Sunday, March 29, 2015

And So It Starts Again

So much excitement, anxiety, and a little fear. On April 12, early in the morning I'll be finally heading to Grenada. I say finally as I applied for this position back in September when I was still in Senegal contemplating quitting for various reasons. When I found out then in October, not only could I not believe it, I was crazy ecstatic. I'm sure other volunteers hated me at the time.

I was then due to leave early February. Once home I needed to take care of some medical things that could have been taken care of in country, but I was too close to being done in November. Due to this, my leave date was pushed out until April. Making it SIX months that I have know that I am going but can do nothing but sit wait, schedule appointments, go to appointments, get paper work, send paper work and wait for what to do next.

Gladly having this be my second time with Peace Corps it will be easier in so many ways. I've been emailing volunteers, expats working on the island and others there already to get an idea of what to bring, what I can buy and to get a feel for what to expect. But that is the fun about it-everyday is fun, challenging, unexpected and new. At least it was in Senegal.

As my friends who like lists, some things why Grenada will be easier than Senegal and what I know I can expect:

It's a tropical island: Already a huge difference there from the wide ranging geography of Senegal from dessert in the north, strip of vegetation at the coastline and mangrove estuaries to lush low lands in the south and mountainous in the very south eastern corner. The island is about 22 miles long by 12 miles, with

"The Island Mountains boast a high point of over 2,750 feet, atop Mount St. Catherine, and a variety of plant life, from dwarf forests, rainforests and dry forests, to mangroves at the coast, supports a diverse animal population. The reefs surrounding the island are beautiful and fun to explore. Colorful tropical fish and other sea life abound close to shore and are easily accessible to snorkelers and scuba divers."

Basically I'll never be bored.

My job is very specific: My position is working as beekeeping specialist/trainer with a beekeeping association that I will live close to. The association has roughly 40 members. As I have a job description it is a loose idea,  as the island has youth development and education volunteers.I'm sure as I'm there my job will be what it needs to be at the time. Documenting what I do is already part of a volunteers reporting process. I will be the first agriculture volunteer, but there are many NGO's (Non-government organizations) on the island and are very involved in many projects.  Something I need to be aware of is who is doing what and making sure not to step on toes or put my foot in my mouth. Sadly a year is a short time in bee calender, so I'm hoping to stay longer. The islands are known to have 4th year education volunteers. (who wouldn't want to stay there?!)

I'll be in the bush, but one with electricity & running water: I could still do without either of these on a tropical island but it is nice to have them and not have to worry about bringing/creating/storing these resources. I'll be living in Birch Grove, dead center of the island and next to the Grand Etang National Park. Hopefully I will have a view of the ocean. Also living not on the coast should also help for having a somewhat lower mosquito population.


Not the only white person for miles: This is good and bad. It was nice to be 'special' in Senegal, but also being the only white person just allows them to point you out even more. There is a medical school on the island long with many other expats. Many of the you tube videos I've seen of the island is mostly of white people. Hopefully Grenadians are just as welcoming as Senegalese and take care of me just as well.

We speak the same language:English is the main language in Grenada and some people speak Creole but it's different than Haitian creole. I'm sure I'll learn some but it will be nice to speak to everyone from the get go and not feel like I'm making an idiot of myself due to my lack of knowledge with language.

People will visit me:Senegal was hot, complicated and not the easiest place to travel internationally. As for Grenada, you don't need a visa, just a passport and a return ticket. There is a large mosquito population but they do not have malaria just Chikungunya. It's a virus without a vaccine or preventative medication. Like dengue fever, you have flu like symptoms for a week and then have body aches for a month. Seems like everyone gets it and nothing you'd want to get on vacation. Once you have it you never get it again. Lots of bug spray and keep covered helps. Otherwise the island is a wonderful place to visit.

I'm sure there are other things, but this is a pretty good list considering it's enough to make my simple life much, much easier. Looking forward to getting there, settled and start exploring and working.

My address has already been updated on the contact tab and I'll make sure to continue to blog about my work and life there too. Just don't get mad when I post images of a tropical paradise everyday. :)

As always thank you for reading!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bees wax and Honey Product Tourney in Kolda

This happened back in June of 2014. After traveling to Gambia for bee training, Jessica, an Agro-forestry volunteer who is from the southern region of Kolda decided to organize a tourney training. Which is a series of trainings, usually the exact training repeated, to various villages;  usually villages that also have a volunteer to help coordinate people and sometimes food for us. Jessica and I had both attended the conference in Gambia. Jessica's region is more lush with higher rainfall and known for beekeeping and honey.

