Thank you Senegal! And greetings to all of you blog readers out there who have been waiting to hear about my transition from the village of Sinchurio Samba Foula in rural southern Senegal to Dakar, the most cosmopolitan, up and coming city in West Africa! Right now, I’m seated in my new office space, smelling the ocean breeze out the window and charging my cellphone with the ever present electricity. I’ve traded my flip flops for high heels and my new adventure has begun!
Before I get into the details and excitement of my new job and life here in Dakar, I’ve got a few very important things to report on from my last week in village. I ended my service with an amazing two-day grafting and tree maintenance training for the rural farmers in my area and the opening of the Sinchurio Samba Foula library. Please look forward to three installations of my last week in village which will span the next few days. The first one below is about the grafting training which wrapped up my two years as an agroforestry volunteer. The next installment will be about the opening of the Sinchurio Samba Foula library, and the last final installment will be about the farewell to the village.
Grafting Training, Manda Village, August 24 & Sithian Koundaro, August 25
After two years, innumerable mistakes, the joy of finding work partners who I love and enjoy working with, and the ups and downs of any Peace Corps service, I couldn’t have ended my work as an agroforestry volunteer in any better way than the two day training in my two pilot farmers’ fields.
I wrote a grant in order to fund two large grafting and tree care trainings in Manda Village and Sithian Koundaro. The grant covered food for up to 40 people each day, the materials (which aren’t very many)that it takes to graft trees, and the assurance that my boss and trainer Djitte would be able to come down to my region for two days and teach the farmers in my region everything he knows.
In Senegal, you never know exactly how many people are going to show up because there is the cultural norm of replying with Si allah jabi or Inshallah, when you ask them if they are going to come or not. This means God Willing and makes it socially acceptable for people to skip out on everything from meetings to work days. Either way, when we rolled up to Viay’s field in Manda Village in the Peace Corps truck on Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised to find over 40 people sitting and waiting beneath the tree where we were going to hold the training. There were people from over 10 different rural communities in the area, ranging from 14-70 years old, men and women.
After I gave the introduction, Djitte was off and running with his explanations and demonstrations on how to do a tongue and groove graft. Mamajean also showed up and worked as Djitte’s pulaar translator, since Djitte speaks multiple languages, but not Pulaar. I was also lucky enough to have my Peace Corps friends Ruth, Tucker, and Kyle helping me manage the crowd, cut branches for practice, and basically keep my sanity in check.
While managing 40 people can be a bit stressful, especially when the lunch shows up two hours late because the woman I hired as a
cook couldn’t find a donkey cart to rent fast enough, people were thrilled with the training, and I was happy that most everyone was getting the hang of grafting by the end of the day.
I was exhausted by the end of Saturday, but we spiced up Saturday night with the biggest sleep over I’ve had in my hut since my service began. Tucker, Ruth, and Kyle all were present. My hut sleeps 4, but not comfortably! Thankfully, my host brothers and friends had a great time hanging out and by Sunday morning we were ready to do another day of training. Unfortunately, the rainy season in the south didn’t get the memo that we were having an outdoor training. As people congregated under the mango trees in Bacari’s field, the biggest storm of the season let loose. People tried to remain polite as they held chairs over their heads to fend of the rain. They leaned forward in earnest to catch Djitte’s words over the howling wind and cracking thunder. But finally it was too much. I was completely soaked and freezing cold and I called for an Abandon Ship! We grabbed chairs and bags and hauled them as quickly as possible to the Peace Corps truck.
Since I was already soaking wet, I jumped in the back of the pickup with the rest of the bedraggled and sopping people from the training. As the thunder rolled and lightening crashed and I was splashed with the red mud from the road, I couldn’t help but laugh even though the second day of training was all but ruined. “C’est Senegal Quoi!” I shouted to the sky.
After getting stuck in the mud and then finally moving the training indoors, we had cut down the people at the training to about 12 remaining. It was manageable and much better since we only had a small room to conduct the training in. As the last session wrapped up and I gave my thanks to the people who had attended the training with such persistence, even through the terrible rainstorm, I felt relieved and happy and satisfied that many farmers would walk away with a better knowledge on how to properly maintain their fruit trees and even bring better varieties of fruit to their fields with the methods we taught them.