Tangal

This post should be pretty fun, I’ll be talking about candy, snacks, bon bon, and tangal. All essentially meaning the same thing of something sweet or savory that’s empty in nutritional value. In Senegal, there are 2 types of sweets people can buy.

The first, the pre-packaged (either in Dakar or abroad). These are each individually packaged so usually one costs 100 cfa. That’s about $0.20. They also sell ones that are 50 cfa ($0.10). The most common type packaged goodie is a cookie. Locally, they are known as biscuits or bon-bons. There are also little individually wrapped hard candies. In a boutique they are normally stored in a plastic twist top container. They are sold by money amount. For example, you will tell the seller you want 25 cfa of a certain candy and you’ll get 1-3 pieces depending on the type of candy.

These are called “ships.” Like chips, but said very quickly. The taste like a not crunchy cheeto. They are 50 cfa a bag.

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These are klass cookies. The center of this chocolate cookie, is chocolate cream. :)These are a PCV favorite.

These are the individually wrapped candies. Ginger, mint, and coffee are the most popular flavors.

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This is a small snapshot inside a boutique where you can get these goodies I’ve been talking about. You can see cookies on the right, Rolli cakes above that, etc.

The second type of snack/candy is hand wrapped in Senegal usually by local women. These take more explaining. Peanuts are the most common snack, they can be roasted in shell form or shelled and roasted in salt or sugar. Sellers will have 25 cfa-100 cfa bags to sell. I love the salt roasted peanuts. Another common snack comes from the Baobab tree. This tree is common all over this continent. In Senegal, these trees are meant to have old magical power of genies. To be honest, I don’t think I fully understand what people believe about them, all I know is, it’s a bad idea to fall asleep under one because people might look at you strangely. Something else neat about these trees is that each one you see is easily hundreds of years old. They grow very slowly, but their fruit is delicious. In Wolof we call the fruit “buyi.” It has different names in each local language. Then we also have jujubes, ditakh (a local fruit that tastes like a dry kiwi), madd (another local fruit in which you carve out the seeded fruit and mix it with sugar and hot pepper to eat), shrimp chips (locally known as “crevettes”- shrimp in French), and mangoes. Many of these things are seasonal. Small oranges, jujubes, and ditakh from the south of the country come out in cold season. Madd, cashew apples, and mangoes are in the spring. Of course, we also have donuts. Unfortunately, not like a commonly known donut, more like a sweeted flour and water, deep fried. That sounds like a donut right? Just without yeast.

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This yummy fruit is better known as “sweet sopp” I believe it’s called corossol in English.

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Here are some salt-roasted peanuts.

 

These are cashew apples. You can see the nut on the bottom side of the apple.


These are baobab trees. They are deciduous so they lose their leaves every year.

You’ll notice a lot of these local snacks are fruit, this is because fruit is a treat. It is a delicacy that is hard to come by, and only families with extra income can afford it, unless in small amounts of money. It’s very rare to see families buy kilos of apples. There are exceptions of course, for example, during the height of watermelon season, I see families buy a watermelon for a third of the price of a kilo of apples, but either way it’s a treat. It’s not an item that sits on dining room tables, waiting to be consumed. Almost all of these items you can find from sellers (mainly women) sitting on the sidewalk or in boutiques.

For my next couple of posts, I’d love to hear from you guys. What do you want to know about? Truthfully, after 22 months, I feel like I’ve covered most things, and other things just seem so normal and insignificant to me, so tell me what you are curious about! Just comment below!

Until next time, you’ll find me sneaking off to snack on mangoes,

Tiffany

Janxmar

I’ve been dragging my feet on posting recently. Things have been really crazy. I just got back from vacation and it’s Ramadan (again). I have some really great news. I talked a little bit about it in my expectations post. We finished our Janxmar project! In Wolof, “janx” means strong independent young woman. We did girls club with girls from each middle school class at Abdoulaye Mar Diop (a local middle school). 

