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

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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! 

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    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

    Noises of Senegal

    When I read my title I think about donkeys, goats, and the call of prayer, however those aren’t the noises I’m going to talk about today. I’ve been wanting to write a post about this for sometime and I think it perfectly marks my year mark. 

    No matter what local language you speak within Senegal there are some noises people make nation wide. So let me clarify what I mean with an American example. Umm… actually I can’t think of one, so let me move to a Chinese example. In Taiwan when people are told something shocking or not what they were expecting to hear (especially children and the change of plans) they say “haaauuh?!” with a certain type of intonation. Reading that I realize this post might have its challenges, but regardless my point is: this noise is used for the same purpose thoughtout an entire culture and country. 

    In Senegal there are certain noises that are nationally understood and are used for certain purposes. Let me start with the one that’s most obvious. Hissing. Hissing is a non-existent noise in the States, maybe you’d hiss at a cat, but you wouldn’t use it out and about. Here, in Senegal, hissing is used to attract the attention of someone, whether I’m trying to catch a cab or I’m walking and a group of people sitting outside want to talk to me, they hiss at me. This is something that’s really hard to get used to. It’s not a pleasant noise and it almost has an obligatory effect. When I walk and get hissed at, I feel obligated to stop and talk to whoever did it. It is, despite its unpleasantness, extremely effective. When I need to capture someone’s attention it works, almost like magic. Somehow the right person always looks at me. It took me an entire year to finally feel comfortable to hiss at anyone. I also got told that my hiss is really quiet haha, but me shouting is less effective, thus I hiss. 

    Next is snapping. Snapping is an extremely rude thing to do in America. I remember one time in high school one of my classmates snapped at the other, and my teacher responded “what is she, a dog? Don’t snap at her.” But in Senegal, snapping is used also as an attention getter, but in a different context than hissing. In schools, when students raise their hands, they snap as they do it. It’s meant to help the teacher give an opportunity to call on students when she may have difficulty seeing them. Another example is snapping in a restaurant. When you need to grab someone’s attention, you can snap at the waiter and they’ll come. Seems rude, but it’s the culture here. Along with these two include snapping at babies, in boutiques, and even in trainings that I hold.

    This one is my favorite. This noise is “unh!” It’s a mark of surprise. It can include both good and bad things. For example my host dad and I had a conversation over the phone and he told me he was sick, me: “unh” and that he wanted to buy moringa powder from my fellow pcv, me: “unh.” So really, I use it all the time, probably incorrectly all the time actually haha. His reponse after my noise is always “waaw” meaning yes in Wolof. 

    The last one is clicking. I still don’t do this one. I do it sometimes, but not always. This one simply means clicking your tongue. It marks and understanding that you are paying attention to whoever is speaking. It shows you get what they are saying. A lot of volunteers use this one, but maybe it’s the fact that I can’t click discretely or something else, but I don’t use it. 

    All of this makes me wonder: we are conditioned to understand things based on the culture we live in. And yes, my response is like “duh Tiffany.” But what I really mean is how does it translate from generation to generation to do things like snap at babies. Who decided they [babies] find enjoyment in adults snapping? Because in fact, all the babies I’ve seen been snapped at don’t really respond. But I bet that’s true in America too. I bet we do things to babies that they find no enjoyment in, but we do them because the culture and society taught us to. 

    I’ve been living in Senegal for a year now (September 28!) and it’s amazing to me how integrated and unintegrated I am. I say “unh” but still get confused when I’m supposed to give people money (yes, still confused, starting to think I’m being taken advantage of, just kidding, but not really). It’s interesting to me how my American culture so strongly influences my reactions to things. If you remember in Cultural Differences I talk about personal space and how that isn’t a thing in Senegal, I still can’t deal with people touching me whether it’s someone grabbing my shoulder, pulling my arm, etc. But somehow I can hiss just fine. Just something to think about. If you were in my shoes, what cultural noises do you think you would adapt to use?

