Right now I am writing a blog post to you sitting outside the backdoor of my hut, watching the sunrise above the mango trees and thatched roofs, and drinking a cup of coffee made on my butane burner from Starbucks blend and the french press I packed. It is one of my favorite things to do and I find much of my peace during this time since my days are full of forcing my brain to function in Puulaar and enduring the stares and quite harmless, if still glaringly apparent curiousity of the villagers.
By this time, I am settled into my hut. It is now cemented, white washed, and painted blue and yellow. I also painted a Van Gogh Starry Night mural on one wall. I really love it, though after the completion I remembered that Van Gogh painted Starry Night when he was insane. Hopefully this does not indicate my own mental state out in village. My hut is also the buzz of the village and I have had many visitors stop in to see what the crazy Peace Corps volunteer has done to the inside of her hut.
I have continue biking and made my way back to Manda last Tuesday for the weekly looma (market). If I thought being stared at in village was bad, it is nothing like the attention I got at the market. Sellers and buyers are everywhere– there is anything you want from homemade soap to buckets to goats and bicyle parts. Everything and everybody is at the Manda looma on Tuesday. When I got to Manda I had to walk my bike into town, the crowds were so thick. It was a great way to practice my Puulaar because everyone wanted to say hello. I easily spotted my friend Ruth and closest volunteer neighbor in the crowd and it was nice to catch up and speak a bit of English. It was a fun day walking among the vendors and I was able to bargain for a bucket pretty successfully. Later in the afternoon I found a dibbe stand and sat under a baobab tree licking greasy, but oh so delicious lamb meat juice off my fingers. Only once did I run into trouble when one of the younger guys who was a taxi driver wanted to talk to me. Heres the thing. I mean no offense, but so far in my experience it is better to avoid the younger generation of Senegalese men because the conversation usually ends in a proposal of marriage and them trying to keep me longer than I want to talk, about why I dont want to marry him. In other words: aggravating and a waste of my time. Also, they usually think Im French and begin babbling away to me in French, which I dont speak. “Mi nanani francais,” I said fairly harshly to the tall slim 20 something year old man wearing sunglasses and now walking adamantly beside me. Even when I told him I dont speak french he kept it up and when I told him “Im going now” in puulaar he grabbed my wrists in an attempt to keep me from doing just that. Wrong move. I had been grabbed before and a protective male friend taught me one of the only, yet most important phrases that I do know in French for just such occasions. “No me touche pas!” I hissed at him, wrenching free and rising towards my full height. I had told him not to touch me not so kindly in French. Im not sure if it was the look on my face or the unwanted attention I had brought to him, but all he said weakly in puulaar was, “I thought you said you didnt speak French.” Laughing and already lost in the crowd, I shouted at him in English, “Thats all I know in French!”
On my way back to Sinthian Samba Foula, I got a bit lost (I know, shocking right) and was apparently well on my way to crossing the Gambian border. The Gambia is the small country that runs through the middle of Senegal and is only 10 km from my village. The only reason I got turned around is because Gambians speak a bit of English and they informed me that I was about to make illegal border crossing.
The rest of the week was full of learning Pula Futa, which is actually another strain of Puulaar that I wasnt speaking in training. In training I had been taught Fulakunda. Although the two languages are similar, it has made my transition a bit harder, something I am not to pleased about with the Peace Corps. Either way, thats life and Im rolling with it and am not too worried that I will have the hang of this Pula Futa business in no time. I also got my first look at the work I will be doing and this is what probably excites me the most. It turns out the citizens of Sithian Samba Foula are more motivated than I could have ever hoped for in a village. They have not only purchased 12 hectares of group owned land, but have installed 48 water spickets and built a dead fence around the entire property! Not this may not sound like much to you, but it is huge in Africa. This means that I will be able to start on a live fence project almost immediately and the land is ready to plant in as soon as growing season rolls around. My counterpart, not the one I talked about in my blog (turns out he works in Kolda most of the time) but his older brother, Ibrahima who I mentioned in my last post, is very willing to work and has already planted Eucalyptus trees around the perimeter of the land. I have big plans and so do the people of Sinthian Samba Foula. I am excited to learn more about agroforestry techniques and I can already envision the two years and how busy they are going to be. There is alot of work to do! But first… I need to be able to communicate.
Until next time. I am about to head over to the Kolda regional house and start whipping up some sweet potatoes for our Thanksgiving feast!