Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Back in Senegal

After a brief and refreshing visit to the US I'm back in Kedougou. Despite telling pretty much everyone I know that I was going to America for two weeks, a bunch of people in my village had no idea where I had been and just assumed I'd been napping in my hut this whole time. In any case I'm starting on a community garden project this week. Hopefully lead to people eating more vegetables, I'm sick of having nothing but rice for dinner. People seem very excited about the project, we're going to build a fence this Sunday and start digging beds shortly after that. I'll be sure to take some pictures.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Brush fires

We've been having brush fires around my village lately. The make me nervous but no one else seems too concerned. I took these pictures the night before last.

Bubakar and his cow

My host brother Bubakar asked me to show these pictures of him and one of his cows to my friends in the US, so, here they are.

Project Pictures

When we began most of the "faucets" looked like this; Broken off and plugged with a piece of wood or plastic
Clearing the broken bits out of the pipes to attach the new faucets was a challenge.
The only working tap needed to be tied up to be turned off.

Starting the fence

The Chief helping out

The new faucets
Taking a break

Digging holes for fence posts

All done

Me with most of the crew

The finished fence. To get inside you need to step on the rock and climb over the low part.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

First Update in a While, First Major Project, Pictures to Come

I finished my first major project last week. I took plenty of pictures which I'll post when I get a more stable internet connection, in the mean time I'll do my best to describe it. The primary water source for about a third of my village (myself included) is a large water tank which is filled by a gas-powered pump from an underground source. The tank feeds into a large horizontal pipe which has faucets on either side. The water is used for drinking, cooking and washing. Originally, the pipe had six faucets, unfortunately, cattle would occasionally bump into them and break them off. As of two weeks ago we were down to one semi-functioning tap. The handle needed to be tied down with string to turn the water off and when it ran only a trickle came out. The places where the taps had broken off were plugged with sticks and pieces of plastic. I purchased four new taps at the hardware store in Kedougou for about $16. I spoke with the village chief and arranged a work day on which men from around the village would come to install the new taps and build a fence to keep out the cows.
I was excited to get started until I suddenly awoke in the middle of the night before the work day and realized that I had never checked to make sure the taps were the right size. I picked up a tap and walked out to the pipe with my flashlight and discovered that although the taps fit, the broken pieces of metal stuck inside the pipes made it impossible to attach them. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep.
The next day we experimented with ways of removing the pieces from the pipes. After a few failed attempts we discovered that cutting the piece with a hacksaw blade and bashing it out with an improvised hammer and chisel made from old bicycle parts effectively opened up the pipe. I was certain that this method would destroy the threads but the new taps screwed in without much trouble. After a full day of work we now have four new taps (plus the broken one which the chief insisted on keeping in spite of the fact that he forbade anyone from using it) and a sturdy fence of wood and bamboo.
I currently have some project in the works at the school. I'll post details as they materialize and photos as my internet connection allows.

Friday, August 24, 2012


I finally have an Internet connection good enough to upload images, I took these pictures with my new camera over the last few weeks. The people in my village, with one exception, love to have their pictures taken. For some reason a lot of people prefer to look serious in photos, this is unusual because they're always smiling when they're not in front of a camera. These pictures are in no particular order.For some reason all of the pictures are horizontal even though I flipped them in the proper position before uploading them. I try to fix this in the future, but in the mean time you'll have to deal with sideways pictures, sorry.

Corn is the main crop in my village

The roof of my hut from the inside



Buba holding a machete and a coconut

Habi, my host mother, and little Habi, who hates having her picture taken 

Girls braiding their hair

My host brother Bubakar in front of my hut


Inside my hut. The silver thing is my water filter. On the wall I have a world map and a map of Paris.

Husay with a gourd bowl

Sajo running our community's grain grinder

I forget this kid's name


Usman, He looks so sad in this picture but was smiling and laughing immediately before and after it was taken

My host father, the village chief Mamadu Djallo and little Habi who still won't look at the camera. 

Usman, Lama and Buba

This kid stopped me on my way to my hut and asked me to take his picture. For some reason he decided to pose with a broken gourd bowl around his waist .

A compound seen from the road. 

Our school, it has two classrooms, the teachers live in the nearby huts during the school year.

A mural on the wall of the school

This road runs through the middle of my village. 

The nearest health post 

Our mosque
These guys aren't from my village. They spotted my camera and asked me to take their picture.
My "bathroom"

The view from my front yard
Old men on Korite. 
My bike in my backyard, the plants on the right are hibiscus

Ladies on Korite, the women in the center is my counterpart Lamarana.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Happy Ramadan!

     It's Ramadan now and my entire village eats and drinks nothing between sunrise and sunset. The vibe is noticeably different, by the mid afternoon everyone is exhausted and just rests until sunset. I've been using this time to listen to the Olympics on my short wave radio. As I said earlier, I wasn't planning on fasting and stocked up on food to sustain me during the day. Unfortunately what I thought was a 2 week food supply lasted about three days, I spent most of my time in village eating nothing during the day. Fasting actually isn't as difficult as I thought it would be, still, I plan on hitting the market before I go back to my site this evening.
     A few weeks ago I attended a wedding in my village. Like the baptism, I didn't see anything resembling a ceremony, I wasn't even sure who the bride and groom were. I went to the wedding with the chief of my village. When we arrived at the compound I began to head over to one corner where there were musicians playing and a lively crowd, the chief stopped me and invited me to sit with him and a group on the opposite end of the compound. I spent the evening practicing my Pular with old men while they argued about local politics and chewed kola nuts. When the food bowl came I was excited, an animal is typically slaughtered at these events and I hadn't eaten meat in weeks. When the cover was removed from the bowl I recoiled when I saw a sheep's head, skin and hair intact, sitting on top of the rice. I ate rice from the bowl, trying not to look at the head, when one of the men peeled the skin off and began distributing bits of tongue, brain and eyeball around the bowl. At this point I said I was full.