Monday, April 23, 2012
So I am completely done with my service and am officially a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer!!!
|Our Group of Health and Environmental Volunteers|
And to top it all off I am back in AMERICA! I had to say goodbye to my village, which was the hardest thing I have ever had to do... And then I headed to Dakar, the capital city, where I had a physical and some blood work done before I could be cleared to leave. My friend Steve and I just flew to Dubai and eventually will made it THE U.S. We are spending four days in New York to adjust back to life in the States and hopefully start acting like normal people before any of you all have to see me again. Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.
|My Baby Oumar (already missing this one too much)|
|My Sister (Aissata) and Little Bro (Oumar)|
While preparing to leave, I had to wrap up my work here and getting everything ready for my replacement volunteer. I could bore you with the details, but I am a nice person. Well, maybe just one…
The AIDS/HIV project I have been working on wrapped up the other day with a post-project evaluation and final training day. The project as a whole worked out really well, considering that we are in Africa and things don’t always end up going exactly the way you plan. All-in-all, 1,328 individuals were educated on transmission, prevention, and living with AIDS/HIV by twenty-four of our trainers. In culmination of the project, we hosted AIDS testing days in three centrally-located villages, one of which was my village – Diagaly. The night before my village’s testing day we had a movie night – thanks to a generator rented from a nearby village -- and played a bunch of short films about AIDS/HIV in general and the importance of getting tested.
|HIV/AIDS Film Night|
The next day the doctors from our nearest hospital came out to test individuals in my village and the surrounding communities. To encourage this voluntary testing, we had some music, dancing, and a group of students even put on a little play about the importance of knowing your HIV-status. We had such a great turn out, and 60 people ended up getting tested. Unfortunately, seven of the community members tested positive, but it is important for them to know of their status. All of them were given information on the next steps to take in order to get further testing and support. I was a little surprised with the high AIDS-prevalence rate after the testing day, which ended up being around 12%. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of AIDS work in the area and my replacement volunteer can take these results to heart and continue the project in the future. Blah…blah..serious…blah
|AIDS Testing Day|
|Kumba Dia - My Cousin|
Oh and that reminds me of another new thing I’ve witnessed lately. The lady who did the tattooing gave birth last week and I was there to watch. Ahhhh! The whole giving birth thing is very different here than in America. First of all, most women have their babies in the home. This one was actually in the health post, but only because she had apparently been having contractions for an entire day before she decided it was time to come in. Also, when the women actually give birth, they are relatively quiet. There is no dramatic screaming out, no cries for help, nothing like I had seen in my experience watching numerous episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. The mom-to-be, Mettu Sow, simply just looked a little uncomfortable and then sighed, relieved.
|Binta Sow -- My New Namesake|
I really can't believe that I am done with this experience and am already back in America. The whole thing feels ubber bittersweet. I was ready to go, but not quite ready to leave. It’s been so difficult saying goodbyes to my village, Peace Corps friends, and to Senegal. I was basically a hot mess for like a solid week and am just starting to feel a little better about things. But my village was so sweet to me and sent me off in style. We had a big goodbye party and so many people gave me going-away presents. It was emotionally overwhelming, but I now have little pieces of my village to back home.
|Going Away Gifts|
|The Donkey Who Brings Me My Water|
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Alright. I won't even apologize for being so late. I am completely aware that I am worst person ever. I'm not even going to try to make excuses, BUT I really don't have a computer right now. Yes, I came to Peace Corps with my old college computer. Yes, it broke within my first month here. Yes, Mother Bell sent me a new baby one. Yes, it also broke a few months ago. I know...I've done the math. Two broken computers in less than two years. My One And Only Excuse: SAND!
But my lack of technology is actually why I've decided to start this blog. Hopefully, it will encourage me to write a little here and there, but much more frequently. I am really wanting to put in more effort to update yall on my life, to make a post, put up pictures, and just do better. Yes, this means I will have to borrow computers, but I WILL do it. Every month? At least???? AHHHHHHH!
