Monday, June 29, 2015
Pulaar is nothing like English. It's full of symbolic language, idioms, and double meanings, and the words are in a shuffled order. When my brain thinks in English, the Pulaar sentences come out twisted, like a crumpled banner, and it's my listener's hard work to straighten my crooked words to understand the message. Of course, everything that I hear is also twisted, so I need to straighten the Pulaar words I hear into something that makes sense to my English brain before I can understand.
I don't want to sound negative - I'm not. I'm having a lot of fun with this! It's the ultimate brain teaser. If I have a patient listener, I can have whatever conversations I please, and thankfully this is a small enough town that a lot of people have nothing better to do than to talk to me. I know it will get even easier my second year here, and that's exciting and inspiring.
However entertaining Pulaar Puzzling may be, it does stand in the way of my behavior change goals. After all, I did come here to work. Unfortunately, I'm not yet too convincing when I try to have complex conversations analyzing the pros and cons of new vs. traditional practices. Usually, my friends in village just shake their heads at my weird, foreign ways and say "Minen, doo, ndeer Fuladu..." (we, here, in the Fuladu [Pulaar-speaking region]), then explain what they do, slowly and clearly, as though they were talking to a child. After all, in their eyes, they're the normal ones. I'm the odd duck.
I started keeping a list in my notebook of all the times I've heard, "Minen, doo, ndeer Fuladu...." used to explain a completely perplexing behavior. Each time, my language was sufficient to mutually understand each other, but we both left shaking our heads in bewilderment.
We, here, in the Fuladu...
We think that morning coffee purges witches.
"Kadiatou, buy me coffee."
"Haha, my uncle! I am without 5 CFA this morning. I am not drinking coffee today."
"You will drink coffee at home?" (think - a "yes" means that this random dude might invite himself over, and I don't want to deal with that. A "no" means a possible lecture. Decide to go with my old standby, the noncommittal shrug.)
"In the night, vampires and witches can come. They enter your body. In the night, it is cold. You must drink hot in the morning."
"Ah, because witches aren't used to hot? They can't hot?" (woowde and waawde, "to be used to" and "to be able to", sound similar and people sometimes can't hear the difference through my accent, so I decided to say both just to cover my bases.)
"In the old place, (said to refer to wherever us Toubacos are from, because no one can remember if we're from France or America or Italy or Spain, and it's all the same anyway), we drink coffee because we like coffee."
"Well, we here know that coffee is important. We, here, in the Fuladu, we think coffee is medicine."
We think honey cures diabetes.
"Kadiatou, you will drink?"
"What is?" (In Pulaar, you just say hoko woni, "what is," instead of "what is that." I don't know why we say the "that" in English. It's an unnecessary syllable. If it's not obvious what "this" or "that" is through context, the word "this" or "that" doesn't provide any clues as to what you might mean.)
"Honey. Woods honey."
"Oh! I will drink a little."
"Drink it all!" (she in no way expected me to drink the entire liter cup, that's just the polite thing to say.)
"If I drink it all, I will have gotten diabetes." (I was trying to use the subjunctive, which is hard grammatically. I wanted to say "if I were to drink all of that, I would get diabetes" but I spoke weird nonsense instead. She looked confused for a second, then lit up, thinking she understood.)
"Yes! If you have diabetes, this cures you."
"Yes! This is medicine for diabetes. If diabetes catches you (In the Fuladu, diseases catch YOU instead of the other way around), this is medicine."
"...No. When diabetes catches you, your body can't sugar. Honey is sugar. Drinking sugar when your body can't sugar is bad."
"This is not sugar. This is medicine."
"Honey has vitamins a little, but it is not medicine for nothing. (double negatives are grammatically correct here). It is not good for diabetes. It is sugar really really."
"Well, we? Here? In the Fuladu? We think this is medicine for diabetes."
We think powdered milk is medicine.
"Adama! I heard you are sick."
"I'm a little better." (Even if you're on death's door, you always insist that you're a little better.)
"What got you?"
"You got hospital medicine?" (there are other ways to ask questions, but the easiest is just to pronounce a statement like it's a question, so that's what I always do.)
"No, I drank Vitalait."
"Vitalait? The powdered milk from the boutique?"
"Yes. It is medicine."
"Vitalait is not medicine. Amadou Dem (the boutique owner) is not a doctor."
"It has vitamins. It is medicine. We here in the Fuladu think it is medicine."
We plant hot peppers in the rainy season.
