Heather in Senegal

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Some time in December
Last week Charlie, another volununteer, took me to a village about ten kilometers out of town, to see a woman there named Tacco Balde who has a garden and wants help with it. Jenny was going to join us, but the day before the trip she sliced the sole of her foot with a shovel and was not up for a long bike ride.
I love visiting villages. Everything seems more quiet and calm out there, and the temperature is always a bit cooler outside Kolda. We stopped in a village on the road to greet the chief. He was a kind, merry, grandfatherly man, and he and the women I spoke with seemed delighted by my Pulaar.
After the village we stopped at a sesame seed field. The Senegalese government is funding many sesame fields. It buys the land, seeds, fertilizer, and other supplies, gives men wages to work there, buys the men uniforms and bicycles, and provides funds for a big metal sign, placed out in the middle of the woods, announcing that this is a government project field. It reminds me of the US's depression era work projects.
We reached Tacco's house around ten o'clock. She was modest about her garden, but it is beautiful. She has many plots of okra, tomato, pepper, hybiscus, and more. I look forward to working with her. We talked about mulching, watersaving techniques, pesticides, and fertilizer, but only briefly. I told her I would return with Jenny and we would seriously discuss the options.
Before heading home, Charlie and I stopped in a man's hut, and got into a conversation with two men about american superstitions. I recently read a list of old folk beliefs, so in addition to the normal ones about crossing fingers and not walking under ladders, I was able to provide some more obscure beliefs, like how to use apple seeds to find out who is your true love, which insect to question if your cows are lost, the good fortune that can come from salting a bird's tail, and the perils of doing things on August 1. By the time we left, the men were joking that I was a marabout.
Yesterday, Jenny and I returned to Tacco's house. When we were just beginning the trip and leaving Kolda, a policeman pulled us over. He was not able to see Jenny's helmut. He asked for her Senegalese name, she gave him a false one, wrote out a ticket for 6,000 cfa ($12), and told her to go to the police station to pay it. He did not have a copy of the ticket for himself. Considering his method and that Peace Corps volunteers are the only people in town who ever wear helmets, I assumed he was just joking about the whole thing. Thinking I would join in the play, I eyed his motorcycle, and asked where he was hiding his helmut. He snapped at me that if I said that again he would take me to the station. Luckily, Jenny can charm anyone no matter how annoyed she is, and she was soon chatting with the officer about his family. He eventually took back the ticket. This was an excellent lesson in how to treat policemen.
(I am slowly learning the safety rules. A few weeks ago I asked a teenager for directions. He pointed me to an isolated area. I biked a few minutes that way until I saw it was a dead end, and phoned a friend for directions. I was walking my bike and talking on the phone when the teen came up to me and grabbed the phone out of my hand and my walkman off of my belt. I hate feeling like I can not be alone outside.)
After we got past the policeman, Jenny and I had a scenic ride out to Tacco's house which. When wanted directions along the way, we were lucky to find a gathering of elderly women who had not seen white Pulaar speakers before. I wish I could always make people look so happy by simply saying, "good morning."
Tacco was out in a field, not to return for about six hours, so we just chatted with the kids, looked at the garden, and left. We biked back towards town a bit before turning onto a dirt path and then tromping through some high grass to a shaded space under a tree where we picniced. People have asked me if Senegal is beautiful. We were surrounded by trees and weeds growing wild and birds seranading us. By and large, Senegal might not be a classicaly pretty place, but it certainly has its moments.


At 2:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heather the marabout :0) Can't wait to have some adventures with you there!!!


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