We discussed menstrual cycles, pad making, income generation, puberty, choice, media, peer pressure, gender inequality, STDs, HIV, contraceptives, marriage, and education. When we finished we had our certificate ceremony where we had juice and thanked our local counterparts. 

This club started in January and wrapped up in May. We’re so grateful for these girls and their willingness to learn and speak out. 

Working with young girls has become something I’m really passionate about. Girls in cities receive education for the most part, but it’s not uncommon for girls to be left out of education in villages. It was awesome to share this club with them to continue giving them more opportunities to learn.

Talking about boyfriends, sex, and choice is so taboo in Senegal, but these girls got the opportunity to share their stories, perspective, and choices with us and their peers. Young girls hide their boyfriends from their families a lot because the concept of boyfriends doesn’t really exist. It goes from being single to engaged. There is not a real middle ground except in maybe, Dakar. Knowing this, we aimed to target peer pressure and choice issues because these girls don’t have an outlet for that. I hope the girls loved this experience as much as I did.

Stay tuned… I’ve got a waste management and rooftop garden projects in the works that I’ll be posting about shortly!

Tjffany

Expectations and Reputation of Peace Corps

So this is my last post for my mini series “hidden side of Peace Corps, what PCVs aren’t telling you.” Although I could write more, for example: illness while serving abroad, but I think 3 posts is enough. Today I’ll be sharing my opinion of how my expectations before entering PC and actually being here differ.

Historically I thought Peace Corps was this classic experience (like what you heard about with volunteers serving in the 80s), where I would just get dropped off in a village for 2 years, live among the people, grow in my knowledge of the world, and share what I learned in school, but it’s nothing like that. I used to imagine riding a boat down an unknown river in Africa to get to my village where I would learn all these new farming techniques and I would share what I learned from jobs and my education in the States. Sure, maybe some volunteers in the heart of Africa experience that, but I instead, live in a city that Anthony Bourdain has traveled to, has colorful buildings like Nice, France, has running water, and… is in the desert. Needless to say, I didn’t get the site that I thought I would.

Now that I’ve entered my second year I can speak better to how my expectations of PC before I came and my life now, are different. PC in the States does a great job showcasing all the successes of PCVs. They highlight projects that are large-scale and a lifestyle appealing to Westerners. Let me give you a couple of examples: they do posts exploring different “rooms” of PCVs, including yerts, huts, apartments, etc. I’ve seen videos of PCVs building schools, digging wells, installing sewage systems, bringing electricity to their villages, etc. They make the life of a PCV look glamorous, always smiling and happy. I came to PC thinking I was going to “save the world” just because that’s what people kept telling me when I told them I was going into PC. It was said enough times I almost started to believe that it was possible, something I could do in PC. Truthfully that is not what we do, we don’t save the world. Sure, some volunteers tackle big projects like I listed, but for the most part, a lot of us lead simple lives hoping to share our lives with others and vice versa. I can only describe it as “jamm rekk” (peace only). The truth is, building relationships and learning are our 2 biggest accomplishments. It’s not about who builds a school, it’s about how you can impact your community and share your knowledge so they can see who Americans are and how sharing experiences and lives is a 2 way street. In PC we call this “integration,” it’s how we also stay safe in our communities. Integration is about 90% of what we do. When people care about you, they will look out for you and will watch over you, because you matter to them. This is important in terms of Senegalese hospitality and it also concerns our safety. By building relationships built on genuine love we have friendships that will last a lifetime filled with smiles, tears, and stories.

