Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Oh the Difference a year Makes....or not...

It's crazy to think I have spend my 2nd Thanksgiving, birthday, Christmas and soon New Years' in Senegal. That is not a complaint. Do you remember what last Christmas looked like?

Same but different, I think my feet are more clean now though.

I know Minnesota was recordly cold for the last few weeks and I'm glad to be sitting here while the weather here has it's own mood swings. In a week it went from high of 90's, then rained the other day, and today it might be 70 degrees.

Strangely talking about the weather is very much part of the culture here as it is in the Midwest. And I am constantly asked if things that exist here also are in the United States. It's kinda a fun game until they don't believe you that it exists outside of their world or the world they think they know isn't reality. I'm not here to burst there bubble. It is much easier to give them a Time magazine and flip through it and ask questions.

Back to the matters at hand....
I have been following up on year of end reports, lists, goals for the year to come for myself and my work here AND thinking about what happens when this next year is over. I know I have control over nothing and these are simply thoughts but " Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits,  Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” 

If only I could get this across to everyone else here, right? Maybe, some days. Things change here albet slowly. I have seen it. I know that me being the first volunteer, white person, woman, to live in my village has made people think, sometimes mad (I know I can be infuriating and or stubborn) but also change over the last year. It's quite interesting and hopeful.

Via www.kfoleywellness.com

Thoughts over the past year.

  •  The idea I had before coming here of what I wanted to do and why I came here, is still just an idea. An ever changing, learning, edited idea of what can or could be done while trying to simply be here, today, now. 
  •  This so much as been something eluding to this: 
    • “the year of letting go, of understanding loss. grace. of the word ‘no’ and also being able to say ‘you are not kind’. the year of humanity/humility. when the whole world couldn’t get out of bed. everyone i’ve met this year, says the same thing ‘you are so easy to be around, how do you do that?’. the year i broke open and dug out all the rot with own hands. the year i learnt small talk. and how to smile at strangers. the year i understood that i am my best when i reach out and ask ‘do you want to be my friend?’. the year of sugar, everywhere. softness. sweetness. honey honey. the year of being alone, and learning how much i like it. the year of hugging people i don’t know, because i want to know them. the year i made peace and love, right here.”- Warsan Shire   
  • "Peace Corps is like going through puberty all over again. It sucks but it gets better." Quote from fellow RPCV. I have a tendency to think that this life is a mini-life, I have flash backs from childhood here or having to explain American life brings up things you might not have thought of. Its a strange re-living of things.
  • Learned to be smaller than I ever have wished I could be. I tried to be silent, passive,invisible, that didn't work especially when I live with a ethnic group that is anything but. Now I learned to be quiet, simple, polite when I want to be anything but.
  • "Babies were born to friends, friends were lost to illness. It was a big year. But every year is a big year. Every day is a big day. That is what we realize when we are older. That we are lucky enough—and that is all it is, plain dumb luck—to be here makes it a big day, a big year. "
  • Inchallah and slowing to the moment, realizing that here, now is important than later. And then throwing it all out the window. If I want/need/plan I also know that I can "f*ck inchallah" and just get it done rather than waiting on fatalism to have it's way. I also had a conversation saying inchallah is only a Senegalese thing, Americans have no need for this as we just get things done.
  •  No matter how many books you read, thankfully there are MORE books to read.
  • "The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming." Cheryl Strayed via Sarah Wilson
  • Strangely being in a culture that thinks every woman's only job is to have children does NOT make you want to have them even more. Or be married. 
  • My diet has changed where most protein I eat is either fish, beans, eggs and rarely chicken or other meat (goat usually). I cherish vegetables like nothing else, especially green peppers, carrots and squash. Coffee and coke where once staples but I am off of coffee and maybe will let go of the coke, but with real sugar it's entirely different. Only other processed foods I eat are chocolate, coke, mayonnaise, ketchup laughing cow "cheese" and nesquick.
  •  "While there may be exceptions (as there are with everything), most people who become vagabonds, nomads, and wanderers do so because they want to experience the world, not escape some problem. We travel to experience life and live on our own terms.
    Life is short, and we only get to live it once. I want to look back and say I did crazy things, not say I spent my life in an office, reading travel blogs, and wishing I was exploring the world." -via thoughtcatalog.com
  • The journey changes you - it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you… Hopefully, you leave something good behind. Anthony Bourdain via That Kinda Of Woman
  • Stolen from another volunteer's blog:
    • 9. The whole village raises the child.
      10. I am that child.
      11. They’re poor, they’re not stupid.
      12. A month in the Peace Corps is equivalent to a year in my twenties; the more I’ve accumulated to reflect on, the more I realize I hadn’t the slightest idea what I was talking about or doing…
      13. And who I am today is a direct result of continually pretending I do, which is both horrifying and amusing.

