Posts Tagged ‘MSID’

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Tiana: Remarkable experience

June 1, 2010

The road outside my Dakar home.

America and Senegal: two almost entirely different realities, different cultures.  Both of which are now a huge part of my reality, the one that I’ve had the opportunity to live and grow in. I’ve been home for three weeks now, where green, leafy trees substitute dwarfing baobabs. Where the nearest ocean shoreline is approximately 3,000 miles away. Where time is money, and both time and money are in increasingly short supply. Where at least one garbage bin can be found every square meter, where automatic toilets occupy hundreds of public restrooms, and where everything is ridiculously overpriced. Where I am blessed with family and friends who welcomed me home with open arms and warm smiles.  And where I am struggling profoundly to reconcile the past five months with the past 21 years and the rest of my life.

My final week in Dakar was the most bumbling and busy week that I encountered in the entire semester.  The return from Joal felt like a bona fide homecoming, as I was met with the warmest of greetings from the kids (Aminata, Doudou, and Xadi), and I spent that afternoon exchanging news of the past weeks with Maman, Mariama, Nogaye, Ami, and others in the family. I showed off some of my new Wolof skills, much to the delight of those who were in close hearing proximity. Turning in early that evening, I remember trying to make a mental list of all that I hoped to accomplish in the coming days. I fell asleep at around task number 43…

In terms of academics, our final week was spent in a wrap-up seminar. Monday and Tuesday, we re-convened courses with each student giving an internship presentation, highlighting key points and events for the insight of the rest of the group. We also had a final country analysis class, final international development class, and re-entry seminar. The workload was light (except for those who hadn’t yet finished their internship reports), which was the ideal situation and allowed us ample free time for other shenanigans besides class.

My little niece, Khadi.

For me, such shenanigans constituted mostly hanging out with my family. I was able to go home for lunch almost every day, which wasn’t true during the eight weeks of class before my internship, and which meant that I got to see the kids more often. One day, a friend visited from Joal. Another afternoon, I hung out with the kids, bringing them with me to a fruit stand, letting them color and draw on my old homework, etc. One evening, I was taught yet again how to make ataya, but found myself completely lost because it was different than the way that I had learned before. (A small digression on the topic of ataya: After an entire semester of close observation and vain attempts to develop a specific formula for ataya-making, I’ve concluded that there is absolutely no way to put a recipe on it.  This was, at first, incredibly disconcerting and difficult for me to accept, as I like specific measurements and precise instructions, but I do believe I’ve come to terms with the facts.) One morning, I went one final time to Aux Fins Palais (for caramel pancakes and omelettes) and to the market (for an ataya pot and glasses, among other things).  That same day, Britney and I went one final time to N’Ice Cream.  That week, I ate my final Senegalese ceebu jen, watched my final Senegalese sunset over the ocean, drank my final Senegalese tea, had a final Hamburger Friday with the MSID family, went to the gym with Anta one final time, you get the picture.  It was a week of finals, obviously not in the academic sense, which made it just plain hard.  Not to mention exhausting.

At the final MSID get-together.

Friday afternoon was our MSID send-off. We were told to meet at WARC at around five in the afternoon for some light snacks and some goodbyes. Light snacks, my friends, was the understatement of the century. The snacks were, in fact, very very heavy, and I’m pretty sure we all ended the afternoon more heavy because of them. We aet our weight in fataya, various cakes, and little egg roll-type snacks that I forget the name of, and filled in any possible empty spaces in our stomach with different juices of about ten different flavors. Yiddema! Talk about one last and whopping manifestation of teranga (which, you’ll recall, describes the characteristically Senegalese hospitality).  We said our goodbyes to Waly, Adji, Korka, Awa, tout le monde at WARC and headed out one final time.

Saturday, my final day there, felt like just another day. I went to myShop near school to connect to the internet, where I met a nice group of four Frenchmen. They invited me to meet them back at myShop that evening, an invitation that I respectfully declined, explaining that I was going home that evening. (Note: Even if I was not flying home that evening, rest assured, I would still have declined the invitation.  The fact that I declined is important to the rest of the story, which is why I include it.  Just to clarify!) That’s when it really hit me the first time… I was going home. Was I excited?  Honestly? No.  There was a twisted knot in the pit of my stomach that refused to untangle as I headed home for lunch.

