Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ndondol and beyond

Well, the village homestay is over and actually ended three days earlier than anticipated. It's a long story, so here goes.....

We arrived at Ndondol on Saturday afternoon and moved in with our families. My family was the Sene family and Aminu was my new mom. I can't say enough about my family. They were so welcoming and kind. They made sure that I had everything I could possibly need. I had my own room and bathroom and even some air conditioning. I was treated amazingly well. My biggest surprise was the fact that Aminu and her family lived in an extended family setting. Aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. all living inside a large compound fence. There were concrete houses and grass huts too. There were also tons of people everywhere including children because so many people live there including the family goats, chickens, and even a turkey who showed up the last day. I think the hardest thing about the village was that there were constantly people around and I was never really sure what to do, but they were so nice.

However, after some discussion, the group decided that we had experienced what life in the village would have been like for the rest of the time. We ended up deciding to go on to a new experience at another hotel. It was really sad saying goodbye to my family because they were so sweet to me.

We went to a seaside hotel next and did some very interesting lessons. We made batik fabric which was awesome! The first day we drew out patterns on the cloth and waxed over what we wanted to stay white and then they dyed the fabric our first color. The next day, we waxed over what we wanted to stay the first dyed color and then they dyed the fabric our second color. Then they removed the wax and returned our cloth. I did a white, pink, and blue cloth and it turned out really nicely. I also went to a drum lesson and it was lots of fun. I did much better than I thought I would. Who knew I had so much rhythm? Francesca has a video to prove it as well.

We are currently in a second hotel in Toubacouta and we visited the mangrove forests today and met the queen of an island.

Tomorrow we leave for Joal, birthplace of Leopold Sedar Senghor.

Friday, July 15, 2011

St Louis

We have been in St. Louis since Monday night. Tuesday morning we took a horse drawn carriage tour of the town, which was very similar to a tour I took in New Orleans. The city is spread over two islands and our hotel is on the "main" island right at the bridge. The "main" island has fewer people and a lot of colonial architecture. The second island is much more crowded and where most of the people live. Most people here are fishermen and we got to witness the fish drying which was very interesting and smelly.

I missed out on one day of St. Louis because I was struck with some sort of nasty bug, but I am feeling much better now.

I took a walk through town with Jeff and Anabela this morning and we had a nice walk. We had some followers who walked with us around the neighborhood to try and sell us something.

Yesterday we visited two nature preserves. At the first some we did a walking "safari" and saw giant tortoises, gazelles, a large horned animal, and some monkeys. Then we went to a bird sanctuary and took a boat ride to see birds. It was great! We stopped and one island and walked a short distance to see the ocean.

I need to go because the restaurant we are at seems to be overrun with lizards currently and Jeff who is so nice to let me use his computer is scared of them. They are starting to freak me out too - all they do is stare at you.

We are leaving for the village tomorrow, so you probably won't hear from me for about a week. I'll try to blog again when we get to a hotel with Internet.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Buying in the market

Guess who has a Senegalese outfit now? We went back to the market with one of our WARC friends and I found a peachy outfit. Valerie helped me with my haggling skills and I got my outfit for 7000 CFAs which is about $16. Our WARC friend said it was a really good price.

WARC = West African Research Center

Marches, moines, et Lac Rose

Two days ago we visited three markets in the morning. The markets were very different. The first market was for daily goods and food. It was very crowded and the walkways were tiny. Only one person could comfortably (by my standards) walk down the aisle, but there was two way traffic on them. They sold everything from vegetables to rice to fish (mainly dried and smoked) and some meat. It was sensory overload and not very comfortable. The second market was more of an artisan market and the last one was a clothing/cloth market. This market had ready made clothing (pret-a -porter), cloth you could buy and take to a tailor, jewelry, shoes, everything. I didn't make any purchases this day, but it was good to see how everything works.

Yesterday, we visited the monastery of Keur Moussa. It was wonderful! It's out in the country and getting there was a little difficult. It involved two hours of travel on very bumpy roads that had lots of pot holes. It was almost like a roller coaster ride and I actually enjoyed it. The monastery is so beautiful and the monks are so friendly. We got a tour of the gardens (They had everything from grapefruits and limes to cashews, and a typical garden similar to the one at home next to their chicken house) and the workshop where they make their koras. A kora is a stringed instrument that slightly resembles a guitar but sounds more like a harp to me. The monks use the koras in their services - a blend of cultures. We attended a mass there and got to witness the monks singing with the koras. It was heavenly music. I bought a cassette of kora music and a nice postcard there with a kora on it. We also ate lunch with the monks - well, they cooked for us. It was really good! Chicken or fish, rice, green beans, potatoes, and cake with fruit for dessert. They also provided grapefruit juice from their orchard for us to drink.