  • "Be patient with yourself and others, Do you and not someone else. Take care of you and what's important to you. Be brave, happy and beloved, loving, remember who you are and where you want to go" -A letter written to myself a year ago after I became a volunteer
Overall am I a better person here than I am in America? Some days, some days worse. Did I come here to do what I wanted to do? I think so, but it has changed or maybe my mindset did. Is this next year going to be better than the first? You better believe it!

I'm blessed to live in a very beautiful, diverse, and "rich" area in Senegal and would like to believe it's a reason why I am honestly so happy here and with what I do. Along with all the thoughts, prayers, blessings from all my loved ones all over the world.

I hope all of you have a safe, blessed, happy, healthy new year and many more days to come.

May the sun bring you energy by day, 
may the moon softly restore by night, .
may the rain wash away your work, 
may the breeze blow new strength into you being, 
may you walk gently though the world and know the beauty of all the days in your life.

Monday, December 23, 2013

"If you still talk about it - you still care about it."

"I think it's intoxicating when somebody is so unapologetically who they are."

"As I grow older, I pay less attention to what people say. I just watch what they do."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

""I am gone quite mad with the knowledge of accepting the overwhelming number of things I can never know, places I can never go, and people I can never be.""

- Sylvia Plath

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"1. Don't ever tell anyone they look tired.
2. Help people, and if you offer to help someone, follow though.
3. Be kind to people who work in retail and food service.
4. Let someone know you're not interested.
5. Actually "hang out sometime."
6. Be a little more honest.
7. Stop calling each other mean names on the internet.
8. Send more letters (not emails) and gifts.
9. Give more genuine complements.
10. Have more patience while waiting in lines."

- Almie Rose, 10 Little Things We Can Do To Make Life Easier For Each Other 
""A great future doesn't require a great past.""

- William Chapman

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kind."

- Dalai Lama

Sunday, December 8, 2013

"There is no designated time for anything in your life. You don't have
to have your first kiss at any certain time, you don't have to get
married in your 20′s and you don't have to do anything just because
other people think it's best. In fact, you will be much better off if
you just do what your heart says. The day you stop caring what other
people think is the day their opinions don't mean anything, because
you're not there to give them weight."

- 10 Things I Wish I Could Have Told Myself 5 Years Ago
"You never need to apologize for how you chose to survive." - Clementine von Radics

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

- African proverb

Friday, December 6, 2013

""Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't
edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most
intense obsessions mercilessly.""

- Franz Kafka
"Let someone love you just the way you are – as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as unaccomplished as you think you are. To believe that you must hide all the parts of you that are broken, out of fear that someone else is incapable of loving what is less than perfect, is to believe that sunlight is incapable of entering a broken window and illuminating a dark room."

- Marc Hack
"Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naive pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you."

- Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things
"Life is not somewhere waiting for you, it is happening in you. It is not in the future as a goal to be arrived at, it is herenow, this very moment — in your breathing, circulating in your blood, beating in your heart. Whatsoever you are is your life, and if you start seeking meaning somewhere else, you will miss it. Man has done that for centuries."