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Kathryn: Day trip to Otavalo

May 17, 2010

The most popular attraction in Otavalo, about two hours from Quito, is the large open market. On Saturdays it is always crawling with visitors, but my buddy Mike and I headed there last Thursday.  It was empty—so much  better for quickly making our purchases. I got a hammock and several pieces of art by a local who uses a technique in which he extracts the brown from walnuts, mixes it with water, and paints. After visiting the market we wanted to hike to a famous tree in our guidebook called El Lechero. It turned out that it was located 4 kilometers away beyond a village and several treacherous mountainy crags… which we only found out because a kind Ecuadorian offered to drive us there for FREE! Praise God. We took pictures by the tree and enjoyed the gorgeous backdrop of the inactive volcano Imbabura and a sparkling lake.  There was also a notable cow tethered by the tree and lots of fragile soil that Mike insisted we not step on because it takes years to regenerate. We tramped all over hill and dale and found our way to a random street by following some indigenous girls down a mountain path, where we hopped on a random bus that we supposed was going to the town that sends buses to Quito. It was, and we hailed the bus to Quito as it was driving away and got the seats in front with the bus driver/sitting on the steps with the guys who collect the money. Here is a link to a slideshow I made of our outing…I think it tells the story better than I do! Enjoy: SLIDESHOW

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Tiana: Joal—the final stretch

May 8, 2010

Where has the time gone? I’ll tell you right now that it seems way too soon for me to be leaving Joal. I’ve just begun establishing friendships that I swear could last a lifetime, and now it’s time to go home? It just isn’t quite sitting well.

Anyhow, buckle your seatbelts, folks! I have a whole bunch of information to share with you from the past few weeks. First, let’s begin with current events:
Joal was hit with a heat wave at the end of April. Everyone was sweating bullets, and there was virtually no way to escape the heat. The day at work was rather dull. I was mistakenly called “Doc” by one of the mothers accompanying her ill child, and I really like the sound of it! After leaving work and eating lunch with my family, I drank a mixture of bouye and bissap juice to rid myself of some lethargy and headed to the beach that afternoon to cool off. As I was walking along the shore looking for shells, I heard a chorus of children shouting, “Tiana! Tiana! Tiana!” I looked up and saw some of the neighbors swimming just down the coast, Fatou, Papi, and Ami among them, and strolled over to join them. Taking pictures and shell-searching for the afternoon was so much more enjoyable with people to laugh with and pass the time with. Fatou helped me collect shells, and we all headed home at the same time, together. The kids and I made shadow puppets for practically the entirety of the evening, and voila, another day in Joal was finished.

Thursday afternoon, my host aunt (but more like an older sister) Agnes invited me to the beach with her and her English-speaking friend Lamine. We all camped out under a palm tree with some delicious lait caillé, or sugared milk, and spent the afternoon chatting, taking short walks, and looking through an English grammar. Once I got home, I learned that nine-month old baby Aissatou, a neighbor of mine, is now nicknamed after me! Her mother now calls her Aissatou Tiana! I was blown away by the compliment, and had a nice Wolof conversation with the mother in the process. After dinner that evening, I headed to the center across the street. My friend El Hadj and his friend Alioune tutor middle school children every evening. Mamadou instructs English, as he has his diploma from the university at Dakar in English language, and Alioune tutors math. I went and helped out with the English class a bit and have been going every night since! If I didn’t want to be a pediatrician, I think I would want to become a teacher!

Friday was rather uneventful, but with one particular note. I somehow forgot to wear earrings to work on Friday, and for some reason, literally everybody noticed! “Tiana, where are your earrings?” “Tiana, you look different. You’re not wearing earrings!” It seems that jewelry is absolutely integral to female culture here, something I didn’t notice until that very moment because it’s a normalcy for me to wear it!

The weekend was a lot of fun! I had previously planned to go to Mar Lodj, a small, paradisiacal island in the Sine-Saloum delta, but decided instead to rest with the family for my final full weekend in Joal. (Of note: when I come back here, I am definitely going to Mar Lodj! It’s supposed to be incredible!) I began my 20+ page internship report on Saturday, but quickly tired of it and decided to go to the beach and soak up some sun before lunch. Then after lunch, I went back to the beach, but this time with friends! El Hadj, Amadou, Alioune, and I all camped out under a palm tree for a couple of hours and made tea! One thing that I love about being here is that I have Senegalese friends, more specifically Senegalese guy friends—y’all back home know that I’m really shy, so this is a welcome departure from the norm.
When I got home that afternoon, my host dad’s friend, Madia, brought an American Peace Corps member by our house to introduce us. I had heard that there was another American girl working in Joal, but had never met her before. Alexis has been here for around two years with the Peace Corps working in environmental education. She speaks practically fluent Wolof and has spent a lot of time here, so it was fun to hear her perspective on the city, on Senegalese life, etc. I ended up going to dinner with Alexis, Mike, Brian, and Jacob (Mike and Brian are also Peace Corps members here in Senegal) at the Taverne du Pecheur. It was so nice to have a break from the daily grind of French and Wolof!