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In fact, our lives are not glamorous at all… You might wonder, what does Tiffany do day-to-day? Honestly, I don’t know if I could give you a concrete answer besides greeting people. That is the one consistent thing I do every day! I spend a lot of time sitting and not doing anything. I weed, prune, water, and do agriculture things A LOT, but I also read and watch TV A LOT. Sometimes I have meetings, but 50% of the time, they get canceled, and most of the time they get canceled the day before, so what do I do to fill that time I would have been in a meeting, I sit around. While I sit around, I continue to make strong relationships, but being in my second year, my relationships are pretty strong, and I’m not feeling the pressure to learn language anymore, so I’m complacent. Complacency is a hard place to not be. Motivation and being a self-starter are definitely things sometimes missing from my PC service. Therefore, finding fulfillment in what I do can sometimes be rather difficult. It’s hard to not get dragged down when you hear those glamorous stories about that one volunteer who built 2 schools in his service. But at the same time, when a project starts and goes really well (picture below), it all comes together and all those self-doubt days are worth it. One successful project can be all that matters. One successful project can make me think about extending for a 3rd year (just kidding I promise I’ll be done in November, though I can’t deny that it has crossed my mind).

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But let me end my mini series with, it is truly a blessing being here. Though there are hardships and I might not do much day-to-day, I love my PC experience. I wouldn’t trade my strong gender role, emotional roller coaster life for a boring 2 years in America. I love watching children in my community grow up. I love hanging out with my family. I love eaves-dropping on people’s conversations of me because they don’t know I speak Wolof. I love all of the friends (American and Senegalese) I’ve made while being here. As I finish my service, I hope to thrive and radiate good American vibes (haha, does that even make sense?). Here are my silly goals by the end of my service- listen to a radio show and fully understand it (I think I’m at 75% right now), finish my projects out strong, provide a good foundation for my replacement, and celebrate every day in Senegal.

Until Next Time,

Tiffany

Emotional Roller Coaster

Today on “hidden side of Peace Corps, what PCVs aren’t telling you” I’ll be talking about my emotions.

This past week I was in Thies (the second largest city in Senegal that also hosts the Peace Corps Training Center where we have trainings, conferences, and summits). I was there for what we call a our “Mid-Service Conference.” It’s a 3 day conference where we explore and rehash old concepts of being in country, new project ideas, etc. At one of our sessions we discussed what our emotions have been like since we have been in country. We were asked to draw a graph of our journey. We were given 20 minutes to draw it. Here is my (recreated) graph below.

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As you can see most of the graph is positive and it correlates with specific moments that made me happy while I’ve been in country. Among those include vacation, my family visiting, seeing my fellow English speakers, summits, etc. My lows include Ramadan (hunger…), hot season, and feeling trapped with being at site. I want to draw your attention to the everyday fluctutations of my emotions. Even the second time round, I couldn’t do the graph justice. Here’s the other harsh truth, in those moments of daily lows, I will be mad, lonely, and frustrated, but a week later, I bet I won’t even remember feeling mad. Now if there is a specific incident, a couple of weeks later, I might remember it and I might also think it’s hilarious. I will feel silly for feeling that way, but really only time will tell.

Let me give you and example of a daily low. I’ll tell you about today’s. Up until this moment, my day was very pleasant. It might sound hilarious to you, but in fact even a couple of hours later, I’m still annoyed. To do laundry I need what we call the key to the spiket, which just means the T shaped piece to turn on the spiket. When I had finished doing my laundry, I left it in the spiket.  There were some workers doing construction upstairs next to the laundry area and a couple of hours later they asked me where the key went. I had no idea, so I told them I didn’t know and that I don’t have it. 3 more hours went by and this time I was leaving the house after lunch to go do some work, but I was stopped on my way out by the same worker, who asked me again for the key. Part of me wanted to say “did you not listen earlier? I said I don’t have the key,” but instead I repeated my answer earlier and continued walking out of the house. There are 2 reasons for such a harsh response, the first is that in Wolof, there are no “pleases” there is no round about way to convey something, the culture is very harsh and speaks the truth as bluntly as possible. The second reason is that I’ve had trouble with men believing me when I say something. His response of asking me twice, made it seem like he thought I was hiding it from him, that I am purposefully not giving it to him because I am messing with him. The truth, no, I simply don’t know where it went. My brother is in charge of these things, and I don’t know where he took it to. So yes, it does sound stupid, but all my emotions in PC are amplified.

