Four-Month Plan

15 September 2013

On my bike ride from Dabo to Fode Bayo, the last leg of my return trip from Linguere, the edge of the desert in North-Central Senegal, I was thinking about the work lying before me at site.  I went to Linguere for the last of the four SusAg summits of my service.  The meeting was productive in terms of sharing feedback for the program and, I hope, for passing knowledge on to the first year PCVs.  Mostly, though, it was productive in realizing the strength of the friendships we’ve formed; that we, the SusAgs, are of one kind, serious and passionate about work and prone to relish in humor and conversation at the bar.  But this is not what I was thinking about on my bike ride.

What I was thinking about was another symptom of suffering lasts.  For the past two years I’ve planned my life in four-month chunks.  As one month past, I’d look to the next four.  September had just started but there was no December to plan for.  My last four-month plan was my last.  I have vague ideas about what December will hold, being with family, visiting friends, applying to graduate school; but these things have nothing to do with my bike ride to Fode Bayo.

Women from my educational group using their number recognition skills to measure out SRI demonstration plots.

Women from my educational group using their number recognition skills to measure out SRI demonstration plots.

Celebrating the end of a day's work.  They have a song for every task and make my work so much fun.

Celebrating the end of a day’s work. They have a song for every task and make my work so much fun.

What my last three months hold are merely follow-through on the preceding three months, which were a response to the rest of my service.  As you may remember, last year I did a demonstration of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI).  In May I was invited, with two other Senegal PCVs, Lorraine and Luke, and one of our Senegalese technical trainers, Youssoupha, to attend a training of trainers for SRI extension sponsored by the West Africa Food Security Partnership and SRI-Rice in Ouémé, Benin.  We stayed at a lush farm in this tropical region of Benin, where rainy season had already started and whose exemplary use of permaculture and organic practices served as inspiration beyond SRI.  The locally owned farm was a perfect environment to learn the global history and implications of SRI and how to adopt the system best to the environments we work in.  Before leaving the training, I’d arranged with eight women who I’ve been holding classes with on gardening and numeracy since October 2012 to do SRI demonstrations this rainy season.  In Benin I planned variations on SRI we could test in Fode Bayo to find the optimal application for our rice culture.  When we returned to Senegal, Lorraine, Luke and I presented what we’d learned at the conference at the pre-rainy season SusAg summit and then returned to site ready to start implementation.  In June my Master Farmer, Gano, and I hosted an SRI training led by Youssoupha and his Mandinka-speaking counterpart, Arfang, to introduce SRI to other rice farmers in the surrounding area and to ensure my women understood the concepts well.  Soon after my women and I got to work measuring plots, hoeing soil, then seeding and weeding.  Each woman is maintaining three plots, one traditional technique plot, one with SRI direct seeded (an adaptation to our direct seeding, not transplanting rice culture), and one other variation on SRI.  Getting around to the second weedings has been tough, because women work fields larger than they can manage well and I have not wanted to push sacrificing other rice, other food for our test plots.  Now, as of a meeting two days ago, we are getting these plots weeded to be able to present them to the village and other farmers at an open field day in October.

Seyni and his sorghum demonstration field.

Seyni and his sorghum demonstration field.

My other major rainy season project is rooted in last year’s open field day, where my boss, Massaly, led a group on a tour of fields where I’d noticed particular problems or successes.  A few months after that I asked Massaly back to Fode Bayo for a PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action), a means to help communities determine their own development goals.  During this two-day meeting, attended by community members representing all demographics in village, the men stated one of their priorities was to learn about sustainable (direct translation: a way that does not end) methods for improving their agriculture.  Thus in January, I began meeting once a month with four men to discuss principles of sustainable agriculture, including compost, alley cropping, earthworks and minimal tillage.  Three of the four men made compost piles and therefore graduated to the step of creating conservation farming demonstrations.  The afternoon of the same day we held the SRI training at the Master Farm, Youssoupha led a conversation about conservation farming and we demonstrated the use of the rip-tiller extended by PC/Senegal.  Each of the three men are now maintaining demonstrations comparing corn or sorghum fields farmed using their current practices and rip tillage, amended with compost and mulched.  At this point all that i left to do for this project is monitoring and evaluation.

