Monday, May 10, 2010

Remember When I Used to be a Vegetarian?

The title of this post was inspired by my good friend and nearest neighbor, Justin Tien (, after I started a story to him and some of our other buddies by casually saying, "So, remember when we used to be vegetarians?" The story I was telling was one of integration -- something that we all strive for and struggle with everyday, which is a familiar story to anyone that has lived in another country.

In the name of true candidness, today has been a tough one in terms of feeling comfortably integrated. After a night of bad sleep and a frustrating language test, the Senegalese habit of insisting on immediate and extensive greetings got to me. In a moment of weakness, I was driven to tears when our tech trainer ordered me to greet him and then harassed me about a cut on my foot. They've warned us about blogging on bad days, but I'm doing so anyway, so stick with me.

Training has continued along fairly uneventfully, or maybe life here is just feeling more routine. Our counterpart workshop was an exhausting two-day event, but having the time to discuss my life and work in Ngaraf with two well-informed and committed village residents made me feel far less anxious about my actual installation. Plus, we rewarded ourselves with a two-day beach vacation, packing all 40+ of us into an airy beach villa for the weekend following the workshop. After that, it was off to our home stay villages for one final week with our families. Now, we've said those goodbyes and are preparing for the next stage in this journey: Swear-In, Installation, and, at long last, the start of two years of service.

In my reckless pursuit of integration, I've gotten myself into a few pickles of late. Last week at the beach, I got bruises and cuts all over my body - mostly on my feet - when waves tossed me into large rocks concealed beneath the surface. Yesterday, just as those sores were healing, I got severe blisters on the balls of both my feet when I played volleyball in hot, hot sand the day after over-enthusiastically pumice-stoning the skin on them. Also, in the last days with my home stay family, I experienced my first bout of real sickness, complete with diarrhea and fever . . . thus successfully reigning in my hubris over "never getting sick." And I broke my phone when I made the rookie mistake of tucking it under my chin in order to pee during a power outage (key detail: the phone has a flashlight on it). Yes, I dropped it in the toilet, or, rather, the hole that serves as a toilet; I retrieved it and cleaned it, but it was broken. (It's fixed now!)

I hate to leave on a note of complaint, but since my inspiration is expiring, I will let these pictures (and their captions) tell the rest of the story. In true storybook fashion, I've even divided the images into four chapters:


Senegalese women have an amazing ability to prepare enormous amounts of food. What you see here is one of several huge pots of beef stew that the women of my compound cooked as a gift to the school.

You can't have a meal without rice! The beef stew was poured over these 40 or so pans of rice. Look at all that food, cooked up like it was nothing!

Giving a presentation on how to make a Nimes Lotion, a mosquito repellent made from Nimes leaves, soap, and oil.

With Steve and Jessica at our super-successful Nimes Lotion demonstration.
(Question: does anyone know if Nimes trees exist in the U.S.?)

This is what I got when I asked the boys to come pose for a picture.

Jessica's siblings, after she painted their finger nails.


Ann Marie shows us how to fry moringa leaf beignets

Evan and Jono show off their "chayas"

Cuddle Fest at the center!

With my two counterparts after the workshop: Monsieur Ba, my school counterpart, and Marieme, my community counterpart


Bus to the Beach!

Dave and Kourtney on a beach stroll

Paul and Maddie, the model married couple

Kourtney and I
(It was about this time that we started planning our around-the world sailing trip for the months after we complete our services)

The coastline

Group Shot


Jessica and Steve walking home after watering the garden.

The Road to Ker Sadaro
(sadly, the road to my Ngaraf has far less trees ... maybe I'll plant thousands!)


I'm sorry if you're over the pictures of massive cooking projects, but I just can't get over it! Here, the women are preparing gallons and gallons of soured milk (essentially yoghurt) to pour over steamed millet to make the traditional baptism delicacy called Lach.

15-day-old Fama getting her head shaved on the day of her baptism

My little buddy, Kine, who likes to sit on my lap and protect my purse from the prying hands of other little tikes.

Steve and his sisters

Crazy, crazy dancing at the baptism - they are SO good at this dance, which involves jumping high off the group and flinging your limbs around wildly

I don't know if it's genetic or what, but even the littlest kids can look good doing this dance.

Steve and I get in on the action.

We don't look quite as good...

More intense dancing at the baptism

Some favorite kids

With my mom (in green) and my Aunt Hady (in blue) -- they gave me this and other beautiful outfit the night before I left!

The picture that sparked the name of the post!
This is the sheep they killed in my honor... so this is me, the former vegetarian, trying to integrate!

Oh! I really will miss my little brothers and sisters in Ker Sadaro.

P.S. You probably all know this, but just in case: you can make any picture bigger by clicking on it, FYI.


  1. I love your pictures!!! I love the outfit, you look so beautiful, just like all the women, and I love the food pictures... its just like catering!

    I can't wait to keep reading, seeing your beautiful pics!

    BTW Im going to Panama on Friday!!!

  2. I love your pictures too! Especially the little Obama outfit.

    But where's the pictures of your body scrapes and blisters?