"Lumbi, you are going to the field?"
"My garden, there." (She said a short, clipped "to" instead of a longer "tooooon," meaning the garden was not far away.)
"Ah. You are planting?"
"What you are planting."
"Remember last year you planted hot peppers?"
"Yes, last year I planted hot peppers."
"Remember when you sold your harvest, you got money very small. Because everyone, all the people, sold peppers at the same time."
"Yes! I didn't get money."
"This year, you can grow tomatoes or eggplant."
"I grow hot peppers in the rainy season."
"But everyone grows hot peppers. No one grows tomatoes. If I woman grows tomatoes, she can get money. Because everyone grows hot peppers."
"Yes. We, here in the Fuladu, we grow hot peppers in rainy season. Hot. Peppers." (Similarly, everyone sells mangoes during hot season, and peanuts during dry season. Everything is bought and sold at the same time as all the neighbors are buying and selling the same thing. Sellers are constantly complaining about the low prices their wares are getting. Buyers are complaining about the high prices they have to pay.)
We don't eat our chicken's eggs.
"Tidiane, do you eat eggs?"
"Ha! I'm not a patron, I don't have money for eggs!"
"You have money. And you have chickens."
"Yes! Lots of chickens!" *low whistle*
"If a chicken does an egg, (who knows the verb for "to lay"?), you take the egg, you eat it?"
"No. If you sell one egg, it is 100 CFA, but if you sell a chicken, you get 2000 CFA"
"But it helps your body to eat eggs, and Pulaars say 'Health is the Largest Treasure.'" (memorizing a bunch of proverbs is one of the most worthwhile things I've done here.)
"You can Pulaar! But we don't have money."
"Chickens here are many, but their food is not many. It is not possible, all eggs are chickens. Many die."
"Yes, many die."
"If you have 10 eggs, you can eat nine eggs. One egg will be chicken. Food is enough for one only."
"We, here, in the Fuladu, we don't eat our eggs. We sell our chickens."
We think that mirrors attract lightning.
Whenever dark clouds roll in, someone yells at me to remember to put a sheet over my water filter before the storms come or my hut will get struck by lightning and burn down.
We think that cat fur causes tuberculosis.
If a cat hair gets caught in your throat, you will cough and cough until you die. This is the leading hypothesis for what killed my dog while I was on vacation. A close runner-up is that he ate a magpie.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
The grant funds covered cement and steel rebar to put inside the cement to strengthen it. The grant recipients dug their own holes using only rudimentary hand tools without remuneration, no easy task in an area where the lifeless sun-baked goat-trodden ground hasn't seen rain in over six months.
|Demba insisted on taking this picture...awkward.|
|Review: Poop, both child and adult, goes in the latrine. Garbage, sticks, and rainwater do not. Flies also should not go in the latrine, so keep the hole covered.|
So...was this a successful project? I keep going back and forth about whether I'm proud of it or not.
Demba, my counterpart, has ambitious plans for me to do a latrine-a-palooza in the next dry season (October-November or so.) He has a list of 82 more households he wants to build latrines for.
1) It would be easy. Demba did 95% of the work for this project. The large-scale latrine project he's proposing would probably be my best opportunity to do a big project in Senegal. After all, I only have 10 months left.
1) I feel exploited. Demba has a long history of using Peace Corps volunteers to fund his projects - there was another latrine project done in Goundaga in 2011, and probably even more before that. Sites are supposed to be closed after three generations of volunteers, and Demba has already had four, not counting me or Steph. He should technically be cut off.
2) This is a chance to increase health and sanitation for 82 households. It fits clearly into my project framework, the Peace Corps document that tells me what I'm supposed to be doing here.
2) None of those 82 households are in my village, which might lead to resentment. I haven't pursued latrines in my village because no one has approached me asking for them (so I didn't see a perceived need), but at the same time, if people in my village see others getting a latrine, they might demand to get one, too. Jealousy hurts.
3) It wouldn't be a problem to fund it. I posted the original latrine project grant (~$500) right before I went on vacation, hoping that if friends or family wanted to donate to my work they could just donate to the grant. Instead, it was fully funded by strangers within two days of posting.
3) I'm not sure it's a great use of money. After all, literally thousands of years ago, the romans had aquaducts to supply their toilets with running water. Why, in 2015, do people here still need someone to pay for a hole to poop in? If it were perceived as a real need, I think they might have found a way to pay for it themselves by now.