I am also visiting the Master Farm and other farmers to whom I extended improve variety seed.  I am working on repairing the main well in village where a non-functioning pump has been siting un-used and un-fixable for year, as a thank you to village for 100% participation in the community monetary contribution to repair the school water pump through USAID/PEPAM.  I am writing my Description of Service (DOS) and Close of Service (COS) reports.  I am spending days weeding in the rice fields.  I am going for long walks with Nacho in the woods.  The act of planning is on hold for now and I am working on that yoga tenet of presence, instead of my well-worn moleskin planner, to keep me going forward from here.

One rice plant with plenty of room to grow big and beautiful.

One rice plant with plenty of room to grow big and beautiful.

Namaste,

MaryCad.

Favorite Things, Fode Bayo edition

9 June 2013

Lilies that emerge from the ground with the rains.

Lilies that emerge from the ground with the rains.

 

 

I should write this down while it lasts.  It rained the night before last and last night, my first night back from vacation and COS conference.  This means the dry hot of hot season I giving way to rainy season.  Rainy season is refreshing and exciting because you can count on a rain most days.  As for now, we have the hot of hot season mixed with the humidity of rainy season without the relief.  Heat rash is running rampant.  It’s the time of year development people call “hunger season” when the gardens are finished and we’re running low on last year’s grains. The amount of food in the bowl has decreased at lunch and dinner.  And to add to it, we are talking about preparing to fast for Ramadan.

This does not sound like an appealing time of year, but it is.  Field work is just beginning and everyone is excited for a fresh start.  A thin carpet of lime green, new grass covers the fields.  There are ripe mangoes and kaba (sour sop), and a few cashew apples left over.  It reminds me of the first days of spring.

I’m glad this hellish humidity is what I came back to.  It let me love all the things I love about Fodé Bayo despite the weather.  Glaring out, a clear spot in the humid haze, was this list of things I love:

1)    I woke up with the sun (before the day’s heat is up).

2)    I was able to run and do yoga in one day.

3)    During the break time in the middle of the day I read and talked with friends.

4)    I gave my host brother batteries as a gift from the US and he brought forest-sourced honey.

5)    I ate five fresh fruits and vegies from the gardens and trees around my village.

Getting to work!  Building a check dam with my host brothers to protect their corn field from a slowly growing erosion channel.

Getting to work! Building a check dam with my host brothers to protect their corn field from a slowly growing erosion channel.

6)    I held a 1-day-old baby today.

7)    I got my hands dirty.

8)    I taught someone something.

9)    I learned something.

10) I made a new friend.

11) I was challenged to speak four languages in one day.

12) I got to play with my dog.

13) I showered outside.

14) I hugged friends.

15) I laughed.

I know that these things fade with long days in the heat and frustrations with work partners, but I’m glad my first day back from home reminded me why I also call this place home and these people family.

Love to both my families,

MaryCad.

Went Looking for Perspective

6 June 2013

My parents beautiful garden in Fredericksburg, VA.

My parents beautiful garden in Fredericksburg, VA.

On the way back to Fodé Bayo after a two-and-a-half-week vacation in the U.S. and Close of Service (COS) conference, I am full of thoughts about moving forward.  going home made me realize I’d missed it more than I knew.  Seeing two young cousins that had grown taller than me, one who wouldn’t stop hugging me, meeting a precious toddler, and seeing how happy my Uncle was to dote on her.  Recalling the community my parents have created for themselves; they have friends who exchange rockfish for fresh vegies and a painter who brings salt fish just to repay ordinary kindness.  A lot of volunteers are amazed by the neighborly responsibility exemplified in Senegalese villages.  I am thankful for that (especially after hostile interactions in public transportation), but it is not novel to me.  A friend came to visit while I was home and he was shocked by the number of people I stopped to say hello to on the street or who came by the house to visit before I left.    I look forward to building a life and a community myself.

