Peace Corps year 1

index, month two

Plastic flip-flops repaired with string and duct tape to avoid the hassle of buying a new pair for $1 at the Tamba market: 1

Other PCVs’ sites visited: 3

Ratio of Alham rides where I was comfortable to rides where passengers were squeezed in like sardines (the standard seating arrangement): 1:3

Meals that the liter of vegetable oil and 800g of tomato paste I bring home every two weeks lasts for: 1

Baby chickens whose feet I’ve untangled from string, hair, etc: 3

Baby chicks who, after being accidentally stepped on, were miraculously healed by having a gourd placed over them and banged on with a stick: 1

Animals slaughtered in my village in as many days for Juulde, the Islamic “Feast of the Sacrifice”: 2

Cellphones which rang during the Juulde prayer service: 1

Hour of the morning that music was played until on Juulde: 3

Flashbacks to middle/high school parties: 1

Possible topics for my village conversations: 3

Ratio of instant coffee to water in the “coffee” sometimes made with breakfast in the village: 1:68

Ratio of instant coffee to sugar in said “coffee”: 1:10

(Ok, the miraculous chick cure deserves elaboration:)

When I visited Josh and Cory, one of their brothers made a lunge for a baby chick whose feet were tangled up in string. He caught the chick, but in the process stepped on one of its siblings, who lay on the ground kicking and chirping pitifully, unable to stand up.

He tried to right it a few times, but when it kept falling over one of the women brought out a small gourd bowl, which she put over the chick and then banged with a stick. We laughed, thinking, Oh great, not only have they crippled the poor thing, now they’re gonna deafen him, too. But damned if that baby chick didn’t wobble out from under the gourd after a few rounds of stick banging.

(As does Juulde:)

People had been preparing for Juulde (known in Wolof-speaking Senegal as Tabaski) for weeks—buying clothes, making jewelry, braiding hair, henna-ing feet. I think in a lot of ways it’s like Christmas, in that everybody gets together, gets dressed up, eats a lot, and gives presents: moms would go to Tamba and come back with new shoes, new jewelry, and new clothes for the kids.

On the day itself, last Friday, everyone was up early, sweeping the compound and primping. I went with some of the women to a neighboring village for morning prayers—naturally, we were running late, so they ran the last bit of the way before taking their places in the row of women behind the men, everyone lined up under a giant tree.

I sat a few yards away, behind everyone, and watched, taking the occasional picture. At one point three men, dressed in white, went to the front. They stood in a circle facing each other and put a piece of white cloth over their heads, then recited prayers aloud. The highlight of the whole event for me was when one of the three’s cellphone went off mid-prayer, and he handed it off to a guy in the front row, who stood and walked to the side of the group to answer it.

We returned, people continued to primp, a ram was slaughtered (I took pictures. There was lots of blood.), and lunch was served at 4pm. The meal was what is apparently the national holiday dish of Senegal (I had essentially the same thing in Thies for Ramadan): macaroni, tubers, meat, french bread, and oil.

After people ate, they bathed and then got dressed up again (most had changed clothes during the day) and went around in big groups from compound to compound with a boom box, talking and dancing.

Aaaand that continued until 3am.

The next day the girls kept all their jewelry on, a goat was killed for dinner, and people stayed up late again talking and listening to music. The middle/high school flashback came when I went into the hut and backyard where all the village kids had congregated. The older kids were inside the hut, sitting on Aissatu’s bed with a boom box, lit by one candle in the corner. The younger kids were clumped in the backyard around a competing boom box, the boys on a mat, the girls in little packs of giggling. It was so creepily reminiscent of far too many parties I’d been to that I only managed to stay a few minutes before I practically ran out of there—I just knew someone was about to bring out the clandestine cigarettes or bottle of Boone’s.

Pictures from the celebrations are up, with apologies for some mis-labelling, mis-rotation, and mis-ordering—IE won’t let me log in to fix things today.

4 replies on “index, month two”

yeah, goats are pretty awesome. especially when I’m eating them.

weather’s not ungodly hot yet, though I hear it’s headed that way in the next month or two. the jogging is chugging along—I’m slowly exploring (slowly being a key word there) the paths around my village.

Hey Claire,

I am trying to email you, but your email address keeps getting returned as undeliverable. So below is the email that I originally typed to you:

Hey Claire,

It is Bess. It is unreal to read your stories and imagine you ? or anyone – there. I really enjoy reading them, for if it weren?t for your stories, I would not know or realize that life moves on in different ways other than in the US ?my god, I am sheltered.

But anyway, I can?t think of a single question, for you are very descriptive and entertaining in your writings. Do all of your PCV have their own website? Is it as detailed as yours?

Keep up the good work and keep writing.

Is there anything that you would like for me to send you? I don?t know what you would need or want, but if you would like a book or a new cd or batteries ? or whatever. Food? I would not mind sending you a care package.

Take care,


Bess – Hey, good to hear from you. I’m kinda a website nerd as far as PCVs go, but like all PCVs I won’t say no to a care package with some granola or M&Ms 😉

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