Thursday, June 14, 2012

This is a project I am starting to work with for girls education in Senegal. I will write up something more detailed within a week or so.

Un 1 Benn, Deux 2 Naar, Trois 3 Neet…

Un 1 Benn, Deux 2 Naar, Trois 3 Neet… She poked her head into my room (cottager as I like to think of it), I urged her to come in and she shyly did so with a sweet smile, teeth missing. Curiosity overcame shyness and she began asking me about the different things in my room, she then began showing how high she could count to in French. Shortly there after Mama Awa (as I have started calling) informed me that this little girl was in fact new to the village in search of an education, She is one of 10 children who are refused education by their father. She was sent here by her mother to live with family in order to begin going to school. Ando so begins the tale of N’dieme, 7 or 8 (she doesn’t know her age), She diligently comes over everyday after lunch and says “Jang” (learn). Her desire to learn is both heart breaking and inspiring. At times the slow process is frustrating; many times I have to remind myself how old she is, her situation, etc. talking myself off of the ledge of anger and frustration with a little girl who struggles with the difference between 1, 2, 3 and the relationship between 1 Un, 2 Deux, 3 Trois. Although slow, progress has indeed been made. Daily we practice with flash cards going in and out of order, I have explained to her that it is ok to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember”; I have taken her success as my success (perhaps this is the source of most of my frustration, I should probably just allow her success to be her own.) I am eager to get her up to speed with other children starting the school year in October, perhaps just as eager as I am to showing others around that it is indeed possible to teach without hitting, screaming or shaming a child because they do not know the answer. I am determined to show people that education is possible without corporal punishment or shame. Again progress has been slow, but it is progress none the less. After days of tracing over what seemed like ab endless amount of dotted 1, 2 and 3’s, she finally overcame her biggest hurdle the evil 2. I cannot explain the feeling I had when she finally wrote the #2, I was so proud of her I thought I was going to cry and then I looked into her eyes and saw how proud she was of herself, it was beautiful. That night we continued passed dark and continued studying by candle light, her thirst for knowledge had been amplified by her success. We have now moved on to learning 4,5,6 and armed with the image of her proudly showing me her 2, the most wonderful 2 I have ever seen, I will continue the slow, frustrating yet wonderful process of teaching N’dieme.

Duma Toubab, Awa laa tudd…

**** This was written about a week after arriving at my site, so nearly a month ago, I can't believe it has been so long!*** Duma Toubab, Awa laa tudd… Yesterday at around 5:30pm a town meeting took place to introduce the most recent addition to the village, a toubab by the name of Awa Sy, in other words, me. I was worried about the meeting because as most who have interacted with me in Wolof know, my knowledge of the language is limited, which of course they make a point of reminding me of by saying “Deggul Wolof” (She doesn’t understand Wolof), this I actually do understand. The meeting started as all meeting should begin according to tradition, in prayer. Everyone lowered their heads and held their hands in front of their faces. Once the prayer was complete, one of my counterparts Moussa Thiam did a wonderful job of explaining what the Peace Corps is, when it began and when we started working in Senegal. He discussed the importance of working with me, including me in the community (not calling me a Toubab etc.) I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome of the meeting when I arrived home and overheard my neighbor form the compound across the road scolding some children for calling me a toubab (I term I do not find offensive at all, just a little annoying. With that said I would be annoyed by anything being repeated over and over and over again every time I walk by.) * Side Note: They are children and simply want your attention, if they don’t know your name the only way to get your attention is by calling you the only thing that differentiates you from others. Toubab (Foreigner). I cannot disagree with their choice of words because as much as I would like to hide it, I am indeed a Toubab. I am both excited and scared about the next 2 years. My biggest fear is that the community expects me to do great things or as one man in the meeting said “ You are here to build the foundation for many things to come.” I hope I am capable of doing so. Sustainable development comes with time, patience, hard work and above all respect for the community and it’s culture. Above all I wanted the people of Louly Ndia to understand that I did not come here to change the essence of who they are or what they believe in, nor am I here to plaster the American flag on every completed project. I am here to empower the people to do the things I know they are capable of doing themselves. As much as we come here to a make a difference, I think it is equally important to learn from the people without looking down on them simply because we come from a more developed place. One of the things I admire the most about the Senegalese people is their ability to live side by side with people of different religions and ethnic backgrounds. In my village alone as was clearly demonstrated in the meeting yesterday as both Catholics and Muslims lowered their heads and prayed together. The crowd was made up of Pulaars, Sereers, Jolas and Wolofs, all sitting together, teasing each other, laughing, and working together in order to improve their community. The western world has a lot to learn from that small town meeting, the ability to embrace their differences rather than tip toe around them and pretend they don’t exist ultimately creating a greater divide. Alas, I am indeed a Toubab but I am learning to be more Senegalese.

