Pictures from Senegal

Wednesday, September 30

Letters From Abroad- September

Sister,
I found out that I'll be in the same town I'm in now, Mboro, for the next two years. The town is nice and I will likely have power and Internet all the time... But I will not have other people and I'm very scared. The worst feeling is being alone. The closest person is a half hour car ride away. Wow, I really am scared. I've already started crying.

I don't know what to do. For now I will try to find someone to get a beer with me. I'll tell others about this later...
Love you Alys


Chase,
The funny thing about taking Malaria pills is A) it doesn't prevent it and B) one has crazy/vivid dreams.

A) Yes, I have Malaria. Everyone does. What the drugs do is prevent it from spreading and taking over the body. They suppresses the virus, if you will, to a manageable level. If I forget to take my pills I will get full blown Malaria in 11 days. Then I have to prick my finger, do a blood smear, eat a whole bunch of "oops" drugs, and find the nearest transport to Dakar for medical support. Scary, no? That blood smear is one good reason not to forget, I don't think I could do that.

B) Last night I had a dream that we were sitting in the middle of an empty cobble stone bridge in some European town. We brought lawn chairs and were waiting to watch fireworks. I turned to you and said "Can we be together forever?" To which you replied "Of course. I'm not marrying you, but I will love you." I said, "That's what I meant. Friends forever," and gave you a kiss on the cheek before leaning back in my chair. Then some lady came and told us we were too close for the fireworks and lit up a green perimeter... and the dream goes on from there, but does not get more interesting or less vivid.

Kazumi,
I have never seen the Miami beach, but the one here is different from LA. There is a lot of sand and hardly any people. There is a lot of trash that washes up from the tides and in the afternoon little white crabs run around all over. But there is water in sight... not other land, no large boats, nothing. Just water. Small canoe-like fishing boats go out at dawn and dusk, but that's it. The waves are really harsh where I am, so I only have enough energy to swim for about 5 minutes. And by swim I mean stand there until a wave knocks me over and then I swim while trying to stand back up and not drink the water. The water is clear, but mostly mixed with sand because the water is so rough. Also really warm, which I'm sure is just because this is the hottest season for Senegal right now.

I am definitely in the middle of Ramadan. Even though my host family is Catholic we have Muslim relatives around all the time. I can see how hard it is for them all the time. They don't eat or drink at all during the day. This makes the people grumpy, tired, and generally stalls everything. The up side is that we eat breakfast at dark and then another fun meal a couple hours later. The mosques in town place music or prayers 24 hours a day. I'm lucky that I don't live close enough that it keeps me up at night. The music is more pleasant than the prayers. It sounds pretty usually.


Hi Friend,
Doing much better. Met my future family, saw my future room, met some cool people... and feeling much better about being here for 2 years. Not perfect, but better. Thanks again for calling and supporting my random outbursts of "I want to get out of here." Haha, hopefully it will continue to bet better. They say it does anyway.

Hi All,
I've just learned that I've been assigned to work in the same town I'm living now: Mboro. I need to confirm a few points, because I'll be changing host families, but I'm fairly certain that I'll have constant electricity (because it goes out continuously where I'm at now) and Internet wired into the house as well (also not currently available).

In addition, the town has about 20,000 people and is located north east of Dakar on the coast of Senegal. This means that the beach is only 5 kilometers away. We've been there a few times and though the waves are pretty brutal it's a great reprieve from the never ending French classes. We just had our first test after three weeks of studying and I hit novice high... The Peace Corps goal is intermediate mid (2 steps away) for end of training but my personal goal is advanced low (4 steps away right now).

The current project in my site is computer installation and integration into the learning curriculum in one of the elementary schools called One Laptop Per Child. Our town was chosen after a number of universities in the US did a drive to raise funding. The previous volunteer was successful in obtaining the award and will stay here until December to monitor the first month of school (which starts in November) to make sure the program goes smoothly. I, on the other hand, have the freedom to find my own project. I'm interested in working with lending institutions and woman's group (which are formed as a means of savings for a specific entrepreneurial project) on business models. This can be both electronic daily models, such as record keeping, and future planning models for expansion or starting a new business. This sounds pretty vague but that's because it is. I've given you the general project goals and I really do have the freedom to do whatever needs to be done, or what I can do. In a different part of the country there was a successful waste management project started where the city's plastics were put into an organized land fill or burned and the rest (food waste) started a compost that the city managed and sold to the surrounding farmers, thus a profit in which to pay for the workers managing the compost, as well as job creation. There is a rumor that the mayor of my town is very interested in start a program like this in Mboro, especially since the garbage is merely carried to the outside of town and tossed aside now. Anyway, that's as best a picture as I can paint for now of my future work in Senegal.


Papi,
My training group just had our first "vacation." We pooled our funds, rented a couple of buses and two beach houses and had a great party. There are over 50 of us in the training group but we found 2 houses next to each other on the beach in Popenguine. The view was so beautiful... like something we'd seen in St. Lucia or better. It was so raw. I say that because it was back to basics. If I looked only at the beach and coast I could easily have pictured the bay in TC- it's almost the same. Water everywhere, clean and beautiful. Sand is the same. Really I just have to remember that the water is salty to realize the difference. Or turn my head because I'm in AFRICA and everything else is different. But for a few moments I could trick myself into believing I'm back up north.


Papi,
Do you ever check weather.com for the weather in Thies, Senegal? I recommend it when you are feeling like Michigan weather is crappy... because it's probably not as miserable as Senegal!

It doesn't seem to change much. It's always about 85 -90* F. The humidity is generally about 75-80%. So the "feels like" temperature is about 100* with constant sweat beads all over my body. I don't think I've been completely dry in 3 weeks. It's amazing I'm not moldy... or am I?
-Alys

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