My first step will be applying to graduate school.  At COS conference we had very productive professional development sessions.  One of the things we worked on was how to sell our Peace Corps experience in resumes, interviews and elevator pitches.  I am starting to work on explaining my work here in a letter of intent for landscape architecture school.  A friend gave me the advice to show persistence in the story that I tell.  Persistence?  I have that covered.  As a PCV, I know that anyone who completes their service exemplifies persistence.  But how do I express that to an admissions committee?

I could look through my calendar and count the number of times I visited Gano with the same to-do list: “compost, neem solution, weed rice demo.”  I could talk about the number of meetings I called to weed the live fence in the women’s garden last rainy season.  Or perhaps just describe the amount of work I put in to learning a language I’d never heard of until the day of my first class.  But these solitary acts are nothing compared to the larger picture of what I do every day in Senegal, I set an example.

I am an example of who Americans are, of who Peace Corps and any other foreign development agent is.  I keep my garden in a specific way to serve as an example.  I built a chicken coop as an example.  I learned how to farm rice as an example.  I don’t hit children or dogs.  I stand up to men when they are rude or abusive to their wives.  I tell my many suitors, not that they are ugly or I am married, but that I don’t want to marry them because I am working.  I put on a cheerful face and share positive experiences with wide-eyed new volunteers.  When projects fail in village, I commiserate, then put on a smile and say we better keep trying.

I have persistently upheld a lifestyle that is for the benefit of others.  I am tired, but I’d do it again.  I am ready to come back to the U.S., but I am ready for another challenge.  I don’t know if I’ll come back to this kind of work, but this work, this way of living, will always effect what I do.

Delicacy Virginia style.  Fresh salad with all but the strawberries from our garden.

Delicacy Virginia style. Fresh salad with all but the strawberries from our garden.

Delicacy Fode Bayo-style.  Monitor lizard delivered to my hut at 8am because I missed when they cooked it up the night before.

Delicacy Fode Bayo-style. Monitor lizard delivered to my hut at 8am because I missed when they cooked it up the night before.

Love you and see you soon,

MaryCad.

Saabari

7 April 2013

Diara Kondjira with her toddler, Tidda, and looking after her nephew, Mama Lamine.

Diara Kondjira with her toddler, Tidda, and looking after her nephew, Mama Lamine.

Jaabou Tourre

Jaabou Tourre

Last night one of my host mothers, Diara, was cutting a piece of mosquito netting into segments for the women of the house to use as wash clothes.  I’ll leave the improper use of mosquito nets to the health volunteers–the fabric was chosen for its rough texture, good for scrubbing.  Diara was cutting pieces and handing them out as she went.  When she finished she looked over at me and said with a laugh “I didn’t get one!”  If food were the scarcity I think a Mandinka woman would respond with the same tendency towards humor.  In fact, Jaabou Tourré, an incessant jokster, regular tells me no one gave her lunch or dinner with a grin and giggle ready to go when I tease her about how thin it’s making her.  Jaabou is not under-fed, but is thin from years of working in the rice fields and garden, caring for countless children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  I have seen women rip a strip of clothe from their skirt to wrap a child’s cut, literally sacrificing the clothes from their back.

Mandinkas interpret the Koran as saying a husband holds his wife’s key to heaven.  This means the wife must follow her husband’s demands, in essence slaving for a man (not Allah) in this life to make it into the next.  And somehow this excuses men from doing their share.  The men say they do the same (if not more) work than their wives, but I rarely see a woman sitting idle.  If she has found time to sit, she is cracking peanuts for dinner or tending to the needs of children clambering around her; meanwhile her husband is in the middle of village playing checkers, drinking tea, chatting with friends, and shooing their children back towards the women’s area when they become to needy.

Nembaley Tourre, saving seeds from bissap flowers and watching her granddaughter, Neema.

Nembaley Tourre, saving seeds from bissap flowers and watching her granddaughter, Neema.

My host father, Idrissa Dandio, playing wurro, a mankala-like game with a friend.

