I am a Preventative Health and Environmental Education Volunteer in Senegal (West Africa). My hope is that this blog will not only reflect the experiences and challenges that I encounter, but also provide my family, friends, and others with a new perspective of culture. I hope that my adventures will inspire you to think bigger and open your heart to the world around you.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Mangroves, Millet, and Mangos
Mangroves, Millet, and Mangos
For pictures go to my FB sight:
I will attempt to recapture the past week in a way that will credit this experience accurately. My adventures through the mangroves, while adjusting to a diet of millet and overdosing on mangos was a small glimpse on the distant, but near future that lies ahead.
Gambia was the topic of conversation that was discussed among us trainines in the van, early Tuesday morning. Each of us boiling with energy and beyond excited for the upcoming week It was the first time since arriving in Senegal that we were able to get out of the northwest and, in doing so, go through another country. Little did we know that an estimated 7-hour trip would turn into a grueling 12 in a half? The first few hours were a lot of fun. We played scramble, sang Disney songs, and practiced our Pular with one another. Our driver, a huge African called Camille, supplied us with a soundtrack of stimulating African music. As I let my mind dissolve into the beat of the songs, an amazing energy engulfed me. It was real! I was in Africa and words couldn’t explain the surreal feeling of it. I was sitting in the back of the 4x4 staring into the desolate landscape that slowly became more luscious as we headed south. I swear it was a like experiencing a scene from a movie. My heart and soul were alive and I was dancing in a magical moment that was illuminated by the beauty that surrounded me. I am reminded of a line Ben Harper sings in one of his songs. “ I am blessed to be a witness”. This past week I was a witness to a completely different reality. People, animals, plants, and things I have only dreamed of encountering faced me head on.
Continuing down the half paved, pothole road we slowly started to find ourselves surrounded by mangroves. I, personally, have never seen a mangrove bed so closely and it was an indication that the Gambia River was soon to follow. OR SO WE THOUGHT! As the sun increased in temperature, so did the number of people trying to board the ferry. 5 hours later, after sitting with no air conditioning and fighting to get one car length ahead we made it to the ferry. There we enjoyed the 10-minute ride (yes we waited 5 hours for a 10 min crossing and no I do not know they just don’t build a bridge.)
We arrived at the Kolda regional house to find a power outage and 10 very hungry volunteers waiting for us. They took us to the local catholic bar (its part of a church and they are found throughout Senegal, also known for their cheap beer and food). Every region where PCVS are placed there is a regional house were when sick of the village we can go to escape. It looks similar to a frat house but has running water, electricity (when the power works), a kitchen, and a library. Because it is the hot season and way to warm, we all slept on the roof under the stars.
The next day we took a 2-½ hour car ride to the area where I will be living. I am equal distance between Kolda and Tamba and the nearest city (which is more like a few building that have electricity) is Vellingara, a 30 K bike ride from my sight. I stayed with Olivia in her village, which is 5k from mine, and we spent the week at health trainings, painting murals, and eating lots and lots of Millet. I have never eaten so much millet in my life! We didn’t eat breakfast with the family so we enjoyed some good American oatmeal, but lunch consisted of non-sifted millet with peanut or leaf sauce and diner was sifted millet with peanut or leaf sauce. Each meal was shared with 8 other women so the quantity was not very filling. Fortunately Olivia has a stock supply of protein bars so we managed to survive. Maybe the one good thing about the hot season is the vast supply of mangos. There are mango trees everywhere and once you make it known that you enjoy eating them, every morning you are given a daily supply. When it is 130 degrees outside, there is nothing like eating this amazingly delicious fruit. I won’t go into details of how you know when you’ve eaten too many, but lets just say certain things change color.
The heat was difficult to adjust to but I absolutely love how from 12ish to 5, everyone hides in their huts or under trees to escape the blazing sun. Most of the time this is when I would take my second of 3-bucket baths, lay on the hut floor and fan myself. One of the most fascinating things I discovered was the adaptability of the human body. We as humans can be thrown into pretty much any situation and find a way to survive. Learning how to adapt to the cockroach family that lives in my douche and the rodents the scurry through my hay roof at night, are another story. It’s like I am on a two-year camping trip!
This blog is getting a little long so I will end it hear but not before I share with you my new name. I am now named Fatumata Mballo after my host mom, who is the president of the women’s group. She is a very powerful person and it is a good omen to be named after such. I am excited to get settled in my village and start my work. I have one month to go before that happens! For now, my energy will be spent learning Pular.
Until next time
P/S/ If you want to be awesome and send a care package or a letter here is my new address. Anything from this day forward should be sent to:
Also if you send stuff, don’t list the articles you send, instead mark “educational materials” and on the box write “Dieu voir toute!” It means God sees all and will hopefully discourage people from opening the box!
If you are sending anything of value , out it in a tampon box!
For care packages here are some good things to send, and I will love you forever!
-A variety of yummy protein bars (cliff, power , etc)
-A variety of Juice packets (lemonade, Gatorade…crystal light packs) (These things are amazing especially when its hot and im sick of drinking water)