Archive for the 'Sénégal' Category

Dead Things*

Thursday, January 31st, 2008
What’s the most interesting dead thing you’ve seen lately?
Because I’ve been seeing a lot of dead things.
Every time I see a dead thing I think about the states, and how dogs and cats are pets. And then I lie to myself about how we clean up our roadkill and other Dead Things, which for the most part we don’t.  It sort of depends on the size of the thing.
Every once in a while a dog gets hit (or dies on its own because of god-knows-what kind of insect-born infection) and the lies in the road partition for a week or two while everyone ignores it. I can always feel my face wrinkling as I concentrate on trying not to look, smell, or otherwise acknowledge the rotting masses.  And also not to step in them, which can be more difficult than it sounds.  After a while they flatten a bit and turn the color of dust like everything else.
What do we do with our roadkill when we *do* dispose of it? The other month I saw a recently-hit dead cat lying in the road, noting with morbid interest that it was probably a new addition to the road’s decor.  The next day, walking past the same stretch of road, I saw that it had disappeared-only to realize a moment later that the corpse, having fully passed into the state of rigor mortis and beginning to bloat, was sticking haphazardly out of a trash can.  Interesting.
I routinely step on a sheep jawbone in front of tailor boutique, and the other day a leg fell out of the freezer (causing my mother to shout “it’s a leg!!”).  The bones and fur of a particularly gross dead cat decorate my morning route to the university, along with a trail of intestine that reaches into the street.
Just, you know, a point of interest.  Something to think about while I sulk because it’s already getting hot again.
p.s. I have a new friend and skin parasite.  His name is Albert, and he’s been renting living space on my back.  We’re not getting along very well; he doesn’t like to clean and he’s making me itch.  He never signed a contract either, making him a squatter. When I noticed him I thought he might be in the process of moving out, but then he decided that he has the liberty to take over more space which is definitely not true. Ringworm is so pretentious. Now I’ve got his fungus-y number and he’ll be out withing the week, Inchallah.
p.p.s. Dearest, most darling mother, see how I’ve grown??  Far from sleeping with my bedroom door open because I’m afraid to think about things decomposing, I step in rotten cats and on jawbones in the street.
*The previously mentioned letter, posted in it’s entirety on the repeated request of Moom.  Sheesh!!  Also, Albert is disappearing.  In case anyone was curious…

Don’t you wish your office looked like this??

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

My life looks like that, with a little less organization. ;D

For lack of anything better to say, at least until I find time to take pictures of the FINISHED Africa Socks and another guilty i’m-sick-of-giant-pink-shawls project, here is an excerpt from my latest e-mail to my family:

“I have a new friend and skin parasite. His name is Albert, and he’s been renting living space on my back. We’re not getting along very well; he doesn’t like to clean and he’s making me itch. He never signed a contract either, making him a squatter. When I noticed him I thought he might be in the process of moving out, but then he decided that he has the liberty to take over more space which is definitely not true. Ringworm is so pretentious. Now I’ve got his fungus-y number and he’ll be out withing the week, Inchallah.”

Is anyone else amused that I’ve sunk to the level of skin parasites for blog fodder??

I’d rather be walking toward this sunset again, thanks very much.

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

I could turn the act of stressing oneself out into a profession, as it seems to be what I do best. One of the most amazing thing about Sénégalese culture is that there are very few opportunities during which one can engage in such an act. Until…now.

It’s a shame that the idea of Going Home has to be present for the end of my stay here, because I’d really much rather not have to deal with it. I think the worst thing about study abroad at Kalamazoo is having to face another quarter of school, while you’re out of the country and can’t prepare for it in advance.

I have my classes more-or-less planned, but if I’m going to do a theatre performance SIP (large project equivalent to a senior thesis) I have to have a proposal ready by the end of April. That sounds like a lot of time but…I have no access to scripts. No books, and only so much time and money to waste in the cybercafé. That’s just the first stress-inducing factor.

My most pressing disaster is that my housing plans for spring sort of…uhm…collapsed in a giant heap of disastrous non-existence followed by my intended roommate ditching me. So. Uhm. Kalamazoo has to house me somehow, right?

Those are the two biggest concerns for the time, although I’m sure that I’ll continue to gather them with some sort of freakish black hole-like effect until my hair stands on end and my teeth ache. Life as usual.

Hey all,

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Everything is going well here, even if I’m quiet.  I spent a week in a village being force-fed by a crazy (yet lovely) woman, and now I am in the process of organizing some things related to school in the spring.

I am also putting together my final projects for the Sénégal program, which actually takes a fair amount of time.  Even if a lot of that is waiting time.

Expect to hear from with with some pictures in the next few days!!

What are you doing with *your* weekend??

