Grenada: Two Months

I wished I would have written sooner, but I’ve been busy in good ways and this has given me time to collect my thoughts about this place, people, idea, job and how to talk about being here.

Sugar cane fields in the north west of the island

First of all, it’s beautiful, people are awesome, and the food (lush in fruits and vegetables) is so good and great season variety I feel spoiled. Making a transition from West Africa to here has been easy as I live in the center, also refereed to as the “country” (as apposed to “town”), around people who may work locally in fields, gardens, or groves of nutmeg and cocoa. There is also a few dialects to get used to. Proper English (as I speak it), ‘town’ English (as someone who went to school but may not speak it as proper as a American or European), ‘country’ (which has more slang and creole dialect in it) and ‘bush’ (I can understand what they say, but usually takes it a while to register) An example of ‘bush’ or ‘dialect’ would be: Wa go? or What’s going? and the answer would be Ay (ah) dey or I’m there.

View from across from my house waiting for the bus into ‘town’

Very simplified but reminds me of the greetings in Senegal. Nanga def? or What do you do? and replied with Mangi fi or I’m here.

The sociocultural atmosphere here is very interesting. The island having so many ‘invaders’/’conquers’ and others on the island makes it very tolerant of ‘other’ cultures and religions. There are 5 churches in my town of 2000 people, all of them full on Sundays from the area. But I have seen 4+ more religions represented on the island. 

Money! Or the Easter Caribbean dollar 1 EC ~ $.37 or 2.7EC ~ $1

Politics are a whole other ball of wax that I am very slowly learning here. Many people will simply say it’s a yellow/green issue, referring to the current major 2 parties, liberal National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the conservative New National Party (NNP). This is only complicated by old held beliefs from the Revolution/Coup/Invasion/Hurricanes. Each having influence on the current state but also hard lines are formed by each that are not obvious but are many sides of each depending upon who you talk to.

Grand Anse, one of the best beaches in the world

But alas I do live on a island. Not any island ‘the spice island’. It is quite lovely here not only with many great beaches, but also chocolate, alcohol-namely rum, many fresh fruits and vegetables (that from what I see are organic), and lovely fish and sea food. I can easily see how many of the challenges of the island are looked past or not easily seen by visitors.

Grand Anse again

 My job as a beekeeper trainer and specialist allows me to travel around the island as needed to work with beekeepers, and I have a small office in Grenville, on the east side of the island. 15 minutes by bus from my house.

 

 I happen to live in the center of the island, which is wonderfully cold due to being at 300 feet from sea level and surrounded by hills and lush forests. The over casts days bring light rain showers in the mornings and afternoons to cool off the 80+ degrees. On the coasts the humidity and direct sun make it feel much warmer, easily sweating through clothing. While here in the center I hardly break a sweat, and if so, I have a river a short walk behind my house that people sit in to cool off.

My ‘host’ family, my landlady and her 2 kids who live upstairs

Sadly with living in a more developed country with cable tv, internet and other modern conveniences (I have a washing machine, fridge, stove, fan) does not allow people to interact throughout the day as much. So to help with this and living in my community  but working someplace else, I attend church. Out of the 5 churches, I have attended 2, but have plans to attend a 3rd hopefully soon. This lets the community get to know me, see me, interact with me.  The largest church is also attended by my landlady who is also very active in the church. In the past 2 months there have been many social events, fund-raisers and funerals to attend. Also many of this congregation I have seen on a regular basis outside of church. They know where I work, have offered me rides into town, and generally check up on me.

Catholic Church, renovated after Ivan in

Interior view

Live band that plays along with the choir

Overall, I’m very happy and busy which makes it nice to be here. But I always feel like I want more time to do things. Relax, explore, read, work. There are 13 holidays, making 1 sometimes 2 a month, along with other social events that cut out part of the week. There is never a lack of something ‘to do’ here.

Current volunteers on the island are teachers working with 1-3rd graders and have a very hard job. They spend much of their time in their communities and at the schools they work, typically walking distance from their houses. Even with a small island (12 miles by 22 miles) it is still sometimes difficult to get together. I have met all of the volunteers but planning events are sometimes seemingly impossible due to logistics (buses only run until 8-9pm to certain parts of the island and not on Sundays).

As I hope to continue to write about the island and my work, I am also on instagram @mayhemmadness5 to follow pictures more often.

