebooks, rulers, protractor, etc). While I was there, I talked to them about starting an after-school girl’s club. They seemed enthusiastic and receptive, so I’m excited to see how that goes.

On her last day in my village and to celebrate HALLOWEEN, we helped out with a Polio vaccination tournee in Mbane. This weekend, all the local health workers near me gather and brake off into teams to distribute Polio vaccinations in the surrounding villages. For a few hours in the morning of October 31st, we walked around Mbane visiting each house administering Polio vaccination drops in the mouths of 6month-5year olds, as I marked their pinkies showing they had received their vaccination. So, no air conditioned pediatrician office, no lollipop at the end, no privacy. Just pinning down a screaming child long enough to squeeze 2 drops into their mouth and move on. Traumatizing for these children. All in all, it was a successful day. Then we packed into a hot, overcrowded bush car to start her trek back to Dakar. I hope I showed her a sneak peak into the life of a rural health Peace Corps volunteer in Northern Senegal.

Look what i found! HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Doing door to door Polio vaccinations on halloween and found this kid rocking a halloween shirt! eyoo

Look what i found! HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Doing door to door Polio vaccinations on halloween and found this kid rocking a halloween shirt! eyoo

I got me a toubab! Abby and I in village. Her, rocking one of my head scarves.

I got me a toubab! Abby and I in village. Her, rocking one of my head scarves.

My first English class in village! Ms. Gite

My first English class in village! Ms. Gite

Starting off English class with a handwashing causserie!

Starting off English class with a handwashing causserie!

my sister Fatou and baby Gite, such a cutie! sitting outside our family's boutique in our compound.

my sister Fatou and baby Gite, such a cutie! sitting outside our family’s boutique in our compound.

In my future: Tomorrow I have one of my bosses from our PC headquarters in Dakar coming to visit my village!! This will mark only the second time since I have been here that one of my PC bosses are visiting me in my village. She’ll probably talk to me about my service so far, my projects, future projects for my last 6 months, and if I would like to be replaced with another PCV after I leave. Then I hope to get into somewhat of a routine, teaching English in my village Monday and Wednesday afternoons, running my Girl’s club in Mbane on Tuesday afternoons, and helping out with my health hut in my village. I also will be thinking about what will be my last projects to fill my last 6 months here, which is crazy to think about..Also it is FINALLY starting to cool off!! Wahooo. So I am pretty excited for “cold season.” I’ll take anything under 100 degrees. So excited to not have to sweat myself to sleep. Bring it November!

Until next time… (you know my address, hopefully by now. Mail is always welcome 😉 Miss everyone soo much!! Much Love! Jamm rekk (peace only, in Wolof)

TABASKI IS HERE!!!

October is here!! So you know what that means?? Tabaski season is upon us. Time to OD on meat!! Tabaski is a 3-4 day celebration, at least in my village, where everyone sacrifices an animal-ram, goat, sheep, cow depending on your current financial situation. They kill an animal then proceed to gorge themselves on the meat from that same animal for the next several days..mind you, my village doesn’t have electricity, so….yah, I’m weary by day 3. I woke up Tabaski day to my family killin 2 of our family’s rams! Yup, that’s right, I started my day watching men kill and proceed to skin and butcher up animals, sry vegetarians, cover your eyes. The thing is is that I wasn’t even phased. Didn’t need to look away, this ain’t my first Tabaski. Guess I’ve been here too long ha. But it is the freshest meat I’ll ever eat. Meat is a rare and expensive delicacy, so everyone was pretty excited. Lotta fancy clothes n lotta meat. This has been my weekend. I also wrote a grant to revamp my health hut in village-get electricity (solar panel) and running water and start a garden!! So hoping that goes through soon!! Also a bunch of my friends are sick! Ahh, must be that time of year. I feel thankful for my current health condition, I’m feeling pretty good, dodged the mystery meat of Tabaski. Although besides Tabaski, October also brings along unrelentless heat!! October for me is the hardes tmonth of my service, from what I remember from last year. SOOOO HOTTT!!! Constantly drenched in sweat, no escape. So I’m going to need a lot of encouragement from everyone to keep going. I would love letters or packages!! I don’t receive much mail here, so anything would be appreciated. My addy: B.P. 32 Richard Toll, Senegal West Africa. Well headed back into village just wanted to update everyone on my life! Thanks for all the support! Much love!! Jamm & Good vibes rekk!

