Monthly Archives: May 2011

Ask Thiaba Diallo

Just the other day, I found out just that my name here, Mamethiaba, also means Grandma in Wolof, which would probably explain why people generally call me Thiaba instead, alhamdoulilah. This revelation, coupled by the jarring image of me as a cantankerous octogenarian (tending to a herd of children in the mountainous recesses of some orphanage in China), brought me back to the days before I was a PCV, learning Wolof 4-6 hours a day, 5 days a week for 2 months, before finally swearing-in in Dakar on October 15, 2010.

Meet 'Ma': Mamethiaba Samb, my Senegalese namesake

Back in the beach-side town of Mboro, resides the matriarch of my salad days, Mamethiaba Samb. The first wife of my host father, Babagalle Diallo, my namesake was not the most nurturing of mothers a PCT could ask for, but I thank her wiliness for quickly acquainting me with the realization that most Senegalese will assume that being a toubab automatically means you have copious amounts of money. Thankfully, most of them are not quite as eager to try to rob you blind when you have your back turned.

That being said, the idea of an “Ask Grandma Diallo” column formed, and I thought I’d dedicate some of my future posts to answering questions about my Peace Corps experience in Senegal, be they related to service, culture, or otherwise. If time permits (or rather, if procrastination ceases to exist in my dimension), I will attempt to craft some hypothetical questions that I think might be interesting to you readers.

For now though, be content with my response to a real enquiry made about my current Peace Corps service a couple of weeks ago (to the enquirer in question, I hope you don’t mind me posting this!).

Dear Thiaba,

I was hoping I might be able to ask you some more questions about your service in Senegal. For my placement, it looks like PC is adamant about putting me in West Africa but I’m getting cold feet recently. All the annoying bits of studying in Senegal (stomach problems, pushy men, and such) are standing out in my memories, and two years is beginning to seem like a very very long time. Which is why I was wondering — from your experiences — what to expect lifestyle-wise and what sort of things you feel like you’re getting out of your service. How are your fellow volunteers, and what have been the hardest things to adjust to?

I know these questions can be a bit tricky, but anything you can tell me is much appreciated!

Peace,
Sleepless in Seattle

Dear Sleepless,

Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you. If you’ve studied here, I take it you know what to expect when it comes to culture—my move to the village has been a little jarring due to the fact that I now interact with a household where the man of the house has 2 wives, and is about to get another one. The hardest thing in this country for me has been that, and the general treatment of women here. Yes, the marriage proposals get old, but at some point you just learn to come up with witty comebacks (You’re ugly and I don’t like sharing my husband with other women are general crowd-pleasers). It’s the entrenched sexism that I just can’t wrap my head around, but I’m sure the men in my village are puzzled by my ideas of sexual equality as well. But I think it is precisely that dialogue that might be one of the larger cultural contributions I can make during my time here.

I think what you get out of service depends largely on the individual, though your sector can help make you feel more/less productive. I know my sector, urban agriculture, does really well in-country, and that those in small enterprise development have the hardest time feeling like they are making a difference. My move to the village has thrown me a slight loop in that I am trying to get a grasp on new projects while maintaining my old ones since relocation, but other than that, I generally always feel like I don’t have enough hours in a day to accomplish everything on my agenda.

Health-wise, I’ve only ever had trouble with staph infections, but none with eating issues (unless putting on 10 pounds in Africa of all places constitutes a major concern for you). However, this definitely changes drastically with each individual volunteer. Lifestyle-wise—say goodbye to surfing the internet, drinking every weekend and hello to a lot of time spent sitting around drinking tea. Given that, there are still plenty of instances to party with other volunteers—there’s always an excuse to hit a big city at least once a month if you want to. With about 200 volunteers in-country, you find yourself interacting with a wide-range of individuals from all walks of life. Not making friends should be the last thing to worry about, as is finding someone with similar interests and views as yourself.

Thus far, I have not found my service in Senegal to be lacking. Frustrating at times, yes, but I think most of us expected as much when we signed up for this. Compared to other West African nations though, I have found that Peace Corps Senegal provides an exceptionally cohesive support network and facilitates volunteer activities to great effect. Granted, nothing’s perfect, but hey, that’s life, plus this is Peace Corps Africa.

I hope I answered your questions somewhat. Good luck with placement!

