So I have moments of serious writer genius. These are moments when I have mind-blowing thoughts, including whole phrases, that sound like they were written by a professional author, to explain my life in Senegal, for my blog. Unfortunately, these times do not like to align with my schedule. We all know my memory sucks, so what ends up happening is that these strokes of genius, in the end, are not used. Instead, you all are stuck with my writing in the absence of my strokes of genius. Sorry in advance.
Let me give an example to explain this more clearly. One day, I was sitting outside under a shade structure. I do this 90% of my days. When it is over 100 degrees in the dessert, people survive by sitting, under shade structures. Anyways, I came up with this great idea, but I couldn’t write it down immediately as I didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that I have a computer, especially a MacBook, but more pertinent, my computer would die outside in the heat, and with the sand that covers my skin in layers at any given point. (In fact, another volunteer (looking at you James) posted a picture the other day of his feet and commented something along the lines of tan or sand?) So anyway, I couldn’t write this post because I was outside, sweating, being covered in sand when I had one of these epiphanies. However, the most important detail of this story is that I couldn’t even write down my thoughts because my right hand, my dominant hand was at that moment covered in a sock and wrapped in plastic. I decided to let my counterpart at the health post in my town (where medical treatment is sought) give me henna. She said she could do it just like the picture of another woman I saw in Senegal. Can’t say it turned out the same…or even the same color…but I have nothing but time here for it to fade so no hard feelings. Anyways, here is a pic of this classy affair. Yes, we are very resourceful. Quite confident this bin, holding the henna, is also used to deliver babies so the microbiologist in me is definitely, for once, thankful I can’t see anything microscopic.
This same day, I got the words “yendoo” and “nuyoo” confused. I mean come on, cut me some slack, they almost have the same letters scrambled in different ways. (To give you some critical information- in Senegal, as we have discussed, we do not use toilet paper. Everyone wipes with their left hand. Due to this, you essentially don’t use your left hand for much of anything. I am very thankful, in retrospect, that this is one of the very first things Peace Corps taught me—literally on the first day I arrived in country). So, this henna is only on my right hand…
Nuyoo is the wolof word which means “to greet”. Yendoo, means something close to “to spend the day”. When I walked out of the health hut, where I got my henna, I ran into some community members. They told me to come “yendoo” at their house. Thinking it would be impolite not to go greet the family, I obliged. What I didn’t realize at that moment is that I was instead agreeing to spend the day with the family. I would eat lunch there, drink tea there, nap there, and of course do a lot of talking. Although, as soon as I realized this, I remembered my right hand was not in working order. Thankfully, a spoon was the solution to my problem as then I was able to eat with my left hand. Although, my left hand is very clearly not my dominant hand so there were several awkward moments for sure!
Since solidifying the translation of yendoo and nuyoo now, I yendoo at many houses in my village. This helps me learn names of the people in my village. Further, I am playing my own game of Top Chef Saneinte and finding out who has the absolute best food and attaya (tea) as I am positive this will be useful in the future. It is a great way for me to practice my language with different people as well as pose many questions as to what different community members would like to see me focus on for my project in the community.
I don’t have a project yet; I am just at the brainstorming stage. I’m thinking the most beneficial will be convincing JIF to open a factory here. Not only will it bring in lots of money, jobs, resources; but, it would save you- my beloved friends and family- lots of money sending heavy JIF peanut butter jars in care packages. We are one of the peanut capitals of the world here. But, I can’t find JIF- or any peanut butter for that matter- anywhere. Well, ok, there is peanut butter but I think its name was lost in translation as it tastes nothing like peanut butter at all!
Clearly, joking about the JIF factory! However, our village does have peanuts galore. We eat them raw- fresh from the field- or roast them. Mostly, they are taken to big cities to be sold. I spent a few hours in the fields. I learned a lot. First off, peanuts grow underground. I helped pick the peanuts off their plants- would have been 10000x easier if the plants weren’t covered in burrs. Another day, I went to an onion field and helped load onions into large bags to be taken to the city. My favorite part of the fields so far has been observing the irrigation system. (As I go to watch this mesmerizing process more, I will find ways to better articulate- or show through a video or pictures- this system). It is an absolutely genius system by where someone moves dirt to flood small sections of the field. We have running water in my community which allows us to farm year round- very, very uncommon in Senegal to not have to rely on the rainy season.
Rainy season, when the mosquitos arrive…or so I am told. So far, in my village, I am not greeted by those annoying pesks frequently. I sleep under my mosquito net every night, but find it is more useful for fending off other pesky creatures like flies, ants, cockroaches. No, they don’t make me itch- well not as much as mosquitos anyways, but the little devils- as I call the ants, better not get in my suitcase when I come back to the states. If they do, I think America will be no more. These little creatures- seriously they aren’t even the big black ants I see sometimes in the States. These are tiny, but boy are they mighty. Pretty sure, Louis Pasteur, too, would be convinced that these things just appear and would have a hard time refuting spontaneous generation in my small hut in the Saharan desert. (Need to use random facts I needed to get my college degree occasionally, right?) I am convinced the ants just appear. Anyways, for the first week of my service these tiny creatures would build castles on the right corner of my toilet. They would seriously break down the cement. Every day I would try to drown them with water but pretty sure this only motivated them to create a bigger mansion the following day. Finally, I decided bleach would kill them- it kills everything right? Well, since it didn’t kill them, I am slightly less convinced it is an effective way to clean the germs on the outside of my apples and mangoes now. I mean, come on I can see with my naked eyes it has no effect at all on these ants. Everyone told me- well one other volunteer I asked- because I certainly wasn’t going to complain to my host family about this minute issue, (Also, because I never learned the Wolof word for ant- who knew it would be so necessary?) that I should just cement over them. So, when I went to the nearest town (1.5-2 hours away)- the one that has my post office, where I buy my fruit, and much more- to purchase the cement, I found bug spray in a store. All of the writing on it is in French, so who knows, this stuff probably will kill me- but IT WORKS MIRACLES! The ants are gone…from that spot! Now, I see random ants, one or two here and there on my floor, once I find the source- which is harder than you might think. I will certainly end them. So those are annoying for sure, but there are also waaaayyyyy more flies than cockroaches, so far. I don’t really know how they get into my room but they must think this is a safe place or something- which I give them props for figuring out. I don’t have a fly swatter- and even if I did, I definitely don’t have the energy, or desire to sweat more, trying to combat them. But, at any given moment, I see soooo many flies in my room. So far, my mosquito net at night protects me more from flies than anything else. All I need to say about donkeys is that if you haven’t heard the noises they make, I envy you. To make matters worse, they love to make these noises in the middle of the night seemingly directly outside of my room.
I got peed on twice by tiny humans in the past month. One was a baby so it can be forgiven. The other time, this mischievous 2 year old caught me by surprise to say the least. However, someone else killed a chicken and prepared it simply as a treat because I visited his house (to yendoo). I know in the States, chicken is often a staple of the diet, but it is expensive here and eaten only for very special occasions. The chicken symbolizes just how welcoming the culture in my new village is. And, the taste of it made me (temporarily) forget about being peed on, the cockroach I killed on the floor of my room earlier in the day, the war I am fighting with the ants, and the desert heat.
I’ve had my hands full carrying a notebook to write down new Wolof words I hear everywhere I go, as well as envelopes full of Wolof notecards I make every day. Thus, I have not had my camera with me very often. Next post I will try to capture more moments on my camera. And, decorating my room is a slow process. I did have curtains made this week, though! As it comes together more, I will post pictures of my humble abode. For now, stay curious!