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

I, personally, am doing a lot of nothing. Let me tell you, it feels wonderful. It all started yesterday with excellent schedule that does not include classes. I slept in, then walked around in search of fried dough balls. Specifically, the ones on the way to the university that contain coconut shavings and have a sugar coating. I just happened to find a manageably-sized piece of a car rapide lying next to the road, so naturally I collected it. Photos to come.

I spent the rest of the morning drinking tea at the Baobab Center, finishing the Brea Bag (Once again, photos to come. I do miss Emily the Yarn Duck.) and listening to my friend as she discovered that the new kid across the table was actually the kid who unstacked her blocks in kindergarden, and who collected frog eggs from the pond in third grade. How strange, to find your block unstacker ten years later and 4,000 miles from home. I thought it was strange to find a Rotary scholar from the U of M…

We also went to the beach yesterday. Think about it for a minute, and bask in the glory that is January. (Go look at and scroll down a bit to see the new years blizzard that describes my home right now. Incidentally, that’s my sister’s new blog.) It’s a little bit difficult to stomach, until you just stop thinking about the date and the season. I wouldn’t object to some mail-ordered snow.

As for today?? I slept late, ate a lot of snacks, and read books. I’ve started Catch 22, which is good so far. (Aside to The Master Of The Universe, it reminds me of you.) I was planning to read for a while in the afternoon before going out on a walk, but unfortunately I was smothered by the cuff of the first Africa Sock, and passed out cold for three hours. Erm…so that’s my day. Week-end. Yes.

The photo was taken just outside of Oussouye; a small village in the Basse-Casamance region.

I shall leave you with a list of the funniest search terms on my stats page:
> how are vitamins suppose to be packed in luggage
> sheep mouse
> genius losing my mind
> how many mice do you get in a nest
> mice nest size needed
> chieck amadou bamba*
> mouse mouse mouse mouse mouse mouse mouse mouse mouse mouse mouse mouse mouse mouse mouse mouse mouse

*Cheick Amadou Bamba is basically the Jesus of Sénégal. He is the central figure of the Mouride brotherhood, and of the Baye Fall. I’m sure that he’s on Wikipedia, if you’re curious.

Sneaky White Lies

Monday, December 17th, 2007

I don’t know when I made the rash decision not to bring any shawls to Sénégal with me, but I would dearly love to go back in time and kick myself.  They would be perfect for evening knitting here.

I suppose that two good things come out of this. Firstly, I guess I’ll be forced to go to the fabric market and bargain for some nice pashminas.  Oh, darn. Secondly I’ll have to hurry up and knit some new ones.  After all, I did bring laceweight!! (Still don’t want to talk about the stash, even while there’s a little thing called the Atlantic Ocean that currently comes between us. Stash is to knitters as malaria is to mosquitos? Hey, at least we *like* stash.)
Not that we were speaking of tailors, but speaking of tailors mine promised me my clothes for Friday and as of today they’re still not finished.  Sénégalese culture is much more relaxed about time than American, so-while frustrating-this is not unusual or problematic.  If I weren’t taking it in a slightly American fashion, the whole process would be quite fun.  We knew in advance that our things would not be ready, so we decided to fight back in advance.

Armed with a clever white lie* about how we were planning to travel this weekend, we went back four days in advance to move him along a bit.  “Yes, yes, Friday, it’s sure”.  Right.

Two trips Friday, two Saturday and two today have really made no dent.

The next step??  I’m enlisting my mother.  Don’t mess with me.
* White lies are very acceptable in Sénégalese culture.  You use them to ensure that you don’t hurt someone’s feelings by your actions, or by revealing a truth you are aware of that would hurt them.  We decided-at my host mother’s suggestion-that this was a good time to use one. Hey, if he’s going to white lie about the date of completion… It’s kind of like a complicated form of bargaining.

There are no classes.

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

I just wrote a whole entry about how university classes didn’t actually start, but it disappeared. To make a long story short, the international student courses have started but not the normal university courses. They fooled us again. For some unexplained reason there are still tons of students all over the campus every day…perplexing.

I have just become aware of the wonders of ibuprofen. I very rarely take medication for anything, but I came down with a fever on Thursday which kept me in bed for all of yesterday afternoon. It was the kind of fever that makes all of your muscles and joints ache, and your head float. Once I gave in to it, I was pretty useless to do much more than lie in my bed and doze. I finally decided that things were getting ridiculous, so I walked to the pharmacy. Voilà!! I took a pill, and an hour later I registered no fever at all. It still comes back, but I can knock it out for a few hours with a single pill. What amazes me is that it must have been a pretty high fever. I registered between 100 and 101 this morning, and I felt ten times better than yesterday.

I have nothing to complain about; one of my friends probably has malaria.*

I’m trying to figure out what to do with my newfound time,and so far it seems easiest to raid the Baobab Center library as frequently as possible.

I probably should be starting my Integrative Cultural Research Project (ICRP), but it’s just so much easier to put it off. Anyway, there isn’t really much I can do about it until the holidays are finished. I want to work with a tailor, but they’re all stuffed to the gills with people’s outfits for Tabaski and Noël.