Sunday was as low key as ever. I hit the beach twice. Played with the neighborhood kids outside of the social center across the street. Learned to make baignets with the instruction of Mam Clo. Went to help out at English class. Went to sleep…

The following week came and went in record time. Monday, we took a good number of pictures at work, because it wasn’t only my final week, it was that of Dr. Bangura and two other interns also. I went on a walk through Joal with some colleagues from the clinic. We tried to go to the museum that used to be Senghor’s home, but it was closed, so we went to the bridge of Samba Dia. We made a heart in the sand, lined it with shells, and took pictures of each of our initials within the heart. Dorky? Sure. But it was really nice to spend time with them outside of work. On the way home, we did just fun random things—found a stray bill for 10,000 FCFA (the equivalent of about $20), stopped by a sand art shop, picked flowers that were growing from cactus, walked along the beach, and then parted ways. After dinner I went to English class and then helped Mama out with her homework! She has a penpal that wrote her a letter and drew her a picture, and she was to respond in kind. It was so sweet; she kept asking me what she should say, what she should draw, if her French was spelled correctly, etc. I loved it!

Tuesday, I intentionally woke up before sunrise so that I could run over to the middle school and photograph it. I do not regret getting up early whatsoever! It was stunning. The sun rises just over the basketball courts and behind a layer of palm trees. Once you pass through the school grounds, there’s a door that opens to the bras de mer, the arm of the sea, and you see the sun rising over a forest of baobabs, Fadiouth, and the cemetery. WOW! Before work, I stopped by the neighbor’s house to greet Massif, the sweet puppy there. The work day was short, and I ended up going home early because work was so slow, giving me the opportunity to help Agnes cook lunch! She showed me how to make the traditional plate, ceeb-u-jen, and allowed me to pound the spices, pick through and cook the rice, peel and clean the vegetables, and even help with the dishes! This was monumental, as I have wanted to help in that capacity since I got here, but haven’t really felt comfortable doing so. After lunch was ready, I climbed up to the roof to wave to the kids as they came down the long road from Fadiouth, then we all ate together and passed a peaceful afternoon and evening.

Have you ever had a day when your alarm goes off, you hit the snooze, and then sleep way too late because the snooze doesn’t work for some reason? Welcome to my Wednesday morning! I slept in until 8:45, the time that I usually leave for work, and had both Agnes’s in the family calling to me through my closed door to see if I was alright. It was an eye-opening experience for me, and here’s why: Typically, in such a situation, I would be completely panicked (heightened heart rate, irritable disposition, grumbly, etc.) as I really dislike being late. I believe I can safely say that Senegal has changed that in me quite a bit. The general mentality here is founded in patience and the practice of taking things in stride, two things I never quite realized I needed so badly to learn. At work that day, I took weights and temperatures for the incoming children, one of my absolute favorite tasks, despite its simplicity. I love being able to interact directly with the kids in Wolof, and I’ve found that their reactions to toubab presence at the clinic typically fall into one of three categories: You’ve got the kids who just stare at you, as if you were an extraterrestrial being; then you’ve got the ones who wail, as if you were there to hurt them in as many ways possible; and then there are the ones who fall in love with you at first sight, come to shake your hand, laugh and play around, etc. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Heather: Lamu! (and then home)

May 7, 2010

We arrived in Lamu last Saturday afternoon, after a night bus to Mombasa and then a very not fun ride from Mombasa to Lamu. We took a boat to the island and found a place to stay for the next two nights. We stayed at a place called Yumbe House in Lamu town, which is an old coral castle! It was a great place, and we had a couple rooms on the top floor so we had an amazing view of the city! Great architecture in the city and around too. All for $10 a night. We went to the Shela, where the beaches are and found a place to stay for the rest of the week.

Because it’s low season, there’s absolutely no one else here so we got a really good rate for our rooms. We basically have the entire building to ourselves, so the top level and rooftop are all ours! We have fully taken advantage of the kitchen. The first night we made white snapper, sauteed veggies, and red wine and noodles. So delicious. Last night we bought fresh crab (~$18 for 12 pounds!!) and made more veggies and rice to go with it too. Fresh fruit juices as well (banana passion=great mix!).

