Silliness in the PC


A year late – here it finally is! I mentioned this video we made for last spring’s training, and have since been pestered by volunteers and friends/family alike to upload it. Then I forgot about it completely. Then this past week I was sifting around my external hard drive looking for something else pertaining to mosquito nets and stumbled upon the video. So, I’ve at long last uploaded it. Please excuse the poor video quality  – it would have been 438 minutes to upload the .dv version and that’s not going to happen when there’s only one computer with internet for 13 people.

About the video: April of 2010, Kellen, Dave, Chris Breezy, and myself  were called upon to teach the latest wave of health and environmental education trainees about the massive-esque mosquito net distributions that were taking place in southern Senegal.  You may remember these such distributions that I was involved in – they were the beginning of my malaria affair. If I’d only known then…  Anyway, upon considering our task, we decided the best way to enlighten the trainees in the ways of net distributions would be via video, photos and song. At 10pm we started the video snippet, at 4am the link below was the result.  Enjoy!

(If I ever have fast interwebs again I promise to upload the non-fuzzy version.)

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Hello lovely friends and family and random internet wanders who’ve happened upon my blog,

The crew crossing the bridge into Kolda meme

As of this past Tuesday, the increasingly epic Kolda Donkey Rally trotted into Kolda, ending a six-day journey of over 100 kilometers, 12 causeries, 1 kilo of Moringa seeds, 17 volunteers, and of course 4 donkeys.  To be frank, we realized on about day two that maybe the idea of riding donkeys for six days across Kolda was in fact not the best idea (logistically, comfort-wise, realistically for full-gown 24-year-olds riding donkeys in 121 degree heat) that we’ve ever had… regardless, the purpose of parading PCVs on donkeys across Kolda to bring attention to the alarming burden of malnutrition in Kolda was achieved.

I joined the rally-spectacle on the 12th, after the crew had been on the already been on the road for three days.  One look at everyone Saturday afternoon made it clear that exhaustion and dehydration were common companions throughout the rally, but the crew mustered up the enthusiasm and powered through that evening’s causerie in wonderful form.   Though of course some were better than others, we can honestly report that every one of the causeries (“health talks”) we led about malnutrition and how the leaves of the Moringa tree are one of the best tools for fighting vitamin deficiency went very well.  The leader of our brigade, Geoff, brought along his counterpart, Moustafa, who did most of the talking during our causeries.  Moustafa was was an absolute champion when it came to corralling villages we were visiting to attend our health talks via his megaphone and bucket-load of enthusiasm.  Combine three megaphones, four donkeys, and an average of nine volunteers at each causerie and you have enough of a circus to attract a small crowd in every village, be it simply out of curiosity as to what the hell we were doing or not.  The point is that a lot of people were reached all over Kolda as we made it rain Moringa seeds. Check and check.

1 of the 12 moringa causeries

As I’ve alluded, after slow days in the sun combined with scanty meals and continuously running on empty, it’s not surprising that before long we were explaining in Pulaar (well, everyone else was, I agreed along in Mandinka) to Moustafa what “slap happy” means as every late afternoon and evening turned into a delirious giggle-fest.  One evening, Moustafa contemplated Geoff and Curtiss’s definition of slap-happy as he glanced at Wilma, Cara, Mike and myself rolling around some mats, belly-laughing at our latest “ass” joke (you’d think after six days with the donkeys they would have gotten old, but they never did).  Moustafa slapped his hands together, nodded his head and looked seriously and Geoff and Curtiss: “Yes. Slap-hap-py. That is definitely what is happening,” he said as he picked up his mega-phone and said his new favorite English phrase we taught him over the course of the ride… “Oh my donkey!”  Enter fits of hilarity to all in the immediate area.

