June 15, 2009
Things are really starting to sink in and become normal. I'm at the point where I finish a conversation with someone, and while walking away, I can't remember if I was speaking in English or in French--and almost always it was in French. Not to mention I often find myself beginning to write in French in my journal. So, definitely a good thing!
At home things have been pretty cool--one of the girls here let me help her prepare the national dish, tieboudienn (whole fried fish and rice with sauce), and during all of the cooking she taught me how to dance Senegalese style. Thanks to a wedding that was happening all day across the street, we had plenty of traditional African music to sing and dance to while we cooked. The wedding party lasted all afternoon with just the women dancing and dancing for hours and hours to the traditional music. Today we actually got a lunch of fresh grated vegetables, raw onions, bread, and fried whole fish! Sounds like an interesting lunch, but in all honesty it's about as close to the healthy food we have back home. I have a feeling it will be a while until we get fresh cold vegetables again. I'm really starting to miss my vegetarian diet, and milk and cereal. Bread and coffee for breakfast just isn't quite the same, sadly enough.
At school I started working with the four year-olds, which is a little more involved than the three year-olds, mainly because these kids have a wider French vocabulary (most only speak Wolof at this age), so it's easier for me to communicate with them. I've been teaching them the game memory and more French vocabulary. The memory game is slowly but surely coming along. Sometimes it's frustrating with the Wolof-French-English language barrier, but I know the kids are learning and enjoying the learning, which is all that matters.
As for track, I've decided just to go Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays since going to the school in the morning and track in the evening is just too tiring and time consuming, and the school and care program is really what I came here for initially. Today was the big track meet of the regional cities. Since there isn't normally any lines on the sand, a couple coaches spent the past day carving out lanes and lines in the sand and filling the crevices with white paint. They measured everything, including the long jump pit, so I can't imagine how long it took them to do all of that. The meet itself was really cool, and the kids had a great time. One of the teachers, Cheikh Tioliane Camara, from a school nearby talked with me for a long time at the meet and pretty much summed up the program. Forgive the rough translation: "if the kids aren't on the soccer team, they have nothing. This track program helps those kids find something fun, interesting, and rewarding to do to keep them preoccupied and off of the streets." Couldn't put it better myself. The people volunteering here, no matter what program they're doing, all seem to remark about how the people here really don't seem to do much of anything except sit around and chat. So, if they aren't playing soccer, programs like this really help. Especially when the top three places at the meet got some really nice, new, and useful practice clothing from adidas, etc. I sent some new pictures of the track meet.
Everything else has been great. We've been having baobob juice recently, which is ridiculously amazing--kind of like a strawberry smoothie with pineapples and coconut. Also, there was a dance festival this past weekend, and some of the volunteers and I went to it. It's amazing how much singing and dancing have an influence in the culture. It seems that essentially everyone knows the national dance, and everyone is more than willing to start it as soon as music turns on. A couple of other volunteers and I got a nice dance lesson in front of everyone by the dancers, but if nothing else, we made the Talibe children I was sitting with laugh like crazy :] One thing about the Senegalese is that if you try to embrace their culture and try things, they respect you and embrace you in return for it--it really makes them happy.
I guess that's all I will update with for now. I hope everyone reading this is doing well. Until next week!