Being the Energizer Bunny

Guediawaye Travel Blog

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I head to the SIT office immediately. Before any major life decision or event, it is imperative that you ask Souleye's advice. So I chat briefly with him to mentally prep myself for a day's work at World Vision, following some members of the VITALIS project around.

I arrive at the WV offices and end up waiting an hour. Germain Kabou and two lady social workers, a Madame Kabou (no relation) and an Agnes, are my fellow adventurers today. I'm super excited to get to go see the daara and take pictures of what their program is doing with talibé. However, we just walk to a bank and wait another hour while Germain tries to withdrawl enough money for a taxi.

Well, that didn't work. So we have to take the bus instead. I actually don't mind that much, and see it as a chance to check off another form of transportation that I've tried here.

The bus ride takes another hour. We travel to Guediawaye, sort of like a distant suburb of Dakar. We get off the bus and walk through many sandy streets to daara #1 - it's just an inconspicuous door of a house sitting in a narrow alley lined with hanging laundry and sheep.

Germain introduces me to the 2 marabouts of the daara. They don't speak much French, and I have to rely heavily on Germain's translation (which then takes longer as I translate his translation in my head).

I am allowed to take insane amounts of pictures. Barbacou Coly, the main marabout, lets me take pictures of his talibés reciting the Koran, of the rooms of the daara, etc. I meet some of the wives and other local women living there as they cook lunch. I finally figure out why one woman doesn't want to be photographed, but the others happily oblige. She's pregnant (hard to tell under her large flowy dress), and it's traditionally considered bad luck to take pictures of pregnant ladies.

After a taking a lot of pictures, I observe as Mme Kabou, Agnes, and the teacher that VITALIS provides for this daara all take inventory of school supplies that WV delivered yesterday. I get a chance to flip through one of the writing textbooks to see what the talibés are learning in addition to memorizing the Koran.

To my surprise, the ladies provide lunch for us as well. Me and the other WV workers get to eat ceebu jen on the floor of the marabout's main bedroom. Yup, we're pretty special.

After our meal, it's time to distribute about fifty backpacks to each individual talibé. Before lunch, the WV workers were writing the name of each child with chalk inside the bookbags. Now, each child is called by name from their classroom to come out a claim their new bag. Germain hand each kid their bag with a smile and encouraging pat on the shoulder. Mme Kabou makes sure they say 'merci' before returning to the classroom to show off their new property. It's a really cool process to watch.

After giving marabout Coly an invoice of all his daara has recieved today, we tie up loose ends and leave for daara #2, the daara of Nody Cissé. By this time I'm getting extremely tired and thirsty. I readily welcome a 'sachet' of water - basically water in a plastic baggie that you tear off a corner and suck on the bag to drink its contents. It's always nice to get that aftertaste of processed plastic when you need hydration.

Cissé has a two-story daara with a rooftop classroom. We climb up the stairs that seem to be on the verge of collapse and enter while the talibés are learning about vertical lines. It's interesting to see them learn something in addition to the Koran. They're actually learning mathematics, and it's an interesting thing to see their marabout watch on from behind as another teacher is giving the lesson.

I try to get interesting and different pictures of all the action. The social workers and the teacher take inventory of the newly delivered school supplies, and I help organize the backpacks for labeling and distribution. They even give me some traditional hot gunpowder tea, which is the just the suger-infused pick-me-up that I need.

While Germain passes out the backpacks, I chat a bit with the teacher, Momar. He tells me about being a teacher and about his brother who lives in Boston.

We finish up and head out back on the street. Germain takes us to a random intersection where we met two random guys that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. I have no idea what is going on and am really confused. After guessing at a lot of the French/Wolof their speaking, I gather that they are contractors who are planning to build two new daaras for the marabouts I met today.

Finally, I get to go home at around 8:00 P.M. The social worker that accompanied me back to Dakar let me buy our bus tickets myself. I felt so special and independent! After a endless day, I never was so excited to get home. And I would. After about two hours sitting on the bus. I felt horrible not being able to tell my homestay family that I would arrive late. But they happily saved me something and pushed it in front of me when I walked in the door.

I AM BEAT. And I still have to get up again at nine in the morning to meet with the World Vision people again! I thought that I was following them around for one day only. Guess not!

vulindlela says:
What a great experience!
My wife worked for World Vision at the home office in Federal Way, Washington.
Posted on: Aug 04, 2007
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