Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Last Days in Senegal

It's a little belated, but here is my last blogpost about my Peace Corps service in Senegal.

A. mellifera live fence nursery
at Toumani's demo site
Toumani and some moringa trees to be outplanted at the demo site

Crazy dancing at my neighbor's wedding

This is what the whole valley used to look like, with the native
species of oil palm. Now much of it is deforested, and the villages
asked to reforest with a shorter, higher producing hybrid.

The villagers were required to provide fencing
and outplanting labor in return for a number of
oil palm starts based on their household size.
Ally and Sam and four other volunteers
came to help with the project
Outplanting demonstration
Unloading the starts when they arrived
from the nursery in Zinuinchor

My backyard nursery - mangoes, citrus, and papayas

Sara Diamanka with his grandkids -
this is probably going to be the counterpart
of the volunteer coming to the site I set up in
Sare Samba
My last photo with my host family - Wopa and her mother and
my little namesake, Diatou, and Nene.

At N'ice Cream in Dakar, saying goodbye to Peace Corps friends

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ma Comes to Visit the Little Hut

Djiby (2nd from left) and his roommates at Dakar University
where mom and I went to visit him. He finished his first year
and goes home to Kolda in August. 

Garbage lined avenues of Kolda -
Mom seemed to think this was picture-
worthy... I'd forgotten what an eyesore
it is, since I haven't seen a trash can in
about a year.
Left: Mom and I got a ride out to S. Fode

The event of May was - my mom came to visit Senegal!!! It was an extraordinarily smooth trip (yes, mom, that really was smooth, by West African standards), and I am really proud of her for not only making her first extra-American voyage, but for making it in Senegal. She escaped the two and a half weeks here unscathed, with not a digestive tract illness or heat stroke to speak of, which is pretty shocking.  She learned to say 'jam tan' and 'jaraama' and a few other Pulaar words, and the village folks are still talking about her dancing. (For the record, they still talk about Ian's too.)

The welcoming committee, complete with bowl-banging.

Mom got on a bike for the first time in several decades, and performed like a champion, making it to Kolda and back, and out to see several other villages that I work in. On the last day, I realized she'd been in first gear the entire time.
Mom filled a few tree sacs at Toumani's Master
Farm for a live fencing nursery(retiring to the hammock
 a few minutes later, after which she proclaimed that
Senegal was much nicer than America...)
Sadiouma can't remember the name 'puzzle', but he has
become a pro since mom introduced the kids to the idea
for the first time. The adults enjoy them too.

Ansata chuckles as Mom tries to
pull water in the garden.
Mom and all the kids.
Mafe Gerte (peanut sauce) and
untu (fish balls) - mom and I concur
on our favorite village meal.

Ta-da - the toilet. Mom was a great sport
about the discomforts of life here.
Demo with Na, and Wopa with Diatou, ready to head to a wedding!
Me and my moms - Mom in the outfit I had tailored for her, and Nene in the outfit that Mom had made for her.
Trying her hand at laundry.  The problem wasn't the
laundry itself, but the reaching the ground.
Mom dancing with baby Diatou at the wedding. 

Sunset over the rice faro.

Aliou and I and his new baby doll from Mom.
He went to spend a few weeks with his
grandma in Kolda and wouldn't leave
the doll behind. Aliou is the most tempting
child for me to bring home, as I completely
adore him, and if he were only an orphan
or in real need I think I really might adopt him.

On the way home we spent more time
at hotels, in pools, on boats, and
being more touristy in general.

In Thies, Mom finished a classic Peace Corps favorite - a 'Chicken Dibi' plate of half a roasted chicken, fries,
and salad - and then finished what was left of mine. Not a utensil was resorted to. (There aren't any.)

We went to mass at Keur Moussa
(house of Moussa), a monastery near Thies
that manages acres of fruit orchards,
and produces goat cheese, wines, jams, and
music recordings.

The monastery creates both beautiful koras (a traditional
instrument like a cross between a harp and a guitar) and
beautiful kora music during mass. Here the monks are
tuning the koras in preparation for the mass we attended.

The chapel at Keur Moussa, with beautiful paintings of Bible stories on the back wall.  I loved how in each scene, Mary was obvious because of her bright garment, which looks like it's made out of West African fabric.