- Osho 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite - only a sense of existence."

Henry David Thoreau

 via my feedly.com reader
"Attract what you expect, 
Reflect what you desire,
Become what you respect, 
Mirror what you admire."

 via my feedly.com reader

"There is no remedy for love but to love more."

Henry David Thoreau 

 via my feedly.com reader

A CUP OF JO: Wise words

"Nine times out of ten, you probably aren't having a full-on nervous breakdown—you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit."

— British writer Caitlin Moran in her hilarious, wonderful letter to her daughter
Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. — Rumi

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"You know you are on the right track when you become uninterested in looking back."

"You know you are on the right track when you become uninterested in
looking back."

- Unknown

"The Universe sends us exactly what we are ready for at the exact time we need it in our lives."

"The Universe sends us exactly what we are ready for at the exact time
we need it in our lives."

- Sending Light, Brooke (Kundalini Spirit)

shared via http://feedly.com


"The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common." — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, November 22, 2013

"Find life experiences and swallow them whole. Travel. Meet many people. Go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys. Try everything. Exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life."
Lawrence K. Fish

 via my feedly.com reader
"To be great is to be misunderstood." — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, November 10, 2013

10 Months at Site: A Review

Going back to March (where does time go) It's hard to believe I have been in Senegal for a year as of the 26th of Septmeber. Honestly I can say I have very much enjoyed my time here aside from a few parts (but life is what is it, it all can't be sweet)

What have I been up to, you ask? Lots. This post also coincides with reporting we do for our work here. It breaks down the numbers of some of the things we can count to show what we do here and so Washington has an idea too. But many of the things as you can see below, are countless as well as priceless. All in all, I have a pretty cool job.

I will also be writing more in-depth posts on some of these activities to explain in further detail what we actually do or did.

Cut my hair off

Worked at site: dug garden beds
Senegalese independence day
Visited Dasalame Sereer
Attended 2 weddings, 1 funeral
Helped with baby weighings

Mangos started

Keur Baba Diouf had a meeting with my village
Seeded tree nurseries for papayas with 2 work partners

 Teacher Training at Keur Baba Diouf for teaching Wolof alphabet

Tree sacks were filled for tree nursery with help from Keur Baba Diouf

Seeded moringa
Filled tree sacks for nursery
Attended Sus-Ag Summit in Tambacouta
Helped with baby weighing

Went to Nioro middle school for party and teach an English class

Master Farm Field Day in Karang where I presented a station on bees

JUNE Taught english class in Nioro Allasane Talle
Attended meeting at Dasalme Sereer for bees with local master beekeepers and NGO from Belgium
Helped host, explain and guide a group of 30 intercity kids from L.A. with chaperons for a weekend visiting our region and volunteers site
On-going project of 'men cooking lunch' continues at my village with another work partner cooking lunch

Attending English Teaching Class in Thies
Visited beekeeper Abdul Seck in Bandia
Wrote my grant for Map Mural project for 2 schools

To Dakar for meeting with my bosses

Summit (on going, hands on training for my sustainable agricultural sector and to get together and talk) in Linguere (north)
Mangrove reforestration on the island of Sipo and the village of Bamboung next to Toubacouta

Back to Dakar to help with Access English Camp for a week long camp teaching 105 students

Returned to village

Return to village

Executed layout design and wrote article for the Agrarian newsletter
Visited Sangako to check with beekeepers


Visited Same and started 2 new capture hives, took some honey, and played with new puppy at Master Farm

Visited another volunteer 2 regions over in Kaffrine with my closest site mate and a friend from site

Attened a laamb, Senegalese wrestling match, in my site-mates village, happened to go until dawn. Normallly then are done my 2am.

Traveled to Dakar for the weekend to see some awesome volunteers off. They are done with there service here and will be very much missed

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Yeah it's been a while. Sorry about that. It's not to be said I didn't try and write. Trust me I still love you and miss you. It's just been hard.