Now here’s a very positive things I experienced this past week. Thanks to being at conference I got to hang out with my best friends in my training group. We went on a day trip to a lake with pink algae, and it was wonderful! I laughed a lot, got to speak English, didn’t get harassed with marriage proposals, it was wonderful! At the end of that day, I smiled as I went to bed and felt so blessed. Talk about polar opposites of emotions.

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One small thing can change the course of my day. It’s especially prevalent when I am struggling with ideas that are inherently American, but are tough to comeby in Senegal. In this case it was credibility of women. It’s tough not to take things personally, especially with a new language, and a completely different environment. One thing can change the way I sleep at night, one thing can make me smile all day, and all at the same time one thing can make me cry. No one ever told me that my emotions would be stretched to the limit every day and no one ever told me that I would rely so heavily on my fellow PCVs to help me see situations clearly.

So that’s it! Thanks for reading!

Tiffany

Marriage on the Mind

For the next 3 posts I’ll be doing a mini-series of the “hidden side of Peace Corps, what PCVs aren’t telling you.”

To start the series off I’ll be talking about… gender roles (finally!) and how hard it is to be a woman in a society that feels archaic when it comes to gender roles.

The most common example: marriage proposals.

Firstly, I’m going to talk about the interactions a Senegalese man hitting on a Toubab female. I’ll write out the most common experience for me and my fellow volunteers.

Scenario 1:
“am nga jekker” (do you have a husband?)
“am naa” (I have one)
“ana mu?” (where is he?)
“munga fa” (he’s over there)
“Toubab walla Senegalaise” (Foreigner or Senegalese)
“Toubab” (Foreigner)
“Lutax amoo jekker Senegalaise?” (why do you not have a Senegalese husband?)
“begguma ko” (I don’t want one)
“mon, sa jekker laa” / “danu tak” / “begg naa la pur sama jabar” (I am your husband, let’s get married, I want you for my wife)
“deedeet” (no)

Scenario 2:
“am nga jekker” (do you have a husband?)
“deedeet” (no)
“lutax?” (why?)
“begguma ko” (I don’t want one)
“mon begg naa la” (I want you)
“am nga jabar” (Do you have a wife?)
“waaw, di nga sama deuxizm femme” (yes, you can be my second wife)
“deedeet, duma begg bokk” (no, I don’t share)
“lutax?” (why?)
“ndaxte, mon, toubab laa, ci etas unis, gore am na benn jabar rekk, loolutax duma begg bokk” (because I am a foreigner, in the United States men have only 1 wife, that is the reason why I don’t share)

Scenario 2 more often results in worse scenarios, but in both cases, I’ll have to retort with, I don’t love you (but I love you), you don’t know me (but I love you), why do you want a toubab wife, toubabs don’t like lazy Senegalese men (but I love you), you are ugly (but you are beautiful), and on and on it goes. In these situations it makes me feel like as a woman, I command no respect about what I want, and no respect with what I say. No means no! But.. not in this culture, especially as a foreign woman. In the most serious situations, I’ve had men say, but I was a gentleman (while I harassed you) you should marry me, I have a large penis, and Senegalese men know sex. According to Islam it’s extrememly rude and inappropriate to talk about anything sex related with someone of the opposite gender, so sometimes these things are hard to swallow as a volunteer, you don’t expect them going to a Muslim country.

So that’s life as a woman in my shoes, but then there’s the opposite situation. My neighbor is a crazy woman and has been rudely trying to offer me away to her customers (she owns a breakfast stand). Just the other day I walked past her stand, and she said come, let me offer you to my friend here. I refused, she started repeating herself and making a scene (like always), and the man said to her that he didn’t want to marry me, and immediately she was quiet. As a woman of a different culture this was insanely annoying. I’ve been saying no for the past 16 months every time and I say it persistently. The minute a man says he doesn’t want something, there’s instant respect and no one prods him for a deeper answer, whereas if I say no, I get asked why why why, and no matter what I answer I give, they continue to question me. I get harassed continuously when I say no, until I am exhausted and can luckily escape the conversation.