My host father, Idrissa Dandio, playing wurro, a mankala-like game with a friend.

I have noticed that funerals rally more women than any other social event and I have a theory (based on my observations alone) that funerals are the most well-founded reason women have for a day off.  Weddings and baptisms, while significant cultural events and much more prominent in other areas of Senegal, seem to be less essential milestones in Mandinka culture.  In the twenty months I’ve been in Fodé Bayo there has been one wedding ceremony and only intimate naming ceremonies when children are born.  Women, however, more than men flock to the traditional funeral events, including the burial within twelve hours of death, prayers said at a week, forty and 100 days after death.  Generally, they will say it is their “father” or other relative who has died, but that often means the father of their half sibling’s cousin.  Guests are highly regarded; no matter their status in their own villages guests are given the best food, not expected to help work unless they volunteer, and can request whatever they wish from their host.  I have seen women visit my village and order around my host brothers, 40-year old men.  These two observations attest to the extensive kinship valued in Senegal and a respectful culture, but also might hint at an injured value system if one sex in particular uses funerals as an escape, an opportunity to leave their villages, where they can socialize and relax as a guest.

A cow looking for water at the village well.

A cow looking for water at the village well.

Three times since the rains stopped, when the women take on watering vegetable beds instead of weeding rice fields, the garden I share with Fanta has been broken into and nearly destroyed by cows.  Two days ago the same thing happened to my host-mother, Aminta.  That very morning I’d peeked over her fence and complimented her on how pretty her garden was looking.  She told me she intended to sell the okra, bissap, and broad leaf Amaranth at the lummo market the next day.  When both Fanta and Aminta had their gardens raided by under-fed cattle, they did not curse as I would have; instead they prayed, endless blessings rattling off their tongues.  I heard the word for cows in several of these blessings and was not sure if they were invoked sarcastically or with genuine hope for the well-being.  I do know that Fanta believes “its is not a problem with the cows, but a problem with people” but you ask the men, she says, and it’s up to Allah.  So Allah is punishing them despite their hard work while their husbands pat them on the back (metaphorically, of course) and tell them to keep on keeping on.  I tell them to stand up, ask whose cows they are, demand compensation.  So far, Allah speaks louder.

I’ve talked many people’s ears off about the importance of animal husbandry and all the ways in which it could improve the Senegalese agricultural and cultural system.  With just a little extra input as they adjust the routines of providing water and food to their cows, they could have healthier animals, more readily available manure for their fields and gardens and protection for the crops they live by.  But what use is it and how can we improve animal husbandry when the system of human husbandry is out of balance?

Fanta Kante, dancing up a storm.  (Side note: she came over to my compound without her drag clothes on and thus asked to borrow some of my pants to dress like a man.  Under that flowing skirt are my work pants.)

Fanta Kante, dancing up a storm. (Side note: she came over to my compound without her drag clothes on and thus asked to borrow some of my pants to dress like a man. Under that flowing skirt are my work pants.)

At this point I hope that my battering reminders will kick in a few years down the road and someone will experiment with fencing in and feeding animals regularly.  Perhaps this will be a project I can encourage my replacement to work on.  It’s a hard place to be: committed in thought and word to a life I will not be a part of in six months, not having time to put the action behind my thought and word.  The people of Fode Bayo, their treatment of women and livestock, their access to food, will likely never leave my thoughts even as I begin to realize I will have to leave the home they’ve made for me.  And a big part of this is due to the fun they find no matter their condition in life.  Occasionally, at night or when an important guest comes to town, the women cross-dress and have a dance party.  They cheer each other on, challenge friends to a dance off, and respect old women, who step into the circle to show they can still get down, worn but never defeated.

