Gem Sa Bopp Girls Camp and Ramadan!

    Welcome back! As Ramadan commences here in Senegal my work continues while I fast from food and water from sunrise to sunset. I am sure you all are familiar with the term Hangry, being angry because you are hungry. Lets just say that life will get interesting over the next month of participating in this rich cultural tradition that Muslims around the world practice! During the month of fasting farmers continue to go about their daily lives, especially because Ramadan also occurs during a farmers busiest time, the rainy season. I continue to extend better practices and seeds to farmers, maintain my hospital garden and womens group, and develop a fish farm in Temey Thiago. Yet now I am focusing my time and energy on helping organize the Gem Sa Bopp Girls Camp. 

     Gender Development is a secondary project that almost any PCV in any country can participate if he or she chooses. There are a variety of activities that someone can do to increase awareness and educate communities on the importance of mutual respect between males and females. Here in Senegal we have a program named SeneGAD which helps volunteers who are interested in these projects come up with ideas, organize traveling training’s, and also can allocate small funds to support volunteer projects. I know, cool huh? One project that volunteers all across Senegal and I are working on is Michelle Sylvester Scholarship. This scholarship is for girls who are in the middle school level who are part of families that are economically at risk. Those who receive the scholarship get their entrance fees to school paid for one semester and are also given a small stipend for school supplies. The girls who are selected from Richard Toll then are all invited to Gem Sa Bopp, meaning “Believe in yourself” girls camp. This camp is a week long camp where academically strong young girls come from all over northern Senegal to learn about topics such as Environmental education, Future goal planning, Women’s rights, and other topics that can help them understand that they can achieve greatness if they desire. This camp is overwhelmingly important in a society that does not stress education for girls. Most girls never finish high school level education and instead get married and start families. Although this is a cultural tradition in some aspects, it should be stressed that any girl who desires to achieve higher education should have the ability to follow her dreams and to Gem boppam, believe in herself. (See what i did there). 

     Volunteers and host country counterparts in the regions of Saint Louis, Linguere, and Louga have spent countless hours working on developing this camp. We have received grant money to cover some of the expenses such as food and other equipment. The space was graciously donated by University of Gaston-Berger. All in all everything is going smoothly! If you feel that this is a project that you would like to donate to feel free to click on the link below. Any donation is helpful and will help educate and empower young women here in Senegal. If you have any other questions about this venture feel free to email me at mbaile04@rams.shepherd.edu.

 

https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=13-685-020

 

 

Keep it real

Michael Bailey 

      

 

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Your mother and father can give you a beautiful birth, But determination and pride are yours.

The past seven months have been some of the toughest and most rewarding of my life. The cycle of intense emotions that one goes through here in a day almost gives me a sense of what a mild case of manic-depressive illness must be like. It is something that no one can really understand unless they actually live it. Yet with that being said, you get used to it. You live for your highs and learn from your lows, understanding that lows are necessary for one to appreciate your highs that come in many forms. I never thought that the best part of my day would be something as simple as walking down the street and a child calling me by my name, Samba, instead of toubab; or visiting a farmer who actually is practicing a technique such as composting, or dare i say it… Companion planting! Understanding this, I have developed a new sense of understanding. Recently, I have had a love affair with trying to understand and improve my sense of pride. Not only in myself but also being a West Virginian.

Pride in myself-

I figure it is important for one to have pride in their work, and in themselves. The Senegalese people have a keen sense for someone who has no pride. Here it is actually one of the strongest of insults to say that someone has no pride. Before coming here I would like to think that I had pride and confidence in myself. Yet recently I have realized that my former pride was more of a charismatic stubborn attitude that was served with a side of lack of self esteem. To this I need apologize to a few people who had to put up with me through it all, mainly Alana, my SGA exec board, and my brothers. Over the past week or so I have developed more confidence in myself and pride in my work here as a farmer and as an individual. I no longer fear making mistakes, for through mistakes we learn how to become better people. This newfound pride is something that i learned through the challenges of being a PCV.

