Monday, November 9, 2009

It's a long way to Kedougou and back

The title is a reference to an Antje Duvekot song that has been running through my head for the past few weeks.

I have forty minutes here in the Internet Cafe in beautiful downtown Kedougou before I head back out to my site (25 + km with 100m gain in elevation).

Before swear-in was nice. We went back to Sangalkam and stayed for one last week, during which I had a fight with Issakha, who was trying to shake some more money out of me for my swear-in clothes. It left a pretty bad taste in my mouth, especially because I had given him a very generous gift of money just before the dennaboo, and he'd had the cloth for a long time. And yet, he still pressed me "Oh, Hali, I just don't know how I can get the money to turn the electricity back on to work. I just don't know where to find the money. It's so hard to live here in Senegal, where we have no money," and so forth. This was clearly a bid for money, but I got angry, embarrassed him in front of the entire neighborhood, and my clothes were finished the night before we left.

Swear-in itself was quite the party. The US Ambassador's house in Dakar is beautiful, in a mansion-like way. Many people, including me, gave speeches (mine was in Pulaar), and then waiters dressed to the nines passed around silver trays of miniature hamburgers. It was surreal.

Two days later, we headed down to Kedougou in a car that had to be pushstarted, and the next day we went install-shopping. Overwhelming, to say the least. The best part of the day was when Daniel and Thomas, who took us newbies shopping for our stuff, disappeared around the corner and then showed up carrying a beautiful raffia cabinet. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" they shouted. After buying buckets, beignoires, a sleeping pad, lots of various odds and ends, and enough tools to make my little agricultural heart sing, we went back to the regional house for a very delicious dinner (Matt cooked).

The next day we went around and met all the really important people of Kedougou, or tried to. Half of them weren't there, but that didn't stop us from greeting everyone in absentia. Melanie installed, and then it was my turn. I'll write a more detailed account of install when I have my journal with me and a little more time, for now I'll describe my site (at breakneck speed).

My hut is, as Matt says, "Tesoko haaaaaaaa tesoko" (literally: small untiiiiiiiiiil small), but very cozy. The front door is low enough that I have to stoop nearly double to not scratch my back on the thatch, and once inside, it's a roomy 10' in diameter (yes, it's round). My back door is about as low as the front, and leads to a shower area that is about as large as my hut. It's fenced and has a big, beautiful shade tree, and now also a clothesline and a very small garden as well, which I water with my grey water from showering and doing laundry.

To get water, I walk down a slight hill to the well, pull water myself (to the amazement of the village), and carry it on my head back to my family's compound. I do this to wash myself and my clothes, and that amazes everyone,too. I'm not sure if they're more impressed that I DO my laundry or that my clothes actually come out CLEAN (major achievement), but they're impressed, so I'll take what I can get.

My family is large and confusing, but basically I have a lot of parent figures and a lot of sibling figures. Tamba is my older brother/father and he is nothing but helpful and kind. His wife Aissatou is clearly proud of how much I work, and tells me to do chores when people visit from other villages to show off how hard her volunteer works. Mariama, my tokara, or person-with-whom-I-share-a-name is 17, and is probably my best friend in village. We hang out, and she likes to teach me to do things, or to make silly jokes, or try to understand what I say. Karfa is Tamba's older brother, and thus also my father, and his wife, Nenegalle, has two really annoying little kids. The elder makes everyone cry and the younger never stops crying. She also can't cook very well, but I don't have to interact with her much, so that's a plus. My mother, Koumbouna, is also Tamba's and Karfa's mother (I think), and she's a jolly mother archetype. Strong, funny, kind, and absolutely not standing for any crap from anyone. My three younger brothers (Tamba's kids) are Babagalle (12) Alaji (9) and Luis (4). They're true younger brothers, in all their annoyingness and glory. This morning I got on my bike and discovered that they'd disconnected the front breaks and messed the gearing up, so we'll be discussing that when I get home.

This morning I left at dawn, and Tamba decided he had to go with me. This was not my favorite thing, but it ended up being fine. He took me to the place where the road plunges precipitately down the mountain, and reminded me to go "doucement, doucement," 'til I got to the bottom. I got to the bottom of a pretty rocky thing and then it flattened out. I said, "Huh. That was the mountain? Ooooooh no, watch out, skeery mountain gonna GITCHA!" and things of that sort until, 50 feet later, the ground fell away and I was looking at something easily as steep as E. Buffalo St. in Ithaca. Big, loose rocks the size of your head. Anyway, that took some doing, and as I got to the place where it leveled out for good and looked back at the sunrise over the mountain, I thought, "Wow. I'm really in the Peace Corps now." Riding down, I kept feeling like an REI or Trek Bikes advertisement.

It's a long way. And it's hot. And everyone keeps telling me I'm bonkers for planning to go back up tonight, but it's about time to do that. When I'm back in town in two weeks I'll bring pictures of my site, the road down, and my family, and with luck, post them.

Please keep sending letters! I am replying to everyone, so if you want a letter from Senegal, write to me! Also, big thank you to Kevin for the two amazing packages, to my mom for the seeds and soap and books, and to my dad, although that one hasn't gotten here yet. See you all in two weeks (where by "see" I clearly mean "will write")!

1 comment:

C.W. said...

YAY for being an official PCV :) :)

miss you...