So I’m writing from Boke, at the Peace Corps Regional House. I just left Koba, where I spent four days meeting people and checking things out. My counterpart is Mangue TP Sylla, this awesome old dude who is a super patron and is respected by the entire community. I was really busy during site visit — following Mangue around and meeting various people; imams, the halif, the staff at the National Agricultural School, the staff at the Seed Center of Koba, the staff at the Ag Research Center, and so, so, so many others. Koba is a beautiful city — a long stretch of 32km of paved, beautiful road sans pot holes. Houses and boutiques spread outwards from the main road but it is fairly linear in shape. To one side — rice fields and the Atlantic Ocean. To the other — acres and acres of palm plantations and gardens. Koba is spread up into different sectors; my house is officially in Koba-Basengue. The ocean port (fishing!!) is about 1.5 miles down the road, the lake is about ~15km the other direction. The lake has two sides — one for locals to swim, wash clothes, etc and another private area that is actually an expat resort where I sat with my sitemate and drank a (cold!) beer. Life is good in Koba! There are small boutiques near me where I can buy bread, eggs, peanuts, and small food items. I get my water from a foot pump a little ways down the road — I place my bidon on my bike and roll it home. It’s too far for me to walk it and I haven’t mastered the head technique yet.
Mangue TP is really excited for me to work in Koba. He is the president of the union of groupements (organized gardening societies) and has many contacts. During site visit I visited a garden of a groupement and also Mangue’s personal garden. Spent some time transplanting tomatoes and weeding. I’m going to be biking a lot in Koba, which is good because a diet consistenting entirely of rice isn’t the best for weight loss. I probably biked 20 miles during the visit. I’m really happy with my site and can’t wait to get back and really move in. I’m replacing a Community Economic Development Volunteer, Chelsea, and she is leaving me with SO much stuff. I am eternally grateful to her! Just the fact that I am entering a house with buckets, containers, and mats — you all back at home don’t understand the importance!
Some funny tidbits of Koba life:
– I saw an old man wearing a “Legalize gay” shirt as I biked past the other day. That’s pretty funny because homosexuality is illegal here. Goodwill somehow makes it’s way here and you see all kinds of random t-shirts that at one point had an entirely different life in America.
– A muslim fete happened while I was at site. I was told we would head to the mosque at 8:00pm. I hadn’t eaten dinner but figured I’d eat when I got back — fatal. error. No one told me that for this fete you stay at the mosque all night, until the sun comes up. Imagine this: me sitting under a bamboo tent surrounded by my entire community, in the VIP section with my counterpart and his wife, susu/arab radio blaring, imams on the ground, and my stomach grumbling. And the funniest part is I enjoyed it all, even though I had no idea what was going on. It was a very cool experience and around 12:30am they introduced me to the whole town. I ended up leaving around 1:00am but it was good face time, and I made up for dinner by eating a huge breakfast in the morning.
So, yeah! I’m doing good — healthy and happy. I’m learning a ridiculous amount of susu, which is going to help me immensely at site because most of the people I will be working with on the farms and groupements don’t speak much French. The plan is to spend the weekend here in Boke with some other volunteers and then head back to Dubreka to finish PC training. Our swear-in date is February 7th and then I’ll be an official volunteer! Inshallah, everything will continue to go smoothly.
I think of you all back home often! Communication is hard here, but I will be going to Boke once a month and be able to access the internet. Love, hugs, kisses, and lots of snuggles to you all back home.