So in June 2014 I traveled to Tambacounda to start a week long tourney or series of trainings. We biked over 150 km in one week, got to see so many volunteers, (which was a blast) and then spent a day traveling back to my part of Senegal-literally 17 hours of travel in one day. It was fun and Kolda knows how to make cake and avocados!!

Toubacouta (near where I live) is on the far left and the first pin on the right is where we started
"Agfo Jessica Moore and Megan Wannarka traveled through the Kolda region June 18-23 training on using bees wax and honey for making soap, body creme and lip balm through 5 villages from Tambacounda to Kolda"-Blurb on PC Senegal's website

I had a lovely time and fully enjoyed not speaking or hearing barely any wolof for a week since I was in Pulaar land. This southern part of the country identifies as being in Guinea since most of it's goods come from there rather than Dakar, which is also 15+ hours away. So when asked where I was from, saying the Fatick region didn't help. Most volunteers I was with, just said I was from Dakar to simply and what the people there understood.

TUESDAY 6/17/14 First I traveled with my bike (tied down to the top of a car) and traveled to Tambacounda. I think it's the hottest part of the country (farthest right pin on the map) From there I met up with Jess and traveled to Veligara to see an Urban Ag volunteer, Jordan and stayed with her for the night.
In Jordan's hut, Jordan on the left and Jess on the right.
WENDESDAY 6/18/14 The next morning we stayed until lunch and headed south 15km (9.3 mi) to visit Callen and then later meet Danny and go to his village near by to do a training.
View riding into Callen's village.
First stop in Saricoli with Callen and her little! 

Dan soon arrived, with a sweaty dramatic entrance.
Yes the roof over hangs that much and you have to duck to get in. Jess & Callen in front of Callen's hut
We were soon on a village tour. For a village of 850 people and 15 km from a semi-large city of Veligara, Saricoli is strangely well put together with a water tower, grain storage, a small hospital and a Peace Corps volunteer!
Water tower in the background
We went to the top of a 2 story house for the wonderful view. Callen, Dan and Jess
Back to the huts to grab bikes to head to Dan's village.
Just a few kilometers away is a Master Farm and Dan's village of Fola Nory Demba where we would do our first training.

Master Farmer's son pulling water-typical thing we all see and do in village daily
But there are many bees around this one wanting some water!

Dan turning a mob of kids into polite little ones by greeting every one of them, this took a few minutes)

And once they were calm and I was already taking pictures, group picture was needed AND all of them needing to see it on my camera after.
Walking back into the village
Dan's backyard.
A Tostan sign, a NGO from Theis that works throughout West Africa on female genital cutting among other topics.
Once in the village and put our bikes in Dan's backyard and getting a tour of his village we make snacks, pulled water for showers and chatted. Soon the rain came. Rain in this region is different that what I got farther north. Once the rain started you literally had minutes until it poured. It rarely poured where I was and typically started as a light sprinkle.

THURSDAY 6/19/14 The next morning we got set up to do our first training. We went to a neighbor's compound, layed out some mats, our supplies and started building a small fire as people showed up and greeted each other. Since I don't speak Pulaar, Jessica had the honor of leading the trainings while Dan and I assisted.

Jessica greeting the group
More of the group
Showing samples of what we were going to make.
Starting the process of making soap
Stirling to get 'trace' so we can pour it in molds, we just used cups
Love the variety of people who showed up.
Jessica finishing the training and asking someone to pass out samples of what we had made.
 Traveling in another region is so much fun as not only do you get to see volunteers we rarely get to see but also eat food that is only in certain regions.  Like above. It's rice or mainly fonio, with ground peanuts, and a leaf sauce on top. I have something similar in my village, but it would be eaten for breakfast and be considered 'cheap'. While this is primarily lunch here and more tasty than what I have.

After we headed back to Veligara to stay another night with Jordan. Once we found her near the market we found avocados for dinner/snacks
Jess and Jordan walking towards the market
Jordan finding some mangoes in the foreground with a few avocados on a plate in the background

FRIDAY 6/20/14 We had an early morning 5:30 AM to make it up to Manda Village where Becca would be with her village. 
Nice paved roads for a change

Honey house we passed on the way to Manda Vilage

And the scenery starts to change to lush

Becca's compound
I have to say through this experience I've learned that each village has it's own character that you can almost feel as soon as you are there. Becca's village was the first realization how different this region of Senegal is. As soon as we arrived Becca's host family took our bikes from us, greeted us, and lead us in the shade with water for us to drink. So lovely and welcoming!

Becca's awning that I fell in love with because of the flowers, also not very common around there, but wish it was. (Becca is on the left)

Typical breakfast porriage

Becca's backyard with personal mango tree!

Garden area where training would be held.


Setting up

Another volunteer Carson that lived near by also stopped by to attend the training

Group before we got started.