Jamm ak Jamm,
Thiaba Diallo

Advertisements

Trespassing in Search of the Miracle Tree

Moringa Ahoy! My miracle tree discovery, nestled deep in the depths of a mango orchard

My morning the other day started out generically enough with a walk through the rice fields, punctuated by the sounds of birds chirping, the faint stirring of water being pumped through irrigation canals, and the occasional rifle shot in the distance to keep the local golo (monkey) population at bay. A detour past the vegetable and fruit fields resulted in an unexpectedly sumptuous breakfast of mangoes and passion fruit courtesy of generous farmers, when my heart suddenly skipped a beat at the sight of a gargantuan Moringa oleifera tree in the distance.

Moringa oleifera: a remarkably hideous tree only a botanist or PCV could love

Ah, Moringa. As I’ve mentioned before, quite a bit of my Peace Corps work here revolves around the promotion and cultivation of this particular tree, which up to this point I had seen grow up to an average of about 5-7 meters. However, this behemoth of a specimen was at least 10 or so meters tall, cresting above the canopies of the decades-old mango trees surrounding it. Size aside, it also happens to be seed harvesting season at the moment, and there were a tantalizingly large number of seedpods ripe for the picking—perfect timing for a potential Moringa tournee that me and a couple of other PCVs might do in a month or so, coupled by the impending rainy season in late July. It astounds me how much of my time is spent thinking about this tree, which appears to have originated from the recesses of Tim Burton’s mind (but is actually originally from the northwest region of India, introduced in Eastern Africa in the early 20th century).

The video above gives a great summary of the use of Moringa throughout the world, and I am continually surprised by how little water and soil nutrients this tree requires, yet still manages to thrive and produce an exceptionally nutritious leaf in most arid and tropical climates.

Glorious seedpods in season for harvesting, each yielding an average of 10 to 30 seeds

But back to my idyllic morning jaunt that resulted in my unexpected discovery. So, there I am, staring at my holy grail, my tree of life here in Senegal, when I realize that the base of the tree is actually several meters below where I am standing, and actually within someone’s mango orchard. A stumble through the flora around the perimeter of the orchard, coupled by a number of jumps over fences and thorny shrubbery, and I was in.

Another meandering walk to actually find this tree (mind you, this was a sizeable orchard), and I incur yet another roadblock: the closest seedpod to the ground is still several meters out of my (admittedly limited) reach. Barki Yallah (Honest to God). Throwing my hand shovel in the air at the pods quickly proved fruitless, so I fashioned a lasso out of vine and attached that to the end of a branch, after a cursory assessment of what I had available in my immediate surroundings.

And so commenced a couple of hours of attempting to lasso seedpods to the ground, resulting in a bounty of about 20 seedpods, yielding about 300 or so seeds. Far from my desire for every single one of those suckers to be in my possession, but not bad. Or so I thought.

I relate my tale to my family later that night around the dinner bowl (mbahal: a dish of rice and dried fish most of the time at my house) to which one of my host cousins Saliou Dieng remarks, “Heck, why did you do all that? I can get you all the seedpods you want.” He mentions something about using a mango-grabber of sorts, but I just hand him a sack the next morning and ask him to get as many as he can.

He returns a couple of hours later, with half a sack-full, and the day after with another sack-full. How he managed to grab pods 10 meters above the ground (mango-grabbers here certainly aren’t made that long), I still don’t know, but provides yet another example of a great general rule-of-thumb in this country: just get a kid to do it. Need a bag of cow manure for your garden? Get a kid to get it. Need water for your daily bucket bath? Get a kid to fetch it. Want a snack from the neighborhood store? Get a kid to buy it.

Just (get a kid to) Do It.

Saliou and Balle: Kids to my rescue!

Send Me Mail! A Wish-list: In Senegal, Christmas For Me Happens Several Times a Year

Because I get paid peanuts, receiving something as nondescript as contact lens solution or hair conditioner in the mail always makes my day, or even week. Depending on which of my desires you’d like to fulfill, I’ve divided my wish-list into 3. Some of them don’t even require a stop at the post office—just some time for research and access to the internet. I always send something in return, so write your return address on whatever you mail.

I know care packages can cost quite a bit, so even if the following is out the question, postcards and letters are great! I have postcards from New York, Hawaii, Berlin and Istanbul currently hung up in my room—I’d love to add to that collection over the length of my service.

THE PRACTICAL

English Learning Books for French Speakers: Well-written guides on how to learn English would be handy to have here, since I get approached by so many people who seriously want to learn it. Any hints or tips on how to teach people with little to no schooling in English would be very useful to me as well, especially since teaching a language is something I have no experience in.