We’ve just been hanging around Lamu town and Shela and going to the beach. We ran into one problem though. On our first night here some drunk guy wouldn’t leave us alone and tried kissing Sara and actually grabbed me inappropriately. So I turned around and would have given him a new face. However, two of our guy friends were there and stepped in between and wouldn’t let me. But the next day he found us again and followed us to the beach. Still drunk, and still groping at all the girls. We finally just had to be extremely rude to him and were actually causing a scene, but then a local man came up and started yelling at the guy and lead him away. The next day at the beach I was laying there and he came up to me again. I don’t know how he keeps finding us! Another local guy came to my rescue though, thank god.

There are donkeys everywhere here, as there are no cars or any other transport except for boats. We tried renting donkeys the one day, but the guy totally tried screwing us over, so we unfortunately haven’t had a chance yet. But we will! Everything else is going great! The place we’re staying at is very nice and the guy is extremely helpful and nice too. We went on a dhow trip on Tuesday. It rained the entire time, but it was so much fun! We met two people from Holland so they came along with us. We went to some ruins from this old village and got some great pictures. We did some fishing as well! This was fun, but I didn’t catch anything. It was difficult to cast because our rods were literally blocks of wood with fishing line wrapped around it with shrimp as bait. Two people caught fish, and Michael caught a rock. We had a sunset ride last night, absolutely gorgeous!

Anyways, I’m having a great time and am getting excited to come home! We are heading back to Mombasa on Saturday morning and we’re taking a night bus back to Nairobi and flying out to Egypt on Tuesday morning at 4am. Then I’m home!!

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Heather: Back home

April 28, 2010

I have made it safely home to Nairobi! It was a decent bus ride, no problems. We had a Saw marathon showing. It was so nice seeing my Nairobi family again, I think they missed me! We stayed up for a couple hours just talking about everything that’s been going on and telling them about my experiences and everything. And the next morning I got an amazing breakfast of tea, samosas, and eggs. Better than the white bread I’ve been getting recently. It was great!

We headed to Methodist Guesthouse to stay there for the next couple days while we finished up the program. The first night was really great seeing everyone again and catching up. It’s crazy that we all missed each other so much. I guess we’re all pretty good friends! Sara, Rebecca, Mia, and I lucked out on our room in the guesthouse. There’s four beds with our own bathroom. Well, everyone has this. BUT, our room has an extra door that opens onto a closed balcony overlooking the pool area. So seriously everyone just chilled in our room the first night and last night too. Later on in the night other people were being extremely loud and we could hear everything through the walls, so we slept on the balcony. So great! No mosquitoes; the weather was AMAZING!

We’ve just taken our exams. Today we had discussions about our internships and reverse culture shock. It was ok, but a rather long day. It sounds like some people really enjoyed their internships while others were indifferent, while others didn’t like it at all. So, technically, we’re done! Just have to hand in our papers and head out! My future plans are: take the night bus to Mombasa on Friday, then catch the 8 a.m. bus to Lamu. Stay in Lamu for 5ish days or so, head back down the coast. Then get a bus back to Nairobi from Mombasa. Then fly out of Nairobi on May 10 to go to EGYPT!! Then May 18th, fly home!

I will be on a boat for about a week, then traveling without my internet modem working, I will have very limited internet. My blog posts will probably be few and far between. Just so you’re aware. I will be going back to my family tomorrow morning and staying with them until Friday.

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Heather: Last week in Mombasa

April 23, 2010

This is my last week in Mombasa so I’ve just been finishing up some stuff at work. Mostly just working on my presentation and final report that I have to turn in.

I also made dinner for my family yesterday – my original plan was to make burritos. However, when I went to the store, I was banking on them having chapati (to use instead of tortilla shells), but they did not. And then I didn’t want to depend on a street vendor having them outside my house, so I had to think on the fly. I decided to just simply change it to chicken stir-fry. That was something easy to make, and something I didn’t need a recipe or ingredient list for. I just picked up some rice, chicken, green and yellow peppers and some onions. As I was making it, the power went out. I had two burners going and I was flying blind. But no worries, I prevailed! It turned out well. My family seemed to enjoy it.

Since you may be curious about my host family, I’ll talk about that. As mentioned before, it was just my host mom and I. Since then the kids have come home from school for 2 weeks but have left again now. And my host dad came home from Sudan from work, but is leaving next week to go back for another couple months. For the time that he was home, my host mom took a leave from work so she could be around during the day.

When I get home from work we talk about how each of our days went, but they’re a pretty quiet family. My little brother and sister didn’t talk much either; I think they were just shy. It’s different learning about the kids’ schooling and stuff, but I’m still not exactly sure how the system works.

