Youssou N’Dour is known worldwide for his music—albums like Absa Gueye and 7 Seconds have made international charts—and although his lyrics can be thought provoking and provocative, he is not particularly known for his politics. That is about to change though, as he has put himself forward as a candidate for the 2012 Senegalese presidential elections which are to take place in February. N’Dour is beloved by his fans and he has a reputation for being a good businessman, having created jobs through the radio and television stations that he owns.
It is unclear whether he plans to pursue the presidency until the end, or if he has just put himself forward to put pressure on the other political candidates. Many Senegalese are ready for a change though, as the current president, Abdoulaye Wade, has been in power since 2000. N’Dour does not hide his opinion about Wade, openly stating that he should not stand for re-election since he has already served two fairly won terms. Wade argues that the two-term limit should not apply to him since it was a law he put into effect himself during his second term as president. Only time will tell what happens, but with N’Dour stepping into the political spotlight more attention is being given to the importance of what happens in 2012 and what that will mean for Senegal’s future.
Saturday, November 26th, five of our volunteers took a trip out to Djoudj Bird Sanctuary, located about an hour and a half north east of Saint Louis. We got an early start, leaving at 8:00 AM, so we could arrive before it got too hot and all the birds were hiding in the shade!
En route, we saw plenty of warthogs, and our guide, Babacar, found a python trail which he followed a ways to see if he could find the giant snake!...Which he did not! (Dare I say thankfully!!)
Upon arriving, we hopped into a pirogue and took an hour and half ride on the river in search of wildlife!
Babacar pointed out plenty of different types of birds, but we were most mesmerized by the pelicans. We first saw them flying through the air,
and a little while later we turned the corner in our pirogue and saw hundreds and hundreds perched on a landing, sun bathing!! It was really a sight to be seen! Pelicans upon pelicans!
After our pirogue ride, we drove a short while to a Pulaar village where we installed and had lunch! We ate sandwiches and lots of fruit which we shared with our hosts! We got to play around with the kids and enjoy the laid back and jovial atmosphere of our host village!
Yesterday was the American holiday of Thanksgiving, a day to be extra appreciative of the things you have in your life! Normally we celebrate this by eating a big feast with our families and friends: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, crandberry sauce, pumpkin pie...!!! Yummmmy!
To celebrate here in Senegal, some of the volunteers and I went out for lunch at a fancy restaurant in the north of the city right on the water--a little splurge! Since turkey was not on the menu, we had the next best poultry option: chicken! Erin, my American compatriot here, had a really amazing veggie curry as her vegetarian choice (dare I say it was better than the chicken?!!) It was nice to sit around the table and say what we were thankful for before beginning our meal!
After lunch, we went to the cheap ice cream boutique to indulge in some creamy goodness!
So, Happy Thanksgiving to you all!! Hope you had a wonderful day!
This past Saturday, Saint Louis had a special guest, President Abdoulaye Wade. He came from Dakar to partake in the official opening of the Faidherbe Bridge, whose renovation was recently finished.
The bridge has quite a long history and has become a symbol of Saint Louis. Often you can find visitors, foreigners and Senegalese alike, taking pictures of each other on the bridge, the Senegal River in the background. This renovation is the fourth that the bridge has seen.
It was constructed in 1865 and this first floating bridge, a whopping 680 meters long, lasted for 32 years until 1897 when the wear and tear of traffic required it to be reconstructed. This second bridge was untouched for 36 years, but in 1933 a third phase of reconstruction was started during which much of the bridge was replaced and it lasted 78 years, until 2011 when renovation was started again for the fourth time.
The opening on Saturday consisted of numerous addresses by Wade and his ministers, and then a walk by Wade and his cabinet across the bridge itself. The city, and the Sor side of the bridge as well, were packed with spectators wanting to catch a glimpse of the president himself. After the ceremony, the festivities continued, with a marathon for school aged children, music and dance in the streets, an art exhibition at the French Institute, and a concert at night.
So when you come to Saint Louis, make sure to take your photo on the bridge so you can remember the long history of this Saint Louisianne symbol!
