You'll have to wait for the pictures, which is in all honesty the only real decent thing about my blog, but to keep my Mom happy with updates, here goes...
Friday September 3rd 2010 - PCV
After a few last minute preparations we left Cape Verde on Friday afternoon. During the ride we hit turbulence that was bad enough to make some people feel the need to scream. I didn't get to see it, but apparently two girls took their life jackets out from under their seats and put them on. Unfortunately they didn't go as far as inflating them.
As we got into Senegal the first thing we really saw was an enormous statue and a city that was overwhelmingly large in comparison to any CV city. Whereas CV has about 400,000 people total on all of the islands, Senegal has 4 million in Dakar. We were lucky in that our host, Justin met us at the airport and helped us get settled. We went to trivia night at the American Club and got to meet some of the other volunteers and have real burgers! We didn't win but team rage didn't do too badly.
Saturday September 4th 2010 -
I started the morning off a little rough by taking my malaria meds on an empty stomach. A nauseating walk to the pastry shop later and I was feeling ten times better after downing a delicious chocolate treat. The main event of the day was taking a bus downtown to the market to look for fabrics. The city is much larger than Cape Verde and the amount of people walking around was pretty mind-blowing even though it's apparently calmer because of the fasting for Ramadan. It was intimidating to think of bartering with our pretty much non-existent French but we were with two PCV's who did all the talking. That night we headed to a Chinese restaurant and had a meal like non other, complete with PBR?! Random but amazing.
Sunday September 5th 2010 -
We went to the Ilhe de Goree for the day. To get there you have to take a short ferry. Timing kept working out really well in our favor and we didn't have to wait at all to catch the boat. The island is incredible and I tried my first local coffee which was really sweet and spicy. We figured out how to start being a little less dependent on the PCVs here and were able to get around pretty well. We even met a Cape Verdean artist on the island. Speaking Kriolu was a breath of fresh air after not being able to communicate well with the Senegalese. We then met up with Just at his friend Mike's apartment and we saw the craziest sunset over the downtown city area.
Monday September 6th 2010 -
We started off the morning by heading to a restaurant downtown called Fine Palace and spent the day downtown. That afternoon we were invited to celebrate Labor Day at the Marine House. Really nice guys and a nice way to spend the holiday (even if we are pretty much on Holiday up until the Christmas holidays). I even got to play a little pool. I'm still awful, but it's fun to play again.
Tuesday September 7th 2010 -
We had an eventful start to the morning trying to figure out where the new Ghana embassy was located. We found the old one just fine, but it had moved due to construction. We saw a flag flying red, white and blue and initially thought it was the American flag. Getting the embassy we realized it was the Nigerian flag but they were able to tell us where the Ghana embassy was now located. A really nice guy walked us to the Ghana embassy and we got our forms and found out that we couldn't just waltz right into the country. From there we headed to a place called the garage to catch a sept-place to a northern town called Saint Louis. The sept-pace experience is definitely just that, an experience. They are basically old station wagons that shouldn't be on the road anymore, but are. Not only that but they are the best form of transportation here. We got squeezed into the back seat, but were lucky in that it was just enough space and we didn't hit much traffic. The most disturbing part of the trip is seeing the Talibe children walking around begging for food and money. We got to Saint Louis and headed to the Pelican Hotel out near the beach. Really quaint and cute place complete with huts on the beach. Definitely slept like a baby in excitement for the beach.
Wednesday September 8th 2010
It had rained all night so our attempts to swim were thwarted by the runoff. We had gone for a morning walk along the beach and were heart-broken by the amount of trash along the beach and in the water. Trash hitting your leg in dirty water isn't all that conducive to jumping right in there. We decided to walk to the island to explore instead. Our bargaining skills increased ten-fold during the day because we went a little overboard in the gift-buying.
Thursday September 9th 2010
We got in a lot of exercise by walking around most of the day with our bags, but luckily we had left most of our stuff in Dakar. We decided to stick around in Saint Louis for two more nights rather than go to visit a volunteer in a rural site because we heard transportation would be a pain once Ramadan ended. We met two French volunteers for an indulgent night of wine at a cafe.
