Friday, June 20, 2008

The Fabric of Amadara

It’s a hot world out here in the bush. The wind blows every now and then but when it does it brings lots of dust. Not just a little bit of dust to be rinsed off at my evening bucket bath but what would amount to be mountains of dust. This past month, that dust has crept into every crevice and nook available. And when there is liquid involved such as sweat or a cup of water left uncovered, well, you can start to collect your own little mountain of dust. A few days ago, my throat started feeling scratchy and in no time at all, I lost my voice completely. I was literally whispering greetings to my villagers as they looked at me with sympathetic eyes. I thought it was the cold that I’ve had for the past week and a half but my Tokara told me it was definitely the dust. And its crazy to see the dust funnels come sweeping through the village. Yesterday during my bucket bath I looked out over my grass fence and saw an enormous, well, what looked like a tornado. It was taller than the tallest mango trees and wider than a hut and it was moving so much dust around it was unbelievable. I watched as it moved down the main path in the village just beyond my backyard. It was picking up trash and leaves, even corn stalks. It went through a group of donkeys and they all started braying uncontrollably and eventually it spun down toward the river bed and outside of the village.
The wind does give a break from the sort of calm that usually persists. It adds excitement to an otherwise pretty boring environment and you can feel the electricity in the air. I’ve had some days recently where I would just sit in my hammock and let the wind storm blow all around me (I usually have to close my eyes though). But now I’m in Tambacounda, trying to get better. I’ve had headaches and body aches for the past week. And all of those kids constantly coming into my hut… well, I felt I earned a little time in front of a fan. We’re having a regional planning meeting this weekend to talk about region wide initiatives and projects in and around the city of Tambacounda itself. We had a neighborhood park clean up last month and it was a lot of fun. And I’m hoping to pass out a few trees this year to the compounds along our street (dirt path).
On Friday, my Agro-forestry boss is coming to see my tree nurseries so I’m going home after the meeting to get these last 200 cashew seeds in the ground. I’m having the farmers that want cashews either in their compounds or fields, dig the holes and prepare the soil. My counterpart told them that I would only give them seeds for the holes already dug. Hopefully my village will be full of half a meter in diameter holes when I get back. Inchalla I guess.
Also, I’m participating in a few meetings this week. A few of us from the Tambacounda region are meeting with Tostan’s volunteer coordinator to talk about what sort of collaborative projects are possible. Tostan ( is an NGO that works in rural education outreach by assigning a teacher for two years to each village they work with. The classes are held a few days a week (under the big mango tree in my village) and they teach Pulaar literacy, Senegalese civics, and health and hygiene practices. Then I’m meeting with a group of five pre-med students from the States that are in Senegal for a month to help out with mosquito net distribution, some primary care at a village hospital, and a new HIV testing center in Kedougou. They’ve just arrived in country and the med student they are being chaperoned by wanted us to speak to them about Senegal, the cultural do’s and don’ts, what our most common concerns are within the health field, and our ideas on improving the health issues like malaria and infant mortality in the bush. Then, in a few days I have another meeting, this time with the other volunteers from the Velingara area, a few people from Peace Corps Staff, and the head of World Vision in Velingara. Currently, Peace Corps Senegal is trying to make working contacts between volunteers and every major NGO in country. I think it’s a great idea and I can’t wait to see the results of these meetings. Hopefully it will help us as Peace Corps volunteers have more concrete plans of action and help the NGO’s in bringing their proposed projects to more remote villages. Of course, all of this is to help the Senegalese people. We are going to develop the shit out of this country.
Well, enjoy the summer in Amerik (or wherever you may be) and I’ll talk to you all soon. Ajarama e yeho e jam (Thanks and go in peace).