Much love,

MaryCad., cow-curser, woman-whisperer

A Letter

12 February 2013

koldaWAISTdadhairI just received a letter written over a year ago.  Postal service is not reliable here.  I never received a much anticipated care package from friends down under.  But this is just talk.  The PC medical office was holding on to this letter.  After a mental health session during Pre-Service Training, anecdotes in the letter date it to October 2012, we were told to write letters to ourselves.  They provided a questionnaire and I recall sitting in the Disco Hut at the Thies Training Center, thinking in earnest about my purpose in joining the PC, my goals for my service.  So far I believe I have made at least one positive change in my community—my host mom is on birth control after having seven children, I introduced improved variety seed and taught farmers techniques for crop maturation and storage, and have three work partners making compost.  These are achievements.  And I don’t think I’ve over-stepped my bounds as a volunteer or as a foreigner.  I’ve had discussions about domestic violence, early marriage, female genital cutting, and family planning with female and male family and friends.  All have been constructive, intelligent conversations with questions about cultural  differences and known information posed by both parties.  And I certainly know more about myself.  I’ve learned I am strong, if I can keep my mind off weaknesses.  I am strong, if I enjoy my work and don’t stop doing.  I like to draw and create and plan.  I like to get dirty working and playing outside with my dog and friends.

31 December 2012: Mom and brother eat home-grown rice for breakfast.  Fanta made it into the turro, a delicious peanut-rice porridge.

31 December 2012: Mom and brother eat home-grown rice for breakfast. Fanta made it into the turro, a delicious peanut-rice porridge.

My coping mechanisms are the same.  I run or do yoga.  I escape into a book or music.  And when I need to, I cry, eat and fall asleep.  Something I didn’t mention in my letter a year ago was that I also talk to friend and family to work out my mental anguish of all sizes and sorts.  That circle of people has grown, as it almost always does, over the year; but the magnitude and strength of its growth has been surprising and joyful this year.  PCVs and Senegalese alike have supplied me with a support structure I imagined I’d be without when I set off to live in a village in the African bush.  Support from home has been unwavering, although volunteers often complain about loved ones in the U.S. not “getting it,” you all have gotten it or at lease well enough to be of tremendous support.  And every member of my immediate family has come to visit to understand better.  I continue to be grateful for the supportive community that sent me over here with love and keeping adding names to the list of thanks.

The questionnaire asked me to remark on something happening in my life at that moment that I’d want to remember, or laugh about.  I was surprised by my answer.  A flirtation was budding then, and now after enjoying 8 months of companionship, enduring bad phone reception for long talks about agriculture and life and then a break up with the person who had become my closest confident in country, I’m glad to know I found amusement in its prospect.

Coincidentally, it was the trying conversations where he and I were moving to be friends that revealed a change in myself as I’d wished to find, according to this letter.  He said he knew I would act according to what I knew was right for me.  This new found confidence in my actions and words was something he took for granted in my personality but is something I know has grown within me.  I have long been stubborn and opinionated, perhaps confident from an outsider’s perspectives, however this feeling of being sure is new.  It is not studied, but a resultant of studying more deeply myself and my interests, which are flourishing into an array of things I had hardly considered previously—West African languages, subsistence agriculture, and landscape architecture.

ruthcowtoomasirinI mention several times in my letter a desire to know what is next for me.  My friend, Sharon noted the other day that on our first life chat in my hut circa December 2012, I had shoulder-length curly hair and was contemplating using my MCAT scores for good and applying to medical school, and now I’ve cut my hair so short it’d be impossible to guess it curls and I want to design gardens for a living.  I have figured somethings out—this does not preclude growing my hair out.  The only thing left to decide at the moment is to extend my work here for another year—give Senegal a little more time to work its tough love on me and to help new PCVs flourish by assisting in their training—or to go home, embrace the creature comforts of the developed world and get on with my dream to get Americans thinking about their need for subsistence agriculture and what it means in our country.  It’s a toss up at the moment.  Surely, if I read this a year from now my queries will have changed and I can find comfort in knowing there will always be a concern to resolve and a friend to make.  For now I will do as I told myself to and “take a deep breath” knowing that with change there will be consistency and in observing the change I will discover more truths about myself and the world.

Love,

MaryCad.

Feed The Future

Obama’s global food security initiative is called “Feed the Future.”  Senegal is one of the participating countries and Peace Corps is one of the recipients of funding through our food security initiative.  Pretty much all of my work is directly related to food security, but none more than this:  I planted a field of rice.