I will go into further detail of what I've been up to in my next post since I've been in my village for more than 10 months now (September 27 was my year in country) and December 8th (right after my birthday) is my year in my village. How time flies when your having fun right?? And yes I'm still having fun. Trust me.

Just a short note to say that I will be writing like a mad women to get my life/pictures into the digital world as soon as the internet/electricity wants to cooperate with me :) I swear I will make it happen.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Senegalese Ephemera

Ephemera (singular: ephemeron) is any transitory written or printed matter not meant to be retained or preserved. The word derives from the Greek, meaning things lasting no more than a day. Some collectible ephemera are advertising trade cards, airsickness bags, bookmarks, catalogues, greeting cards, letters, pamphlets, postcards, posters, prospectuses, stock certificates, tickets and zines.

The idea for this post happened when I had cleaned out my wallet. Realizing my camera had died and there was a working scanner at my regional office, I could scan in many of these things to keep record of some of the names, addresses and telephone numbers if by chance I needed them in the future. And then realizing. One of my favorite things to keep from trips were all the random things that you never seen unless you go on the trip. The ephemera. Without further ado.
Contraception poster at the local poste de sante (small clinic)

Gambian dalasi (pronouced dollarzee) 32.60GMD = $1

Grafiti art in Dakar

Grafiti art in Dakar

Grafiti art in Dakar

Senegalese cfa (500cfa = $1)

Senegalese cfa coins

Invitation to an end of year party at the middle school the next town over
Invitation envelopes to various events
Receipts for the post de sante, ride from Kaolack to Karang and the post office

Various receipts from hardware stores and grocery stores

Random scraps of things I've found and made a cover for my planner

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The hardest part of my job: Just be

This post is a bit of the ongoing conversation in my own head and describes some of the struggles we face as Peace Corps volunteers. I am in no way wanting to complain about things here and try as much as possible to keep the 'rant' out of my writing. So I am sorry in advance if this post sounds or feels that way. It is not my intent.
Unknown artist, found in dumpster in U.S.

Do you ever ask yourself "what the heck am I doing"? As a Peace Corps volunteer, I find myself asking daily, sometimes hourly. Which is scary. One of the six basic human needs is certainty. Tony Robbins has an excellent TED talk: Why we do what we do? that I highly recommend, and if nothing else read the transcript. And when we don't have certainty we feel a little off-kilter, anxious, or simply question our motives.

American's are taught from an early age to plan ahead. "Do your homework", "What are you doing on the weekend"?, and "What do you want to do when you grow up/after you graduate high school/college"? In some ways we aren't used to not knowing what is ahead and the ability to sit with that unknowing is very difficult for us. In Senegal anything said or written in future tense is followed by "InshAllah" an Arabic word meaning "if God wills/allows it". This simple little word spoken after most conversations reminds us moment to moment is just that. "I will see you tomorrow-InshAllah", "It will rain today-InshAllah", "Next week I will to go Dakar for a meeting-InshAllah". Working in this place has for one made me more aware of how short our time in this place is, as a volunteer, as a human, in this moment.
All this fatalism is a bit heavy. Sorry. But there is nothing like reading a book like Blink:The Power of Thinking Without Thinking  by Malcom Gladwell or The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo (highly recommend both) that hit you over the head with teaching simply being in the moment, nothing more and then having that being shown and reminded to you in every conversation you have throughout your day. It is quite lovely.
"The secret is here in the present, If you pay attention to the present you can improve upon it. And if you improve on the present what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future and live each day according to the teachings....Each day in itself, brings with it an eternity." p. 10 The Alchemist

On the flip side of this, this place can be infuriating. And that is not a strong enough word. Other volunteers and cleaning up after them, lack personal space/privacy, dealing with medical issues, talking with administration for the 100th time for something that just needs a signature or approval, Senegalese way of thinking and lack there of for countless things.