4) The community members who would be receiving the latrines are willing to pay a fairly large contribution (2000 CFA) and to attend a series of water, sanitation, and hygiene trainings, in addition to doing all the unskilled labor (digging the holes, transporting the materials with a donkey cart).
4) Same as above. I am probably the 500th person to try to teach water and sanitation practices here. I don't think lack of knowledge is the problem, and I'm not sure if trainings would help.
5) I have the time. I do much more work here than I used to, but less than I did in the states. It'd be nice to feel busy again.
5) If I'm busy with a large-scale latrine project I might not have time to do other work in my village.
6) The proposed sites for the latrine-a-palooza are in the "red zone," where volunteers currently cannot serve due to safety and security concerns. That means that no Peace Corps volunteer will be posted there in the foreseeable future, so if I don't do this project, I don't know who will.
6) USAID, Unicef, WorldVision, Adamas, Water Charity...if I don't build these latrines, someone else probably will. And if a new organization keeps swooping in and building latrines every couple years, there's no reason for cmmunity members to take initiative to build their own latrines. Why buy something if you know you can get it for free if you just wait awhile longer?
So...what do you think? I've been thinking about this for over a week and I'm still not anywhere close to making a decision. I'd love some inputs.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
If you choose to make a donation (instructions are at the bottom of this post), here are the girls at the middle school in Teyel that you'll be supporting. They're really excellent kids - I wish you all had the chance to get to know them.
6eme – (equivalent of 6th grade)
|Dado Diao is from a village called Saare Konkong, but she lives in Teyel during the school year with her grandparents. Since she's a young woman, she's expected to help her grandmother and her aunts with all the housework. Of the 15 children in her family, only five currently attend school - most of the rest dropped out at the elementary level. She likes French and wants to be a middle school French teacher when she's older. Ami Sabaly, one of last year's MSS girls, is her best friend in Teyel and they frequently study together. |
1) Please follow this link: https://beta.peacecorps.gov/
2) Enter your personal information
3) Under "Please use this box if you want to send a message of encouragement to this project's volunteer" please enter "PC Senegal MSS Fund"
Please note the donation process is different this year than last year. This year, donations are not made towards a specific volunteer's site. Rather, the 2015-16 school year will be funded through the Global Fund and any excess funds will be put towards next year's MSS program.
Saturday, June 6, 2015
Senegal did unfortunately kill my movie-watching tablet - the annoyingly bold rat that disagrees with my inhabitation if HIS room (jerk) was running on one of my shelves and knocked over a plastic container full of sugar (jerk!), which then fell onto the tablet which had been resting on my table, cracking the only part of the screen that wasn't already cracked. I wasn't willing to give up on movie nights - they're one of my favorite things to do at site at this point - so I started using my laptop instead. Since the laptop doesn't have as much battery life as the tablet, we can only watch movies a couple times a week now, but the screen is so much bigger and the sound is louder, so my family says they prefer it this way. I'm not ready to forgive the rat, though. Please eat your poison and die already, jerk rat.
Pitch Perfect: The kids were talking and fidgeting during the beginning part of this movie (before the performances really got underway) but everyone stopped, as if on cue, for the musical numbers. They were all spellbound by “Cups” (as most Americans were) but when I asked if anyone wanted to learn it the next day, they all said, “Mi waawaa! (I can’t!)” I would recommend that other volunteers use caution if they want to show this movie. Audrey’s puking wasn’t a problem…they’ve seen grosser. My aunt just asked, concerned, why she didn’t go see a doctor, because that wasn’t normal. However, all the lesbian stuff was awkward, particularly the scene where Amy gets hit by a burrito and Cynthia performs unnecessary mouth to mouth. It wasn’t the right time to have a frank discussion about how in America sometimes girls love girls. I just shrugged and said I didn’t understand that scene. It was uncomfortable.
Beauty and the Beast: This one was a hit. It was a simple enough concept that I was able to explain it with my baby Pulaar, so it was one of the few films we’ve watched that everyone completely understood. Since Senegal is a francophone country, everyone knows basic French greetings, so that first song (Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour!) was a hit. As “Tale as Old as Time” (the somber, serious slow-dance song where Beauty and the Beast fall in love) started, everyone started giggling. I asked what was up, and my sister said the animal (Beast) was wearing pants. I thought I was missing something because the giggles persisted the whole 2 minutes of the song, but apparently it was just that funny. They kept repeating, "laar tuuba makko!" Look at his pants! I noticed with irritation that Belle didn’t actually eat anything during the Be Our Guest song, she just clapped and went back to bed. COME ON GIRL, you're surrounded by French chefs trying to feed you and I'm in the land of leaf sauce! I am sadly obliged to report that my confusing shame-lust on Gaston has not abated with time, despite the fact that he's a narcissistic jerk bag.