This past weekend, some of the volunteers took a trip to the village Rao, about 40 minutes south of Saint Louis to see how life outside of the city looks. Before turning off the main road, we stopped at a market to buy packs of cookies for the children in the villages, and the ingredients for our ceebu jen lunch, which was to be prepared by a woman in the village for us.
After the market, our first stop was a small Pulaar village where the children were in the middle of their Koranic school lesson for the day from the local Marabout. He took time out to show us how they learn the Koran, writing the verses on pieces of wood with a reed that has been dipped into a ink made from the bottom of cooking pots. The Marabout demonstrated how to widdle down a reed to make a point fine enough to write on the wooden “aloué” and then copied a Koranic verse for us to see how it works.
We were walked around the village by many of the kids who were eager to touch our hair and rub our skin!
Next we got back in the car to visit an initiative that was set up by a Senegalese couple which provides much needed services to the surrounding villages. On the way we stopped to greet two boys on their donkeys and were then encouraged to get on ourselves and give it a go!!
The initiative focuses on health--having built a “case de santé”
where people can go to get vaccinated, see a doctor, and get important information--and skill training—having different domains where those who have not finished school but would like to learn a trade can come and be educated. People can decide to learn about raising animals, gardening, carpentry, and cloth dying and tailoring to name a few available trades.
Upon leaving the initiative, we got back in the car and drove out to our last destination where we got comfortable, having tea and playing around with the local kids!
Lunch was served a bit later, ceebu jen bu honq, and everyone dug in, having worked up quite an appetite!
The villagers were welcoming and friendly, and were in the middle of getting ready for a wedding that took place yesterday! “Come back and celebrate with us!” they said, inviting us back for the festivities. Six of our volunteers went to check it out last night, and will let us know how it went!
Tabaski was celebrated on November 7, but at least a week before the celebrating began, Corniche was filled with more sheep than people! Tabaski, as the Eid al-Adha is called in Wolof, is celebrated to commemorate the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim) to sacrifice his oldest son upon God’s command. God had tested Abraham’s devotion, but upon seeing his commitment, he told Abraham to sacrifice a goat instead. To celebrate this devotion, Muslims around the world sacrifice their most precious domestic animal, which in Senegal is a sheep.
The meat from the animal is then divided into three parts: one part is retained by the family, one part is given to relatives, neighbors and friends, and the third part is given to the poor or needy.
Volunteers here in Senegal on the seventh were lucky enough to celebrate this holiday with their families; in my house we ate mutton for five meals in a row (including breakfast!!) After a filling meal of grilled mutton,
around five in the evening, volunteers got dressed up in their traditional boubous and made the rounds to neighbor’s houses with their families to ask for forgiveness: Balma ak, forgive me – Balanala, you’re forgiven.
Our two American volunteers working on a report about sexual health education in Senegal held another seminar this past Wednesday. The first seminar was held for teenaged girls who were currently enrolled in school while this seminar was held for girls who had not completed school. The volunteers wanted to see if the education/information received by the girls who had not finished school differed from that received by the girls who were currently enrolled.
Ahmeth, the director of RADDHO in Saint-Louis, translated the questions for the 20 participants in Wolof and asked them to respond True or False for the first 11 questions which asked the girls things like, "You can not get pregnant when you have your period." and "A virgin cannot contract a sexually transmitted infection." The girls were next asked to respond to questions about their personal history.
After the questionnaires were finished, Ameth spoke a bit about sexual health to inform the girls of the infections that can be contracted and the methods of contraception. Lastly, one of the volunteers gave a demonstration of how to use a condom so the girls were well informed.
Another successful day!
What do you do on Halloween when there are no pumpkins to carve?!...
...You find a watermelon!
And that's just what our volunteers here in Senegal did! We found that watermelon carving is actually less messy, and dare I say more fun (?!) than pumpkin carving!
After carving up the watermelons, we had a little halloween feast: lollipops, peanuts in honor of our host country, and KingTat...sort of like a KitKat!
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