This excerpt from a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer's blog frames this idea well:
You are raised in a small town. Everyone looks the same. They have the same color eyes. They have the same color hair. They have the same color skin. Everyone is the same religion. This is not a choice, but a fact. As every person you have ever known has told you.

You are male. It is written that men are more capable than women, and that women must always be subservient to men. Both your mother and father reinforce this fact through their actions and words. You observe your father ordering your mother and his other wives around like slaves. Women are MEANT for cooking and cleaning and serving. This is a fact. Every other family you know functions like this. You did not chose to be born into this life. You literally know nothing else.

A stranger visits your town. She has different skin and different eyes and different hair. You call her mean names and point and laugh at her. Along with everyone else in your town. No one tells you this is wrong.

You do not have a television and you have never seen the internet. You have never even been exposed to the idea that this is not the way it has to be.

As a child your mother and father beat you when you acted out. Now as a father, you do the same to your children. You treat your wives as a second class and teach your daughters that their place is in the kitchen.

How can you be blamed?
We can't walk in there shoes, even though we live here. We have an idea, but how much do we really understand.  They think every one in America has maids and personal chefs. How can we help them understand or teach them? The idea is too big and too hard to grasp. How do you balance thinking for now and not worrying about the future?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ramadan: A whole new meaning to hangry

Thankfully we are over half way through the month of fasting known as Ramadan that Muslims all over the world observe. Senegal is no different. Based on the lunar calender the month of fasting starts at sun rise  and lasts until sun set each day. Muslims also abstain from sex and smoking as well as eating and drinking during day light hours. If women are pregnant, nursing or menstruating they are to not fast.

There are extremes to this. Many people even spit out the saliva in there mouths during the day. And if a women doesn't know she's pregnant and may not fast due to many reasons. Sadly this report came out as well showing that it's true.
"For quite a while, scientists have known that maternal food deprivation is bad news for fetuses, correlated with everything from coronary disease later on to skewed sex ratios at birth. (Normally, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. But during food shortages and other times of population-wide stress, relatively more girls are born, probably because male fetuses are more fragile than female ones, and more susceptible to being miscarried.) Recent studies have uncovered new examples of this effect. The Chinese famine of 1958–61 saw male births decline sharply [1]. Even fasting takes a toll: When Ramadan occurred very early in pregnancy, Arab mothers in Michigan were 10 percent less likely to have a son. And Muslims in Iraq and Uganda were 20 percent more likely to be disabled as adults if their mothers were in early pregnancy during the holiday [2]."  The Unexpected Ways a Fetus Is Shaped by a Mother's Environment, The Atlantic, June 2013
In no way am I saying Ramadan is a bad thing. This article simply came out recently and reminded us to not only be aware of those around us who weren't eating but also for those who should. Small children, pregnant women, elderly, sick or those who are traveling usually don't fast. Usually being the operative word. Its good to remind or encourage those who should eat to eat. Ramadan is held in esteem to many Muslims.

Typical blessing for Ramadan as seen on TV
I am always greeted and then asked if I'm fasting. I tried it for a week and also drank water during it and thought that was more than enough for me. I still only usually snack for lunch rather than have my typical 3 around my village. But it was good to cut back, observe, be aware and think about what you have and what you are putting into your mouth.

Typical day in my village for Ramadan if you are fasting is:

4:30-5 AM wake up as 1st call for prayer shocks you out of bed. Women usually heat up breakfast of cere (millet cereal) and is eaten with milk or leaf sauce. You ritually wash your hands, feet, head, and hands, pray and either go back to bed or stay up reading the Koran or chatting with family.

8 AM younger children and rest of the family wakes up and heads to fields. Older men and women usually hang out at home chewing on a sooch stick (usually small and used for cleaning your teeth but chewing on them helps the hunger and thirst) and or sleeping, reading or visiting with others.