Finding Nemo: I had a French audio track to this one. I had French for Aladdin, too, but Aladdin was too difficult for anyone to understand so it just as well could have been English. Finding Nemo was good in French, since the characters spoke slowly and used simple words. I barely speak French and I could understand some parts. My sister Medo, who studies in middle school, said she understood most of it. Although this doesn’t have a reputation for being an educational movie, my family definitely learned from it. I don't think many people here have ever seen a sea turtle, jellyfish, seahorse, whale, aquarium, or scuba diver.
Hook: We watched this movie over two days, and on the evening of the second day, my brother Alpha asked, excitedly, “Can we watch Rufio tonight?!” All the preteen girls were also totally infatuated with Rufio even though they couldn’t understand a word he was saying. When I asked who was more weydi (beautiful), Rufio or Jack from Titanic, two of my sisters started bickering so intensely one slapped the other. The movie was too hard to fully explain, so I didn’t try – I just said that Hook took Peter’s kids, so Peter had to go to Rufio’s formation and learn to fight to get them back. The scene where Julia Roberts gets really big and kisses Peter was weird. No one here understood it and I guess I didn’t, either. Besides Rufio, the most popular part of this movie was where Peter falls in the ocean and gets rescued by mermaids. No one know what to think of them – weird beautiful fish-ladies. I guess they are kind of confusing if you’ve never seen one before.
The Parent Trap: I could explain this concept pretty easily – there were twins whose parents divorced, and each parent took one twin, then the twins met and switched places. The beginning, when the girls meet at camp and dislike each other, was funny, but I did feel ridiculous for coming from a culture where spreading honey all over a sleeping child as a prank is possible (honey is like gold here, protected and savored). I also told my family that the camp the girls met at was a kind of special school, because I felt silly coming from a culture where people send off their kids to play for months each summer instead of relying on them for house or farm work. When the dad’s new girlfriend came into the picture, I had to explain why that was a problem and why the girls needed to break them up. In America, you can only have one wife. In Senegal you can have four.
Spirited Away: This one only lasted one night. I told my family that I wanted them to watch films from the whole world, not just from America. Since a major part of watching movies here is everyone narrating the events that are happening on-screen, anyone that happened to be walking by during this movie would overhear some really weird conversations. “Oh…the mud man is very smelly…oh…now the small child removed a bicycle from his back…” My family didn’t want to continue watching this a second night. I said if they didn’t watch it they wouldn’t know if the girl’s parents stay pigs or if they turn back into people. It was not enough bait to change their minds. They said it wasn't bad...they just didn't want to watch it. Lesson learned: abstract anime does not translate well to Pulaar subsistence farmers.
Iron Man: This unseated Jurassic Park as favorite movie for teen/adult males. The afternoon after watching this movie, little boys in the compound were pretending to blast each other with their nonexistent palm-light-weapons, and my brother Alpha kept telling me, "Tony ne welli!" Toni is also the Pulaar word for "lips," so I was pretty confused about why he was telling me that lips were cool, until he pantomimed flying and said "Tony" a few more times. There was a somewhat graphic sex scene in the beginning of this movie with a rando who was clearly not Tony's wife (awkward!), which I tried to excuse by saying Tony was a bit of a kalibante (troublemaker). I think this just made all the men like him more.
Avatar: It was interesting watching this as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was strangely jealous of Jake Sully's "service" - why the hell did Neytiri and Mo'at speak English?! He had it so easy! I hoped that my family didn't expect me to integrate into their community as well as Jake did into his. I'm not going to marry a local and join in a war against my own people. Sorry. The family liked the movie, especially the big fight scene at the end of it, but the computer graphics might have been too good - there was some bickering about whether the animals in the movie were real or not.
Shrek: This movie is mostly dialogue between Shrek and Donkey, which no one understood, coupled with funny references to fairy tales which my family also did not understand. All the physical humor was appreciated, though, especially Shrek's smackdown of the knights when he went to visit Lord Farquad and Fiona's smackdown of Robin Hood's merry men. Even though the kids didn't understand what Donkey was saying, they still thought he was funny, but I don't think it would be worthwhile to watch this again. There were too many scenes with not enough action.