Pride in being from a small town in West Virginia

Lets be real, West Virginia gets a lot of negative publicity from a variety of places. It has recently been deemed the most “Stressful” and “Unhappy” place to live, Self fulfilling prophecy much? Also the recent show on MTV that was cancelled brought more negative publicity to the state than was needed. I can’t say that I was always proud to call myself a West Virginian, yet lets be real, I am one. They say that one doesn’t appreciate their home until they live somewhere else. BINGO. I miss nothing more than being in the cool crisp Appalachia, eating an apple from farmers market, Drinking a nice beer from the Blue Moon, Coffee from Hypnoroastery, Sitting on the wall people watching, Hiking/camping along the C&O Canal, listening to the Speakeasy boys playing a concert, Bettys breakfast bowl (enough said)… the list could go on and on but I miss my home. I miss walking down the street and knowing everyone. I can say with more pride than ever before that I am proud to be from the great state of West Virginia, and I am even more proud to be a part of the Shepherdstown local community in the Eastern Panhandle.

** Side note: Our representative Steven Skinner recently introduced his partner to the state legislature in Charleston. High five to Steven for promoting equality in a state that has a history of supporting traditional beliefs.  🙂 **

Now that you have a small sight into my brain, here is a small conclusion on what work I am doing.

1. Hospital Garden- The hospital garden is looking really good. The health volunteer is working on a nutrition/medicinal gardening project that seems to be taking off quite well (Shout out to Maureen for doing a kick ass job!). My goal is still turning the garden over into the hands of the Senegalese people. Also we are working on developing a live fence to deter goats from eating everything, and also extending the garden for further production of healthy vegetables.

2. Temey-Thiago Fish Farming project: I have been out of site for the past week due to a bacterial infection. Once i return We will be doing a land feasibility study to make sure that the land can support a pond without losing to much water. If the land is considered suitable then we will work on developing the foundational structure of the project and hopefully will break ground sometime around August, after Ramadan of course. If the land is considered unsuitable for Fish Farm cultivation my back up plan is to raise rabbits as a small animal husbandry venture.

3. I recently started working on a pen pal project between students at an international school in Dakar and C.E.M Students in a village outside of Richard Toll. I hope that this project can help develop a greater cultural understanding between village students and those who tend to live in the bubble of Dakar.

4. Moringa Tourney- Maureen, Gordon, Lindsay (Our new health volunteer) and I will be doing a tourney where we will teach villages along the Lac de Guierre road about the nutritional benefits of Moringa , How to transform the leaves into a healthy powder, and how to plant a bed for their own benefit.

5. Moringa seed extension- Currently the country’s Moringa coordinator and I are working on a seed extension project. Currently there are only a few farms/gardens that extend Moringa seed to communities and volunteers working with moringa. Jake and I are trying to extend seeds to regional houses and Master Farmers in Senegal that way every region of Senegal will have a reliable seed source.

Wellp thats what i’m up to. Let me know if you all have any questions by emailing me!

Mbaile04@rams.shepherd.edu

Peace and Love,

Michael

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6 Months.. 6 Months.. 6 MONTHS!!

 

 

      Okay, sorry its taken me so long to update the blog. I would say that I don’t have time, but I guess I do and just needed some motivation to write this post. The motivation for this post being my 6 MONTH ANNIVERSARY IN COUNTRY! Yes, believe it, I have been gone for 6 months. Its going pretty quickly and now for the update of what’s going on in my life.

 

Life at site is going really well, I am super busy trying to meet people in my city who would like my assistance and also trying to make host country national friends as well. Projects Update: The Hospital Garden is taking up a lot of my time and therefore looks wonderful thanks to the hard work of myself, my counterpart Diatta, and my well connected site mate Health Volunteer Maureen Brown. My goal for the garden is to make sure it becomes sustainable, and fully in the hands of the Senegalese people. Maureen will also be starting a medicinal garden and we will also start doing nutrition formations (trainings) in the garden. This will be a lot of work to try and convince the hospital director to hire a watering person, yet after meeting with him once it seems like he is on board with the hospital in general. The women’s group is a little bit of a different story. The women mainly see me as a labor force, thus I draw water from the well and do other heavy lifting. My APCD Massaly came last week and talked to the women about my role as a PCV, being a resource with agricultural information, so hopefully their perception of me will change.

 

            ONTO THE NEW PROJECT!!!!