**Below may contain graphic images, you have been warned..

my health hut!!

my health hut!!

lil Mareme and me!! matching Tabaski outfits! woo

lil Mareme and me!! matching Tabaski outfits! woo

my ravishing counterpart, Aissetta, ASC/head of our health hut

my ravishing counterpart, Aissetta, ASC/head of our health hut

happy Tabaski!

happy Tabaski! caught him throwin a leg into the bowl-action shot!

skinning the rams!

skinning the rams!

yes that would be my lil sis playing with ram balls.. just before the kids roasted them and ate them..gross

yes that would be my lil sis playing with ram balls.. just before the kids roasted them and ate them..gross

my fam cuttin up the meat for the next 3 days

my fam cuttin up the meat for the next 3 days

September-Girl’s Camp Gem Sa Bopp

So after chillin in village for a couple weeks and resting up after my travels, I ventured back out for ST LOUIS’ ANNUAL GIRL’S LEADERSHIP & EMPOWERMENT CAMP GEM SA BOPP (“believe in yourself” in Wolof). Girl’s camp aka most exhausting week of my service, but OH SOO WORTH IT!! You mean if I forgo sleep for a week, I have the opportunity to empower 45 Senegalese teenage girls? Done and done. It was such an amazing week!! One of my favorite projects, I’ve done during my service here, for sure! 20 PCVs came together from multiple regions in Northern Senegal to help empower 45 Senegalese girls and encourage them to create the future they want for themselves. A week long, every day had a theme: Business, where they learned money management, Environment, where they learned to respect Mother Earth-a sentiment not felt by many here in Senegal as trash litters every street corner. We took the girls on a field trip to the beaches of St Louis to clean up trash. Many of the girls had never been to the beach, so after some hesitation, they were soon frolicking and laughing in the ocean! The third day we covered the topic of Human Rights, we even had our new Country Director of PC Senegal come speak! We also tried a new activity-we gave each of the girls a passport and set up presentations of countries around the world and strong female role models. It was a hit! I presented on Ethiopia and even taught the girls a dance from an Ethiopian music video I found (a lot of shimmies ha). The fourth day, we covered different Career options and the importance of Education! Since the camp takes place at Gaston Berger, the university in St Louis, we gave the girls a tour of campus. We had the amazing Mama Awa, an amazing, strong Senegalese woman who works for Peace Corps, come speak. Give her an hour and she’ll cover any taboo topic you throw at her: female genital cutting, rape, sexual relations, lesbians, early marriage….ya know, all the light stuff ha. She’s an amazing speaker, such a presence. Last day, we covered Health! We had another great guest speaker, a local nurse, come discuss health issues for women here. I also taught the girls how to make their own reusable pad out of cheap, local goods (local fabric scraps, water sachets, towels). It was a success to say the least!!

After Girl’s Camp, I escorted the girls I had brought from my village back home. Next day, I scooted back to St Louis for the annual Northern Summit at the gorgeous Zebra Bar, campement on the lake! All the Northern PCVs got together to discuss what we’ve been up to in our respective regions and ideas for collaborative projects! Then Senegalese drivers decided to go on a transportation strike, so we all got stuck at the St.Louis apt for a couple days extra. Then I traveled to Dakar to represent my region of St. Louis at the SeneGAD meeting. SeneGAD is PC Senegal’s Gender & Development club. Then deciding it’s time for another vaca and to celebrate our friend’s birthday, a couple friends and I bopped over to Popenguine, which is my favorite spot in Senegal. Gorgeous beach. Nothing like a beautiful beachside view to restore the soul of this Florida girl! So again it was a lot of traveling, so I knew I had to jet back to village quick in time for yet another big Senegalese holiday TABASKI!!

aaand were off!! to girls camp!!

aaand were off!! to girls camp!!

uhh are those palm trees? are they lost? its a long way from Florida.

uhh are those palm trees? are they lost? its a long way from Florida.

Equipe Jaune!! Yellow Team's the best!!