Articles and Books on Vegetable Gardening in Limited Spaces, Sub-Saharan Africa Sustainable Farming Practices, Permaculture Techniques using Low-Cost and Widely Available Inputs, Low-Cost Drip Irrigation Systems, the Politics of African Aid, and Behavior Change: As mentioned above, emailing me articles related to these topics is greatly appreciated, and if copying and pasting the content into the body of the email versus attaching a PDF is possible, that would save me a lot of time downloading attachments when I do get access to the internet.

Information on Moringa Oleifera: A lot of my work revolves around promoting consumption and production of Moringa Oleifera, so any and all information on production, processing and marketing it in a foreign market is eagerly anticipated. At the moment most of the information I have is based on The Miracle Tree, a collection of articles edited by Lowell J. Fuglie and printed in 2001 by the Church World Service.

Markers and Pens: The amount of ink I can get out of a pack of locally purchased colored markers is generally enough to fill in the space of a name-card. I intend to make several Moringa posters to place in schools and health posts, but the time it took to make one thanks to the agony of coloring has made me put off that enterprise for now. The colors green (in various shades), orange, yellow and black are what I need, though a full spectrum of color will just result in more illustrated awesomeness. Similarly, a long-lasting, dependable pen is a rarity in Senegal, and I always seem to lose them after a particularly bumpy sharet ride.

Video-uploading information and capability: Too cheap to buy video-uploading capabilities here on http://www.wordpress.com, suggestions on other ways to upload video would be much appreciated. It took me a good 20 minutes to upload a 6-second video to YouTube the other day. Any information on how to expedite the process given my limited bandwidth would be much appreciated, and will result in video content on this blog!

Seeds: I would love to try planting different summer fruit and vegetable varieties that thrive in extremely hot temperatures here, along with flowers. Some non-indigenous varieties that other PCVs have tried out include jalepeno peppers and collard greens. Lettuce, cabbage, tomato, squash, hot pepper, carrot, onion, eggplant, cucumber, okra, beetroot, chinese turnip, bitter tomato, cassava, banana, watermelon, honeydew, passion-fruit, guava and mango are some of the types of produce that are eaten here on a daily basis.

Band-Aids and Mosquito Repellant: I never seem to have enough of these things, given my propensity to get staph infections and my unnaturally tasty blood to mosquitoes across the continents of Asia, North America and now Africa. Your average band-aid for a cut finger is the size I use most.

Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Wash: Not only a great shampoo and body-wash, this stuff doubles as a detergent too! Something I used exclusively back when I had dreadlocks, I neglected to get a bottle before beginning service.

IN DIRE NEED OF (SOMEWHAT)

Contact Lens Solution*: I have found contact lens to be less cumbersome than glasses in Senegal, though the Peace Corps advises against wearing them. However, a bottle of Renu costs about 4 live chickens here and can only be purchased in the cities of Dakar and St. Louis. You do the math.

Duct Tape*: I can never have enough of this stuff in my life. From holes in hoses to tears in tire pepinieres, your average urban agriculturalist is a much happier person with a roll of this stuff in their arsenal. Black is my preferred color, though if you want to be a smart-ass and send me other hues of the rainbow, I won’t complain.

Rechargeable Double-A and Triple-A Batteries plus Charger*: Something I was unable to get before service, having this in my life would save me the grief of using disposable batteries for my camera and head-lamp. If I had a dollar for every time I see a child sucking on a used battery he found in the trash here, this list wouldn’t be here.

Gillette Venus 3 Razor Refills*: Shaving somehow keeps the skin infections at bay, but I am perilously close to reliving the feminist 70’s again. Even Senegalese people prefer their toubabs hair-free, though curiously enough, the only thing local women appear to shave is their eyebrows.

THE FRIVOLOUS

Specific Books and Magazines: Dead Aid, Switch, The Straits Times, The New Yorker, National Geographic, Gourmet Magazine, Newsweek

Music: Mix CDs are sorely lacking in my life right now. Sending me new music or even just recommendations will be reciprocated with Senegalese selections—believe me, you will not be disappointed.

Dried Fruit and Nuts: Apricots, plums, prunes, mangoes, raisins, pistachios, cashews… Always a welcome reprieve from rice consumption.

Chocolate: Milk or dark, bitter or otherwise, I miss a good chocolate bar (save white chocolate). I will imbibe all cocoa-infused products with great vigor. Oh, what I’d do for a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup right now…

Beef Jerky: I am as surprised as you are. I never touched the stuff before, but somehow the thought of rawhide and salt sounds very appealing to me. As does bacon, but preparing that in a predominantly Muslim country would pose various problems.