 

            Alright, I am really excited about this, if you couldn’t tell by the all CAPS title above. I am working on starting a new project! One of the struggles of being a third generation volunteer working in a community is the feeling of a lack of ownership of a project. The hospital garden was started by the first volunteer (Pape Diop) who was also known as “The Mayor of Richard Toll” due to his high level of integration into the community. My ancienne, Michelle O’Malley, Started the women’s garden that I work with as well. After being in-site I began to wonder if I would have anything that would be mine, a project where future volunteers would say “Ahh yes, Michael Bailey started that”. They say that these projects come to you, and one day two weeks ago I was introduced to a school director who, inshallah, has given me the opportunity to start something new. Mr. Ba the school director at a local ecole elementaire (Elementary school for those who do not understand French J) approached Maureen and I about starting a school garden/fish farm/fruit orchard in a village about 8k south of Richard Toll. It immediately sparked my interest. Maureen and I agreed to bike down to the village of Temey- Thiago to pay a visit. What we found was incredible. The village, school, and Mr. Ba had already started a local chicken-raising co-op that benefited members of the community, and the school itself. Also he had already purchased the land for the fish farm, and garden/orchard! This was much more than I could have hoped for because it shows that the work partner and the community is invested in making the project work. Starting a school garden shouldn’t be a problem, but now I must do extensive research on fish farming in Africa and start a small scale experiment to make sure it can work. Again, I am really excited to start on this project and will keep you all posted on what’s going on. 

 

            Other than my projects and work I am thoroughly enjoying my time here in Senegal. My language is slowly… SLOWLY… improving, but I am becoming more confident in my community and interacting with Host country nationals. I definitely have my days where I am homesick, but having created a new home in a new country with new friends is something that helps. My family and friends here are extremely supportive and loving and without their support, and support stateside, I wouldn’t be nearly as successful as I am.

 

Peace and Love!

             MB

 Image

Picture of Danny and I “Chopping our money” at the Talibe Soccer Tournament! 

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There is a chicken in the well, yet all remains calm :)

A lot has happened since my last post and I apologize for not having updated in a while. Every time I tried to write something we would lose internet or I would be called upon to do something so here is what I have been up to since my last post!

 

Volunteer visit went well, I got to see a glimpse of where I would be living and who I would be working with over the next two years. Everyone seemed really excited to work with me, which made me really excited to finish training so that I could finally install!

 

After volunteer visit we continued our training; all of the trainees seemed revitalized by our volunteer visits and we had much to look forward to including counterpart workshop, Thanksgiving at the beach, and then swearing in/ installation into our final sites. Counterpart workshop was our next milepost that we passed which is a three-day event where our work partners came into the training center in Thies. During the CPW trainees met with their counterparts and attended sessions on the goals of Peace Corps, which gave them a greater insight on who we were as Americans, PC volunteers, and Individuals. After we parted with our Counterparts we spent two days at the beach with all of the trainees. It was a much needed vacation where we drank, ate, and just had a good ol American vacation! After coming back from the beach we hit our final mile of training and were tying up loose ends preparing for our final technical and language exams. Obviously I passed both because I am writing you from Richard Toll J On a sadder note saying goodbye to my host family in Tawa Fall was extremely hard, I was very comfortable with them and they treated me with respect, love, and care. Sometimes I find myself wishing that I could stay with them for my whole service. PC service has a way of shaking things up as soon as you finally get settled. I am assuming that its part of service and will eventually make me stronger. Here is my little shout out to the Diakhate’s who took me into their home, made me part of their family, patiently taught me Wolof, who I love and care about deeply, and will never forget them. I will never be able to show them my appreciation for all they have done for me in making my first two months in Senegal ,away from my friends and family, comfortable.

 

SWEARING IN

            I couldn’t believe I had made it to the swear in ceremony! After 9 months of applying, 6 months of waiting and 2 months of training my dream was finally coming true. I realized spent 17 months trying to become a PCV for 27 months! That is like over half of the time I will spend as a PCV! Anyways.. Swearing in was awesome and legit! The after party was the best part though, free food and drinks (non alcoholic variety). Picture this: 55 people who haven’t eaten American food in about 2 months, all of a sudden are placed in a courtyard with pizza, cookies, brownies, friend potato balls etc… it was like the center cornocoupia from The Hunger Games with the exception of killing people of course. I got to talk to the ambassador who said that Peace Corps Swear In ceremonies are the only parties that he has where there are no leftovers. After taking pictures with our prospective sectors and stuffing our faces, purses, pockets, and bags with cookies and other goodies we headed back to the bus to Thies for final packing and installation.

           

            Installation was not that special, we went to all the bureaucratic places around my town and then moved all my stuff into my room. I am finally settled in and unpacked, like literally I have unpacked all my bags and have my room set up, pictures will come soon, inshallah.