11-2 PM Kids might come back from the fields around now and relax before a small lunch is served, sometimes even prepared by them. I've had plain rice with leaf sauce on a few occasions (I rather eat a small snack of fruit, granola, or nuts in my hut)

2PM Call for prayer

2-4 PM Nap time, everyone usually is napping someplace. Nothing really happens until 4 in most places I've been.

5PM Call for prayer

4-7PM More field work, water animals, gardens etc.

7-7:45 PM Try patiently to wait until the call for prayer to end the fast. At which time you drink water slowly (you can become sick because you haven't drank anything all day) followed by sweetened kinkillba tea or cafe touba (either has enough sugar to kill most people) and bread (either buttered or if your lucky chocolate paste-not my favorite)

7:45PM Call for prayer

7:45-9 PM Kids dance because they've eaten and are a bit more lively and excited to eat lunch (for dinner because it's typically what you would have for lunch when it's not Ramadan)

9ish PM Eat lunch/dinner, sit around talk as everyone has a ton of energy and drink attaya (a sweet hot frothy tea loaded with caffeine) I usually go home and to bed after this because people typically will stay up late and talk into the night.

Typical bowl of ceeb bu jenn (rice with fish) in my village

10 PM Call for prayer

Lately the rains haven't been as regular as they should be so this is also all being done in 100+ humid heat with a little breeze (it usually comes around 4pm).

Group of boys eating at a lunch bowl at a wedding

Basically your days become nights and your nights become days and then you confuse your body along the way. No wonder everyone is a bit on edge, hangry and a bit out of it frankly. I have had a bit of work in Toubacouta this last week and have been out of site of a little while. Hopefully when I go back people aren't too bad. Mostly they are just tired.

I relate Ramadan to doing birkam yoga. Killing yourself for an hour and half in 115 humid heat, but when they open the door, and the cold air floods in, there are no words. It's like having that every night for a month.

Sorry this post is short on pictures, last month my camera and ipod died and I've been working on getting them replaced.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Senegal Revealed: And now I know...

Like most places in the world, cultural dress varies for many reason as do the changing seasons. This is also true in Senegal. In the hot and rainy season, it is not uncommon to take many showers a day (4ish) each with a change of clothes depending upon how much you had sweat through the former.

Also with various holidays, celebrations and simply just on Friday people will get more dressed up. During my first 'chet' or large wedding at my village, I sat behind a female drummer while other women danced feverishly and flashed there legs (that are very rarely seen any part above the calf). I thought I had caught a glance of a "slip" or something similar.

You can see on the women on the right and center something worn under her skirt, but not a fabric slip
I'm going to let you know right now....this post is not umm...maybe politically correct. But I was a clothing design major and so I find this interesting, relevant and have found others who have wrote about  topics in hand.

What the women are wearing is lingerie! Senegalese style of course. I have noticed these crocheted and knitted things made from bukly yarn in the markets but never knew exactly what they were and since I had no need to ask, I never pondered it. Until I read this post from an expat fashion blog (none-the-less) who is based out of Dakar that I started reading before I left the states.

I love that these women write about these things so I don't have to make the mistake of asking a vendor what they are then being asked about them forever after in the market.  But honestly, once I knew what these were I noticed them when women would adjust their wrap skirts or panè.

And then the other day....I was at my friend Ibrah's house. He has a large family with many younger and teenage kids. His sister-in-law, Kiwi, is about my age and has 4 younger kids. I was on the phone at the moment when all the kids were in a commotion over something. The next thing I noticed was Kiwi was trying to pull something away from the boys who had there hand wrapped around this thing. Never in a million years would I have guessed what they were fighting over....

A wooden dildo. Yup.