Equipe Jaune!! Yellow Team’s the best!!

reusable pad making activity!!

reusable pad making activity!!

soooo many sheep and ram, lining the streets. Must be Tabaski season!!

soooo many sheep and ram, lining the streets. Must be Tabaski season!!

Popenguine=my happy place/ my jamm (peace)

Popenguine=my happy place/ my jamm (peace)

August travels up & down coast of Senegal

I wanna start this post by addressing the issue on everyones mind. Something that has apparently freaked out alot of Americans and has everyone on high alert for their lives!! ahhhh yes that’s right EBOLA!!! ahhh noooo! First off, let me begin this with- I’M FINE! Seriously, don’t worry. There was just one case here in Senegal, but situation has been taken care of and we’re back to living our lives. Honestly I haven’t been affected by it that much, besides everyone back home asking me about it. While I appreciate everyone’s concern, I want to reassure everyone, I’m just fine. I also have heard there’s a case in Americuh!! NOOO!! what??!! and apparently everyone’s FREAKIN OUTTTT MANNN!! one case out of 300million, in a land where there’s solid infrastructure, and excellent health care. yeah, you’re riiight you guys should FREAKKK OUTTTT. you should prob just stay home…jk. Don’t let the media’s sensationalization of the issue freak you out. You’ll be just fine. I digress. So my sitch, Ebola has taken over several countries south of me- Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone (the PCVs in those countries have been evacuated). I will say, Ebola is no jokin matter. It is a painful, horrible virus that can be deadly, but I would encourage everyone to google it, that’s what it’s there for. Ebola is actually rather hard to contract (passed only by contact with bodily fluids-so just stay away from anyone severely vomiting or bleeding from the eyes). K? cool. Now back to my life updates.

I threw one of my favorite lil babies, a birthday party to celebrate his 1st year! Birthday’s aren’t really a thing in this culture. Most people don’t even know their birthday, so sometimes I like to share some of my culture and through a little celebration, especially for their first bday-it’s important! One of the women in my counterpart’s compound Awa named her baby boy after one of my best friends back home, Daniel (they think he’s my bf cuz I told everyone I had a bf back home to thwart off wooers and marriage proposals, sadly this has done little to deter the sy-sys (jokers/men) in village).

lil Daniel's 1st bday party!! yes, that would be soda and thin mints you see ha

lil Daniel’s 1st bday party!! yes, that would be soda and thin mints you see ha

Then I was called in by boss to come to the Thies PC training center to help out with the training of the new Health stage at their IST/ PST2, which was cool to meet the newbies. Then I headed down the coast of Senegal to Somone to assist in another PCV’s project-TURTLE WATCHING!! You mean I get to spend a weekend on a beautiful beach and look for turtles? yes please! Unfortunatly, we did not find any turtles, but hey it was a relaxing, gorgeous weekend with good people. No regrets.

gorgeous Somone beach! sleepin on a beach in a hammock? dont mind if i do!

gorgeous Somone beach! sleepin on a beach in a hammock? dont mind if i do!

Then headed to Toubacouta in the beautiful Fatick region of southern Senegal, a region I had yet to discover. I met up with a bunch of my good friends and celebrated my besties birthday. Toubacouta is located on the water, overlooking mangroves begging to be swam in. Then we all headed back up to Thies to attend our annual Health summit with all the Health PCVs in Senegal. After our training, a couple of us headed back down to the Fatick region to help out with another PCVs project- MANGROVE REFORESTATION! A bunch of PCVs accross Senegal gathered in Sokone to help repopulate the mangroves. We also got the chance to stay at a gorgeous campement and frolick in the mangroves! Eyoo.

view of the Mangroves in the gorgeous Fatick region!

view of the Mangroves in the gorgeous Fatick region!

So I got to spend the month on beautiful beaches and swimming in mangroves with beautiful people! Not too shabby. After soaking up all the greenery and jamm(peace) I could, I headed back up north to site, land of deforestation ha. But it’s my home and my people are there, so Temey Lewa I’m coming for yah. Happy to be back, it’s been awhile.

