Friday, July 23, 2010

Blog on Hold - Stay Tuned

Borrowing a computer tonight. My computer is in the hospital. Not sure if it will recover. Stay tuned. Perhaps by Monday I'll know something more about its life expectancy and the data it stores.

St. Louis

This is a first installment on the town of St. Louis. After uploading these photos, and intending to load more later, I came home (back to the hotel in Toubacouta) to find the air conditioner leaking all over my electronic equipment, including my computer! It couldn't have been much wetter were it tossed in the swimming pool. Alas, I hadn't had a chance to save the photos of the last several days seminar to an online website or to a flash drive, so here's what I'm going to do about this blog: In the next few blogs, we'll jump ahead to more current events, then, when I get home, and (hopefully) have extracted data from my comatose computer, I'll be able to go back and describe some events and tours that you absolutely must know about. Deal or No Deal?
St. Louis
At one of our stops, young boys were enjoying a swim.

Riding on a caleche was a great way to see St. Louis. It got us out of the bus, and a little more connected with the town. Occasionally we stopped and got out to tour a site and listen to our guide explain the significance of an area or object. We were told not to take pictures around the military facilities, and in the Muslim area, we should only photograph scenery, not people. Our guide told us that the buildings were all either this gold, a brick red, or white. The condition of the walls on this building are typical of all the buildings in St. Louis. In St. Louis proper (or the French colonial part), we happened past a convent. The stairs are reminiscent of the stairs at the House of Slaves on Goree Island.
Leaving the fisherman's village in St. Louis, you can see how impacted the streets are.
It was short walk to the beach from our cabanas at Hotel Cap St. Louis, which provided the scenery for my morning walks while staying there. Often, Sue, Jan, Suzanne, Therese and Bill got up early to walk or run as well.
I didn't get one of these cute, round huts to stay in, but my little house was just perfect for me. Since mosquito nets were provided for each bed, I thought I'd better take advantage of mine. (Now that I am in Toubacouta, I'm wishing I had my own.)
Me, Chon, and Therese. We must have had green on the brain that day.
Another view of the Baobab tree that we stopped at on the way BACK from St. Louis. Note the vendor's stand on the left.
Elana, Lauri, and Mariane are standing INSIDE the baobab tree. I have climbed up a bit to snap the shot and look out of the "knot hole" to see the peanut field.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Agriculture in Senegal

Bio-Terre is a company involved in innovations in farming methods here. We toured a rice processing plant, which was fascinating, but my camera batteries died the moment we jumped out of the bus, so I can't show you the hand pouring of the rice into a machine that separated the hull from the rice and the fan that blew away the chaff. Nor can I show you the stream of workers carrying both bags of rice and bags of chaff to the next part of the process. While there are some dangers to livestock from silicone. They use it to feed some livestock in the area. The process works, but does not produce enough rice to feed Senegal, so rice is still being imported as well.
The town that hosted our tour of some local agriculture was Ross Bethio. Our guide, Mr. Djibril Diao, the executive secretary of the Amicale, spoke to us of "The Amicale de Waalo, Ross Bethio".
It was this tree that gave us a reason for a pit stop on the travel day home from St. Louis. We crawled in and out of the hollow center and posed for pictures. The baobab tree is known as the upside-down tree of Africa because the branches look like roots, and I understand that the trees do not have any considerable root structure. There are many baobabs around Senegal, but none as big and old as this one. Baobab juice is a common choice for breakfast and lunch. It is made from the seed of the tree. The leaves are used in the same capacity as Pepto Bismo (IYKWIM).
In order to see the century-old baobab tree on our way to St. Louis, we had to tip-toe through the peanut plants. They were still young and tender. The twenty sets of foot steps could have done quite a bit of damage. That's significant if, in order to be a successful Senegalese farmer, you most likely till the earth with a single horse or donkey and a small, hand-guided plow. I have seen some tractors, but from my limited observations, most work the land by hand.
Rural towns have a mix of grass huts and concrete cinder block structures. This one is on a street with businesses and vendors nearby. But pastoral compounds usually are fenced with sticks that surround round huts and a couple of concrete buildings.
These little horses work hard in both the city and the country. I've seen them hauling people, furniture, bags of grain, mattresses, etc. Whatever needs to move from one place to another probably can be moved on a horse-drawn cart. This one waits near the rice mill.
Bags of rice hull, millet, or straw provide a resting place for this little guy who was amused by the spectacle we created.
We walk out to the rice fields. (I'm going to try to bring a handful of rice stalks home. Don't tell the agriculture department at the airport.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wild Animal Safari in Senegal

For all of my friends and family who wonder whether I've ridden an elephant, or seen a giraffe, I am including the snapshots I've been able to grab of the elusive animals in Dakar and vicinity. Get ready for some fascinating surprises!
Doing my best "teacher look" here, I thought perhaps this photo would go on my school website to introduce myself to my new students this coming year. What do you think?
Just as confirmation that the "teacher look" animal does exist, I caught another photo of the elusive creature.
I was in constant danger as I crept close to the native animals of the region.
This dangerous and wild critter wasn't quite fast enough to escape my camera, nor was his brother fast enough to escape my foot. The sound of a crunch in the dark was evidence of the creature's inferiority.
The most colorful exotic creature I have seen yet.
Herds of innocent looking, but dangerous quadrupeds are hard to miss.
A resting quadruped
Not so rare flightless poulet
Again, common and relatively harmless wildlife in the region
These fowl were on the run, but my speed and cunning allowed me to grab a photo before they disappeared.
The captive variety

Seriously! That's all I've seen.