As agriculture extension agents, PCVs extend improved variety field crops developed by ISRA (L’Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles).  This is a way for us to get seed with better pest resistance, shorter maturation periods, fuller grains, etc. into our communities and to develop relationships with farmers so that we can extend improved farming techniques as well.  I wasn’t expecting to use any of the seed myself, but when I returned to site after a short trip to the regional capitol one time I was told I had a field.  This was after six months of refusing.  “No, no, I’ll be helping you with your fields.  I can’t have my own” was apparently translates to “I want work my own rice field, because I am a woman in this community and that’s what women do when the rains come.”  My only response at this point could be “Okay, but don’t think for a second I’m not going to try to teach you something with this field.”  Thus was born my SRI (System of Rice Intensification) demonstration.

SRI is an improved method of rice farming originally developed for irrigated fields, but easily adaptable to seasonal flood planes like the faroo (seasonal river) in F.B.  Below is a photo essay of how my first farming season went.

 

The most Senegalese coffee I will ever make.  Traditionally, a woman would stay home to make breakfast to bring out to a dawn work crew helping prepare her field.  I let them come later for milky sweet coffee and bread, as long as I got to teach them a thing or two.

The most Senegalese coffee I will ever make. Traditionally, a woman would stay home to make breakfast to bring out to a dawn work crew helping prepare her field. I let them come later for milky sweet coffee and bread, as long as I got to teach them a thing or two.

All in good humor: the women of Fode Bayo know how to find joy in even the most strenuous labor.

All in good humor: the women of Fode Bayo know how to find joy in even the most strenuous labor.

Now that we've visualized the spacing with rope, let's throw a dance party and sing a song.  Yes, that's where the joy comes from.

Now that we’ve visualized the spacing with rope, let’s throw a dance party and sing a song. Yes, that’s where the joy comes from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 July 2012: NERICA (New RICe for Africa) ready to be seeded in neat 25x25cm spacing.

16 July 2012: NERICA (New RICe for Africa) ready to be seeded in neat 25x25cm spacing.

27 July 2012: Thinning to one plant per space.  What a perfect transplant, energy pack included.

27 July 2012: Thinning to one plant per space. What a perfect transplant, energy pack included.

A little plot of order amongst broad-casted rice for miles around.

A little plot of order amongst broad-casted rice for miles around.

30 July 2012:  Scarecrow installed.  Or should I say Scareweaver.  Weaver birds love to suck the juice out of growing rice.  Another method employed is stringing cassette tape around the field.

30 July 2012: Scarecrow installed. Or should I say Scareweaver. Weaver birds love to suck the juice out of growing rice. Another method employed is stringing cassette tape around the field.

Check out that tillering!  I counted thirty-two tillers on my largest plant.  The average for most rice fields in Fode Bayo was three.

Check out that tillering! I counted thirty-two tillers on my largest plant. The average for most rice fields in Fode Bayo was three.

25 September 2012: Muddy prints after weeding #3.  I went a little over-board on the weeding so that it looked perfect for a community field visit led by my boss, Famara Massaly, who came all the way from Dakar to talk with us about the state of our agricultural production.

25 September 2012: Muddy prints after weeding #3. I went a little over-board on the weeding so that it looked perfect for a community field visit led by my boss, Famara Massaly, who came all the way from Dakar to talk with us about the state of our agricultural production.

8 October 2012: Water logged.  Now that's how I'd imagined rice fields before I'd come to Senegal.

8 October 2012: Water logged. Now that’s how I’d imagined rice fields before I’d come to Senegal.

16 October 2012: Looks like a field of food to me.  My plot was located on a frequently passed path through the faroo.  Women and men alike complimented me on how nice my rice looked and showed interest in my growing method.

16 October 2012: Looks like a field of food to me. My plot was located on a frequently passed path through the faroo. Women and men alike complimented me on how nice my rice looked and showed interest in my growing method.

14 November 2012: Harvested.  A sickle is an incredible tool.  I was able to cut off the tops of the plants and let them keep producing.  Got two good rounds of harvest.

