Time is flying!!! At the end of June, my language teacher, Lamine, and my 3 Jaxanke classmates came to stay in my village for a 4-day language seminar. We had language lessons, got our hair braided by my host sisters, had our feet dyed in unique designs, and relaxed under the huge neem tree next to my compound. It was great to have the group together again and to brush up on our language skills.
Directly from the language seminar, I took a car to Kedougou to help the Regional House gear up for our big 4th of July party that we throw every year for all the volunteers in the region. We cooked up a huge feast, including four pigs! One of the volunteers from Hawaii knew how to cook pigs in the ground, so he dug massive holes and cooked two in the ground. The other two were butchered and used for pulled pork sandwiches and barbeque. One of the volunteers is the daughter of a butcher, so she Skyped with her dad as he instructed her on how to butcher the pigs. I helped her slice the pigs, and I now know how to cut meat off a pig! The party was a huge success, and it was great to see all the other volunteers from different regions. We even lit off fireworks!
After the party, I went back to my site for a few days and then started on the Neem Lotion Tour. A few other volunteers and I biked from village to village teaching groups of women how to make lotion out of neem leaves, which is a natural insect repellent. We led a demonstration and also did a mural in each village with instructions on how to make neem lotion. In total, I helped with demonstrations in 5 villages, and we stayed with various volunteers along the way. I’ve done a lot of biking this past week!
It was a blast being part of the Saraya Neem Team as we called ourselves, since we were doing Neem Lotion discussions in the Saraya district villages. We got to visit other volunteers’ villages and teach women how to make lotion that can help protect them and their families from getting mosquito bites, which will lessen the risk of malaria. This time of year, mosquitoes are out in force, and most people's legs are covered in bites (which also leads to a variety of skin infections if you scratch them...gotta love rainy season). Malaria is a significant problem in the Kedougou region during the rainy season, and some children in my family have already gotten it. The women were enthusiastic to learn how to make the lotion, and some are planning to sell it in their villages to earn some extra money for the family. Neem lotion is very simple and inexpensive to make. The only supplies that cost money are soap and a little bit of oil, since Neem leaves and water are free!
Yesterday, a couple other volunteers and I were finishing up the tour and had plans to go to a village that was 15k on a paved road and then 40k on bush roads. Our plan was to bike the 15k in the morning, and then catch a car headed towards the village along the 40k bush road stretch. Of course it rained in the morning so we got a late start, and by the time we got to Bembou, the village where we planned to hitch a ride, it was already 12:30pm. We sat on the side of the road for 5 hours trying to get a ride, and we couldn’t get any cars or trucks to take all three of us and our bikes. Sunburned and exhausted at 5:30pm, we finally gave up and decided it wasn’t worth it to only be in the village for a night and then have to leave the next morning to get to appointments we had today. So we decided to change directions and search for a car to Kedougou instead. We lucked out and got a ride on top of a long truck bed hauling wood, and it was a nice, breezy ride to Kedougou.
Right now I’m at the regional house and will be leaving tomorrow morning to take a car up to Thies for In-Service Training for a couple weeks. On Sunday night, I get to go to the 5 Week Challenge dinner at the National Director’s house for a delicious American feast! I can’t wait!