KORITE!! get crazzzzzyyy

Hey blog readers!! So you want to know what I’ve been up to on this West Coast of Africa up in Senegal?! Well, you’re in luck, I gathered up the motivation to update everyone on the last 3 months. I’ll start with getting back from my amazing vacation in Tel Aviv. I returned to the beautiful village of Temey Lewa at the end of July, just in time to celebrate Korite with my village crew! Korite is one of the biggest celebrations in Senegal; it marks the end of Ramadan. After a month of fasting, everyone celebrates by gorging themselves in a giant feast!! woo here are some pics!

Dance party!!! see the dj stand-super legit, eh?

Dance party!!! see the dj stand-super legit, eh?

its not a party without the endless Attaya! (senegalese tea, so suggary!)

its not a party without the endless Attaya! (senegalese tea, so suggary!)

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lunch-ceeb bu jen (rice n fish, the typical senegalese dish)

lunch-ceeb bu jen (rice n fish, the typical senegalese dish)

isnt my family goodlookin? my bro (new chef du village) & wife Seynebu & baby Moustepha!!

isnt my family goodlookin? my bro (new chef du village) & wife Seynebu & baby Moustepha!!

my and my girls (good friend Omy n sis in law Seynebu)

my and my girls (good friend Omy n sis in law Seynebu)

Not your typical vacation..