Okay. So it's been way too long to try and tell you everything that has been going on here, so instead I'll try to give you a small random sampling.
|My Hut (the one on the left)|
|My Mom, Mariata, and Her Kiddos|
First and foremost, I am doing really well. For one, I have not been sick in a really long time, maybe almost a year. I did just get electrocuted, but that is a very different story and makes me look like an idiot... so I will keep that one to myself. But seriously, everything is going amazingly. Language --- , which in the beginning was one of the biggest barriers, has become not quite second-nature, but maybe somewhere between third and fourth. I finally feel like I can have a conversation without really thinking too much or translating everything word for word in my head! Success! I am sure I still sound like a caveman (or woman), but I'll take what I can get. Everything else is pretty good too. It just keeps getting easier and easier. I'm not saying it's all roses and kittens, but undoubtedly it's an improvement. I still miss 'Merica and think about all of you guys every day. (I'm not exaggerating. It really is to the point of being creepy...) But I am getting closer and closer to the finish line. SIX MONTHS! But who's counting...
|Kumba Diallo - My Grandma!|
(Her American name, Memaw, of course)
Okay, so I don't really know how to explain my work over the past months. It's been crazy and all over the place, so instead I'll try to explain what I am up to right now.
|Women's Garden in Diagaly|
|Mbowen Women's Garden|
First off, I am still keeping busy with all things gardening. However, my role has changed quite a bit from last year. I would equate it to going from being a waitress in a restaurant to becoming manager, minus the pay raise. I spend a lot of time in the garden still, but mainly just to talk to everyone and make sure everything is going well. I don't have my own garden plot right now, except for a tree nursery or two. Kinda sad, especially since that means no vegetables for lunch, but I am just in and out of my village too much right now to keep up with the watering. I am starting to take on more projects, which requires me to travel other villages and to our regional house in Linguere more often. BUT I still love just being in the garden.
|Drinking Water in Diagaly. Mmmmm|
I am also working on getting the school garden together. Right now, we have built a really beautiful fence and water storage basin and have purchased a bunch of tools to actually start the garden. School just started last week, so when I get back to village, we are going to get the student's garden group up and running and finally begin planting!
And more on the gardening front, a town like 3.5 miles away from me called Loumbelana was also really interested in starting a women's garden. Sooo right now, we are stuck in the beginning stages of this process because the space that they picked to build their fence is completely flooded (rainy season!). We have all the supplies though, and as soon as the area is dry-ish, a couple of the women in Loumbel will come to Linguere (bigger town) for a garden training. After that, we will hopefully get down to business...
|Aissata - My Sister and Potential Adopted Daughter|
And unfortunately, on a more serious note, I have become increasing aware of the current AIDS epidemic in my area. In Senegal, the HIV-prevalence rate is relatively low overall, especially compared to other African countries. However, the people in the Linguere area are known for being extremely transient, i.e. they travel to various weekly markets in the region and a high percentage of the Pulaar population are herders and
are constantly on the move. All-in-all, this constant traveling is causing HIV to spread like wildfire. I am slowly realizing how many people in my village actually have it. I just went to the hospital last week to visit a young girl who I suspected might be infected. Sadly, she ended up having an extremely advanced case and looked really bad when I saw her. Her husband had refused to take her to the hospital, so she ended up having to run away to her parent's house where they finally took her to the hospital in Linguere. I just found out that she passed away a few days ago. And this is just one story. It's just happening way too frequently. In November, some other volunteers who are seeing similar patterns in their villages and I are starting up a training program for twelve villages in the area to teach people about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. Our plan is pretty confusing, and I won't bore you with the details here, but at the end of the series of educational talks in each village, we are going to set up AIDS-awareness days throughout the region where people can come and get tested to see if they are infected. We all realize we are not going to stop the spread of AIDS here, but it's a start and you have to start somewhere right?
|My Newest Little Bro, Omar, with His Daddy|
BLAHHHHH! Sorry, I realize I am being super long-winded. I'll speed this up a little bit with BULLETS!
|Malaria Tour 2K11|
- Malaria Theater tour during Rainy Season
- MY SCHOOL FINALLY HAS SUPPLIES (thanks to the good people at Helmwood Heights, E-town High, and of course Memmie and Poppie)
- Hand-washing stations at schools without running water
- MURALS, MURALS, MURALS
- Girl's Leadership Camp
- English Class... (why they want to speak English, I'll never know)
- My Girl's Art Club
- Lots of TREES!
Well, that's enough for now! More later!!! I promise!