On the Road to Touba and St. Louis

The trip to St. Louis, a good five hours on the road, took us through Diourbel (jur-bell), which is important to the Muride Sufi Brotherhood because it was the home of Amadou Bamba (1853 - 1927), founder. The main mosque in Diourbel was a photo stop for us.

Upon arrival in Touba, long skirts or dresses and head coverings were required of the women in our group. We were escorted by members of the Muride Sufi Brotherhood through a series of girls' classrooms, the library, administrative offices, and around the perimeter of the main mosque. We were not allowed to enter the mosque because the current Caliph had died the week before we arrived, and non-Muslims may not enter during the mourning period. Update: That's what I understood at the time of our visit, but I've read since, that the mosque is only open to Muslims at all times. The education of young children is important to the Islamic community, and in Touba there is a structure and enough money to provide the curriculum required by the state, along with religious and cultural education. The school has been operating since 2006 and started with the earlier grade levels, so when we asked about state testing scores, we were told that the students hadn't reached that level yet, but that they are working with the Arab government on a mastery test which would be the equivalent of the baccalaureate.
These girls are probably around 2nd grade. Their teacher didn't miss a beat as we crowded into her classroom. They snap their fingers and raise their hands to be called on to answer a question. (I won't be adapting that custom into my classroom.) Most Americans are offended when snapped at.
Me and Suzanne
Amy and me. Note the gift shop behind us. Some teachers in our contingent were intrigued by the, what we call "man purses" which are worn by Muslim men. It seems they are used to carry necessary papers, scriptures from the Qur'an, and so forth. An old photograph of the main mosque in Touba during a pilgrimage that celebrated the return from exile of the Cheikh Amadou Bamba Mbacke. This pilgrimage takes place yearly, shortly after Ramadan, which does not happen on the same date each year, because the Islamic calendar is used.
An extensive library holding the writings of Amadou Bamba and others is quite impressive. I didn't have my notebook with me, but if I remember correctly, one of the caliphs is buried under the library.
Shaykh Bara Mbacke, the sixth Caliph and the first not to be the son of Amadou Bamba, passed away a week before our arrival in Dakar.

Continuing on our journey,with our final destination being St. Louis, roadside vistas changed from the city and suburban sights we were used to seeing, to more pastoral, agricultural scenes. Whenever we saw either herds of cattle, goats, or donkeys, there were usually young boys shepherding, or minding the livestock. In this photo, the boys are leaning against a concrete pillar. The electric lines are strung on towers made of concrete, not wooden poles like I am used to seeing in the states.
Goats are literally everywhere in the parts of Senegal I have visited. These men tended theirs along the roadside as we drove through this town.
Short videos of the countryside, first and then a rural town seen as we drove from the city of Dakar to St. Louis

Voila! My room at Hotel Cap St. Louis has four beds, and I have no roommate. I would have to rotate beds every two hours to take advantage of them! (Actually, sleeping for eight hours is something I've done just once here.) The mosquito nets were provided for good reason. St. Louis is where I got buzzed and bitten most often until now. (Back in Dakar at this writing) However, the biggest critter I shared my room with was a lizard. I only saw him once, but I felt his presence continuously. . . (space between ellipses for Suzanne)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Village That Changed My Perspective

Scenes on the Road to Pikine
I don't know the name of this village. It's in or near Pikine, where Yelimane Fall's art center is located. Just view the photos. The experience of walking through the streets, in and out of people's "houses" and meeting the people who live this way, without the promise of the air-conditioned bus waiting to take them away, was life-altering. Almost everyone watches as we, the "toobabs" (sp?) have come to see their village. In this place, people were very kind, and seemed to want us to see the way they lived. Not all people welcome us, but I felt accepted, if not a spectacle, here.
The kitchen of a resident

Concrete cinder blocks are a super common building material, even in the bigger cities.
A woman welcomed us into her home and pulled back a curtain to show the standing water in what used to be a bedroom until the flood - FIVE YEARS AGO! The flood left its mark in many places, but in this village, no one has come to repair or create a decent environment for humans to live in. I believe that the woman only hoped that if people from outside the village knew, they may be able to hope for improvement sometime in the future.
Some of her children were tickled to see us, and happy to be in pictures. Other children were not.
Here is evidence of the love of these people for Madame Ndeye Ngiaye Tyson (the wrestling promoter). She told us that this is one of the nicer neighborhoods that she knows of and works with. Much of the graffiti we see is political, as it is on this wall. Elections are coming in 2012. There are about twelve political parties. Abdoulaye Wade is the third and current president of Senegal, and has been since 2000. Senegal has only been an independent country since 1960. Graffiti seems pro-Wade.
From the air-conditioned bus. (!!)

Back at the Yelimane Fall Center in Pikine for a hearty lunch. Such a contrast from where we had just been.
We ate, here, from a common bowl. Spoons were provided, which was nice, but I had been prepared not to expect that. Chebu Jen was on the menu.

Chon, Sue, Steadman, Richard, and Kathy
Me, Kristine, and Teresa
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Processing what we learned on this day would take some time. My first thought was to load the pictures onto the blog, but I had no words then. All I could think of to tell you is that I had no words. This visit took place on Tuesday, July 13th. It is the 18th now, and I have been able to attempt some kind of description of this day. It changed my view, my perspective, my heart.