Friday September 10th 2010
Today is the end of Ramadan, or Korite. We spent the day walking around town and across to the mainland. The open sewage flowing into the river wasn't so pleasant, but the rest of the walk was. That night we met up with the PCV in Saint Louis who had just returned from PST. It ended up being quite an international night and we met volunteers from Belgium, England, France, and Mauritania. We got some major news when we heard that a volunteer Mike Majors had decided to continue his Peace Corps legacy by doing a third tour in Senegal. We had heard about his language abilities as being legendary in Cape Verde and I guess after China he's decided to tackle another fifty languages. Envious to the max. At the end of the night we headed to the Iguana Cafe to dance it out a little and all was going well until the roof collapsed. Luckily at that point no one was on that side of the room, but it was still pretty unbelievable.
Saturday September 11th, 2010
We headed back to Dakar after freaking out our taxi driver with our amazing singing abilities. His expression was rock solid. Nothing. Not even an itch of a smile. We relaxed for most of the day before heading to the viking for a meter of Flag followed by live music at Just For You. We were lucky enough to catch the Orchestra Baobob (?)
Sunday September 12th 2010
All the long car rides made Leah and I pretty restless so we decided to explore the lighthouse and statue. We even found the Cape Verdean embassy along the coast. Our last night in CV we passed by a guy who was passed out with his penis out and this seemed completely normal. CV was a place where the drinking is cheap and easy. Anytime we've been walking around Senegal I keep seeing people sleeping in the sidewalk and I had to keep reminding myself that they weren't passed out drunk. It's a little unsettling to see so many people just sleeping anywhere and everywhere. I'm keeping my fingers crossed I don't turn some corner and accidently step on someone's head. Considering my track record of instigating awkward situations it's pretty likely that I will wake someone up at some point. Another site that was pretty spectacular was watching the goats being led into the water to be bathed. I didn't realize how much they hate getting wet. It does explain why the animals here are ten times cleaner than in CV.
Monday September 13th, 2010
Before heading south, we had to stop by the Ghanian embassy to hand in our visa applications. It was a little stressful to have to run to the internet cafe to book reservations in hostels so that we could fill in the reference section, but we got them in. Then we went to book our tickets to Ghana and had mini heart attacks when we found out everything had to be payed in cash. Needless to say that wasn't all happening in one day. We payed off half and booked it to Mbour. In Mbour we caught a bus out to a smaller village to stay with a volunteer. We saw two rainbows and an incredible sunset just heading to her village. When we got there we met her family and saw her compound. She has her own hut in the compound and had painted it to look like a hobbit house. She also has a backyard bathroom that is pretty much a turkish toilet and buckets. I thought Dacia was going to cry. When you sign up for Peace Corps you know that you can be sent anywhere and a lot of people dream of this situation. Dacia had had her heart set on living in a rural village. I'm more of a city gal and I tried to stay open to anything, but it's hard not to be a little envious of sites that are just so different. I wouldn't take back my time in Cape Verde for anything, but I wish I knew if I could adapt to a situation so different from what I'm used to.
Tuesday September 14th 2010
We traveled into Mbour and went to Camenont N'Gale (?). We finally got some time in the ocean and spent the morning swimming. From there we headed to Palmarin, a site on the delta. We stocked up on bread (a little more than planned) and gifties for the host family and then headed down in another sept-place. Driving out we had to take a dirt road. Water was definitely coming into the cars through the rusted holes at our feet. I'd like to praise the mechanics in Senegal, because for the life of me I can't figure out how they keep these cars running. We got to the PCV Chris's site and met his counterpart Pierre. We went to the local bar to listen to some music. Apparently Zouk is huge in this region, even if the music is a year or so behind. We all enjoyed hearing the music that we've lived by for the past two years. They eventually switched it up to Senegalese music and the dancing started. I don't really know what the dances are, but judging by what the guys were doing it does involve grabbing your shirt and a good amount of butt shaking.