 

            We have finally arrived at the present time. I am living in Richard Toll, I am having some adjustment issues with language, work expectations, and home sickness. Times like these make me question why I am in the Peace Corps? A bunch of people have also asked me why I am here and what I hope to get from this experience and I will do my best to answer this question that has an evolving answer.

 

            When I first applied to Peace Corps I did it for me, I wanted to travel, I wanted to serve, I liked the ideals that were developed my Sargent Shriver and John F. Kennedy, and most of all I wanted to test the limits of myself. Could I do it? Could I leave my comfortable life in Shepherdstown and leave America for the first time, and leave for 2 years? I will say that I have moments where I think: what the hell am I doing? I could be in America, eating sushi, drinking coffee from hypnoroastery. Most of all I could be spending time with my friends, my brothers, my family. In these times the deeper meaning of why I am here comes out, usually after a quick cry in my room. I am here because not only will I become stronger after the two years of service and will get to see parts of the world while doing so. I am here for the people of Senegal, and the people of America. Being a PCV, one is also an ambassador of American ideals and behaviors. I am realistic with the expectation that I will not change the world, also that I won’t make Senegal a food secure nation. What I do know is that by educating a few on better agriculture practices that one day Senegal will be a food secure nation that wont need the help of Peace Corps, USAID, and other NGO’s. I am here because I believe that Senegal can do this, I believe in the people of Senegal, and I am willing to spend two years of my life to help move them in that direction.

 

Hope you enjoyed the post! Here is my new address as well:

 

PCV Michael Bailey

BP 32

Richard Toll, Senegal

West Africa

            “Par Avion”

 

Much love,

            Michael- Samba Sow

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Dead Sheep and clear urine.

Yes, my title of this post is Dead Sheep and clear urine. Those of you who read will understand what is meant by the end of my post, Inshallah. Life in Senegal is going great, I have developed my routine in my Community based learning village and my language is progressing slowly, but I enjoy every second that I am here. There is something about living in Africa that really makes you appreciate the simpler moments in life… moments with family, moments with friends, and moments when you have clear pee.

Having clear pee is now something that i look forward to, my first pee will ultimately determine what I will do with the rest of my day, and more importantly, it will have an influence on my mood. As you can guess staying hydrated here during the hot season is a part time job. It may not sound like a lot, but add it to the 2 other part time jobs of technical and language learning and it builds up! If my urine is clear, i am ecstatic! If yellow, I must endure the worst of all drinks… a liter of ORAL REHYDRATION SALTS. For those of you that don’t know ORS is a packet of salt and other minerals that when mixed with water and in your body rehydrates you pretty quickly (so they say). In actuality it is probably the most disgusting thing one could drink it is salty, slightly sweet, and a tid bit bitter. Therefore, now in Senegal I celebrate my clear urine.

In other news, Senegalese muslims recently celebrated a holiday known as Tabaski. On this holiday my family slaughtered 5 sheep in our compound by cutting the throat, cleaning it out, and then we ate it…. for three days. Lets just say that unrefrigerated meat starts to taste less delicious after spending a day under the Senegalese sun. Thats enough about that… onto the exciting news of this post… my final site placement!!

The other night, myself and my fellow stagaires were all taken to the basketball court with a map of Senegal painted on it, and then blindfolded for the ritualistic site revelation. I can not begin to explain the excitement i felt as I tied the blindfold around my head, felt the hand of a fellow volunteer lead me to an unknown place, was told to stop, and then handed a packet. I anxiously waited as the other 55 volunteers were placed and could hear some talking around me. After counting to 3 I took off my bindfold. As I looked around I was immediately excited to realize that I was standing on the northern border of Senegal in the city of Richard Toll.

The city itself has a population of about 100,000 people and is situated in the northern part of Senegal bordering Mauritania and is along the Senegal River. The type of work that the volunteer did before me is impressive, and i look forward to continuing her work at a hospital garden, and other gardens in the area.

So that is what has been going on here in West Afrique! Tomorrow I am leaving at 530 am to go visit my site and will there meet my counterpart, the other volunteer who lives in the city, and my host family who will be my lifeline for the next 25 months of my service! Until next time!

Bismillah.

 

 

 

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Waaw, Bu baax.