On a similar note, I want to end this post about the rally with a big THANK YOU to everyone who donated to the Gardens of Moringa Fund.  Over $1,600 was raised since we posted the Donkey Rally informational video on YouTube… which is amazing!  After covering the costs of the donkey rally, we have enough money in the fund to finance eleven small projects.  To refresh everyone on the ideas behind the Gardens of Moringa Fund: money will be used from the fund to support small-scale projects that pertain to Moringa; project costs must not exceed $150 and must include an intensive Moringa leaf bed and a causerie on the health benefits of the leaves.   In an organization where there often seems to be no medium between large-scale grants and volunteer-funded initiatives (difficult when we aren’t paid as much as stipend to get by each month), the Gardens of Moringa Fund will enable a lot of great projects to happen on the grassroots level the country over.  So again, thank you!  And remember that any time your change-purse gets a tad too heavy, you can donate to the country fund and designate the money to go to the Gardens of Moringa fund.  Hooray!

Unfortunately, none of the video footage we shot during the rally is at all pertinent to the actual rally and more for the ralliers’ amusement, so I do not have another YouTube snippet for you all to see.  Instead, and as usual, below is a collage of photos from my time with the Donkey Rally.    Enjoy!

Charlene climbs a Moringa tree to gather seeds. Photo by Curtis McCoy

 

Kelly, Wilma, Cara, Charlene, Mike, & Mike breaking open Moringa seed pods. Photo by Curtis McCoy

 

The long road of the Kolda Donkey Rally

 

9am Breakfast after a 6am start

 

1 of the 12 moringa causeries, Nebedaye is a local name for Moringa. Photo by Curtis McCoy

 

Mike challenging some local kids to a wrestling match between causeries. Photo by Curtis McCoy

 

The local kids kicking Mike's butt. 13 against 1 will do that. Photo by Curtis McCoy

 

Heading into Wilma's village, our stop for the night.

 

Me testing my balance trying to get on my bike one morning. Three bikers carried all the baggage for the donkey crew. Photo by Cara Steger

 

Off bring and early each morning, bikers and donkey riders (walkers) steady on down the national highway in Kolda. Photo by Cara Steger

 

Mom and daughter listen to one of the causeries

 

Mike looks on as Kelly and Cara nap between causeries. Photo by Curtis McCoy

 

Another day ends as we roll into our host village for the night. Photo by Curtis McCoy

 

Me feeling the crazy-slap-happy we indulged in at the end of each day.

 

Wilma, me & Cara: the bike crew with our heaviest loads the last day of the rally! Photo by Jason Haack

 

Mike and Wilma (and Jason's dog) rejoicing at the Kolda-ho! sign (misleading though as Kolda meme was still an hour away). Photo by Curtis McCoy

 

Glory banner as we crossed the bridge into Kolda meme! Photo by Pam Pratt

 

 

 

The Kolda car heading up to Dakar! This is about 7 hours into the trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did I mention that our team was Space Corps?  Think space suits, Star Wars characters,  Avitars, and squirt-guns.

 

 

 

We had some pretty stiff competition: Gambian zombies that began each game with the Thriller dance…

 

 

... a team from Dakar that donned wax fabric lederhosen...

 

 

... and a team from Kaolack made entirely of ballerinas (yes, this is me in my space suit)...

 

 

... but thankfully our stellar batting strategies intimidated the competition.

We even beat the team dressed like cows and cowboys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Team Kolda Space Corps won TWO games! We made history!! (We never really win... any... games.)

 

 

Team Kolda/Space Corps after our first game day

Team Kolda/Space Corps after day two

I got to stay in a homestay with three of my closest friends in country: April, Steph and Jessie!

 

Evening activities included a talent show (here Vivienne and Chris imitate other PCVs' dance moves)

And a huge dance party where we rent out a club on the beach.

Coolest part - my friend Maya and I DJed the party! She's from Kolda as well, so our DJ name is DJ Ice Kolda... AMAZING, right?

I'm a DJ! Go DJ, that's my DJ

The people were pleased with the tunes

 

 

As happened last year...

... we were all dead by day 3.

But it was worth it! Until next year...

 

Getting settled...Take 1

Take 2 - stop laughing!