Jess doing her thing in Pulaar.

Whole group under mangos about half way done with training.
We later had a light lunch and waited till it was a little cooler as we finished around noon. Attaya (sweet tea) and naps while I continued to talk bees. This group loved picking my brain. The beekeepers here are very knowing and I would have loved to spend more time working them as they seemed very organized.

On the way back we started to make the 20km bike ride back to Velingara, drop a bike off and then take a car to Kinkani where volunteer Allie was.  This did not happen we were tired and there were no cars to be had, along with Jess's bike needed some maintenance making it hard to pedal.

We started looking for cars to take us the rest of the way. Problem was it was political season and cars of all kinds were being used with loud speakers to advertise. So when a large transport truck got near we flagged it down instead!

Super glad to be in the back to a truck, with bikes, and only had charcoal in it previously.

Very empty truck except for us.

We made it back by 7:30pm which means we had to move quick to get into another car before it was completely dark out. We grabbed a car and were at Allie's at 9:50pm. Sadly I did not take any pictures of her compound, HUGE circular hut, her OR her family, but we slept well with more rain that came that night.

SATURDAY 6/21/14 We were up at 7am and had breakfast in the garage before walking and meeting the Agforestry Peace Corps boss Demba gave us a lift to Dabo, where we met a Community Economic Development volunteer Alisha.
Alisha outside of her circular hut with a long over hanging roof

Hand roof except for when having a conversation with your host grandmother
 2 hour pedal into the country to Fode Byoe to see agriculture volunteer Amanda.

More lush next to dirt rodes

Jessica pedaling through a small forest on our way to Fode Byoe.

Very large baobob out the edge of town
 This town is Mandinka, which is unusal for this area. This became very obvious when everything that was said needed to be translated sometimes twice. In Senegal, where 10% of people are literate this may happen when people do not speak the same language and typically Senegalese will speak up to 5 languages and sometimes only 1.

I wasn't sure if this was okay as much is lost in translation. But I guess this is how things are done here.
Group assembled for our training around 11:30am

Better view of the group

Amanda sitting watching out training
Training went well, but I think the translation was a problem. We asked a series of questions at the end of the training to see how much information was retained. No one got the questions right. There were also many children running around, a few people came and left causing the attention span to wane.

This entire week was a learning experience of how important it is that volunteers are here and how well they know their village, but also how they compare and contrast to the region. Knowing what works better, how better to teach, learn, share knowledge with these people as it's sometimes not as straight forward as one would think.

Fish balls with sauce over rice for lunch!!
 Each village was not asked to do lunch for the group or for us as it causes too many people to come to training only for food than for information. Each volunteer simply had their family make us a nice lunch, typically what they would have normally but maybe what they would make for guests.

I loved seeing the variety of food, huts, volunteers, villages through this region. My region of Fatick was not as varied like this from what I've seen and traveled.

From left to right, Me, Laran, Amanda, Jessica Cho, Jessica Moore. It was very hot by the time training was done.

Around 3pm we headed back out to the main road to catch a car. Again we had trouble finding a car, it was hot, so we wanted to wait and get a car if we could but that wasn't the case. We started to pedal.

It was hilly on the way there but sadly it was more going up hill on the way back. We had a large town we'd pass on the way back but unfortunately no cars going the way we were or that were able to transport bikes. 

Lush low part near Dabo
 SUNDAY 6/22/14 We made it back to Kolda and took a day off to relax, rest, enjoy some shade, showers and email.

MONDAY 6/23/14 Our last training was held in Kolda city, with another community economic development volunteer, Steph. Her host mom is a bad-ass when it comes to business, which is not said lightly in the least. We had a wonderful turn out. I took pictures of each step.

Jess getting set up. Since she speaks pulaar it's easier for her to ask for things.

Finished samples of hand cream (left) and lip gloss (right)

Soap hardening in cups
 Because the group of women we had only a few of them did not understand Pulaar so instead they asked if the training could be done in Wolof. So I trained and explained to this group, which was fun!

Steph also explained some marketing strategies to the group. This group was by far the most promising to work with. They asked questions along they way, were taking notes.
Steph adding marketing details to our presentation

Final group with certificates, sadly I wish we would have done this for each group.
Overall, it was a very tiring but great week. My region does not do training tourneys like this but I like the format and it makes a lot of sense when you have volunteers in a region to do a training that would work in so many places. Also having a volunteer there gives them a resource if they decide to try to do it themselves.

I will be following up with these volunteers this week as doing this is seasonal as they would need honey and wax to make these products. It takes some consideration on the beginning to get something like this going. But if they want to do it, they can.

We took many pictures along the way and they can be seen here on my facebook album.