Ramadan is over!

Trip Start Aug 30, 2009
Trip End Apr 28, 2011

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The Hut

Flag of Senegal  , Tambacounda,
Saturday, October 3, 2009

     Ramadan is over! While I enjoyed bonding with the family every night after breaking fast at sunset, I am glad Ramadan is over.  Imagine not eating for 30 days from 5am to 715pm, everyone was exhausted and it bummed me out because they were so lathergic.  At times, there were sudden spurts of energy, and some people managed to be pretty peppy throughout the 30 days. But on the whole, I was living with starving and thristy people who just wanted to eat and drink something.  I actually fasted for about 8 days...it sucks.  All I wanted to do was drink water.  The food thing was not nearly as hard as the no water; it's freaking hot here and not drinking water is just plain ridiculous.  I fasted partly to show solidarity and partly to understand what they go through for 30 days every year. They definitely appreciated my participation in this annual ritual and I scored some pretty solid "strong-woman" points for having done so.
    After the 30 days there is this crazy big day, kind of like our Thanksgiving, called Korite. They kill a goat and make a huge meal to eat that day.  The meal itself deserving describing. On Korite, everyone makes the same meal, again like Thanksgiving, but here there really is not variation.  The meal consisted of macaroni, potatoes, onion sauce, goat, and bread....this is fancy food here.  I still cannot get over the fact that they eat macaroni with potatoes and bread...it's like carb nation over here. So we stuffed ourselves full of this meal which was followed by laying around.  They cooked every part of the animal; it was honestly digusting to watch.  But these women are amazing; they cleaned and cooked the whole thing.  Now I ascribe to the belief that men should take care of the meat but here that is certainly not the way things are done. Bone breaking, hair scraping, intestine removal, all women duties.  I did not participate in any of that because I honestly probably would have thrown up. But they didn't care at all so it's fine.  I cut potatoes and onions; that was my contribution.
   After carb-nation, the party started.  Someone in the village owns a boombox from like 1990 that they hooked up to a fully-charged car battery for the night.  They strategically placed this fatastic piece of machinery in his wife's compound and blared the drum-banging Senegalese music for all to hear.  Senegalese love to dance; however, for whatever reason when I showed up not a single one was dancing.  And upon my arrival they all start clapping and chanting "Penda, Penda...", expecting that I will breakout in bootyshaking awesomeness that all women with jaay-fondes (large butts) are known for. I, as we all know, have no butt but apparently that does not matter. So I, like the good little volunteer, start dancing, and you know what, only one other person would dance with me.  Ridiculous.  These people dance all the time but when the white girl starts to dance they all of the sudden become shy and inhibited like teenagers at a middle school dance.  Come to find out that perhaps they are afraid of breaking it out in sunlight because the sun went down and they busted out jaay-fonde shaking until like 3am.  Imagine a 3rd world party in the bush of Africa with boombox and car battery...amazing.  I was exhausted to say the least but so was everyone else so it's okay.
    Work:  the latrine project is well underway.  We are in the midst of writing our grant and hopefully construction will begin in Dec/Jan. Myself and my neighboring volunteer are covering our two villages and a Pulaar village right next to mine, a total of 160 latrines at the moment...yikes.  Additionally, I am looking into writing a demand to have a health hut put in my village. My local counterpart who works at our nearest health post suggested this as a potential project idea for me.  I have no idea what I am actually getting into; however, he really thinks it could be a sucessfull project.  As of now they are forced to either walk or take a charette 7km to the health post in my neighboring volunteer's village.  There is not an actual road, it's more like a small path through the bush and it takes forever.  So pregnant women birth their babies in the village and basic healthcare is simply not-existent.  I have no idea if this will actually pan out; the head doctor in my district has to approve the demand first, and if approved it would be follwed by a 3-month training stint at the health post for one lucky member of the village.  This person would be responsible for running the health hut so they must be chosen carefully and I will cross that bridge if we get there...inshallah.
    The water pump is still stuck on the well...of course.  And I am currently working to figure out a way to get it off the pump and render the well functional again.  The millet pounding machine should be fixed when I get back to site on Monday, Inshallah. I feel like a fulltime babysitter for 250 people.  I am forevery fixing/repairing/taking care of the village and it's problems.  I know that part of this is what being a Peace Corps volunteer is and part of this is my village's inability to conprehend and execute anything on their own, something I am working with them to change.
   I am now in Tamba celebrating my birthday...yay.  Then back to real life and the village.

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