Take 3: Final cut!

From our family to yours – warmest wishes for a wonderful holiday season! Love, the Peace Corps volunteers from the region of Kolda peaceonly.

 

En route to this year’s 4th of July festivities in Kedougou, Senegal, me and four friends decided to bike from Tambacound to Kedougou – 233k.  It took three days, 17 packets of ORS solution, one pair of  padded bike shorts, five bright orange plastic flowers, three campemants, four guard stations, and one tire change, but we made it.  Here’s the tale via pictures.

DAY 1: Tambacounda meme to Dar Salam, 80k, my bike pack: water proof bag, 7 water bottles, sleeping pad, back pack, bike kit, and sweat-rag.

Outside of our starting point.

Maya lovin our first pit-stop.

Scenic overpass before our lunch-stop.

Mid-day heat = hats and scarves to protect your skin.

GORGEOUS campemant we stumbled upon. Napped in the hammocks during the hottest hours of the day.

Floral-life around the Gambia River.


DAY 2: Dar Salam to Niokolo Koba, 59k: Bike pack at the start of day 2

Bean and egg sandwich breakfast a few k into day 2.

Cruisin!

Me and Steph

The guard station we camped at for night 2. 56k is a short day, but we didn't mind because of all the adventures we had at the guard station.

Passing out shortly after arriving and greeting the guards.

We even got to wash our clothes! A huge deal when you have two outfits that drink your sweat night and day.

Local wildlife around the guard station.

Chatting with the guards in between their yelling-at-cars duities.

Setting up camp smack-dab in the middle of the guard post.

Our evening nature walk.

Feeding the local wildlife.

Inadvertantly feeding the local wildlife.

There has been an unsaid rule between me, my closest neighbor, and the volunteer in Fode Bayo before me, about travel in and out of my village.  Unless you want to get screwed over and/or stuck in a random village, finish all of your traveling by 4pm.

Being 18k into the bush, if you’re coming from Kolda to our road town of Dabo and it gets too late, you’ll end up biking through the bush in the dark, and then silly things happen like you toppling over on your velo, which causes your back pack to bust, all of your food and gifts for Tabaski to spill out, and inevitably your wallet to grow legs and hop away deep into the bush so that you will never be able to find it or your cell phone again.

Usually, the alhum (bus) rides  from Dabo to Kolda aren’t too bad.  Sure they can range between an hour fifteen to three hours, but I guarantee you that if you choose to catch a bus at 4pm or later, it will most definitely stop at every village en route to Kolda, break down twice, stop for 45 minutes at Sarre Sara (a village only 20k from Kolda!), and/or you’ll be sitting between two big smelly people in an aisle with no windows.  No really, I promise this will happen.

Really, it’s just best to catch a car from Kolda to Dabo no later than 3, and to leave Dabo no later than 4.  You think I would know this by now, or at least adhere to the lessons.

Today, around 3:27pm, I was going over my schedule for the next few days, when I came upon my pepeniere project for early next week.  Shuffling through my rice sack of bags of seeds, tree sacks, and jars of seeds, I realized: shit, I don’t have enough lucena for the village-wide tree-nursery fest.  Ok quick thinking… I currently have a mill five to my name (a scoch over $3) but the manduat (quarterly PC “allowance”) just came into the banks in Kolda, and I don’t have anything scheduled until Saturday morning… if I leave right now now, I can make it to Dabo and get to Kolda before it gets dark.  [cue not pausing to review the plans] Ok sounds good.

Then I remembered that I have to bring a 20lb clay pot/jar thing my moms make (called a cannary, we use it to hold water – what I called my fridge in my village video) to the new volunteer in my road town, since we forgot to put it in the CAR when we actually had a CAR in my village… one of the two times out of the year when a CAR comes to my village. Anyway.  Strapping the thing to my bike to be sure it wouldn’t crash to the ground during the ride took fifteen minutes, two blankets, an old bowl, and two rubber straps.  Then I’m off. It’s 4pm at this point.  I decided to leave and surge forward with the increasingly mental plan anyway.