This is obviously my first post since I have arrived in Senegal and so much has happened! We arrived into Dakar on the 27th around 6 am. We stepped off the plane onto the runway and i was immediately slapped with so much humidity it makes West Virginia during the summer seem like a Desert! We then got into busses and drove to the training center, which is about an hour East of Dakar. Once we arrived in Thies (Pronounces Chess) we immediately started our training. The training for the first few days is mainly to orient ourselves not only to the culture of Senegal, but the culture of Peace Corps. Once we were acquainted with the different areas of Thies we were then allowed to explore outside the training center on our own. I took advantage of this and made my way out to explore the market place to become better acquainted to the mad rush of the city market that is a sensory overload to say the least. After a few days of more training we took a french proficiency exam and an agriculture proficiency interview so that the PC staff could make a decision on what region and language we would be placed in. After anxiously waiting two days i found out that i would be learning wolof and moving to a village named Tawa Fall. The village is pretty cool and has a quaint feel to it. By quaint i mean there is no electricity or running water. This is to be my CBT (Community Based Learning) site where I am learning the culture and wolof.. and boy oh boy has it been an adventure!

4 of us arrived in Tawa Falls last wednesday evening for our weeklong stay which is where I met my father, the local farm owner, Ibrahiem Dihakte. He introduced me to his two wives: Umicienne and Yokabo, and my two younger brothers: Amadou and Mustafa. At this point the culture shock has hit me with a full blow. I am watching my younger brother chew on a battery and my two moms constantly come up to me and ask which of them is my “real senegalese mother”. At least thats what i think i hear in my broken Wolof. My house is part of my families compound which houses about 18 other people, most of which are children, and they keep me sane.

My daily senegalese life includes waking up around 7 am, eating bread for breakfast. Then i go to language classes from 9-1 eat lunch around 2 and then sit around and wait for 4 to come so I can go to the farm and double dig some beds or just sit around and talk with two other volunteers to escape the madness of hearing wolof all day long. Its extremely therapeutic and I cherish that time! So that is what i have been doing for the past week.

Now we are back at the training center for more vaccinations and more training. Wednesday we will depart for our CBT sites for 16 days and then we come back on the 29th to find out our FINAL SITE PLACEMENTS. So overall here are my feelings: I love senegal, the people are great, the food is good (i am getting tired of okra.), and i miss all those who are back home. The other trainees are extremely valuable as peer support and the PCV’s are really stinking awesome! And now a story for those who have actually read this far PS. Future posts wont be this long!

During language class last week I left the class to go poop. As i finished I poured the water down the small of my back to wipe (Yes there are only squat toilet). As i left the latrine to go back to class I walked by my mom’s and a few other women in the village and they immediately roared in laughter asking me if I was good. I kept replying Waaw, bu baax (yes im good). Then they pointed to my butt and pointed to water and then I caught a glimpse of my butt and realized it was soaking wet from the excess water. I didnt have time to change my clothes so I had to stick it out and walk through the village with a wet butt. Not one of my prouder moments, and it will not happen again, Inshallah!

Hope you all enjoyed the first and last LONG post . 🙂

MB

 

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Packing Lists and other useful information/rants.

One week, It sounds almost weird to say that I have one week left before I depart for Senegal. Throughout the whole process the idea of departing on a specific date has seemed far off, yet as the date approaches I get more and more excited to start this new chapter of my life. Most volunteers start their blogs off by posting a timeline of their application process, Readers with restless applicant syndrome keep in mind that the application process has changed, and therefore like most commercials “Results like these are no longer typical” 🙂

6/26/2011- Application Submitted with all essays and recommendations completed.

6/30/2011- Filled out Agriculture skills addendum, fingerprint sheets, and Federal Background Check forms.

7/13/2011- All Paperwork submitted to recruiting office via fax/mail

7/19/2011- First email from Mark to schedule and interview.

7/23/2011- Interview in Washington D.C. at PC Headquarters.

9/15/2011- Receive nomination under Agriculture Extension departing September 2012 in SSA (Sub-Saharan Africa)

9/22/2011- Received medical and dental paperwork in Mail

10/13/2011- Sent out all paperwork.

02/14/2012- Medically and Dentally Cleared

03/20/2012- Final interview and invited to serve in Agriculture position departing on September 25, 2012.

3/28/2012- Received invitation in mail as Urban/Peri-Urban Agriculture Extension Agent in SENEGAL!! with a departure date of September 25, 2012.

Thats what my process was like in the old system, my medical clearance was normal but i did forget to get my doctor to sign one paper which caused a minor delay, overall the feeling of opening your invite in the mail is well worth the 8-9 month wait 🙂

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