Bees wax and Honey Product Tourney in Kolda

This happened back in June of 2014. After traveling to Gambia for bee training, Jessica, an Agro-forestry volunteer who is from the southern region of Kolda decided to organize a tourney training. Which is a series of trainings, usually the exact training repeated, to various villages;  usually villages that also have a volunteer to help coordinate people and sometimes food for us. Jessica and I had both attended the conference in Gambia. Jessica’s region is more lush with higher rainfall and known for beekeeping and honey.

So in June 2014 I traveled to Tambacounda to
start a week long tourney or series of trainings. We biked over 150 km in one week, got to see so many
volunteers, (which was a blast) and then spent a day traveling back to my part
of Senegal-literally 17 hours of travel in one day. It was fun and Kolda knows
how to make cake and avocados!!

Toubacouta (near where I live) is on the far left and the first pin on the right is where we started

“Agfo Jessica Moore and Megan Wannarka traveled
through the Kolda region June 18-23 training on using bees wax and honey for
making soap, body creme and lip balm through 5 villages from Tambacounda to
Kolda”-Blurb on PC Senegal’s website

I had a lovely time and fully
enjoyed not speaking or hearing barely any wolof for a week since I was in Pulaar land. This southern part of the country identifies as being in Guinea since most of it’s goods come from there rather than Dakar, which is also 15+ hours away. So when asked where I was from, saying the Fatick region didn’t help. Most volunteers I was with, just said I was from Dakar to simply and what the people there understood.
TUESDAY 6/17/14 First I traveled with my bike (tied down to the top of a car) and traveled to Tambacounda. I think it’s the hottest part of the country (farthest right pin on the map) From there I met up with Jess and traveled to Veligara to see an Urban Ag volunteer, Jordan and stayed with her for the night.

In Jordan’s hut, Jordan on the left and Jess on the right.

WENDESDAY 6/18/14 The next morning we stayed until lunch and headed south 15km (9.3 mi) to visit Callen and then later meet Danny and go to his village near by to do a training.

View riding into Callen’s village.
First stop in Saricoli with Callen and her little!
Dan soon arrived, with a sweaty dramatic entrance.
Yes the roof over hangs that much and you have to duck to get in. Jess & Callen in front of Callen’s hut

We were soon on a village tour. For a village of 850 people and 15 km from a semi-large city of Veligara, Saricoli is strangely well put together with a water tower, grain storage, a small hospital and a Peace Corps volunteer!

Water tower in the background
We went to the top of a 2 story house for the wonderful view. Callen, Dan and Jess
Back to the huts to grab bikes to head to Dan’s village.
Just a few kilometers away is a Master Farm and Dan’s village of Fola Nory Demba where we would do our first training.
Master Farmer’s son pulling water-typical thing we all see and do in village daily
But there are many bees around this one wanting some water!

 

Dan turning a mob of kids into polite little ones by greeting every one of them, this took a few minutes)

 

And once they were calm and I was already taking pictures, group picture was needed AND all of them needing to see it on my camera after.
Walking back into the village
Dan’s backyard.
A Tostan sign, a NGO from Theis that works throughout West Africa on female genital cutting among other topics.

Once in the village and put our bikes in Dan’s backyard and getting a tour of his village we make snacks, pulled water for showers and chatted. Soon the rain came. Rain in this region is different that what I got farther north. Once the rain started you literally had minutes until it poured. It rarely poured where I was and typically started as a light sprinkle.

THURSDAY 6/19/14 The next morning we got set up to do our first training. We went to a neighbor’s compound, layed out some mats, our supplies and started building a small fire as people showed up and greeted each other. Since I don’t speak Pulaar, Jessica had the honor of leading the trainings while Dan and I assisted.

Jessica greeting the group
More of the group
Showing samples of what we were going to make.
Starting the process of making soap
Stirling to get ‘trace’ so we can pour it in molds, we just used cups
Love the variety of people who showed up.
Jessica finishing the training and asking someone to pass out samples of what we had made.
LUNCH.

Traveling in another region is so much fun as not only do you get to see volunteers we rarely get to see but also eat food that is only in certain regions.  Like above. It’s rice or mainly fonio, with ground peanuts, and a leaf sauce on top. I have something similar in my village, but it would be eaten for breakfast and be considered ‘cheap’. While this is primarily lunch here and more tasty than what I have.