Get to Dabo, stop at Dave’s hut to drop off my bike and the cannary, then walk up to the paved road to wait for a car.  None in sight, but my friend who makes beans every morning for breakfast (it’s a big breakfast item here) Sadio the bean lady, is walking by and tells me that her daughter just had a baby and that I should come see.  Check my watch – 5:43.  Check the road – no buses or cars in sight.  So, sure, I decided, let’s go see the little bobo debo (baby girl in Pulaar).

6:02 I emerge and assume my normal car waiting spot on the road amongst the usual small talk with the locals.  Still no car.  Well, no car or bus from the direction I need them to be going.

Then, a bus coming from Kolda does a u-turn and stops as if they were going into Kolda.  6:23.  Yes! I think. Sun goes down around 7:10, gets really dark by 7:40, I could still make it to Kolda in time.  So I walk up to the bus, about to get in, when the dudes tell me they’re not going to Kolda, but staying in Dabo for the night.  UGH. Who stays in Dabo for the night that drives a car?  I’ll tell you, no one.

Grumbling, I cross the street.  6:25.  If no cars come by 6:30 I’m staying at Dave’s and leaving first thing in the morning, I tell myself.   6:27 people start getting into the bus that’s “staying in Dabo.” I get up to investigate and surprise – they’ve decided to leave.  6:29 the engine gurgles to life and we roll away.  Yes! I think settling in to my sweaty seat.  As long as we continue moving, we’ll get to Kolda tonight.

As said, it’s common for these buses to make frequent stops along the road to Kolda in order to pick up passengers, drop off passengers, or to collect items to be sold from one town to another.  Thus, at first I thought nothing of our stopping in a village about 9k from Dabo.  Until the driver turned the engine off instead of idling (never a good sign).  Hissing through their teeth (sign of dislike), we get off the bush and sit around the side of the road, as the village kids come out to see if any of us are amusing.  Aaaand score! A toubab, always good for fun.  Trying to ignore the seventeen little heads in front of me, I ask the driver what we’re waiting for.  “Another car. It’s coming from Dabo. Then we will leave.”

Sure, I thought.  Knowing the Senegalese habit, if he says it’s in Dabo (9k away) it’s definitely then in Jaobe (30+k away).  So I settle into my bench, watching the sun set lower and the minutes on my watch click by.  Serves you right, I think.  See what happens when you try to leave at night?  By 7:15 I’m decently annoyed, but too fatigued to really do much about it.  A car rolls up and stops, and when the driver tells me to take the car instead, I dismiss any questions about the situation, grab my bag, and squish into the back row of the overgrown station wagon for eight.

Well, though I had to wait, this may not be so bad, I decided. These littler cars move decently faster than the buses, and our car was full, meaning it most likely would not be stopping before we hit Kolda.  I settle into my seat as the old dude next to me squishes me against the wall and catch up on my text messaging, trying to think of amusing things until we cover the 43k to Kolda.

We actually cruised along quite well, even in the part of the road that’s a checker-board of pot holes (which also signals that you’re getting really close to Kolda.  Irony at it’s best I assure you, as the pot holes require your car to slow to an inching pace while you’re less than 10k from the city.).  Then, the driver skids to a quick stop, says something in Wolof, and everyone but me and the lady in the row in front of me get out of the car.  I try to sit for a few minutes, but the car becomes increasingly muggy and stuffy so I venture out.

Oh hey, we have a flat! A part of me is actually impressed, because I didn’t feel the flat at all while we were driving or pulling to a stop.  This is saying something, as I have been in many cars with flats, and two cars where a tire has simply popped off and bounced along the road, off to a better land than the car it was hardly hold up.  43 minutes go by as the driver and the dudes in the car finagle the lifty thing under the car (only to have it slam down three times before it actually managed to keep the body up), pulled the old tire off, smushed on the new one, and screwed all the bolts on.  I pretended I was helping by shining my cell phone flash light on the whole situation (cell phones have little LED flashlights here!  For serious, it’s better than interwebs on your phone… if you’re living in Senegal), but I doubt as to whether anyone benefited from my “aid.”