    Tiffany

    Tabaski

    Tabaski, also known as, “Eid al-Adha is an Islamic festival to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim to follow Allah’s command to sacrifice his son Ishmael.” I pulled that from Wikipedia haha. It’s the most concise way to describe what Tabaski is. In Senegal, families save money all year in order to purchase a ram (like Ibrahim) to celebrate the holiday. The morning of, the men go to the mosquee, and when they return they slaughter a sheep (if they can afford one). If they can’t afford one, they will slaughter a goat if possible. Typically each married man will purchase and slaughter a sheep, so in my family, we had 2 sheep. My uncle and my host dad both bought one.

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    As you can imagine, we ate SO MUCH MEAT. For both lunch and dinner we ate grilled ribs, fries, onion sauce, and bread. It was super delicious, but I felt like I was on the verge of a heart attack for the next week…

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    My family had different stations for cooking, and as you can imagine all the grilling made it really smoky in the house, though we were actually in the outdoor portion of the house. This holiday required all hands on deck. Regardless of age, everyone participated in slaughtering, cooking, and cleaning. I would say Tabaski is like the “Christmas” of Senegal. It’s by far the biggest holiday. New clothes are a must, and in expensive fabric only!

    Just like with Korite, we celebrated with our new years greetings, drinks, and visiting my family all over Saint-Louis.

    Until next time,
    Tiffany

    Gëm Sa Bopp

    2 weeks ago I had the pleasure of working with PCVs in the regions of Saint-Louis, Louga, and Linguere on a project called Gëm Sa Bopp. It’s a girls empowerment camp that PCVs put on. We invite girls from our sites to come learn about future careers, the environment, menstrual health, and hygiene. In Wolof it means “Believe in Yourself.” The camp is a unique opportunity for young girls to have fun and be themselves. They get to leave their household chores behind in exchange for a week of sports, singing, making new friends, and new experiences.

    As much as I want to explain everyday in detail, it would probably end up boring you, so I’ll just do highlights.

    The first day we learned local camp songs. To be honest, a lot of them are in old Wolof, or in a context I don’t fully understand. But I learned them or actually- learned to make noises or words like what I thought the songs were. There’s a couple of songs I want to talk about. The first is a greetings song, in English, it means “we greet you, we greet you, in peace in peace, we greet you, we greet you.” The girls sang it before each session to welcome their guest speaker. Another song we learned is in French, but can be sang in any language. It goes like this: “Do you know my name?” “No.” “Do you know my name?” “No.” “My name is _________. Do you know my name.” “Yes, we know your name. We know your name. Your name is _________.” The last song I want to share is one that always makes me sad and happy. “Camp was great, camp was great, when I go home I’ll miss _(someone’s name)_. Camp was great.” My girls sang this song and cried as they said goodbye, I miss them.

    For career day my girls drew a Life Map on how to become a doctor. It’s a map that marks all the important and essential elements of becoming a doctor, like graduating high school, going to University, and graduating medical school.

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    Human rights day was combined with a travel activity. One of our PC staff members came and led a discussion on how to identify domestic violence, and how to find ways to be more than a bystander. One of my favorite sessions was called “Kaay Tukki” which means “come travel.” We had 6 stations where us PCVs shared an element of another country. For example, I did Taiwan, so I taught the girls how to use chopsticks, and we talked about my family background. They also asked me to teach them some Chinese, which was pretty fun! (Yay Peace Corps Second Goal!)

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    For environment day, the coolest part, was going to the beach. We did a beach clean-up talk and then went swimming. Most of the girls have never been to the beach or even seen the ocean before, so some were nervous about dipping their feet in and others went for it, and others grabbed hold of whatever PCV was near them in fear and excitement. My site mate told me she had 3 girls attached to her at some point:one on her back, and two on either side of her. Unfortunately my phone died prior to this, so I don’t have any pictures of this besides our group photo.