Wednesday September 15th 2010
The volunteer we stayed with focuses on eco-tourism and arranged for us to rent kayaks to row out in the mangroves. We rowed, swam, and even planted mangroves. I planted one for Mom and Dad since they planted an apple tree for me upstate. Dacia planted on for Beau and Lizzie's little peanut. From there we went to another island that has shell mounds. Apparently they've excavated the mounds and have found the bones of griots. Since they weren't farmers it was believed that they couldn't be buried on farmland or the crops wouldn't grow so they buried them in mounds of shells or in the trunks of the huge Baobob trees. They've found the bones of over 150 people in the trunk of one of the Baobob north of Palmarin. We climbed into one of the trunks to have some coffee and then we headed back to the village. At the end of kayaking Pierre, a mouribo of nature, gave us all necklaces to protect us in our travels. He told Dacia hers was to protect her from CV men. Hysterical. To cap off an incredible day, we were late getting back to Sarah's site and had to take a night bus. The bus was decked out with curtains, pictures, and red lights. It was like a crazy haunted house ride or something. Probably the most bizarre twenty minutes I've spent in a good while.
Thursday September 16th 2010
We headed back to Dakar to get our visas and finish paying off our tickets. We were so excited about our visas that we had the very nice embassy workers take our picture. The Ghana visas are legit! We were lucky in that Justin arranged for us to stay at his friend, Mike's place. Once we all showered and got cozy, we were in heaven. Seriously, heaven. The good/bad news is that the travel agent accidently booked our ticket for Saturday instead of Friday so we have to impose for another night. The good news is that we have two nights of luxury thanks to Mike.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
On August 31st I officially became an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer). They punched the holes in my PC ID to make it official. I had a great last few weeks as a volunteer. I was asked to help with train the new volunteers that arrived this past July. They are an impressive group and I’m lucky to have had the chance to meet them all. On top of training, during the two weeks of helping with PST (Pre-Service Training) in Assomada I celebrated my birthday (third in Cape Verde), visited my host family, had a chance to see off a few of the volunteers from my group, and finally made it back to Taraffal (twice).
Afterwards I had an amazing two weeks back in Sao Vicente. I was able to get away for a bit to hike with Rachel and Dominika, my rocks during this past year. I had dinners and lunches with friends. I finished packing and managed to not forget anything important (knock on wood). I went to the big international music fest on my island, and had an opportunity to say goodbye to most of the people that I had met and cared about over the past two years. I feel like I was able to leave feeling like I had reached at least some level of closure.
And now I’m sitting here getting ready for my next adventure. I’m going to take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity and spend the next few months traveling with Dacia and Leah, two fellow volunteers. I think saying that we are going to have an adventure may be an understatement. After the past two years we all agreed that trying to carefully plan our trip would be impossible, so instead we are going with a very open and extremely flexible plan. After all TIA – This is Africa. Of course we are trying to take all necessary precautions and then some and we aren’t going in totally blind but we are hoping to do a good amount of networking to have the security of the PC community as we travel.
Our first leg of the trip starts tomorrow in Senegal! We are going to stay with a volunteer in Dakar and depending on the latest news we are heading either north or south. We originally hoped to make our way south to Guinea Bissau (also a former Portuguese colony with a similar Creole), but due to fighting at the border, we may have to change our plans. If we can’t make it to GB we may try instead to head north to St. Louis, followed by a westward detour (by train!) into Mali to head to Dogon county. If time and money allows, we’d all love to get to Ghana, but that may be pushing it.
After a month or so in West Africa we are heading east. Most flights from Senegal head to either Uganda or Kenya. Because of recent events in Uganda and Kenya, we may try to look into fly directly into Tanzania. From there we will try to head to Mozambique and then end our trip in South Africa. Of course this is all dependent on health, time, and money, but as of now this is the general plan. I don’t know if I’ll have much internet, but I’ll try to at least post when we arrive and leave each country. We are hoping to travel until Christmas so there may not be anything too exciting until then.
Best wishes! - Linds