Finally we went to Lac Rose and got to see the hills of salt and take pictures. There were women that came running up to the bus wanting to sell us stuff. They almost followed us onto the bus when we got back on. It's so heartbreaking because they are so desperate to provide for their families because there isn't a lot in that area of the country they can do to earn money. It made me very sad to see mothers who are trying to take care of their kids. It's so different thatn home where there are government systems to help families in need.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ile de Goree and Dakar

It has been a busy few days since I last posted. We have been on a busy tour of Dakar, visited Goree Island, and had several very nice lectures.

Our bus tour took us into downtown Dakar for the first time. It is much different than the neighborhood where we are currently staying. It looks almost like a neighborhood in Paris. While we were there, we got to see the president's house and learned that there is a small flag flying under the Senegalese flag if the president is there. We also visited the statue of the Renaissance which is a man, woman, and child. It is huge and on top of a tall hill, so we had to climb a lot of stairs to get to the top. It is a beautiful monument, but the sad thing is that it was so expensive and the money paid for the statue was paid to North Korea, who actually made it. The Senegalese people didn't benefit from the construction at all.

Yesterday we went to Goree Island which is off the tip of Dakar. It took us twenty minutes by ferry. The island reminded me of Nice. The houses have the same colonial architecture and the colors are very vibrant. While there, we toured La Maison des Escalves where slaves were housed and sold. Standing in the tiny rooms where people were crammed and looking out the door of no return was heart breaking. The people who ran the slave business lived directly upstairs and you could see light coming through the floorboards. How could people live with all the inhumanity that was being perpetrated just below their feet? Afterward, we visited a museum about Senegalese women and let me tell you, these women can and have done everything for their families. Then we visited a sand painting studio for a demonstration and bought some art.

Yesterday, we got to learn some Wolof! Naga def? I'm still learning and practicing, but I know enough to say hello and ask how you are doing. Our teacher was Sidy (pronounced CD) and he was a really dynamic awesome teacher. He reminded me how important repetition is in language learning.

Then we got to meet a world famous Senegalese rapper who gave us his perspective on rap music. The message is the most important thing and then the music. He also gave us his views of the problems with the government and it makes sense after being here for a few days and seeing how things are.

The most awesome thing so far - and I know it's not that great, but it makes me feel like a little kid again - are the baobab trees. They are so beautiful. And guess what? I got to drink the juice from the baobab fruit. It tastes a lot like figs and dates.

We are going to two markets tomorrow, so I'll let you know how that goes.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Senegal - Day One

Well, we arrived safely! First impressions really quickly - things at times seem semi-finished. It looks like some things have been started like buildings and not finished yet. There are some very modern buildings and some older run-down buildings. There is trash on the sides of the street and some graffiti. The hotel is beautiful!

After we arrived yesterday, we settled into the hotel and we took a walk around the neighborhood. Our hotel is very nice and beautiful. The neighborhood is a typical Dakar neighborhood in this area of the city. There were lots of older buildings and we walked through a market with the daily catch of fish and a cat being fed the fish guts. It's very different.

The most interesting thing for me today was the goats - yes the goats. Today was goat washing day. The goats were being washed in the streets and in the ocean. The goats also laid very docilely on the street or on the beach. The goat washing was to get the goats ready to go to market and to be sold for sacrifices.

The people in Senegal are so friendly and welcoming. Everyone has been so kind to us and so welcoming.

Friday, July 1, 2011

It's time to go....

Tomorrow morning I leave!

I got a special package in the mail. Thanks to my friend Beth for the great books! The first one made it into my purse to read on the way!

I've spent the last two days packing and have managed to get all my things in one suitcase and one carry-on. The best part - the suitcase is 48 pounds and yes I can pick it up. It's not a pretty picture to see me pick it up, but it can be done.

Our first plane leaves around 11AM and then the second one leaves New York in the late afternoon. We'll be in Senegal around 6AM local time (a bright 2AM North Carolina time).

Please say a prayer for us as we travel. Please say a prayer for me if you will. I had to switch malaria medicines because of a bad reaction, so I'm still feeling a little under the weather.

I will update you as much as I can, but they have had power outages in we'll see.