14 November 2012: Harvested. A sickle is an incredible tool. I was able to cut off the tops of the plants and let them keep producing. Got two good rounds of harvest.

 0.5kg sown and 11.6kg harvested.  More than twice the rate of production by the community members fields I monitored through the seed extension program. Thanks to Fanta I was able to get it all home too.

0.5kg sown and 11.6kg harvested. More than twice the rate of production by the community members fields I monitored through the seed extension program. Thanks to Fanta I was able to get it all home too.

Doing my part.  And feeling hopeful that next year more women in my village will bringing yields like mine with a new knowledge about the effects of spacing, thinning, and timely weeding.

Doing my part. And feeling hopeful that next year more women in my village will bringing yields like mine with a new knowledge about the effects of spacing, thinning, and timely weeding.

What would I do without Fanta?  30 December 2012: She, Konkou, and Bintou pound my rice while I show my American family around village.

What would I do without Fanta? 30 December 2012: She, Konkou, and Bintou pound my rice while I show my American family around village.

31 December 2012: Mom and brother eat home-grown rice for breakfast.  Fanta made it into the turro, a delicious peanut-rice porridge.

31 December 2012: Mom and brother eat home-grown rice for breakfast. Fanta made it into the turro, a delicious peanut-rice porridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeding myself in the future, that’s something, right?

Bon Appetit!

MaryCad.

Not A Crisis: Existensionalism

16 October 2012

The following are reflections on what a year in country has done to the inner workings of Fatoumata Chetdo (that means Mandinka, in Pulaar) and Fatoumata Fulo (that means a Pulaar from the Fuladou, our region of Senegal).  Fatou and Fatou is a comedy duo my friend Whitney and I have created to entertain ourselves and our fellow travelers as we suffer through Senegalese public transportation.

FC: So I was sitting in Sharon’s compound and realized there was no way this was the same world or time that I had lived in the rest of my life.

FF: As I biked through the heavily wooded forest I came upon what I thought was a herd of goats and turned out to be a pack of baboons.  As I slowed, in some fear, I thought how does this same place exist with my home in South Dakota.

FF/FC: God made this all.  He is watching the baboons and the cows grazing clover in America.

FC: Sitting with my best friend at site and the child she named after me, feeling closer to them than anything else and thinking nothing else exists outside this room.

FF: The bush is deep and full, full of trees and an abundance of life.

FC: I am not white.

FF: It is normal and natural to physically exert myself for necessities.  Walking 10 kilometers to a road, pulling water from a 10-meter deep well.

FC: The stars at night are endless and magnificent and by some miracle I am not going to fall off the ground into them.

FF: If the diversity of this world is so great, what could be out there on other planets?

FF/FC: In any one space of green there are a 1000 shades of green.

FC: Not everything exists for a reason.  Some plants serve no purpose to us but thrive anyway.  The plants we value for food are only valuable by chance of having a large enough seed or sweet enough fruit.

FF: Our villages have evolved over generations but also remained the same.

FC: Our villages knew we existed before we knew they existed, before we ever came to Senegal.

Real time conclusion (7 Jan. 2013, only a little later): I think what it comes down to is that after a year in Senegal somethings are unfathomable and somethings are much easier to fathom than we ever thought they’d be.  My friends, PCVs like Whitney and Senegals work partners and neighbors, have mostly made all the fathoming fun.  And if you’re not going to spend time in the woods having philosophical thoughts while you’re in the Peace Corps, when else are you going to do it?  Promise I haven’t gone too far off the deep end, though.  My parents and brother were just here to confirm that and hopefully we’ll get their report up here on the blog soon.

Oh, and at the peak of our insanity we shaved our heads.  What a perfect time to find out the true shape of our heads?

The moment I lost it all.

The moment I lost it all.

Fatou & Fatou: Mid-head shaving we did the half-shaved look for a day.

Fatou & Fatou: Mid-head shaving we did the half-shaved look for a day.

Love and Deep Thoughts,

MaryCad.