        I recently took a, what you would call, not your typical vacation. While my friends were escaping the Senegalese heat and Ramadan hunger pains to have a relaxing time in Europe or Amerik, I decided to explore a different part of the world. A part of the world that is often in the headlines, and I just so happen to coincide my trip when it would be in its peak spotlight. I’m talking about Israel. If any of you are functioning people of society or read the news, you have heard some talk of the Israeli-Gaza conflict. For those living under a rock or are just Peace Corps volunteers, you’re excused.
        Here’s a quick recap: On June 12, 2014 three Israeli teens were kidnapped in the West Bank. This obviously enraged Israel and they immediately set out on a mission to retrieve the students. Unfortunately shortly thereafter, the Israeli hostages were discovered murdered. Believed to be the work of Hamas, the terrorist group that governs the occupied territory that is the Gaza Strip, an infuriated Israel sought retribution. Interestingly enough, there is word that it was not even orchestrated by Hamas but in fact a “lone cell” or inexperienced group of “wannabe terrorist heroes.” Many dead Palestinians later, the situation kept escalating to the point Hamas was now firing rockets into Israel, beginning weeks of thousands of rockets being fired back and forth. Many broken cease-fires later, the violence continued.
        So on July 15th, 2014 enter lil’ hippie peace-loving me, leaving my “home for 2 years,” (a conservative Muslim country of Senegal) for the Middle East, specifically the Jewish State of Israel. I don’t know if it was every major news source’s headline or my good friend Ella who I hadn’t seen in years, but something was pointing me to the “homeland.” Due to the timing of my trip, you can imagine my time trying to enter that great country was no cakewalk. In case you didn’t know, Israel doesn’t take kind to single, non-Jewish, dirty blonde, Peace Corps volunteers traveling alone. Shocking. It actually was a wake up call to me. After being questioned for close to an hour at customs did they finally decide to let me cross into their country. They held my passport asking me for all my information, all the information of who I was visiting; making me feel like an idiot with questions like “Do you not read the news?” (I thought it not the best time to inform the nice gentleman that I live in a hut in West Africa pretty isolated from civilization. Sir, I don’t even have electricity let alone Internet) “Why didn’t you cancel?” My honest answer was that my friend told me it was safe to still come. Plus I wasn’t going to cancel my flight, the combination of my dreams of hummus filling my empty Ramadan stomach and my desire of seeing my good friend after a 6 year hiatus was too strong. The customs officer called Ella and after they babbled on in Hebrew for awhile he decided to release me. (It always helps that her dad was a former Israeli ambassador.)
        Off I went into the foreign land that was hogging the latest headlines. My good friend Ella lives in Tel Aviv, a young, hip, and liberal city. I was only visiting for a week and we hadn’t seen each other in long time, so we weren’t about to waste a second. Israel is an amazing country! I truly grew to love it. It’s extremely developed and westernized, requiring little to no culture shock adjustment time. Tel Aviv has an amazing nightlife and even more amazing restaurants. I made it a point to eat my weight in hummus. Since Tel Aviv is extremely pedestrian friendly, Ella and I walked around the streets exploring shuks (markets), eating fresh olives, indulging in fresh falafels during the day. Don’t get me started with the beaches in Tel Aviv. Gorgeous. The blazing sun reflected off the crisp, clear blue Mediterranean and the powdery, trash-free sand sunk between my toes. Breathtaking, but if you catch a breath it is sure to be a deep sigh of relaxation. Well until there’s a siren and all your peace comes to a blinding reality check. Oh yah, I also happen to be vacationing in a country in the middle of a war. Siren. Quick, grab all your stuff and RUN! Litrally book it to the closest shelter. The sight of hundreds of men, women, and children flocking across the beach to the nearest bomb shelter, it’s surreal. You huddle together for a few minutes then wait for the POP POP and you can run out and look up. How ever many pops you hear is how many rockets were just exploded, above you. That’s what those clouds of smoke above me were. It’s amazing what you can get used to. A thought that kept entering my mind during my trip was that “this is these people’s reality.” The second day I was in Tel Aviv, Israel launched its Operation Protective Edge, the ground operation that would be invading the Gaza Strip in hopes of killing top Hamas leaders and destroying the numerous underground tunnels Hamas had built to sneak into Israel. Needless to say after that, the rocket frequency increased leading to more sirens. I remember my first siren. It was only my second day and we were all just hanging out at Ella’s apartment and the siren sounds. I didn’t know what it was at first, but Ella and her roommate without hesitation, turned to me and said, “We need to go now.” So I followed suit as we swiftly booked it down the 4 flights of stairs to the shelter conveniently located across the street. I didn’t know what was happening, and ya I was a little freaked, but I was mainly just trying to not slow them down. I did what they said run, file in, wait, listen, POP POP POP, three rockets, wait a little more, creep out and look up at the white clouds of smoke in the sky above you. Then everyone goes about his or her day, as if nothing had happened. Since I was there during the peak of the conflict we had sirens everyday. One time I was awoken from a bad hangover to one, last thing I wanted to do was run down flights of stairs. It was a bit jarring. Another time I had just gotten out of the shower, still wrapped in a fluffy towel, eating sushi and we heard it. Welp, no time to change you go in what you have on. Her apartment neighbors and I got a laugh, as I would see a few of them later that night for our apartment party. At least I was OUT of the shower. I couldn’t help but think of all the worst situations to be in the middle of doing when a siren sounds-showering, having diarrhea, making love..You only have a minute and a half to get to the shelter. People in southern Israel, due to their close proximity to Gaza, only have like 15 seconds to get to a shelter. This is some people’s realities!
        During the weekend Ella and I ventured to Jerusalem to visit her parents and explore the Old City. Jerusalem is a much more conservative city, filled with Orthodox Jews with their curls and their million children following suit. Walking around the Old City was incredible, seeing every section-the Christian quarter and the Jewish one with the Western Wall (I even put a prayer in it, which was more of a wish for peace & end to the current conflict). Best part of going to a country during wartime-no crowds. It was like I had the Old City to myself, which never happens!
        Then Ella and I packed up and made our way back to Tel Aviv for my last days. Exploring Tel Aviv by day in all its falafel and hummus glory, and later checking out its nightlife. All in all I had an amazing trip. I know it’s not everyone’s ideal vacation, but I loved it and have no regrets. Maybe I’m a thrill seeker (I’m a Gemini) or maybe it’s my desire to study conflict resolution in grad school, but I wouldn’t change the trip for anything. I got to visit with my good friend who I hadn’t seen in close to 6 years and it was a truly educational trip as well.
        I was fascinated to be in the know regarding the situation on the ground. Due to this current conflict, Israel has been getting a lot of backlash from the international community. There have been protests erupting across the world. Anti-Israeli protests, pro-Hamas protests. I even read a story of a synagogue set on fire in Paris. That is not right. It’s unfortunate that if your pro-one group, you are automatically anti-the other. I am neither Pro-Israel nor Pro-Palestine. I am Pro-Peace. In this conflict both sides are at fault. I enjoy hearing both sides of the argument, but not unless you are well informed. Israel gets a lot of criticism, and yes I don’t agree with the right wing government in place, but I strongly encourage everyone to at least visit Israel. Birthright is the free trip to Israel if you are Jewish, but I think Israel should invite non-Jews to explore their beautiful country. Maybe then we can promote mutual understanding. Hamas is the governing body of the Gaza Strip where a large number of Palestinians live; however, they are a terrorist organization and are not representing their people. They are not providing their people with the basic necessities. They are not building schools, they are busy building tunnels focusing on destroying Israel. Of course I am all for Palestine having a homeland, but in my opinion in order to accomplish that Palestinians need a strong leader with a strong backing from the international community that will represent the Palestinian people and create a fair governing body. This extremist, wipe the Jews off the planet mentality is not productive. I heard stories of Hamas using its own people as human shields. Israel typically calls or sends a warning shot before they send a missile. This is to warn the civilians of imminent danger. Often times people will flee, and Hamas will order them to go back, to die as martyrs. There’s also the other reality of where are they supposed to go? Where do they run to? Egypt has even closed its border. During these past 7 weeks over 2000 Palestinians have been killed and over 60 Israelis (mainly IDF soldiers). It’s obvious there is a huge discrepancy in numbers, but there are multiple factors for that. Israel fortunately has the anti missile technology called the Iron Dome; it can track when a rocket leaves Gaza and can track where it will fall. If they predict it will fall in a non-populated open field, then they let it fall. If they determine it will fall over a highly populated area like Tel Aviv then they can intercept it. You run to the shelter because the Iron Dome is about 90% effective and also there could be shrapnel. Gaza does not have this technology so when rockets are launched they fall and leave destruction and devastation in its wake. The numbers are so high too, since it is difficult to not have civilian casualties, especially when Hamas has been documented of sending rockets from underneath schools and hospitals. This complicates Israeli’s ability to specifically target Hamas leaders. They are firing rockets at each other and unfortunately thousands of civilians are being killed. My heart goes out to the Palestinian people. Tons of innocent women and children have been killed. There have even been reports of rockets hitting UN schools, which are supposed to be immune shelters for Palestinians. It’s a messed up situation. This was not meant to offend anyone but provide my perspective on the situation I saw over there. I find faults with both sides. Again I am not Pro-one side, but Pro-Peace.

