July 13, 2009
So, two weeks from today I will be leaving St-Louis and heading to Dakar with two other volunteers for two days before my flight (the plans are still up in the air, but we might be visiting le Lac Rose--a pink salt lake-- and the Ile de Gore, which is the last point where the boats stopped before sending slaves to America). Hopefully we'll be able to visit our host mum's daughter in Dakar also.
Touba, the grand mosque that I said I was going to visit on July 5th, was amazing. I'll just kind of summarize the day and what I saw and experienced there. It was just a group of 7 other volunteers and we met really early at the patisserie in town to get into an air conditioned van (you have no idea how nice that was....) and take the two and a half hour trip to Touba. There were actually trees and some grass-like plants along the way, so it made for a really beautiful drive. One of the volunteer's host dad was our guide, and we stopped at his sister's house for breakfast to have cafe touba and some sweet bread. It was really strange and awkward when he introduced us to his sister because he was laughing and he said "she is his third wife". We didn't know if we were supposed to laugh or not...so we just did that awkward hehe...mumble kind of laugh and smiled and said hi. She didn't seem to happy being introduced as someone's third wife, but it is part of their culture, so it was probably just some kind of cultural misinterpretation on our part.
Then we took the van to Touba and before getting out of the van, we had to completely wrap our bodies in shawls (to the wrists, ankles, and everything but the face) and leave our shoes outside. It wasn't even a hot day, but just since no breeze could get to our necks or head, it was brutally hot. The guys, of course, felt just fine being able to have their heads and necks exposed. We weren't allowed inside the actual room where Cheikh Amadou Bamba was buried, but we did get to go inside most of the places, as well as visit the library where all of Cheikh Amadou Bamba's works are kept. Apparently this was a big deal because Toubabs (westerners) aren't generally allowed inside this library, but our guide, Moustafa, is really respected in Touba and the head Marabout at Touba really appreciates the work that Projects Abroad does for the exploited Talibe children, so ultimately it was pretty cool to get to see it.
Then we went back to Moustafa's sister's house for lunch. Let me just say it was by far the best food I've had in Senegal. It was so nice of them to prepare such a massive meal--you should've seen the gigantic platter that was brought out to us. The platter itself was the size of a small coffee table. It was some kind of rice that reminded me of rice-a-roni, chicken, grilled vegetables, grapes, raisins, fried eggs, tons of peppers, olives, limes, etc. After sitting around for about 2 hours drinking our rounds of Senegalese tea, we left to come back home. On the way, we stopped at an enormous baobob tree to take pictures and climb. Definitely a good time. I've always wanted to see a baobob up close, and this was a great one--you could actually climb inside of it.
This past weekend some volunteers and I got to take the little kids we work with during the week to the beach on the peninsula. The most interesting part was that the kids weren't even allowed to go into the ocean due to some of families' religious beliefs in a spirit that is in the ocean, and it is necessary to give coins or milk to the ocean before going into it. Either way, the kids had a great time just laying around, picnicing, and playing games like frisbee and soccer. Also, later in the weekend, some volunteers went out to the peninsula (the hydrobase) to stay at a really nice hotel/bungalows with a pool. The best part about it? It was the first time in six weeks that I've gotten to sleep in air conditioning. Then we got to lay around the following day in the sun and swim in the pool. It's really sad to see such a contrast between these nice hotels and the way the rest of the Senegalese live, but sometimes the get-away is just really nice. I feel bad saying that, but I'm still so happy that I live on the mainland with the family.
This week will be the last week of track for the kids, so I'm kind of sad, but it's been a great experience to have as a side project here. I also got to eat at the head coach's house for lunch one day with his family, which was definitely really nice. I spent a couple hours sitting outside the house with his wife and his baby daughter talking about the role of women in relation to marriage, housework, and sports. She herself was a track runner (she did everything, but the 400 was her specialty) up until she got married to Seydou and had children. It was a really interesting conversation, and it was nice to spend the afternoon there.
Anyway, this weekend I will be heading down to Lampool to visit the desert, some local villages and farms, and to go for a camel ride. Should be pretty fun.
Until next time!