6 months, 5 days, to be precise. And we are no longer the newest volunteers in Senegal, the new stage arrived last month and is on Volunteer Visit this week. Which is partly why I am currently at my regional house, preparing festivities (partly for the newbies, mostly for ourselves..!). I just made two loaves of banana bread, Jonno has just made a load of no-bake cookies, and Paul is soon to make a batch of brownies...yum. I arrived a few days ago to work on a grant, write our required volunteer report form, and do finish some odds and ends.
It was definitely time for a break, Ramadan was a rough month (even without fasting!). The morning I decided to leave to come here, it was raining of course. So I sucked it up and decided to walk to Pete, because I was no willing to wait all morning for a possible cheret. I took my backpack, a purse full of books (to exchange at the library here at the house), and my small empty gas tank to get refilled. It was a perfect day to walk, cloudy and cool, but it was still a rough 5 mile trek with all my things. By the time I arrived to the main road, I was not in the mood for anyone to get in my face, let alone a swarm of Almudo (begging children)...I had to feign that I would hit them if they didn't leave me alone, which I would never actually do, but it at least got them to go away temporarily.
Side note, there was recently an article in the NY Times about Talibe children in Senegal, if you are interested: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/13/world/africa/13dakar.html. They not only exist in Dakar and bigger cities, but we have a large group of them in my own tiny village in the North and in almost every village around Senegal. I hate to admit that they've come to be kind of an annoyance to me because of their incessant begging and stares, but when I actually think of their situation I do feel very sorry for them. I refuse to give them money and support the system that keeps them on the streets, but I sometimes give them food to eat immediately if I can see they are hungry.
Anyways, the end of Ramadan could not have come soon enough, I was so thrilled to see the faint outline of the moon on Thursday evening-- they judge the end of Ramadan based on the new moon. I was the first to spot the tiny sliver of white in the sky of the setting sun, and my whole family seemed to be relieved as well at the site of it. Had it not been Thursday night it would have been Friday. So Korite, the end of Ramadan celebration, was a day of lots of meat. I helped my sisters cut potatoes and onions, and they cooked all morning...the main dish being goat, sheep, or cow meat. Each family prepares numerous bowls of food and then it's like a large community food swap- women bring bowls of food to various friends houses and we received several at my house as well. I ate two lunches at home and then went to fulfill an invitation to eat with my ICP at the Dispensaire, which I did...talk about a food coma after that! The strange part was that later in the evening, I was never called in for dinner, and I went to sleep having not eaten anything since lunch. It was ok because we'd eaten so much anyways, but it was the first time we did not eat dinner since I arrived at site 4 months ago...no idea why. I'm thankful that lunch has returned, and so has dinner-- we've eaten what we normally eat for lunch every night for dinner during Ramadan, which means no variation whatsoever (rice and fish). I'm excited for at least the possibility of variation during dinner! Maybe some leccari and kosam...yum! (My fav food-- rediculously simple, just millet and milk).
I'm headed back to the village in the morning with my ancienne, who is on his last trip back to the village to say goodbye to friends and the family. He heads back to America in just a little more than a week! The next few weeks for me will be very productive, inchallah (God willing), with painting murals, starting the radio show, planning the womens garden and maternity room, school starting back up, etc.
Last of all, since I never keep up as much as I would like to with my blog, check out some of my friends and fellow stagers blogs if you have time...they are much more entertaining to read than my own, written better, and the experiences are pretty similar.
And of course there are many more, but here are a good few to start with. Enjoy :)