On her last day, we took the boat out to Goree Island, a place of retention and disembarkation for slaves during the height of the slave trade. It is now a beautiful town of well-kept up colonial buildings, lovely beaches, and art and craft vendors.

The dark history of the island remains palpable in places like the 'house of slaves', a museum of preserved slave-holding quarters, like this prison-like basement. It was really creepy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Little Hut in Connemara

On a hike in the Connemara National Park in Ireland
Me, Kelly, Cara, and Mandy (Kelly's sis)

I just got back from a two week vacation to Galway, Ireland with two of my coworkers, Kelly and Cara. We needed an escape from 115 F weather, and Kelly was meeting her sister, who has been studying abroad in Galway, and her parents who rented us all a cottage in Connemara.

Beautiful Moroccan pottery
Rule of thumb: ask the patisserie
owner his favorites, then get those
On the way to Ireland, we had a 12 hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco, and managed to run around town a little. We had just enough time to take the train into Casablanca, see the market,

and buy several kilos of delicious and unpronounceable Moroccan pastries.
They lasted us almost the entire rest of the trip.
Kids were sailing little boats on
the Luxembourg garden pond
From Morocco, we headed to Paris for two days.  We were almost disappointed by the heat and lovely weather, but the flowers were all blooming and people were all out in the parks, so it was a wonderful atmosphere.

We wandered all over Paris on foot, stopping frequently in cafes, and for a picnic.

Nicolas and I (Elliot peeking behind)
The highlight of the Paris leg of the trip was that I got to see my friend Nicolas.  We had studied together in Northern Ireland and I spend Christmas with him and his family in France that year.  Nico's a very charming guy with perfect English, and we had a thoroughly enjoyable dinner with him and another friend of his whom I'd met before.  
Galway waterfront
Finally, we made it to Galway, where Kelly was reunited with her sister Mandy. 
We stayed with her the first few nights in Galway city until Diane and Ed Henkler arrived and swept us away to a cottage right up the path from the bridge that's in the film The Quiet Man.
It was a little ironic that we went all that way only to find ourselves staying in a stone cottage thatched with grass...but it was completely modern inside, and we finally got the chilly weather we'd been craving.
The Connemara countryside around us was rugged, really rocky and boggy, but dotted with tons of lakes.  It was really beautiful. Cara and I hiked up behind our cottage, and even up high on the hill the ground was completely waterlogged.
Thatching the roof next to our cottage
There were sheep everywhere, and horses.  One day Kelly and Cara, who both used to ride horses, went out on a trail ride with some ponies from a nearby farm.  Ed was a champion, and drove us all over successfully, despite being on the wrong side of the road. We went to see the Kylemore Abbey, a castle built by the nobility and taken
Kylemore Abbey
by refugee French nuns later. There was a very regal walled garden, and a small chapel as well. 
These are the Cliffs of Insanity
in The Princess Bride!
We also went to see the Cliffs of Moher, but weren't able to get a very good view because the fog rolled in.  They're still impressive, though. We also took a gorgeous hike in the Connemara National Park.  It was very barren of trees, but beautiful.
We went out to hear Irish music and see some Irish dancing, we ate 

                           bagels and cream cheese that Diane brought us from America, we went shopping at the mall, and finally we went to Dublin for two days, where we saw some movies and had high tea at a hotel, and did not pay $14 to go inside a church. 
Finally, Kelly and I headed home, leaving Cara for an extra week with her friend who lives in Dublin. But the adventures weren't over yet. Herb and Gerda, distant German relatives of Kelly's, met us at the airport in Frankfurt, where we had a short layover, and bought us lunch. They were very interesting and fun, and we got to have weisswurst and pretzels and Hefeweizen in Germany.
But even then the country hopping continued - our last layover was 5 hours in Lisbon, Portugal, and we managed to spend 2 1/2 of those exploring downtown. Portugal is a really pretty city, I thought.  We saw enough palm trees to remind us of where we were headed back to, but we ate enough pastries and pizza to forget again. To top the whole trip off, as we were waiting for the bus back to the airport, we met a group of Senegalese guys who work in Lisbon, after we thought we heard them speaking Wolof.
There was some really impressive street art on apartment
buildings in downtown Lisbon. 
The sky was really interesting
while we were there.
I loved the yellow buildings.