Dakar dafa lekk xalis!

Trip Start Mar 11, 2007
Trip End May 2009

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Flag of Senegal  ,
Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It has been a while since my last entry and so much has happened.  There were two more holidays celebrated.  One involving girls dressing as boys and boys dressed as girls with ash painted on their faces.  Home made drums were fashioned out of tomato cans and plastic and kids went compound to compound collecting not candy or money but a much healthier option: cheery, or millet.  Tom Harit was a very fun holiday and we all ate lots of millet with meat and milk.  Then ten days later my village doubled in size as relatives from all over Senegal and abroad gathered to eat, dress up and stay up all night listening to the life of Mohammad.  Gamou is different for every village.  It is not uniformly celebrated though out the county at the same time but rather celebrated at different times and then relatives can go to as many Gamous as they want.  It was kind of funny that I got stuck tattooing a bunch of flowers on women's hands and feet for the celebration...but I could draw and they wanted to go all out for the holiday.  I had fun but also still felt like an observer, but I met a lot of new people and got to talk to the wise men of the village about the start of Nguith and the big move they all made from the county to the roadside and what it meant to all of them.  I also got to hear a bit about the circumcision ceremony of boys.  The traditional way was having them all going out into the forest for a month and they were not allowed to see any women. I had a great time sitting with the older men and listening to their stories.  I should sit down with the women and do the same thing.  Oh there are so many things I want to do....I ended up staying in village for a total of 7 weeks straight and well I went a little stir crazy and so I ended up moving my work site to Dakar and taking a few day trips to national parks as a mini vacation.  I was working hard on SeneGAD stuff which is Peace Corps Senegal's Gender and Development committee to help volunteers work with girls and boys, women and men to learn to integrate gender equality into their daily lives.  I ran for a position on the committee and have ended up with Vice National Coordinator after a very interesting election.  I am very happy about the prospect and look forward to continuing the work of previous GAD volunteers.  They are big shoes, or should I say flip flops, to fill!
Dakar has been very hectic and I really do try to avoid coming but if you are at all ever missing home, Dakar is a great place to go to visit the super market and eat at some restaurants of food you are missing.  However this means that your salary that is meant for village life does not hold out long in the big city. After visiting a friend in another village and doing a 40 k bike ride to the famous bird park of St. Louis,  Dakar was hardly relaxing.  However it does bring some perks, like the super market, free modern dance show at the French cultural center, great great Lebanese food and Thai (which was eaten on my birthday) and fun surrounding islands like Ils de la Madelene and Ngor Island. I got my fix of nature and exploring and am now ready to return to the desert.
I am doing OK these days, still a little frustrated with the school, but the ideas keep coming so I am bound to find something that'll work eventually, also we had an "all volunteer conference" and I really like the new county director.  It felt good to be in the room with all volunteers and really feeling like we were a part of the bigger picture. We will all have to work on Ending Malaria initiatives and tree planting. I now feel motivated to go back and keep trying.

I miss you all so much.  Also if anyone knows of schools  or classes that want french or even English pen pals from Africa, please let me k now I would love to start a pen pal exchange.  My next projects include a possible collaboration with the middle school on teaching about alternate sources of energy.  A theater and art class and Karate group.  Working on strengthening the Environmental Education club, a  kids garden and getting each of the classes to come to the garden once a week.  Also Earth Day is coming up (April 22) and myself and the surrounding volunteers are planning some festivities.  Also I will try to get a small celebration for International Women's Day on March 8th. Always things to do or try to do so I will continue to do what I can.

Send me your thoughts, pics, pretty things to put on my wall and music. I will post pictures soon!

love Diarra Coundoul
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eitog on

Hi Desneige from Eileen in NYC

Always so great to hear from you and read your news! Life in NYC & Stuyvesant Town is good. The girls are great...Erika in SF & Elena in Boston. Am looking for new gals to be here with me, too. Not much snow this winter in NYC, which is sad. The photo studio is doing better!! :) Keep the letters coming. Much love and congratulations on all your accomplishments! Love, EILEEN xo

lgarsonsmith on

Hello from a snow covered Belfast
Hello, Desneige. I enjoyed reading your latest entry. I'd love to have my class be pen pals with the children in Dakar, or any other place in Senegal. I have 11 boys, age 8-9 and they'd be very excited about writing to children in Africa. I can e-mail you a list of their names or vice versa.
Question: When you sat with the elders at the ceremony, were you able to understand what they said and could you converse with them? It sounds like you're experiencing a study in contrasts in many ways - but lately a contrast between city and country life in Senegal.
Congrats on your position on the gender committee. I'm glad to hear that such a group exists and that you're part of it. I'd like to hear more about the election. This has been school vacation week, so I've been in San Francisco, California visiting my step-daughter, Laurel, age 35, who works as a guidance counselor/drama therapist at an East Oakland elementary school. Everything was green and flowering in SF. My e-mail is lgarsonsmith@sad34.net. Love, Linda

damaha on

Hey, nice summary
You forgot to mention your birthday cake story. I enjoyed this latest summary of your past few weeks, though. I'm in Tampa right now, getting ready to head back home after a conference. Mom tells me there is snow back home but we're starting to get lazy about shoveling it and hoping it just melts before the next storm. I know you wish we could send you some and we'd sure like to at this piont in the winter!! Tampa has been nice but very expensive and ostentatious. For a place that could be underwater with global warming there isn't too much carbon sparing activities (at least from the rich downtown areas where the hotels and conferences are). Best of luck with the desert. I've been wondering, did you get a good view of the recent eclipse? Your skies must be terrific for astronomy!

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