I love Kedougou! I just returned to the training center last night from my volunteer visit and am energized to finish training and move to my new home for the next 2 years.
At 6am last Tuesday morning, 5 other trainees, 2 current volunteers, and I left for Kedougou in a Land Cruiser with all of our bikes and luggage strapped to the roof. Well, we were supposed to leave at 6. True to African time, that really meant 6:45, so we fed some thirsty mosquitos as we sat in the car waiting to leave. The landscape got more and more beautiful as we headed south on our 9 hour car ride. We moved along from sandy terrain to picturesque red dirt roads and towering green trees. We arrived at the Kedougou Regional house to a Mexican dinner of fresh tortillas, ground beef, and mango salsa! After weeks of fishballs, this meal was amazing!
The Kedougou house reminded me of a hippy commune/campground. The compound is spread out with a kitchen hut, mini disco hut, covered sleeping area with beds and mosquito nets, horse shoes, hammocks, etc. The volunteers were extremely welcoming, and they threw us a party on our first night.
The next day I went with Ian, my new closest trainee neighbor, and Kate, a current volunteer in the region, to spend the night in Nafadji. Nafadji looks exactly as I'd pictured a small, African village to look, and it felt surreal to be there. My host dad, the chief, is very serious looking, but seems very kind. I was swarmed by my little host nieces as soon as I arrived and they helped me carry my bag and bike to my hut. They made me cute little bracelets, but my hand barely fit into the first one (that baby is never going to come off again!), and I accidentally broke the two others they gave me as I tried to get them on my wrist. The little children are adorable, and my host sisters seem very nice as well. There's a crazy story that goes along with that visit, but I'll write that in another post. Oh, and my new name for the next 2 years is Aissata Dumbha.
Ian and I biked 16k to Missira Dantila, his site, the following morning with Mamadou, a local farmer in my village. The bike ride was beautiful, and we greeted lots of locals on the route, including a group of women singing and playing drums on the road. We also randomly bumped into Ian's health counterpart as he was motorcycling away from town. Mamadou took us all around Ian's village and introduced us to the families, and the majority of them shared the last name Tanjan (which is Ian's new last name as well). Apparently the whole village is related? His hut is in the process of being built, so we got to see them put the straw roof on. They asked him to help out with that, but we're still not sure whether or not they were serious. It was a great trip, and his village was very enthusiastic and welcoming.
The rest of the visit, Ian and I stayed with Chris, a current volunteer in Saraya (30k north of Nafadji). He showed us around the town and introduced us to the doctors at the hospital who we'll be working with. Chris is finishing his service next month, so we picked his brain and learned about the health projects he'd worked on. He also has movies on his laptop, so we enjoyed watching Indiana Jones Temple of Doom in the shade of his hut to escape the insane heat Kedougou gets this time of year.
Our last day, we returned to the regional house, and all the volunteers went swimming and enjoyed warthog sandwiches. Funny enough, on our drive back to Thies, we saw warthogs in the road, and when we stopped to take pictures, they let us pet them and were really sweet. Now I feel bad about eating them!
I had a wonderful visit to Kedougou and am very excited to move down there in less than a month! Tomorrow our training group is visiting Dakar for the first time. I'm anxious to finally see the capital!