After we headed back to Veligara to stay another night with Jordan. Once we found her near the market we found avocados for dinner/snacks

Jess and Jordan walking towards the market
Jordan finding some mangoes in the foreground with a few avocados on a plate in the background

FRIDAY 6/20/14 We had an early morning 5:30 AM to make it up to Manda Village where Becca would be with her village. 
Nice paved roads for a change

 

 

Honey house we passed on the way to Manda Vilage

 

And the scenery starts to change to lush

 

Becca’s compound

I have to say through this experience I’ve learned that each village has it’s own character that you can almost feel as soon as you are there. Becca’s village was the first realization how different this region of Senegal is. As soon as we arrived Becca’s host family took our bikes from us, greeted us, and lead us in the shade with water for us to drink. So lovely and welcoming!

 

Becca’s awning that I fell in love with because of the flowers, also not very common around there, but wish it was. (Becca is on the left)

 

Typical breakfast porriage

 

Becca’s backyard with personal mango tree!

 

Garden area where training would be held.

 

Certificates!!!

 

Setting up

 

Another volunteer Carson that lived near by also stopped by to attend the training

 

Group before we got started.

 

Jess doing her thing in Pulaar.

 

Whole group under mangos about half way done with training.

We later had a light lunch and waited till it was a little cooler as we finished around noon. Attaya (sweet tea) and naps while I continued to talk bees. This group loved picking my brain. The beekeepers here are very knowing and I would have loved to spend more time working them as they seemed very organized.

On the way back we started to make the 20km bike ride back to Velingara, drop a bike off and then take a car to Kinkani where volunteer Allie was.  This did not happen we were tired and there were no cars to be had, along with Jess’s bike needed some maintenance making it hard to pedal.

We started looking for cars to take us the rest of the way. Problem was it was political season and cars of all kinds were being used with loud speakers to advertise. So when a large transport truck got near we flagged it down instead!

 

Super glad to be in the back to a truck, with bikes, and only had charcoal in it previously.

 

Very empty truck except for us.


We made it back by 7:30pm which means we had to move quick to get into another car before it was completely dark out. We grabbed a car and were at Allie’s at 9:50pm. Sadly I did not take any pictures of her compound, HUGE circular hut, her OR her family, but we slept well with more rain that came that night.

SATURDAY 6/21/14 We were up at 7am and had breakfast in the garage before walking and meeting the Agforestry Peace Corps boss Demba gave us a lift to Dabo, where we met a Community Economic Development volunteer Alisha.

Alisha outside of her circular hut with a long over hanging roof

 

Hand roof except for when having a conversation with your host grandmother

2 hour pedal into the country to Fode Byoe to see agriculture volunteer Amanda.

More lush next to dirt rodes

 

Jessica pedaling through a small forest on our way to Fode Byoe.

 

Very large baobob out the edge of town

This town is Mandinka, which is unusal for this area. This became very obvious when everything that was said needed to be translated sometimes twice. In Senegal, where 10% of people are literate this may happen when people do not speak the same language and typically Senegalese will speak up to 5 languages and sometimes only 1.

I wasn’t sure if this was okay as much is lost in translation. But I guess this is how things are done here.

Group assembled for our training around 11:30am

 

Better view of the group

 

Amanda sitting watching out training

Training went well, but I think the translation was a problem. We asked a series of questions at the end of the training to see how much information was retained. No one got the questions right. There were also many children running around, a few people came and left causing the attention span to wane.

This entire week was a learning experience of how important it is that volunteers are here and how well they know their village, but also how they compare and contrast to the region. Knowing what works better, how better to teach, learn, share knowledge with these people as it’s sometimes not as straight forward as one would think.

Fish balls with sauce over rice for lunch!!

Each village was not asked to do lunch for the group or for us as it causes too many people to come to training only for food than for information. Each volunteer simply had their family make us a nice lunch, typically what they would have normally but maybe what they would make for guests.

I loved seeing the variety of food, huts, volunteers, villages through this region. My region of Fatick was not as varied like this from what I’ve seen and traveled.

From left to right, Me, Laran, Amanda, Jessica Cho, Jessica Moore. It was very hot by the time training was done.

Around 3pm we headed back out to the main road to catch a car. Again we had trouble finding a car, it was hot, so we wanted to wait and get a car if we could but that wasn’t the case. We started to pedal.

It was hilly on the way there but sadly it was more going up hill on the way back. We had a large town we’d pass on the way back but unfortunately no cars going the way we were or that were able to transport bikes.

