I think it is important to build some sort of foundation for my blog followers before posting blogs about random stories, occurrences and situations that I experience. So. This blog is a comprehensive overview of my life in Joal, touching on several of the most important aspects of my gap year so far. By doing this I am hoping to create a context for the rest of my blogs yet to come.

My home:

I have two host sisters who are both my age, Anita and Mali. They spend most of the day cleaning and cooking. I have two host brothers, Mam-Guedje and Dominique, twenty-eight and thirty-two. Dominique is getting married next month, is a cab driver, and  reminds me a lot of my real brother, Jared. I have another host sister who lives in France with her husband. I believe they are the ones who support my family because no one in the household has a job besides Dominique. I think this may be a reason why my host-mom, Mamabaru Ndiaye, once asked me if I was interested in marrying my host-sister. Mamabaru Ndiaye is an enthusiastic person who gives me way more attention than I am used to; she insists on sitting next to me when i’m eating even when she is not and once even fanned me through my entire dinner. My host-dad is Papa Sar, a man who spends most of every day sitting or reading. For breakfast, I have bread, peanut-butter, and coffee. I love it. I come home around 1:30 every day to eat lunch “around the bowl” with my entire family. We always have Ceebu Jen for lunch. I eat cous-cous with my dad every night for dinner. I also love that. My family always asks me for things; my computer, bananas, money to buy trees, candy, cell phones. I told them I don’t like it when they do this but they insist. My neighbor came over tonight and offered to give me a bowl of fish. When this happened my mom glared at me and said (translated), “Thats how WE live in Senegal, WE give each other things” The culture is strange and makes me uncomfortable sometimes, but overall, I like it alot. I love the food, the people are fun to hang out with, and most importantly, I have my own space to read, write, or play violin; which I do every morning for at least an hour before I start my day.

My Job:

I didn’t know what my apprenticeship was until a couple weeks into my time in Joal. These weeks were confusing and I spent most of my time doing college applications. Though, with a little persistance and Anta’s help, I found my apprenticeship: The Maison A Eau (Water House). With funding from the Spanish government, the NGO I am working with here, Les Dynamiques Femmes, has built seven of these beautiful structures in the poorer areas of Joal. I work at two of them, Caritas and Khelcom. The purpose of the project is to benefit the women in the area. Each Maison A Eau has a large empty lot where a garden is supposed to be, beautifully constructed bathrooms that are out of service, three large ditches where a water filtration system is supposed to be, an empty room with a chalk board where classes are supposed to be, and another empty room where a boutique is supposed to be. Did I mention that this is a brand new project? The only thing that is functioning in each Maison is the water business. They sell water and make a couple dollars a day that they use to pay for the expenses of and reinvest in the Maison. I met the president of the Khelcom location, Juma, and began working with her mornings clearing out weeds to make room for the garden. Because the garden is in the middle of a neighborhood, I have been integrating into the community: meeting all of the residents, hanging out with the kids, and getting invited to meals. Evenings I go to Les Dynamiques Femmes’ main building on the other side of town (all within walking distance). My supervisor just gave me and Steve, a Peace Corps volunteer here in Joal, a big space in front of the building to start a tree and plant nursery. We are collecting cans, cups, and bottles from the litter all around Joal to use as containers for the plants. Steve and I plan on transferring  what we grow here to the Maison A Eau’s garden. I spend days off volunteering on my neighbor’s farm that is only a thirty minute donkey ride from my house.

The other day, I was walking to Dynamique Femme to work on the plant nursery after eating a delicious lunch with my family and after working in the garden all morning. I realized I was falling in love with Joal.