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    The next day, the girls learned all about menstrual health. Periods are a major barrier to girls education because there aren’t many tools to deal with it in a school setting, so some girls miss school as a consequence. First we had an STDs talk, then we talked about the cycle of periods, which led to period bracelets. Personally, I would love to make one of these. It’s conspicuous, and helps the girls keep track on where in their cycle they are. Then we had a session on how to make reusuable pads from local materials. It’s super easy, and they work!

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    For the last day we did handwashing and hair care. Then we did invisible friends and certificates. At the start of camp each girl gets an invisible friend,  PCVs included. All week we are supposed to make them gifts and send them anonymously. On the last day we stood in a circle and sang another song to discover who our invisible friends were. It was filled with hugs, crying, and laughter.

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    The end of camp was so special. The girls all traded phone numbers (with us too!), and cried as they were forced to say goodbye to their camp friends (sound familiar? Just like in the USA). Since camp ended a couple of girls have already called to greet me. Hopefully I can visit some of my other girls throughout this next year. After camp, I had a whole new perspective on my service. It was overall an amazing experience that made me believe that Peace Corps is important, and we do important things. After camp, I was on a Peace Corps high where my language was great (because I was forced to stretch my vocabulary in a new setting), I felt like I was capable of anything, and it marked about a year into my service. Perfect timing. I can’t wait to see what next year’s camp is like!

    P.S. check out our video of this year’s camp!

    Sorry! I know I’m really behind in my blogging. I’ll be posting a lot (hopefully) in the next month so I stay on track.

    Talk soon,
    Tiffany

    Senegal’s Version of a Washer

    Sorry, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve rewritten my “gender roles” post 3 times and just don’t think it’s ready yet, so in the meantime enjoy this post about how to do laundry in Senegal.

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    First, we start by separating laundry.

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    Next we fill each bucket with water and line them up in order…

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    We typically start by a water bucket where we dip the clothes before going to soap to prevent soap stains. If we’re washing whites we’ll add 2 extra buckets for bleach and washing.

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    We use bar soap made from local peanut oil to wash clothes. Sometimes we’ll add powder detergent. We either scrub with wash boards, hands, or a brush. My forearms have become much stronger doing this.

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    Lastly, we rinse with an all water bucket, and wring the clothes dry and hang them on the line.

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    Sometimes when it’s windy, clothes blow off the line, so clips are super important. When clothes are dry, locals like to iron them because air drying can lead to lots of wrinkles, but being a PCV, clean clothes are all that I care about, and ironing is just too time consuming, so I go without it. For the most part, I’ve only seen electric irons at tailors in the city. Most families have one that looks like this.

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    They use coal to heat the iron instead of electricity. Then clothes are folded and put away! That’s it, simple enough? Not really, doing laundry is an all day task. I will never take a Washer/Dryer for granted again. The other thing is clothes get stretched out much faster. There are no dryers to reshrink jeans or cotton shirts. No doubt. this lifestyle is not easy.

    Tiffany

    Beginnings of Rainy Season

    Senegal is located just underneath the Sahara Desert, so we get a lot of influence of desert climate. For example I walk on sand every day of my life here, it’s a calf workout. When I dig garden beds, I don’t have a mixture of particles, I just have sand, sand, and more sand. Because of this, rainy season in Senegal is especially important. This country has been in drought since the 1980s and relies on rain as it’s main water source to water fields, refill wells, and replenish aquifers. Depending on where you are in Senegal, rainy season starts at different times.

    In the South, regions under The Gambia, rains start in June. In regions like Kaolack, Kaffrine, and Thies, rains start in July. In regions like mine (Saint-Louis), Linguere, Louga, rains start a little bit later, late July to August. It also depends on the year. Some years, the rains come and end late (last year), or this year, they came when they were expected.

    So how do you know if rainy season has in fact started or if it’s just one big rain? Good question. Rainy season, typically begins with a sandstorm or two. The sky will change colors to brown, winds will start to gain speed, and sand flies everywhere. The rains will then come on a regular basis, once a day, every two days, or every 3 days, but the rains are frequent. Plus with the change in humidity, different kinds of bugs come out of dormancy. I’ve seen a lot more spiders and cockroaches hanging out in my room, and a bunch of bugs I don’t recognize from back in the States.