 

Lush low part near Dabo

SUNDAY 6/22/14 We made it back to Kolda and took a day off to relax, rest, enjoy some shade, showers and email.

MONDAY 6/23/14 Our last training was held in Kolda city, with another community economic development volunteer, Steph. Her host mom is a bad-ass when it comes to business, which is not said lightly in the least. We had a wonderful turn out. I took pictures of each step.

 

Jess getting set up. Since she speaks pulaar it’s easier for her to ask for things.

 

 

Finished samples of hand cream (left) and lip gloss (right)

 

Soap hardening in cups

Because the group of women we had only a few of them did not understand
Pulaar so instead they asked if the training could be done in Wolof. So I
trained and explained to this group, which was fun!

Steph also explained some marketing strategies to the group. This group was by far the most promising to work with. They asked questions along they way, were taking notes.

Steph adding marketing details to our presentation

 

Final group with certificates, sadly I wish we would have done this for each group.

Overall, it was a very tiring but great week. My region does not do training tourneys like this but I like the format and it makes a lot of sense when you have volunteers in a region to do a training that would work in so many places. Also having a volunteer there gives them a resource if they decide to try to do it themselves.

I will be following up with these volunteers this week as doing this is seasonal as they would need honey and wax to make these products. It takes some consideration on the beginning to get something like this going. But if they want to do it, they can.

We took many pictures along the way and they can be seen here on my facebook album.


 

West African Trainers of Trainers Conference in Banjul, Gambia

This happened back in February 3-8 2014 and I wrote about it on Facebook, but now once getting home, being able to relax and go through some of the notes I took from this and other events that happened in the last year. I killed not one but TWO laptops so my writing sadly lessened due to that.

I hope to write on a regular basis and  about the events in the last year as well.

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Spending a week in Gambia
West Africa to attend the West African Bee Conference.

Abuko Nature Reserve
Beekeeper Saikou and one of the boubobs on his land that is a home to many hives
Silk Cotton Tree (Ceiba pentadra) are locally known as bee trees as a tree will have many swarms in it
Traveling from my village,
Keur Mallick Fady (see map below), just over the boarder going to Banjul. Staying in Serrekunda
and then traveling a few times  during the week daily to BeeCause in Lamin.

First day was presentations and getting to know everyone from the 6 West African countries represented with Peace Corps volunteers and staff. Looking back at this, it was so great to meet a few volunteers from these countries, as in-service we very rarely come in contact with them. A few months after many of these volunteers were sent home due to Ebola outbreaks.

Once acquainted with the various West African
countries experience & examples seen we traveled daily to Bee Cause, a local non-profit that works very closely with locals to improve beekeeping skills, techniques and improves honey and wax quality throughout Gambia. A stunning place that used to be a music camp set in Lamin where we did our
hands-on training. 

 

After the gate the compound just inside

The unusual round style huts with layered bricks reminded me of comb

The lush area around us with lots of palms, ferns and trees with hives in between

We saw examples of Kenyan Top Bars, Cement and other text
hives; went over apiary management and calender; made catcher/swarm and baited boxes,
worked a few hives at dusk, learned about melting and cleaning wax, making
candles, honey harvesting techniques, as well as honey quality and had a honey
tasting. Very throughout training for many first time beekeepers!

Typical  wooden KTB, Kenyan Top Bar
Looking at a wooden small capture hive 5m+ in a Kapok tree, baited and waiting for bees

Hallowed Palm trunk used as a hive, a bit deep though.

Similar cement to Vautier hives

We also visited the Darwin Field Station in the
Abuko Nature Reserve with who BeeCause had started to work with. 

Small Reserve that has been very well taken care of and wish we would have spent more time here
Walking back into the field station
Variety of scenery!

We were told not to go too close as there were crocs in the water

All suited up to check capture hives and transfer them. Love this photo of the group!

And the highlight for me was visiting beekeepers
Saikou Nyassi, Salifu Jarju, and Bakary Manga in Bwiam and visited there
various apiaries (bee yards). The exposed nests and ground hive were quite
interesting. 

Volunteers Jessica, Darrin, Dodo, Me and  Beekeeper Saikou. The banner says
“More frowning when you are working, and more smiling when you are eating!” in Jola
Ground hive that has been here for a few years!