Hello Darkness my old friend...

***This is an old journal entry I though I would share with everyone since I haven't been writing anything on my blog. I have a couple of old posts I will add.*** Hello Darkness my old friend… The idea of boredom differs from cases to case, culture to culture. The calm of village life is really hitting me today. I’m desperate to learn the language so I can do the only thing available to do for entertainment. Talk. Since I can’t talk I don’t have anything to do. I have tried to help but I am still being treated like a guest since I has only been 4 days since I arrived. I appreciate their kindness and generosity but I need to do something. In the western world we are bombarded with constant entertainment because god forbid someone be bored or actually have time to think. It brings me to the conclusion that we are over saturating our brains with mindless (most of the time) entertainment in order to avoid looking at the bigger picture or the actual problems we face on a day-to-day basis. If I were back in the United States right now I would be laying in bed watching TV with my computer on my lap watching another show on my computer in order to pass the time in between commercials because god forbid I was not entertainment for those 5 min. We have even made our commercials a small form of entertainment, becoming a vital part of the super bowl every year. I would also have my phone within arm distance planning the afternoon outing, which at the time I was in Houston was Royal Oaks (I’m not sure if that’s the place to go anymore) for Sunday-Funday drinks and music. If that was “boring” we had endless possibilities to choose from. Fast forward nearly 3 months and I am sitting on a purple, orange and green flowered mattress on the floor of my hut (My bed frame, table and chair are currently under construction) in a village in West Africa sweating profusely although this is far from being as hot as it gets I am told. I have no electricity and my only sources of semi-entertainment, my phone, my iPhone, my computer and my iPod are ALL running low on battery. Which brings me back to my initial question, at what point in society did we forget how to appreciate silence. Or unaltered fun (No electricity, drugs or alcohol included) Although, I am fairly confident in my ability to socialize and hold a conversation with just about anyone/anything (depending on my state of mind); I have started questioning my ability to do so since arriving to this village. It has only been 4 days and I keep on telling myself to suck it up, and my rational self knows it will get better. The language will get better and I will get used to the silence (The Sound of Silence, just started playing on my iPod- the universe is mocking me) And so I begin speaking to my only friend at the moment… “Hello Darkness my old friend… I’ve come to talk with you again” which is then interrupted by the sound of donkeys whaling in the background.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Louly Ndia!

I am now living in Senegal and very excited to be here. I have a bunch of old posts that I have been writing in my journal and I have been meaning to type them all up and post them but I keep on putting it off (for those of you who know me this is a very common.) I promise I will get this done at some point but I don't have electricity or internet so it is kind of a challenge. I am doing well and loving my life here so far although challenging. I posted my new address and would love a letter or a package :) I will post my wish list next time I am in town. Peace!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I have been waiting for more information from Peace Corps for a while now, but yesterday I finally received an email and my ticket confirmation. I will be arriving to Washington on March 4th and departing to Senegal on March 6th!! I have not been writing anything particularly interesting since I began this blog (and this post is not any different). As I have said before, I do not have any previous experience with blog writing so the whole idea of having my thoughts on the world wide web is quite nerve racking, especially since my major in college was journalism I feel as though I'm expected to write properly and unfortunately this is not the case so please bear with me throughout this process!! With that said, I wanted to let anyone in the PC Senegal 2012 group to know that we have a group on Facebook which has become pretty helpful for me, look us up! I look forward to meeting all of you! I am very excited to start this new chapter in my life and hope to have interesting stories to write on my blog once I get to Senegal.

Peace- Cristina

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Inspiring blog...

This former PCV has a lot to teach all of us about life, moving forward, and provides important information regarding HIV/AIDs. She is very strong and a true inspiration.