Thursday, November 29, 2007

Giving Thanks by Drinking Palm Wine and Eating Dried Cranberries…

My village for two nights; the first a restless sleep punctuated by noises of animals real and imagined, I’m sure, in the dark. The second an early to bed, early to rise affair as I had errands to run before I made my way to Velingara to catch a car headed for Tamba. The first thing I noticed as I opened my hut door was the inevitable thick layer of dust that had accumulated due to my month-long absence. My sheets were gray and my towel smelled like a floor mat. I put my stuff down and proceeded to dole out the presents I had gotten for the family. Two matching winter jackets for Ibou and Malick (my 9 and 10 year old nephews), a wrap for Hawa (the 6 year old), a few bracelets for Jenabou (the 3 year old), a Halloween themed T-shirt for Lama (the 14 year old), a Gomez T-shirt for Garanke, a pair of shorts for my tokara, and plastic jewelry for Swadou and Salimatou. Not to mention the kilo of kola-nuts to pass out unashamedly to every villager I bumped into. Since I’m planning on missing Tabaski in the village, the holiday where gifts are usually given to family and friends, I figured I better give out a few things I’d come across recently at various fuggi jai’s (literally Shake and Sell’s). That first night I enjoyed a cool bucket bath in the glow of sunset and wrote in my journal until dinner. I have a small travel journal for when I’m out of the village but it’s no replacement for the “red monster” that I’ve come to love. Dinner was enjoyable, squash and fish-balls in a watery peanut sauce over rice. It’s been a while since I’ve had to share a bowl of food with six other people. And after dinner we had the usual steady stream of visitors come and greet and ask Salimatou if she had any tea or sugar or candles left for sale. The village looks like it did that first day I moved in, the corn fields all recently harvested and the peanut fields with giant mounds of peanuts still to be separated from inedible plant material (a process which is unbelievably labor intensive and time consuming). The most notable difference was my backyard though. As I opened my back door to get some sunlight in my hut, I stood motionless and stared at the jungle that had taken over the entire area. Before I left I planted a few tomatoes and passion fruit vines but when I got back, the tomatoes had spread like wildfire and the passion fruit vines were everywhere. I had the kids in my compound help me harvest the tomatoes and then clear it all out. I also went around to a few neighboring villages to visit some friends and check up on their trees. Mamadou Ba Kamera was thrilled to see me but I had bad news for him and his village. I had been working on getting his village a PCV and they did get one but during his pre-service training (PST) in Thies, he left the Peace Corps. But he was upbeat about it and said that “inchallah” they will get another one next year. I then went to visit Alexi, a Jola friend who usually is my Palm Wine hookup. Needless to say, I ended up getting 5 liters to bring back to Tambacounda for Thanksgiving. It turned out great but by day three, we still had plenty left over and it was already starting to turn so I gave it to a Catholic friend in Tamba to finish off with his friends. Thanksgiving at the Tamba House was great. Everyone made a dish, I made eggplant soufflĂ©, and there were dried cranberries and smashed potatoes and even squash pie. Actually, since no one made any meat dishes, it was an amazingly vegetarian Thanksgiving. That evening for desert we went over to an ex-pat couple’s house that we’re friends with (they used to be PCVs in the early 90’s in West Africa) and had homemade ice cream and pies galore. Two days later, my producer and I headed back up to Dakar to start editing the documentary. So now I’m in Dakar and I have pretty frequent internet access so I’ll try to keep this site updated. Hope everyone else’s Thanksgiving went well and I look forward to hearing from you all.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

makin' movies

It’s been a month since I started production on this film I’m doing for Peace Corps. I’ve shot three of the five women in their respective homes and places of work and even got a chance to interview Amadou and Mariam ( It’s been a blast kickin’ it in the big cities, eating falafel and pizza, swimming, going to concerts. I’m in Tambacounda right now, working on some animation for the film but its slow going. I came back down south to do a shoot in Kedougou with the fourth woman in the film but my camera recently came down with Senegalitis so it’s been sent back to the States for repairs. Don’t know what’s wrong with it, just that it won’t turn on. But really, this break might be a bit of a blessing in disguise for me. I’ve missed my village, my family and friends out there, my garden. Now that the rain has stopped and the fields have been harvested, I’m sure everything looks different. And all those baby trees, I have to talk to a few farmers about making sure they protect them from the animals that are about to start grazing the fields. I do dread going back a little though. It’s just been so long and I know that it will be a big deal when I show up and I have to get gifts (kola nuts, sugar, kinkiliba tea) for everyone. It’s just stressful those first few days back in the village after a long time gone and in this case, I’m only going to be there for a few days until I have to start explaining that I’m about to head back out for another month or two to finish the movie I’m making. I’m not even sure they understand what it is exactly that I’m doing. I try to explain it in Pulaar but they don’t have a lot of words for "makin’ movies" so I tell them I’m "constructing a film" ("mido fewnude show"). Who knows how they interpret that. But I am excited to see how the women’s group’s trees have taken and the Jola family I’m working with in Yero Goli. And I am excited to see if my sister in law, Salimatou, has started the boutique (village store) that she’s been talking about. Oh and one of the kids (one of my favorites), Hawa, should be back by now. She went to live with extended family in a different village for the rainy season but now that school’s started, I’m guessing she’s back home. Well, life in Senegal is less hot these days and even though I still get sick every once in a while, I’m doing great. I miss home, especially with a lot of my friends here going back for the winter holidays, but I think I’d rather spend my vacation on an adventure; whether that’s a family trip to Israel or just me and some friends traveling West Africa on public transportation. Hope all is good over there in the land of AC and TV. Peace Only ya’ll.