24 June 2012

Wrapping things up...

I have now finished up most of my work in Dahra :) I still need to show up to a ceremony and hand out some certificates and show my replacement around, but other than that, I am done! These past two years have been an amazing experience, and I am truly glad that I have had this opportunity. Granted, there have been times so frustrating with work projects or culture that I just wanted to quit and return home; however, I am glad that I stuck it out.

The last two months of my service have been wonderful, allowing me to end on a high note. I was able to teach Junior Achievement to 90 different elementary students and spent my evenings teaching computer classes at the high school. I was also able to get in a few soap-making trainings for two of my womens' groups. I actually feel like a CED (Community Economic Development) volunteer now, not just a Peace Corps volunteer trying to do a little bit of everything. I feel really good with the end of my service and feel like I have made some great connections for my replacement. I can only hope that they will enjoy life in Dahra as I have.

The teachers at Ecole Dahra Montagne; where I taught 2 classes of Junior Achievement

First group of students who completed a two-month computer course

06 May 2012

3 more months!

        You read that correctly; I will be home in less than 3 months! During the middle of April, I made my way to Thies and then Dakar for my stage's COS (close of service) conference. I found out then when I would be returning home and what all needed to be done before I can leave Senegal. While I have enjoyed my time here in Senegal and would not trade it for anything, I can honestly say that I am ready to return home and start the next chapter in my life. I will be COS-ing on July 31st and should be home in Kingsport sometime on August 1st :)

        Now concerning work-related activities:
  • The computer lab at the high school is up and running, yet not all the computers are in the best of shape. Nevertheless, I have already started teaching some night classes. It's really interesting to teach basic computer skills to someone who has never used a computer before. I sometimes have a hard time explaining things because they are just second-nature to me, having access to a computer for most of my life. What's great though is the wide range of "students" that I have the pleasure of teaching; some are actual students, some are teachers, some are educated, some are not... I feel like this will be one of the more rewarding, yet complicated projects that I will work on.

  • I have also started teaching Junior Achievement at two different elementary schools. It's really interesting to be in a Senegalese classroom setting; the kids are very disciplined and respectful, yet outside of school, they can be so rude and loud. It's just nice to see the children in a different setting :)
  • The soap training that I had planned to send a few women to turned out to be a slight disaster. The training went from being three days to one, and they moved the training up by one day. Oh, and I wasn't informed of any of this until after the fact. My host mom is very motivated though and tracked down someone who had attended the training and had them explain everything to her. She is planning on making soap this coming week. If all goes well, I will have her go to the other women's groups and teach them how to do the same.
  • Remember that huge tree nursery that I did last year? Well the group wanted to do another one this year. After all the issues that we had last year, I didn't really want to help out at all, but in the end, I decided to help get them started. So Erin, who is an Agroforestry volunteer, came in to Dahra to explain to the group how to care for the tree nursery and they filled up 300 sacks. Their original goal was to fill up anywhere from 500 to 1000 sacks, but we ran out of time. I plan on helping with seeding the sacks, but after that, I am leaving the care of the nursery and the transplanting of the trees to the group. I pray that they remain motivated and succeed with this project.

Well, I think that's about it for now. I plan on teaching through the end of June and then take the month of July to travel around Senegal and say good-bye to some wonderful people that I have had the pleasure of getting to know during my time here.
Let the countdown begin!

04 April 2012

Update for the month of March

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a few projects in the works; one of them being working at the computer lab at the local high school. The high school received computers several years ago from an NGO; however, they did not have electricity at the school so they had to rent out a space at a nearby hotel so that students could use the computers. Now, the school has electricity and has moved the computers into their new lab space. The school is really excited and on-board with me teaching some basic IT skills to the students and to use the lab at night to teach people throughout the community; however, there are several obstacles to overcome.

First and foremost, the students and teachers are still on strike, as they have been for most of the school year (teachers are on strike because they aren’t getting paid and the students are on strike because the teachers do not show up). Nevertheless, there are some students and teachers that show up each day, so I may be able to work with those students. If not, hopefully my replacement will be able to work with the school next year. Second problem, I have never set up a computer lab so I am not sure if this is an issue anywhere else or just due to poor quality of supplies, but I am afraid that the computers are using too much power and will eventually cause a power surge and killing all of the computers. I have spent the last two weeks, off and on, working with the technicians at the school to help even out the system…we’ll see how it works out. Third, not all of the computers have the needed programs on them, such as Microsoft Office or an anti-virus program. I am currently looking into a way to add these programs to the computers, as inexpensively as possible. There are several other small issues that I am working to address, but I hope that the lab will be up and running in a few weeks.