Conditioner: Not readily available here, this stuff would be a godsend, saving me a lot of time (not-to-mention hair) when combing.

Liquid Eyeliner*: The arid heat of Sub-Saharan Africa dried out my only tube of eyeliner. Generally the only make-up I wear when I do put any on (about once every couple of months), your general drug-store Maybelline or L’oreal brand variety would be greatly appreciated.

*If you have sent me one of these items, email me so I can take it off the list and avoid the remote possibility of being sent too much of something!

And there you have it, my desires and fancies for you to ponder over. Check out the “WISH-LIST” tab for updates and the “CONTACT” tab for my mailing and email addresses.

From Application to Installation and Beyond: A Peace Corps Time-line

One of the few things I remember trolling the internet for in the months before and after submitting my application was Peace Corps time-lines: how long it took the average applicant to get their ass in gear and actually start on their application, how long it took your boss at work to finally send in their recommendation, how long it took the Peace Corps website to register and acknowledge receipt of your documentation, how long it took for your invitation to be sent (ranging from days to sometimes even years according to some blogs), how long you had to wait between invitation acceptance and staging, to how long it took before guilt hit and reading Peace Corps blogs could no longer be classified as “career hunting” but rather plain old procrastination the night before that final paper is due.

For the record, it took me about 8 months from application submission to invitation, though that process in my Peace Corps Senegal stage (the particular group of people that you arrive in-country with, train with, learn to use a Turkish toilet with, share bowel movement updates with and ultimately swear-in as PCVs with) ranged from 3 to about 20 months. I post my personal journey here not just for the sake of posterity, but to assuage the curiosity of those prospective applicants out there who like me, are probably spending many a sleepless night wondering why that package full of documents you sent 2 weeks ago has yet to receive the green light. I am sure as I write this some of you are actively considering giving up, given the medical and/or legal holds you currently see holding you back. I urge you not to—I had to deal with both, and I ultimately received my invitation, so may this post bring you hope, however little.

For Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs) around the world, all I can say is, you will learn a lot about yourself in the 9 weeks of Pre-Service Training (PST) you are about to go/are going through. This is no cakewalk, but it is also by no means representative of what the rest of your service will be like. Trust your instincts and heart to tell you whether you should go through Early Termination (ET) or not. However, I would hold off till after being at your permanent site for a number of months. My pre- and post-PST experiences were vastly different—I gained a significant number of pounds, acquired a room 6 times the size of the one in my training village, had a functioning shower and electricity: a far cry from the Peace Corps experience I had envisioned before arriving in-country. Granted, my recent move has altered my living situation somewhat, but the point is that the amount of personal autonomy is liberating, and is vastly lacking during PST and In-Service Training (IST). However, for those of you that value structure and the constant companionship of other Americans, your actual service may prove to be far more challenging.

But I digress—without further ado, my personal Peace Corps time-line to the best of my recollection.

“We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” —Mother Teresa

October 16, 2009—The time come to earn my hippie stripes and paradoxically bleed red, white and blue at the same time, I open an account online and begin my Peace Corps Application during the penultimate semester of my college career.

November 14, 2009—I somehow manage to keep procrastination to a minimum and submit my completed Peace Corps Application (save the recommendation section) a month later.

December 6, 2009—I submit the completed Applicant Assessment Interview Form, something sent to me a couple of weeks after I submitted the Application. I thank the University of Virginia for having a dedicated Peace Corps recruiter on campus for such speedy processing. Wahoowa!

December 10, 2009—I have an inordinately long interview (spanning a couple of hours) with C. Thomas Dunnells, an RPCV who served in Cameroon in the 1970’s. I really enjoyed talking to Tom, and end up having a couple of chats with him about his service following the official interview. If my Peace Corps service entails getting paid (however little) to live in a foreign country for 2 years while waxing lyrical with the locals about various agricultural techniques and American culture under the shade of an exotic sub-Saharan tree, sign me up!

December 15, 2009—The last of my 3 recommendations is submitted and received by the Peace Corps. I would like to especially thank Ethan Hamlin, as he toils away at USA Today and makes sweet, sweet music on the side in the D.C. area, and Matthew Hughey, probably working several feats of academic brilliance in the field of race relations at the University of Mississippi.