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    The rains change the landscape too. Places where I could only see trees and sand for miles, now have what looks like… grass? It looks so green and wonderful. Things just start growing! In my garden, weeds have begun sprouting everywhere. I spend time everyday weeding.

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    The rains, as exciting and much needed as they are, bring many problems too. It’s crazy humid when it doesn’t rain. It’s not necessarily hot (some days are, September definitely will be in Saint-Louis), but just expect to be sweaty all the time, and never dry. I don’t think my hair has fully dried in a couple weeks now. In greetings everyone will ask and say, “how is the rain? It makes the day hot.” Yes it does.

    Flooding also ensues. In America, when we hear “puddle” we think these clear pools of water that children wear rain boots and jump in, but in Senegal puddles mean something else. They start to form all over town where the pavement or sand is uneven. They collect all excrement from horse carts, litter, and dirty laundry water, etc. Sometimes these puddles are green, most of the time they are brown, but they are never clear. When I was in market last week I was picking my vegetables off a display and I knocked a carrot and a pepper over and they fell right into green puddle. The seller told me it was no problem, she picked them up out of puddle, put them into her own bucket of dirty water and back on her display. It was at that moment that I vowed to always bleach my vegetables I buy in country, especially during rainy season.

    When it rains in my house, it floods too. The water comes off the roof and the second floor and runs through a cement pipe so it catches on the first floor. My family places a bucket there to catch the rain. Rain water can be used to water gardening spaces, do laundry, etc.

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    If I were you, I would have more questions like, what happens to clean laundry that needs to be hung up to dry and it rains all day for 4 days in a row? In the north that is less of problem because we get more breaks in our rainy days, but in the middle and south of the country this can cause problems. Laundry just gets hung up and left outside until one day it’s dry enough for clothes to dry. Real quick: in case you didn’t know, laundry is done by hand with a bar of soap and some detergent. Locals use up to 4 buckets to do laundry for the rinsing process, and for whites. It’s very important to separate laundry because local fabrics bleed for a couple of washes. I’ll do a full post teaching you how to do laundry like a local soon! After being washed, the laundry is hung outside to dry on a line with clips.

    Another downfall is that electricity goes out every time we have a big rain. It results in my sisters doing a lot of dancing and singing to kill time. I mean they do that anyway, but they do this a lot more when electricity goes out (check my instagram for a video).

    I’m not a contractor, but the plaster or something in my wall of my room is not waterproof, so when it rains, my room gets these big wet stains on the walls. Huts and houses weren’t made to withstand a large amount of rain in Saint-Louis. That should tell you a lot about the wealth of Senegal, laws about buildings, and how long the drought has been going on.

    But my problems aside, rainy season is such a big change from the heat and dryness of November-July, it’s a great chance to experience something totally new. It makes me think about how different America truly is. I’ve been in country long enough now that I’m starting to lose track of similarities and differences because my culture shock is gone. I grew up in a city that is known for being very rainy, and I had all the right gear to defend myself against rain and wind such as rain boots, rain jacket, a car, a bus pass, etc. As I’m sitting here rereading my list of gear I realize all those things are expensive. A one time purchase of a rain coat $50.00 doesn’t seem like much, but in Senegal, that’s a lot of money. People can’t afford to forward pay that much money for a coat, when the easier solution is to stay inside like everyone else. If a rain coat is difficult, what about a car? Even if a family had enough money to purchase a car, the flooding in the streets make it difficult to not inundate the vehicle while driving. Those puddles cause many problems. Here, when it rains, no one moves, no one does anything because the rain is intimidating. Work here isn’t equipped to handle working in the rain, mostly because when it rains, it pours. There isn’t a medium level like in Seattle (don’t believe those TV shows that show a downpour and thunder in Seattle, it’s mostly just a little drizzle). Just one more item on my “differences” list between America, Seattle specifically, and Senegal.

    Until next time,

    Tiffany