I was shocked and thankfully on the phone with another volunteer so I didn't have to truly deal with acknowledging it. Sometimes they will ask questions like "do you know what that is"? and no answer by me will then assume I do and ask "why would you know what that is"?  Many conversations with groups of kids turn into questions about of course boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands/wives/sex. Which I am comfortable about but they very quickly lead to questions about me and my life rather than general questions about the subject. And I do live in a less conservative Muslim society in my part of Senegal, having the entire village talk about my (non-existent) "sex life" doesn't need to happen more than it already does. The rumors I have heard about myself are hilarious. Simply my talking to an age appropriate man more than a few times will begin something along the lines that he is my boyfriend.

The health volunteers typically will do sex-ed training and one of which has written about her experience going to the market to find a vegetable to use to discuss how to properly use a condom.

Unlike many places in the world Senegal is a practicing, conservative, Muslim country. Does it surprise me that I have seen these things and it seems to be open conversation? No. Life is life anyway and anywhere you live it. Somethings are not talked about in everyday conversation, but if I wanted to know I could ask someone one-on-one, they would answer my questions and laugh at the nature of it all.

Such is our life in Peace Corps. Never a dull moment.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bees: Yes I have been working with them here!

If you know anything about me, I’m sure you are wondering “why hasn’t she written about bees there yet??”  It’s true, I have been holding off for a few reasons.

Guard bees at one of the first beekeepers I met in the neighboring village to mine.

One of the first beekeepers I found and was willing to show me his hives. He doesn't sell his honey but keeps it for his family

 First of all the bees here are different. I was able to work them back in February with a master farmer that a few other volunteers work with. I had done my homework and talked to a few beekeepers I knew that had worked in Africa, former volunteers that had done some work with bees while here and an NGO that I was lucky enough to come in contact with in my training village.

Profils, an NGO based in Mboro, my training village and works with many groups and beekeepers in my region.
Bees here (mostly Apis mellifera adansonii or scutellata based on who you ask)  are much more aggressive and abscond (to leave there hive in search of a new one for many reasons) more often (behavioral traits that are occur in most breeds of bee). The keepers I have met work for the most part the same, taking safety precautions with wearing suits, gloves, boots, having smokers handy and never going out alone to work the hives. Which are all good signs.

Mielangerie (honey house) in Sangako and their hives in the mangroves

At another volunteer's site in Dalsame Sereer with a beekeeper who partners with women's groups and other NGO's (from left to right:the view from his encampment, womens group and another volunteer, some shae honey that we had with our tea)

Since then I have been touching base with various groups, attending meetings, finding new beekeepers that want me to come visit and had the opportunity to teach at a Master Farm Field Day explaining basics of how we captured bees for the farm (all in wolof and french). 

Left: at a meeting with beekeepers discussing bee pests and treatments, Center: talking with a group at the Master Farm about capture hives, Right: happily walking out to check some hives in the Mangroves.

Happily I have been able to find many beekeepers that ask for my help, opinion and will simply show me what they know so I can better understand how to work with the bees here. We share information, no one is more right than the other has I have always learned from beekeepers and the bees themselves. There is always more to learn.

AND I was able to harvest some honey from a hive I started at the Master Farm. I would like to harvest more but would like to borrow an extractor to do so to save the wax rather than cutting the comb out as it helps the bees to give you more honey rather than using resources to build more comb.

Some of MY 1st African honey, I remembered to take a picture before I ate, shared and gifted it away
Of course there are a few more groups I know of that I would like to talk to further about partnerships or simply to better understand what their goals are working with bees in this region or Senegal-wide. As being a Peace Corps volunteer I am more visible, travel more often, and sharing information and resources is more 'normal' for me to inquire about than most Senegalese.

Currently I am working on a gathering information on list of plants that are nectar sources in this region, making a calender of the bloom dates and finding the local names for the plants in the 5 major languages spoken in this region so it can be used to plant, locate and increase the amount of nectar sources for the bees here. Like anywhere in the world here, bees here are a big deal. But having people understand basic behavioral traits (and they can be selected through breeding) while increasing and improving the quality of there nectar sources will create a stronger ecosystem for the bees but also strive to give the beekeepers a year around income from honey rather than around the rainy season as it is now.