Here's the second of what looks to be several posts devoted solely to catching up...
One of my host father's older sisters lives in our compound in Kayemor, but she has a daughter, Uma, who lives in Dakar with her husband and son. She came back and spent several months in Kayemor with her mom after her son, Mohammet, was born, which is very common here. That's when I first met Mohammet, but then I didn't see him again for several months - until she came back toward the end of the rainy season to visit. I have had many women offer to give me their sons to take back to America, which is a cultural way to say that they trust and like me, so I usually respond with sure, of course, perhaps once the child is done breast feeding, or whatever excuse I can come up with that is applicable. After just a couple hours with Mohammet, I couldn't wait for the time with Uma would ask me to take him back to the States with me - he is soooooo cute, so quiet and calm, loves sitting in my lap or being tied to my back, and has eyes that would melt anyone's heart. Uma would have to ask me at some point, right? She is my host cousin after all! Alas, Uma never once asked me if I wanted to take Mohammet - so finally I had to ask her myself: "Could I take Mohammet back to the States with me when I go home?" And guess what her response was? "Ummmm....no." What? That was never an answer I had encountered before! So I had to content myself with holding Mohammet and playing with him and walking around with him tied to my back as much as I could. I even made sure I spent time with him when he and Uma were in a nearby town visiting other relatives and I happened to go there for work, which is where the following 2 photos were taken.
|Mohammet, as always, was content to simply be tied to my back and observe the world from there.|
During the rainy season several PCVs in the Kaolack region organized a Moringa tournee - which essentially involved going around to as many PCVs sites as possible and starting Moringa intensive beds in school compounds or community gardens and then having a training on the importance of moringa (it's called "the miracle tree" because it's so nutritious and easy to grow), how to propagate it and how to incorporate it into foods to improve nutrition (especially for children and pregnant/breast-feeding women). I helped organize the activities in Kayemor. We planted 2 intensive beds at the elementary school (both of which got eaten by goats...as happens to so many trees and gardens here!) and had a talk about moringa - which is where these photos were taken. The drawing I'm holding up is showing how to make moringa leaf powder, which can be added to any food, such as a mixture of peanut butter, millet, milk and sugar for young children (which is what is in the 2 bowls in the 2nd photo below).
|Visual aid showing how to make moringa powder.|
|All the kids and women listening to our discussion about moringa- with moringa porridge (with rice, peanut butter, sugar, oil and powdered milk) in front of them).|
|The girls pounding dried moringa leaves to turn it into powder.|
I've blogged about school gardening before, but here are some photos I haven't posted.
|We started a vegetable nursery with the students in a nearby town and here I am explaining to them the importance of labeling the rows and ho to properly care for your nursery.|
|The students and teachers in Kayemor dug garden beds of several different shapes: square (shown here), rectangle (shown later), triangle (also shown later) and circle.|
|The vegetable nursery was looking great here!|
|These kids were weeding the vegetable nursery and making sure that the walls around it were strong enough to keep the water in when they watered.|
|This is my host cousin, Ndiaga, showed off his strength by digging lots of the garden beds and then stood back to assess his work.|
Another Senegalese outfit:
I had a small amount of fabric left over from something so I had a skirt made out of it, with a matching top. The first day I wore it, I went to visit my counterpart and a young guy at his house liked the outfit so much that he wanted a photo of himself with me...or maybe that was just his excuse to get a picture taken of himself with the American? :)
Collaboration with the Farmer to Farmer program:
About 9 months into my service I got connected with a USDA-funded program called Farmer to Farmer, which works to connect American farmers with specific skill sets with other farmers around the world who have a need/desire to learn one or some of these skill sets. These American farmers volunteer (and are hence called Volunteers) to travel to a country to provide trainings or other technical sessions to share their needed/desired technical knowledge. I don't even really remember exactly how I first learned about the program here in Senegal, but several different Volunteers came to Kayemor to have small trainings with the local farmers about composting, millet seed storage and other topics. I worked with the Farmer to Farmer facilitator in Kaolack (who works in the Kaolack region as well as the Kaffrine and Fatick regions) to organize these events, assisted the Volunteers with information about farming in Senegal prior to their arrival (since some of them don't have much experience with farming in Africa, though others have extensive experience in international agriculture), and helped answer their questions while they were here about culture and life here (among many other things). I was also able to help the farmers here if they had follow-up questions since I could obviously contact the Volunteers via email to ask them the farmers' questions. After one year, the program expanded and added another facilitator to the Tambacounda region (who also travels out to the Matam and Kedougou regions). My host uncle actually ended up getting the job, so it's been fun staying in contact with him and also meeting some of his Volunteers here in Dakar (typically as they are getting ready to leave the country).
The pictures below are from when the facilitator in Kaolack, Yaguemar, was training in the new facilitator in Tambacounda, Abibou. Yaguemar had a Volunteer, Ken, who lead small discussions with farmers in several different villages in the Kaolack region about how to control a very noxious weed, striga. This weed is particularly detrimental to millet here, but it also attacks sorghum and corn (though a different variety of striga attacks each crop). Ken brought small pamphlets with good drawings of what striga is, it's life cycle, and how to control it (ex. pull it up before it goes to seed and implement crop rotation).
Every day provided a new experience for me - and one day last August or September, I came out to the middle of my compound to find my host mom, Soukaye, and the girls in my family boiling and de-skinning the bottom quarter of 4 cow legs. When I inquired as to why she was doing that, she explained that if your body is tired, you can make a soup of sorts out of cow legs and drink that and you'll feel as good as new. Since she was feeling particularly worn out, she decided to buy some cow legs and make this soup for dinner. I wasn't feeling tired enough at the time to be confident that I could turn this into an effective experiment so I graciously declined her offer to try some of the soup. While I'm quite certain this recipe turns out to work because of the placebo effect, it still would be interesting to test it out sometime...
It's a boy!!
Last August my namesake's son's wife had a baby boy. This was their second child, but first son, so it was a big deal. In solid Muslim tradition, the baby was named and baptized a week after he was born. As always seems to be the case with these events here, I got the impression that it's a more important day for the mom than for the baby: she got her hair and make-up done, got a fancy new outfit for the event and was more or less the star of the day - guests wanted photos taken with her more than with the baby!
|The local religious leaders, including my host uncle who is an imam, shaved the baby's head and gave him a blessing.|
|My host aunt, the sister of my namesake (the baby's grandmother), carried him back to the group of guests after his blessing.|
|The older sister of the new baby threw several temper tantrums throughout the day - hopefully it's not an indication that she'll prove to be a jealous older sister rather than a helpful one!|
|The proud parents!|
|What a beautiful family!|