        Protests are erupting across the international community, but why isn’t everyone all up in arms about all the other horrific human rights abuses happening around the world. I have one word I challenge you to google. ISIS. ISIS, the terrorist group claiming to represent the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, is massacring Christians across the Middle East and I don’t see anyone taking to the streets. That was my rant. I just challenge you all to know all the facts before you are quick to point fingers. Listen to both sides. Educate yourselves. Together we need to work together to create a world of peace and mutual understanding. Thank you.

first falafel originale!

first falafel originale!

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Ella and I grabbing a cold one

the gorgeous Tel Aviv beaches!!

the gorgeous Tel Aviv beaches!!

the Old City!

the Old City!

Ramadan Vaca!

So I headed to the big city, Dakar to kick off my lil vacation. I did Ramadan in my village last year, fasted, broke fast with my family. It was a good cultural experience, but anyone will tell you Ramadan is ROUGHH. So I decided this year, im outt, sorry village, I’ll be back for Korite. So after kickin it in Dakar for a weekend with some friends, eating good food and relaxing, I found out my host dad in village passed away. He had been sick for quite awhile, but him also being the Chief of the village, it was a big deal. It wasn’t in my plan, I didn’t have much time, and we never had the best relationship, but I knew I had to make it back home. I raced back to village and offered my condolences. Then jetted back (i mean bused in a very uncomfortable alhum) to Dakar. Host dad pic, posing with the flashlight I bought him in America:

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Then I raced back to Dakar. For 17hrs of travel I was in my village for about 3hrs, but it was something I had to do. Got back, took a quick nap then jumped on another bus with friends for 12hrs to KEDEGOU!! One of the most beautiful places in all of Senegal. There also happens to be a huge PC 4th of July party there. It was amazing to see all my good buds and frolick about! We even hiked to a waterfall near there and swam and explored. With all its lush surroundings, it feels a bit different from my deserty landscape up north, just wish it were closer. a bit lusher than what I’m used to:

 IMG_2720  and beautiful sunsets from the road: IMG_2719

 

Next up, Tel Aviv chronicles….