In our region, we have 8 volunteers, and only one is male. The other day some of us were in another city trying to find a cab, 1 guy, 4 gals. One taxi driver cut through us and walked up to our male volunteer and said “gore lay waxale” (the man will bargain). We all left that conversation frustrated because the blantant disrespect for women is so strong no matter where in Senegal you are.

Of course I have many more examples, women are highly encouraged to wear skirts at meals, women sit a certain way at the bowl, women get served second, women do all cooking, cleaning, raising kids, but I’ll save those for another time.

Rereading this post I’ve realized that I’ve had a lot of trying experiences. There are moments when you meet a woman insistent on finding you a husband she drags you through the entire neighborhood introducing you to all men which leads to an endless afternoon of harassment, it makes me wonder how I’m still a PCV. I’m surprised I haven’t left yet haha just kidding. Here’s the harsh truth, it becomes a normal part of life. Being hit-on by a taxi driver, a neighbor, any man you encounter, it makes me as a woman really dread talking to any Senegalese man. Which in reality I think is really sad. My fear of being hit-on now determines who I choose talk to, what routes I walk, etc. Every time a Senegalese man approaches me, my heart swells with annoyance and I want to just walk away. My past experiences with Senegalese men have formed my opinion so much that I now fear and hate talking to men in Senegal.

I did warn you this was the ugly side of things. PC may be glamorous but there are real challenges with being here. Gender roles here are so different here. People can and will use the excuse of me being a woman for me to do something. In the States, if you anyone did that (especially in the work force) that is gender discrimination. Everyday it’s a battle of 2 cultures within me, my American side and the Senegalese culture I live in.

Don’t let this deter you from applying if you are thinking about it, the positives farly outweigh the negatives. Senegal is a beautiful country, but this is a harsh reality and I wanted to share it.

Next time I’ll talk about the emotional roller coaster.

Until then,
Tiffany

Jamm Rekk (Peace Only)

The Holidays are here, and my friend asked me to write a post about living a minimalist life. In all fairness, I’ve never labelled myself as this, but I thought it was interesting, so here we go! 

Have you ever thought “why do I have so much clutter, I should get rid of some of it,” but the truth is you don’t because you feel like you need it. 15 months ago, I packed my life up in 2 suitcases and came to Senegal. At that time I had to decide what was important to me and what wasn’t. Since then, I’ve accumulated a bunch of stuff, consumed my half a suitcase of snacks, and wondered again in my life “how do I have so much clutter!” So in reality, I’m a terrible person to talk about this, because I don’t live minimally. I love my luxuries and possessions. I love having things, just to have them. If I think there’s a chance I’ll use it in my second year of service, I’ve kept it. Because of this, I won’t pretend to be some expert, but being the ultimate American I am in owning “too much stuff” I will share what I’ve learned. 

People live all over the world with only what’s locally available to them. Disregard Dakar, most people in Senegal buy and sell everything at their local markets. They don’t have things like Sweet Baby Rays, specialty pickles, Barbies, and they most definitely don’t have a Gap. Packing to come to Senegal, I brought a little cooking pot, which is actually quite stupid of me. How do people here cook? They must have pots here, yup they do. I didn’t need to think of my future lifestyle as having nothing available to me. People here live with what’s available to them. 

You can feed 20+ people a day with only owning 4 plates, 15 spoons, and 2 plastic mats. Reality is, the food at each meal gets split into 2 bowls, then they are lidded with another plate. Not everyone needs their own plate. Culturally this is a society that shares everything and is also a culture that’s been poor for a long time. It’s difficult to afford a plate for everyone, and it’s even more difficult to plate each according to how hungry each person is. Therefore, feeding everyone out of the same bowl lets whoever wants to eat very little, eat very little, and those who want to eat a lot, eat more. The result is less food waste. Especially with children, who have no idea how much they can eat versus how much they want to eat. 