For dinner we normally have rice with cabbage and fish or some sort of stew. Sometimes there’s spaghetti, and other times we have chapati and beans. The rice stews and spaghetti are my favorites. After dinner the family normally watches TV, but it’s mostly in Swahili so I don’t know much. I try to watch it but I really have no idea what’s going on, so I normally read. They don’t talk amongst themselves much either.

I normally prepare my own breakfasts, which are just white bread and hot chocolate. It’s very simple, but it doesn’t take much time.

The other night my host mom gave me a handbag with a carved wooden lion and a salt shaker made out of cow horn. It was very nice of her and I really like it. Since I didn’t know anything about my family before coming to Mombasa, I didn’t have any gifts for my family. But a couple weeks ago I was making bracelets from beads that I made in Nairobi and I gave a couple to my host mom and her sister in law who always made me dinner. So I’m glad I at least had something in return for her.

I will try to post pictures of my house, but I don’t know when that will be. Maybe next week when I am back in Nairobi.

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Heather: Return to Tanzania

April 21, 2010

Definitely one of the top 3 of weekends since I’ve been in Kenya. On Saturday morning I headed to Tanzania. Got on my bus at 7 a.m., and the only plan in mind was to get to Moshi, Tanzania. I was going to meet our friend Simon who we met while rafting in Uganda.

I was afraid we would miss each other because my bus was 1.5 hours late and there was no way I could get a hold of him, as he has no phone. So I got off the bus at Moshi, walked around for a few minutes having really no idea where I was, just praying that I would see another whitie. Luckily, he found me after only about 10 minutes. We started to figure out our plans for the weekend; I was really just planning on going along with anything. He met this guy who wanted to help us, but ended up wanting to charge us Tsh 90,000/person (~$75) for one night of going to this local village. Long story short, we ended up paying only Tsh 30,000/person.

We took a dalla-dalla (matatu thing) halfway up this mountain right near Kilimanjaro with Richard, the guy whose family we were going to stay with. We had to walk another 1.5 hours uphill the rest of the way to get to the village. The village we went to was called Metaruni and held the Chagga tribe. That night we walked around meeting his family and seeing what was around. We ate this really good pork along with some salty soup. We also tried some banana beer. Not so good. I was literally chewing my beer because there were chunks of grain in it. Played some checkers and headed back to get some dinner. Dinner was a banana, bean, and yam stew. It was ok.

The next morning we got up early to watch the sunrise. Unfortunately it was just a little too cloudy for this. However, we saw Mt. Kilimanjaro!! Greatest sight ever! Normally you can’t see it during the day because it’s so cloudy, but in the morning and at night you can see it if you’re lucky. Guess I was! We ate some breakfast (roasted peanuts, bread, plantains, homemade coffee, and tea) and headed out for the day. We hiked up to some waterfalls and swam for a bit, then hiked to some other falls and swam some more. The water was SO COLD! It was great hiking, but really tiring. I am rather sore from it. When we got back we grabbed some lunch (beef and banana stew). If you’re wondering about the bananas, they have a ton of banana trees around and they use them to make a ton of different things. I never knew you could do so much with a banana! But it was all really good, especially the stew. After lunch we went to go make some coffee. We ground up the seeds to get the coffee beans out, then roasted the beans, then ground the beans into a fine powder and there was the coffee. Then we hiked about 2 hours down the mountain to catch a ride back into Moshi.

Once in Moshi, we went to a hostel and got some rooms and went to get some dinner. Street food is so amazing! I got rice, bagia (fried dough stuff), cabbage, and tea and Simon got chapati, beans, bagia, and tea and we only paid Tsh 1000 total. That’s like 35 cents per meal. And it was really good too!

The next morning we went to the market to grab some fruit for breakfast. I have never had so much fruit in one sitting. We made a GIGANTIC fruit salad (only Tsh 5500, ~$4.50). I couldn’t even finish it: 5 bananas, 2 oranges, papaya, watermelon, and mango. Delish. We packed our bags for the day and jumped on a dalla-dalla to go to Marangu, a town about 1 hour from Moshi. We went to some caves and then more waterfalls.

Caught my bus in the moning to head back to Mombasa. I took about 8 hours (ugh), but I saw about 30 elephants and 10 giraffes on my way. We passed through Tsavo West National Park on the way. This was one National Park I wanted to get to, but unfortunately never had time. But, at least I can say I passed through it and officially saw some wildlife of the park!

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