December ??, 2009—I receive a pretty hefty packet with a number of forms, including a skills addendum form, a number of loan forms and an FBI background check form with a fingerprint chart to fill out. You know what that means… A trip to the Charlottesville Sheriff’s office! $10 poorer and 30 minutes after wrestling with a machine that refused to register my apparently extraordinary fingerprints, I emerge triumphant, with nary a smudge of ink on my mitts. Ah, the wonders of technology you find next to the broom closet.

January 8-10, 2010—Submitted the FBI background form, fingerprint chart, loan forms and the Peace Corps Skills Addendum, wherein I expressed an interest in beekeeping and animal husbandry should they somehow require a completely unskilled volunteer in that realm. However, at this point, I already know that something agricultural in Sub-Saharan Africa is what I (want to, and) will probably end up doing after talking to Tom Dunnells.

March 2, 2010—I receive my Peace Corps Nomination! And all it took was 4 months! The online Toolkit changes drastically, and I receive another mammoth of a package in the mail filled with medical forms about a week later. And so begins a process that, given my lack of dental and virtually non-existent medical coverage, ultimately costs me about $1000. I am sure most of you are well-acquainted with the excitement of attending a doctor’s or dental appointment, so excuse me if I have no anecdotes worthy of transcribing here.

March 22, 2010—Medical check-up at the hospital, which included taking a variety of shots and tests for yellow fever, tetanus, rabies, tuberculosis, HIV… the list goes on. Fun times!

March 29, 2010—Medical follow-up. More glorious fun wrapped in a paper gown.

March 30, 2010—Dentist appointment. I emerge cavity-free and Novocain-laced after this little outing. Interestingly enough, this is the first time I experience an injection to the gums—they do things differently in Singapore, where I had all my dental appointments prior to this one.

April 1, 2010—Gynecology appointment. Evidently, the most fun of all. The fact that I can hardly remember what happened this day that occurred a little over a year ago I feel is testament to that.

April 6, 2010—Optometrist appointment. The good man throws in a couple of free contact lenses upon hearing that I am applying for the Peace Corps.

April 19, 2010—Mailed Peace Corps medical forms.

April 28, 2010—Peace Corps receives medical forms.

April 30, 2010—Dental forms are processed and given the green light in my online Toolkit!

June 7, 2010—Peace Corps sends me extra forms, which followed earlier medical and legal holds placed on my nomination online. At this point, I am in Singapore after graduating in May, and I distinctly remember thinking I’d be jobless and destitute for the rest of my life, while helping a friend with the logistics of setting up a FOREX Trading School. After pausing to reflect on the insanity that is my life, cue a mad scramble to make appointments and fill in paperwork.

June 11, 2010—Medical tests are done at the clinic, which proves to be rather tricky given the differences in terminology used in the U.S. and Singapore for specific blood tests.

June 20-24, 2010—I fax and email the completed medical and legal forms, after which a terrifying period of contemplation awaits as I watch the status of my nomination online change.

July 2, 2010—I receive my Peace Corps invitation to serve in Senegal as an urban/peri-urban agricultural extensionist!

July 4, 2010—I accept my invitation, soon after which I leave for a short backpacking trip with my kick-ass Colombian friend Sarah Bolivar through Southeast Asia spanning Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Sometime before this I manage to fill in a DS-11 passport application at the American embassy and mail this along with my Senegal visa. I fly back to the U.S. at the end of July, leaving me a little over a week to prepare for staging.

August 9, 2010—I arrive for staging in Washington D.C., a 2-day affair involving filling in copious amounts of paperwork and getting schooled on the history of the Peace Corps, plus preliminary pointers on how to acclimate to an entirely new country (physically, psychologically, emotionally, etc.). It is here that I meet the 63 other people who make up my stage, encompassing the programs of Small Enterprise Development (SED), Agro-forestry (AGFo), Sustainable Agriculture (SAg) and the best of them all (my program): Urban Agriculture (UAg).

August 11, 2010—Arrival in Senegal! PST commences at the Peace Corps Training Center in Thies: a grueling 9-week period that encompasses intensive daily language, technical and cultural training, plus assorted workshops on safety, medical health and overall well-being.

August 16, 2010—I arrive with 7 other PCTs in our home-stay village of Mboro. So begins 5-6 hours of daily language training, 6 days a week.

September 7, 2010—Back to Thies (a 45-minute ride away from Mboro) for Language Test #1. I distinctly remember shitting my pants, but more because of a gastrointestinal bug than from fear, or so I’d like to believe.

September 8, 2010—Permanent site announcements are made: looks like I’m up North in Richard Toll—a land of sugar cane, irrigation canals, and a large transient workforce from all over the country thanks to the local sugar refinery. Even boasting a black market in sugar thanks to Mauritanian imports, I can already anticipate a drastically different Peace Corps experience from the one I had initially envisioned.