Standing around as the tire was fit into place, I looked again at my watch and the situation around me (pitch dark hold for the full moon, middle of bush territory right before the city, too far to walk, but not really near anything) and was amazed that I wasn’t more pissy/angry/frustrated/grumpy.  I actually felt more in a state of zen, calmly watching everything, going along as things happened, and thinking about showering the dirt I could now roll of my skin in little columns of black grime once I got into Kolda.  Could I be getting more patient?  Patience has never been a virtue of mine, and though everyone says the peace corps makes one more able to stand patience, I doubted it would work for me.  But in that moment… maybe! I thought.  Now, I can assure you that my zen-state was more of a fatigue-state of complacency rather than anything resembling a yin and a yang.  But either way, eventually we bumbled along into Kolda, stopped at a random street, moved from the car to a cab in one motion, and mumbled a half-awake diatribe to the cab driver in Mandinka about how shitty the car was that I just emerged from.  (You can do this in cabs in Kolda because they all know where the young toubabs live – they call it the maison blanche, or white house. HA!)

9:18, arrive inside the maison corps de la paix compound, tell the guard that cars are stupid, grab the pint-cup of tea I had made a day ago and reserved in the fridge for my future self, and plopped in this chair to sit in front of this computer and tell you all this story, since I feel like my blog entries were beginning to exclude the more colorful events that happen in my life, living here.

So there goes.  Hopefully that won’t happen again, and I’d like to say I’ve definitely learned my lesson, but knowing that I have 11 more months here leads me to believe that my stupidity will prevail again sometime and I’ll have another mental car adventure to share.

Currently 10:27.  In the line-up: a scrubbing shower, sheet retrieval, dragging of a foam mattress to the roof, and asleep by 11.  ‘Till next time.

An apt acronym for the West African Invitational Softball Tournament, if I do not say so myself. While some of the teams that played may have taken the sporting even seriously (read: competitive league = marine team, embassy team etc), the rest of us took advantage of the Club Atlantique's morning "WAIST Specials," of Bloody Marys and Tequilla Sunrises before hitting our 10am softball games.

WAIST is hands-down the most talked about even of a Senegal volunteer's year, and now I understand why. For three days, every volunteer in Senegal, plus visiting volunteers/softball teams from the neighboring countries of Mali and the Gambia, descend upon Dakar for mornings and afternoons filled with softball games and evenings of varied debauchery around the nightlife of Dakar. Each region of Senegal forms a team, and picks a theme for their team, and then dresses appropriately based on this theme for the games. This year, Kolda was the "Kolda Country Club," complete with a tennis mom, all the colors of pastel you could want, plenty of plaid, and even a few sun visors. I had a pleated pastel plaid skirt made, but alas, by the end of game-day-one, the zipper broke. Good think I had a back-up pair of white shorts with a kelly-green tank!

A few of the other regions of Senegal looked stunning as follows: Tamba and Kedougou combined to become TambaGou with a theme of PC BC.

And north of the Gambia, Kaoloack decided to all be lumberjacks.

;

Short of the long, Kolda lost all four of the games we played, but we also didn't set out to win any of them either.

Sure, we tried when we were up to bat, and caught a few balls in the outfield...

... but the point of our games was to have fun by being morons (good looking morons!) and doing things like throwing a football during each pitch and dancing in the outfields.

0-4 my face, I think Kolda had a great WAIST run this year.

Late-night fun activities included an open-mic-nite/talent show/photo contest, date auction at the Marine's house (no, Marines weren't auctioned off), and a club party downtown till 5am.

Post-WAIST meant exhaustion (clearly), but we all had a damn good time getting there and I personally really enjoyed meeting so many new volunteers and seeing all of my old training buddies! (Awww.)

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