Big entry Pt 1- work and other productive things

Trip Start Sep 09, 2008
Trip End Nov 2010

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Flag of Senegal  ,
Thursday, April 2, 2009

So you can tell that I've actually been doing something with myself since its been over a month now since the last entry. I am happy to report that this is indeed the case which makes for a very contented if somewhat frazzled month for me as well as interesting blog reading for you all. A lot went on in the past month so I decided to break up the entry into two parts. This one will talk about all things work related and the next one will cover leisure activities. I have to write my first quarterly report on what I've been up to work wise pretty soon so this will be kind of a rehearsal.
The ParkThough it may not always seem like it, work with the park is the first priority because thats why I was installed here in the first place. So I've been trying to balance a bunch of other projects with the park. The great thing about the park though is that there's really not that much to do there, so pretty much I go, I hang out, I talk about the things I miss in the US, I eat lunch, talk some more about whatever is happening at the time, make tea, talk about why I can't cook senegalese food and don't want a senegalese husband, etc. The park staff was kind of disappointed that I know nothing about raising animals, which is the primary reason for the park's existence, so they've said the only thing they really want me to do is help them market the park to tourists better and teach them English.
All the ecotourism volunteers are planning another exposition in Dakar which will be paired up with the Artisan expo to get a bigger draw, so I'm hoping this will help with marketing. As part of that we've gotten funding to do a three day training on customer service, American/European preferences, general marketing, etc. I don't have enough time to help with the overall planning of the events but will be working with my counterpart to put together display materials and brochures we can hand out at the expo. At some point as well I'm planning on writing up a sample day trip for tourists that come to St Louis that includes my park and the more popular Langue de Barbarie in a one day excursion. I'm hoping if I can get the hotels in St Louis to market this trip to their guests instead of just a trip to Djoudj or the Langue like most offer then we'll get some more people coming through.
Stove project with COMPACTThis NGO called COMPACT (Community Management of Protected Areas Conservation, its funded by the UN Foundation) does a lot of work with protected areas around St Louis and recently started a project in the village next to mine. Unfortunately there's not much I can do to get involved in that project because its already written and underway. I did go in to talk to their regional coordinator and mentioned to him that I know something about alternative stoves (this is half true, I really don't know that much about them but I know people here who do). He really liked the idea of incorporating alternative stoves into their next project so he wrote it in the budget for two projects that COMPACT is doing in villages north of St Louis that border a protected forest. The way the organization works is that it gives small grants to protected areas and groups from the periphery villages to help clean up and protect the environment as well as improve livelihoods (with the hope that this will in turn help protect the environment). I worked with the regional coordinator and the two women's groups that would be managing the money to write out the project plan and budget. In the budget I have $4000 to build the stoves and conduct training sessions in each of the villages. I am very psyched about this because basically it means I can run the whole stove component myself. But it also means I have to learn how to build them, find the materials, get them all there, then conduct the trainings in Wolof. Luckily I have until August when the project starts to figure it all out.
GardeningBrendan is leaving in a few days so I forsee quite a lot of gardening in my future. Aside from just helping out at the demonstration garden I'm going to be taking over a project that Brendan has just started with an organization called Taxow u Talibe. Its a local organization that runs a center for talibes (kids who's parents sent them to Korannic school, they get religious training but not much else and have to spend much of their time begging). They give them classes on non-religious subjects, feed them, and give basic health care. They have an area outside of their center that would be perfect for a garden so Brendan got them started and I'm going to continue to develop it and maybe teach some gardening classes. A volunteer in Richard Toll, a city about an hr away, does the same thing. I went to visit and it seems like an easy enough and rewarding project.
In addition, I've been talking with Yassine, the head of the women's group that is receiving the funding from the COMPACT project in the village next to mine, and she says that after they buy a millet grinding machine, they will have some money left over. She wants to start a community garden with her group because there is no market in any of the nearby villages, meaning that the women have to go to St Louis every day for their vegetables. This will be my first attempt at starting a garden from scratch all on my own but now that I'm a master waterer, weeder, and transplanter, its time to take things up a notch.
Radio I've been going in to talk to the people at Radio Dunyaa, a national chain that has a St Louis channel, and they are interested in working with me. Apparently there is some organization where Europeans pay a lot of money to come to Senegal and get trained on how to be radio journalists so the station is used to getting paid to host foreigners. Though I tried to explain to them how much more valuable my time and manpower would be than money, they were not convinced. Lucky for me there is a program through the embassy that offers financing for radio equipment on the condition that the station gives a time slot to Peace Corps volunteers. I'm going through the application process right now and hopefully will have a weekly show going before too long. If any of you from WBRU want to record something to go on the Senegalese radio definitely send it my way.
Girl's SoccerAt this point I'm getting a little overloaded but I'm going to try and fit in some work with the girls soccer teams in the area. This girl (she is actually from DC which is cool) got a grant to work with girls soccer teams in Senegal and is organizing a tournament in Dakar and St Louis as well as girls leadership activities. Although I'm more interested in just playing soccer as opposed to organizing it, I met with her and am going to help out. There is a pretty high level women's team here and after meeting the coach, I was invited to come practice with them whenever I have time. There are also some lower level developmental teams that I am going to help coach a few times a week. Soccer is really popular here as you can imagine but hardly any girls play.
I can keep a regular schedule of games going which I think will help raise awareness of women's sports in general.
And last but not least, I'm thinking of trying to work at a small restaurant to help improve my language skills. Also to get some good food that doesn't involve rice or fish. Also just because I like working in restaurants. I haven't started looking yet, so that will be the next interesting adventure, trying to get a job in Senegal. That's the work lineup for now, I'm pretty happy with it. I've been told to expect the majority if my projects to either take a frustratingly long time to develop or completely fall through so I'm trying to keep expectations low. But for now things seem to be working out.
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