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It’s strange how coming from the village to Thiès last week felt as much like moving between two separate worlds as coming from the US to Senegal did five months ago.

There are so many things you see in the city that you would never see in the village, and vice versa. In cities, you see tight pants on teenage girls, colored hair extensions, guys in awful tracksuits. In my village, women go topless, the girls braid their hair into mohawks, and the boys go out to herd the cows in virtual rags. Hour after hour of TV in Thiès versus conversation by the campfire in the village. The occasional round of tea versus a constant flow. Twenty-somethings who date around versus girls married (as second wives) by 15 or 16.

Hell, just the fact that there are fat people in the cities—big is still beautiful here, though that’s perhaps being Westernized out of the current generation of teenagers. On TV, on the street in Thiès, it’s clear that a big woman in a big boubou with a big headwrap, holding a big ol’ plate of food, is something a man would like to come home to. Yet I know maybe three or four tubby villagers. Basic nutrition, basic education, basic so many things are just entirely different.

So that’s the context for IST. Coming back to Thiès and thinking, “Whaaaaa?!”

Our field trip yesterday was fun, though—the Ags tagged along with the Agfos to the Monastere de Keur Moussa, a Catholic monastery that has extensive gardens and orchards. The monks grow grapefruits, oranges, kumquats, mangos, bananas, papayas, and assorted vegetables and make jam, cool artwork on cards, perfume, wooden statues and crosses, a West African instrument called a kora, recordings of kora music, and goat cheese! We were all very impressed, and the goat cheese was fantastic.

group shot

Additions to the IST album are here.

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