In other news, Macky Sall was sworn in as the newest president of Senegal yesterday. After what could be described as a very unstable election season, President Wade graciously admitted defeat and Sall congratulated the people of Senegal for using their votes, not violence, to make a change. Way to go Senegal! It will be interesting to see what President Sall has in store for the country...
Latest mural project:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal." Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Mural representing reverse gender roles in Senegal

06 March 2012

a slight pause...

My apologies for not posting anything sooner, but life since my last post in January has been rather uneventful. Upon my return from Dakar, Dahra was cold and windy (cold for here...nights were in the high 50s, days in the low 80s). I returned from Dakar with a cold and needless to say, the weather in Dahra didn't help out very much. I spent much of the following 2 weeks just hanging out at my house, catching up on some reading.

At the beginning of February, Julia came out to visit Dahra for my birthday and then we headed to Lampoul for the weekend. Lampoul was beautiful; sand dunes, camels, and sleeping in a nice big tent! It was so peaceful there...I hope to go back before the end of my service.

Concerning work projects, February was a very slow month. The first round of the presidential election was held on February 26th, so the entire month was busy with campaigns. While I am not to be involved in any political matter here in Senegal, my counterpart and supervisor in Dahra are very involved in politics. So are most of the other people that I need to speak with concening work projects; thus making it nearly impossible to do any work. Plus, the high school has been on strike pretty much the entire school year, so I haven't been able to teach any IT classes like I had hoped. Since the elections are going into a run-off vote at the end of March, I am assuming that the month of March will be similar to February.

I was able to finish a project in partnership with Appropriate Projects during the month of February. Appropriate Projects is an awesome NGO that finances small-scale water and sanitation projects. With their help, I was able to help an elementary school in Dahra build some bathrooms. The project took about 5 weeks to complete; I think everyone involved is happy with the outcome.

I also went on a Moringa tournee with the other volunteers in the Djolof. Moringa is this amazing tree that can grow almost anywhere and has a lot of nutritional content.The volunteers covered the nutritional content of moringa, how to grow moringa, and how to make powder from the leaves. For the tournee, I was mainly just moral support ( and I spent several days making morninga powder). They did a wonderful job and I am very proud of them. Like our maleria awareness tournee, we could not have pulled it off without the help of Tidiane Dia, an amazing member of the Peace Corps family.

I have a few projects in the works and will keep you updated as they unfold...I am nearing the end of my service and would like to finish on a high note, but not sure if the conditions here will allow it. Thanks for reading!

21 January 2012

SED Summit, SeneGAD, All-Vol, & WAIST

I was in Dahra for only two and a half days before heading back out again for some trainings and the infamous WAIST (West African Invitational Softball Tournament). Sunday afternoon, I headed into Thies for our first ever SED summit. This was a 2-day summit that focused on the restructuring of the SED program and a couple of field trips. I felt as though the SED summit was really great, and our new APCD is doing some wonderful things; however, since I will be leaving in about 6-7 months and I already have several projects planned, the summit wasn’t that relevant to my work…still interesting though.

Wednesday was our SeneGAD conference, focusing on gender and development project best practices. I skipped out of some of the morning sessions because I had a few errands that I needed to take care of in Thies, but the afternoon sessions were really informative.

Thursday and Friday were our All-Volunteer Conference sessions; overall, very informative. I went to several sessions on Moringa (this amazing tree that Peace Corps is really “gung-ho” about) and a few sessions about bee-keeping (even went on a bee-keeping fieldtrip and bought some delicious honey).

Friday afternoon, I was lucky and got on the first bus to Dakar. April and I went for a late lunch and then met up with our homestay hosts for WAIST. Our hosts were so cool and very welcoming; the husband is an RPCV from Nicaragua. They also have two little children and two dogs, so I had a blast playing with them. As far as the softball aspect of WAIST goes, our team was better this year, but I still think we lost all of our games; I even pitched one game lol. The games were fun though, so that’s all that matters. As for the evening festivities, I was a huge bum this year. April and I decided to stay in every night; our homestay was just so quiet and calm, whereas each party would have at least 250 volunteers and then some. This WAIST was completely different than last year, but I think I enjoyed this year so much more. It was great getting to see some friends that live in other regions, even if it was just for a few days.

I am now back at site and already back to work. Starting Monday, I am helping with building bathrooms at a local elementary school. Hopefully this will only take 2 weeks to complete. After that, if all goes well, we will be able to build a water connection to the school also. While this project is pre-funded by Appropriate Projects, if you would like to donate to this project, please follow the link below.