September 12-15, 2010—I spend 6 hours in a sept-place for a site visit hosted by the PCV I am to replace (also known as my ancien), Casey. This is followed by a couple of days spent in St. Louis, a city 2.5 hours west of Richard Toll, where a regional Peace Corps office is located. I along with several other PCTs get to witness our first urban gardening formation (training) at PCV Richard’s garden.

September 25, 2010—Language Test #2 is taken, and apparently my Wolof language skills have improved since the last test. No accident in my pants this time!

September 30-October 1, 2010Counterpart Workshop in Thies is conducted, where I get to meet Cheikh Oumar Diatta, the wonderful man I am blessed to have as my counterpart in Richard Toll.

October 3, 2010—Trip to Popenguine beach, where my stage rents out a beach house and enjoys a break from PST. Midnight swims in a sea of fluorescent phytoplankton, diving off rocks, fireworks and numerous games of beer pong are had.

October 4, 2010—First trip to Senegal’s capital, Dakar!

October 12, 2010—Final Language Test: I pass and escape extra classes in Thies and the consequent postponement of my installation. My underwear stays skid-free.

October 15, 2010—Swear-In: We officially become PCVs! The ceremony at the American Ambassador’s house in Dakar is followed by a reception of sliders, deviled eggs, tuna melts and brownies, after which I plunge into a food coma by the poolside of the Club Atlantique (sort of the American Club in Dakar).

October 19, 2010Installation in Richard Toll, which is prefaced by an exciting sept-place ride involving a sharet (a donkey or horse-drawn cart) scraping past the side of the vehicle and taking the rear door off in the process. Save for some cuts made by flying shards of glass, we escaped unscathed for the most part, alhamdoulilah.

November 23-25, 2010—Annual North Regional Meeting in Ndioum, with all PCVs from the Walo and Matam regions of Senegal in attendance to discuss work strategies. This is followed by Thanksgiving festivities at the Ndioum regional house involving 2 turkeys and 5 chickens, not to mention pecan, pumpkin, and apple pies, plus copious amounts of beer and conversation about American football.

November 27-28, 2010—Urban Agriculture Summit in Thies: an opportunity to discuss work strategies in the realm of urban agriculture, and learn improved techniques such as drip-irrigation and permaculture.

December 3-4, 2010—West Africa Peace Corps Volunteer Conference in Thies: involving PCVs from not just Senegal but the Gambia, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Mali and Togo. Best practices in the field are discussed, ranging from behavior change, nutritional supplements, to waste management.

December 6-18, 2010IST: where my stage gets back together for more technical training after spending 8 to 10 weeks at our permanent site. For some of us, it is the first time we see each other since installation.

February 17, 2011SENEGAD (Senegal Gender and Development) Conference in Thies, where best practices in the realm of gender and development are discussed, as well as strategies to promote female literacy, Michele Sylvester Scholarship implementation, and the logistics of organizing girls’ camps.

February 18, 2011—All-Volunteer Conference in Dakar: NGOs and PCVs gather at the Peace Corps Head Office to discuss ways to increase the efficacy of projects by promoting communication and synergy through the sharing of information.

February 19-21, 2011—WAIST (West Africa Invitational Softball Tournament) in Dakar: A series of softball games played between teams comprised of PCVs from different regions of Senegal, PCVs from other countries in West Africa (the Gambia and Mali, for instance), and schools and clubs from within Dakar. The North’s theme is Jersey Shore, and much of my experience involves adjusting by Snooki hair pouf while imbibing copious amounts of beer throughout the day interspersed by inadvertent bouts of dancing in a bikini and hot pants. All I can say is, I am glad this is an annual event. For better or for worse, this monster of an event happens once a year, and once a year only.

April 9-11, 2011—Urban Agriculture Summit in Kolda: Yet another opportunity to discuss techniques and strategies that worked, and those that didn’t for UAg PCVs.

April 18, 2011—I relocate to my new site Temeye, a village located just 10km south of my original site, Richard Toll.

And… there you have it: my Peace Corps career milestones to date. The prose deteriorates as you read on, but I’ll be copying the contents of this post in the “Time-line” tab, as a reminder to update it on occasion. Inshallah, I’ll edit a couple of the last few entries and flesh them out a bit more at some point, but in the meantime, I hope you guys find this a worthwhile read. Ba baneen yoon!