Children don’t need extravagant brain training games to survive. I would even argue not having teaching games on iPads is better. Children are forced to be creative with what they have. I’ve seen kids have fun just rolling a tire around while chasing it with a stick. I’ve witnessed children create drum sets with old cans, wire, and thin rubber. I’ve watched children build treehouses with chunks of a fallen tree and some rope. I’ve played in a swing a child built with wood and rope. No one teaches them how to do these things, they create them. That’s a pretty unique skill.

I will say this, there is a reason why people say Senegal has “peace.” This lifestyle with simple enjoyments and a strong family base is why Senegal has so much “peace.” It’s really difficult to explain, but the mindset is really what it comes down to. My friend and I were talking and we discussed these “Orange Money” booths all over the place. When people get money transferred to them they can cash it out at these booths. These men who sit inside have millions and millions of local money. No one tries to rob them, no one even asks for more than they are supposed to get because everyone knows that life in Senegal is hard, and taking something from someone else is making them worse off (though that’s always true when it comes to stealing). But in my opinion it’s all about the mindset, and that’s what creates peace.

Now I’m not telling you to donate all your possessions, but I’m simply encouraging you to think about how other people are living their lives. Even more so, I’m not saying have pity for people here, for they find true happiness in their every day lives with sitting with their families, playing with tires, and eating communally. This is life here and it’s AWESOME. 

Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas,

Tiffany

18 Ways You Can Tell You Need a Vacation

Peace Corps Senegal edition.

1. When you can’t tolerate cars/vehicles falling apart anymore.


2. When you become a savage and don’t peel your salty peanuts


3. Speaking of peanuts, when you buy a bag of sugar peanuts and eat them in a day, and you don’t even like them…


4. When eating your favorite local dish, it no longer lights a fire in your heart to consume the entire bowl.


5. When your least favorite dinner of a grain and yogurt becomes the dinner you crave every week.

6. When teenage boys harass you to buy them bissap juice and don’t even greet you and you retaliate by scaring them with a flying rock. 


7. Even the best restaurants don’t fulfill your NEED for American food anymore.


8. When you grow up bilingual, but can’t even think in your native tongue anymore because local language has consumed your mind.


9. When the driver fills the gas tank of a car while it’s running, and it doesn’t even frighten you.

10. When you despise rain even though it helps all farmers (mind you, you work in agriculture) with growing their crops and feeding their animals.


11. When every single man in your host country angers you because the consistent harassment pisses you off. (i.e. propose to you, crowd your space in a sept plass without apologizing, quiz you on how well you know local language, belittle you because you are a woman, not even hide the fact that they are checking you out (umm.. what is there to look at, I’m fully covered I live in a Muslim country), etc.)

12. When seeing 2 turkeys on the side of the road causes you to do a double take because you only see goats, donkeys, horses, doves, and sheep all day e’ry day.


13. When you become a master in handwashing that your clothes smell good when they are dry (wait..what?)


14. When you are cold at any temperature <90°


15. When the shoppoholic (hi my name is Tiffany and I’m a shoppoholic) in you is no longer satisfied by fabric shopping because it becomes a hassle to get things made.


16. When someone doesn’t have headphones while you are stuck in a 5 hour car ride with them and all you want to do is grab their phone and throw it out the window.

17. Which is totally okay, because litter is a normal way of life, and the environmentalist in you, finally caves and conforms because it’s a losing battle…


18. Lastly, when your site mate says you need to go on vacation because you have been mean for a week straight.

    Now go book your vacation! 

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I hope you had a good laugh out of this. I sure did. Seeing that I leave for vacation in a couple days I’ve noticed certain things about myself and my current opinions of local Senegalese culture, I started to jot them down and before I knew it, I had a list. I thought it’d be fun to mimic a buzzfeed article! Feel free to share this! 

    Tiffany