This group is doing some amazing things when it comes to water and sanitation projects, so please consider donating. I also have another meeting set up with the local high school to finally start teaching some IT classes. I’ll keep you posted as soon as they start. I also have several other meetings that I need to set up, dealing with Waste Management, peanuts, oil presses, Junior Achievement, and cow manure; I’ll keep you posted as each of these projects develop…

P.S. I am still trying to bring computers to Dahra via World Computer Exchange...please consider donating to this project. I would like to see it through before I leave. As of the last update, no one has donated towards this project under my name, so if you are able to help out, please make sure to add my name in the comment box. Thanks!

Christmas Vacation!

This year, I went home to spend Christmas and New Year’s with my family. Words cannot express how happy I was to be back home with those whom I love and love me in return. This was one of my favorite Christmases ever. I arrived in Kingsport on Thursday Dec. 15th. My plane arrived a little early so I beat my parents and Bob to the airport (luckily Aunt Glenda was there to welcome me home); however, Bob did surprise me by driving down a day early. Bob was able to spend a week with me before having to leave to spend Christmas with his family, so we were able to spend a lot of quality time together.
A brief summary:
  • That first Saturday marked my grandmother’s 80th birthday, so we held a big party for her and a joint “congratulations” party for me for finishing up with my graduate school degree ( I now have an M.A. in Political Science: Applied Community Development).
  • Sunday evening, we headed up to Bristol to see the Speedway in Lights (Bob’s a Nascar fan)…pretty cool stuff.
  • On Monday, we went to Gatlinburg to see all the lights (Bob had never been).
  • Tuesday and Wednesday, we just ran errands; and Bob had to leave Thursday morning.
  • On Thursday afternoon, Mom and I had a spa day and it was amazing! I was pretty much comatose after the massage.
  • Also throughout the week, we visited several friends and went to numerous Christmas parties. I also ate a ton of delicious food! My goal was to gain 10 pounds while I was back home and I gained 9, so pretty close.

Christmas Eve and Christmas day were spent with family, exchanging gifts and eating more delicious food.

The Monday after Christmas, we packed up the car to head to Birmingham to see my little nephew Jackson. Along the way, we spent the night in Chattanooga, so I was able to hang out with my best friends Bethany and Greg. Once in Birmingham, we spent the next two days hanging out with Jackson and his little sister Emma, spoiling them as much as possible.

Mom drove me to the airport early Thursday morning so that I could fly up and spend New Year’s with Bob. It was really nice being back up “north” …minus the cold lol. Bob and I went bowling, watched a hockey game, and ate some great food. We spent New Year’s up at Kemp’s, the bar where Bob works as a cook. We had a blast! His friends are super cool, and the evening was amazing! On Sunday, I had to fly back to Kingsport…saying goodbye was hard, but we know we’ll get to see each other again much sooner than this previous time.

 Back home, I spent the next couple of days packing, eating, and visiting with family. I flew out late Wednesday morning and made it back to site Thursday around lunchtime.

Minus being a little ill right after Christmas and then a cold at the end of my stay, my trip home was wonderful! I am truly blessed to have so many people in my life that love and support me. Thank you to everyone who made this trip home so memorable!

first meal...Zaxby's


red wine and red velvet cupcake= delicious!

Me and Mamaw Livesay for her 80th birthday

Speedway in Lights

Me and B

Jackson and Emma

New Year's Eve

06 December 2011


Yesterday was the holiday Tamkarit, which celebrates the Islamic New Year. I missed Tamkarit last year because I was in the middle of my in-service training in Thies, so I was looking forward to spending it this year with my Senegalese family. This holiday is kind of like their version of Halloween; the kids dress up as opposites (boys as girls, girls as boys, children as adults, and even “white” face) and go around asking for money (I handed out candy). You are also supposed to eat couscous so as to have a healthy new year. I had a hard time figuring out this holiday because no one really does that much for it like they do for the other holidays; it’s mainly for the children. We had an awesome dinner though: lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, fried eggs, French fries, onion sauce, and meat; and since I do not eat red meat in Senegal, my grandmother brought over half a chicken for me to enjoy. I love my family here! They really try to take care of me. After that delicious meal, we had a little bit of couscous with sauce as to keep with tradition. After that, we sat around and waited for the children to make their rounds in the neighborhood.

Me and my twin rocking our new outfits

enjoying some tasty non-alcoholic beverages

"white" face...not exactly PC, but no one gets offended over here

 School update: I submitted the final version of my Capstone this past weekend and am scheduled to graduate this December  :)

Homecoming: I will be State-side in less than 10 days! I will be in Kingsport Dec.15th-25th; Chattanooga the 26th; Birmingham, AL the 27th-28th; Lexington/Bloomington-Normal, IL Dec.29th-Jan.1st; Kingsport Jan.1st-4th; I will be back in Senegal on Jan.5th, 2012.