Local Gambian beekeepers at a local market selling and explaining differences in honey quality and wax products

Local traditional log hives that are used occasionally to bait swarms

There are so many pictures! You can see more of them on my facebook album here.  This trip was the highlight of my service by far! Some of the volunteers I met on this trip were from Liberia, Guinea and Cameroon which were later evacuated due to ebola. It has been nice to keep in touch with them and see what they are doing now and pass along potential jobs that have seen. Can not wait for the chance to go back and see everyone there!!!

Q & A’s

So as I finish my 3 last weeks in Senegal me and my fellow stage mates are writing final reports, cleaning and purging our belongings, planning for next steps and handing off keys to our huts to replacements if we have them for our villages.

Below are some questions I’m sure people wonder about or have brought up in emails with me that I thought would be good to touch on.

I love seeing your pictures of your life there, but you don’t talk about the stories from your village, why?
In this blog I have not spoken much directly about my village. I did this on purpose for many reasons. First of which is for my replacement if I have one. Reading someone’s blog and trying to get a sense for a village (whether its my replacement or another one after-2nd & 3rd generation, typical villages have 4) is not really a good way to experience a place, people, work, and everything else that goes into it.

Second, it’s so hard to get a sense of the place, people, circumstance in which all this happened in a written story. These are the stories I will tell you if you ask me in person. You will have lots of questions and I will show you pictures. But nothing is every as simple as it is in written form.

How about a photo of my dog instead??

I wish you took more pictures of yourself there with people you know..
I’m not here for vacation, I do live here. I don’t need to have a photo moment everywhere and it also creates everyone around me asking for me to take there picture. Also most days here I’m dripping in sweat, am thin from simply trying to keep up with the people that live here and otherwise never really look great as I rarely have a large mirror to see myself in.

I have taken a lot of photos here, but I am very conscience of what I post on my blog as some of these ‘kids’ now will grow up and if they happen to know my American name, find this blog, see themselves in a photo I took and could be upset with me, or try come find me for a ticket to golden America. I rather avoid all that.

You always seem ‘happy’ or ‘well’ in your blog posts, you have bad days, right?
Also I’ve tried to write when I’m not in a high or low emotional place. As volunteers in a new place with a small about of language ability and just the nature of Senegal (it seems), makes most simple things seem like climbing a mountain. Every dang day. Until they become easier. Until the shop owner complements you on your wolof because he understands everything you asked him for and doesn’t require miming or pointing.

Along with not writing about some of the not so great things that happen here because they don’t just happen here (i.e. ebola) people draw an uneducated mind toward these things and blow them out of proportion when it is what happens when you are not in the happy bubble that is America. Again I hate writing when I am mad as it seems like everything is bad because when you are upset that is how you feel. I try to remember who might read my blog in the future and write to that.

You mention there are things you don’t write about? Why?
 Sadly this is true. I hate this. I wrote a former blog post about this. Most of those things (i.e. cultural norms and taboos) are going to vary from place to place. The cultural frame in which sees these things will vary from person to person even if that person is from the culture. In many ways these are important topics but in others writing your frame of reference is only going to be interesting to people that have a similar background (as I would assume most of the readers of this blog are)

The ‘other’ things I don’t talk about are similar to the things that we wouldn’t in America pertaining to you job on this blog as this is about my work and life. So I can’t bash my boss even when I think he isn’t doing his job, or Peace Corps, even if I disagree with how they handle things. These are conversations to have in person, to be able to fully explain. If you truly love what you do to never complain about it, you my friend, have won the lottery. I’m moving closer to that, but until then, I feel complaining for complaining sake holds no weight. If you think talking about it will make a difference, by all means I will be the first to start screaming. (and I have when needed) But most of the time it doesn’t. So save that strength to fight another day and move people by doing. Usually works faster anyways.

One of my favorite places to watch the sun set

Have you ever thought of writing your memoir? Or write more?
Yes! To both. I would love to write my memoir (I know, I might be a bit young) but it has passed my mind. I’m currently reading/researching doing so. And also am trying to write more and more about my experience here when I can or just the thoughts that I have about my experiences. I have always wondered if my writing DOES anything or CONNECTS to anyone, but the feed back (i.e. emails) I’ve gotten from people says they do. Long term plan is to eventually write about bees and the beekeepers I have met thus far and will meet when traveling.

Of course I will continue to write here and maybe while at home reorganize it a bit.

Always any thoughts, ideas or general feed back is ALWAYS welcome. Thank you for reading!!!