This week is reserved for writing my paper for History of Islam. 8-10 pages in French…

(Photo taken in the holy city of Touba. Go research Amadou Bamba and the Mouride brotherhood if you want to understand religion in Sénégal.)

*Perhaps it would be wise to specify that she is on a different anti-malarial than I am.  Stop worry, Moom.

“University classes”

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

THey don’t exist.  No, really I’m not kidding.  We’ve already completed one credit for the course in St. Louis and our Wolof classes are finished after this week, but both of those are through the Baobab Center.  Also through the Baobab Center, we have a Cultural Seminar (which is actually pretty useless due to the professor’s tendency to interrupt *constantly*) and History of Islam which is excellent.  So, that is four credits.

The fifth will come from my Integrative Cultural Research Project, for which I plan to work with a tailor.  I haven’t cleared the idea with my professor yet and I haven’t found a tailor, but I imagine that it won’t be that difficult to clear it all.

The sixth (and anything after that) will come from the university…

Classes have not started yet.  The credit for the courses comes from taking the test that comes at the end, not from actually attending the classes.  With that said I’ll still have to go because a) I’m not fluent in French and b) whatever subject I take probably won’t be something I know about.  There are student strikes at the university right now due to severe overcrowding issues in the dorms,  and nothing will really start until the 19 or so…when break starts.  We have time off between the 17:19th and the 7th or January.  After that, we’ll finally start classes.

In January, each of us spends a week in a rural village.  The program is finished in February, after which I have two weeks set aside for travel.

The point of this story?? I’ll be spending a month taking my university courses, thank you very much!!  It’s a little terrifying to have only that much time, but I have faith in the system.  Inchallah*, right??

I *may* take French, along with something else.  We’ll see.

*Arabic phrase meaning “God willing”, adopted by Wolof

It’s still 85 degrees. Don’t lie to me.

Monday, November 26th, 2007

People keep telling me that it’s going to get cold here.  And I believe them.  I really really do.  I’ve even been cold once or twice, although only at night.

The problem is that my nose and scalp do not believe this whole “cold” scandal.  They’re still feeling all that sun.  My nose is a rather obnoxious shade of pink, making me resemble The Sneak.  ( ;D )

My head doesn’t believe it either.  I’m feeling just as tired and lazy as ever.  Walking five blocks makes me exhausted because it’s “too hot”.  I almost fell asleep in class about seven times today, although if I’m honest that probably has as much to do with our professor as it does with the environment.

We do have methods of counteracting the heat and exhaustion.  We either go to the pool, or to the ocean where we tread water.  We usually go with the former, particularly as my friend stepped on a sea urchin yesterday.  Not fun.

Still, I’m ready for the temperature to drop…down to 75.  Ish.  Have I mentioned that I miss snow??

In other news, I still knit.  Really-really.  I still don’t have pictures, but I do knit.  In face last week I started a shawl made from gift yarn.  Thanks to Anne!!  I’m not sure I managed to post about it before I left the states.  The yarn is a fuschia laceweight, and I am using the Azalea pattern from The Second Book of Modern Lace Knitting.

I’m pretty sure it’s a lot easier to transfer pictures than I think it is, but on the other hand I don’t have incentive to sit in cybercafés with creepy men all day.  Just imagine it for now.

I’m going to bed early tonight, and tomorrow I’m making a trip to the tailor for..uh…my new fabr-I mean-what’s that?? What are you talking about!! I would never buy “fabric”.  Get your head on straight…

Still here. Still alive. Still sunburnt.

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

I spent the weekend with my program in Sokone (a small village near the Gambia), hence the lack of post-age.

We stayed in thatched-roof houses, although it was a “hotel” and therefore a little fancier than the compounds usually are.  Still, we visited a compound and had an excellent time.  The walls are made from a cement-like substance made from mud and crushed shells, which makes for a much cooler housing material than the cement ovens they like to bake us in here in Dakar.

We simply asked if they minded if we came in to look around, and the moment we entered the gate we were swarmed by urchins.  Mine was named Penda* and she somehow managed to cling to my hand even in the process of trying to retie her skirt (which fell off halfway through the visit and never quite got reattached).

We visited a few NGOs run by women (grains, jams/batiks), a honey business, and an eco-tourism site.  It was all pretty cool.  We took a pieroge (once again, small wooden boat and not Polish food item) to and from through the mangroves.  We didn’t see any manatees, but apparently there are some that live in that particular little ocean branch.

Finally, we spend a few hours talking to a group of 15-year-old girls.  It was interesting because they all know what they want to be, and half of us are still struggling.  Here?  You have to know.  If you don’t you’ll never break the cycle.

It was an excellent weekend in short, but it’s nice to be home in Dakar.  I missed my family.

* One of my favorite Sénégalese womens names, tied with Ramatoulaye and Aminata.