Friday, October 21, 2011

Explorations

I've been at site for a while and have been exploring the region a lot. Am in Dakar again for a large meeting. I have been kept pretty busy so far, as much as one can be in rural West African everyday life. I hope to make a daily routine theme out of a blog post one day. Maybe that'll help in explaining how different the world is out here and what my life really looks like.

In the mean time, work is in full progress and I barely have time enough to make myself comfortable that I look back to find that no less than a full eight months have passed since landing, and six months since install. A quarter of a term.
What is there to be said about the nature of time in a world where there are no weekdays, months or even seasons to speak of? The rains have come and gone, so have mangoes, corn and peanuts while millet, rice and cotton are just about to be harvested. Days blend in with one another and it feels like time is a permanent standstill, a single all-permeating entity that keeps all things in place, in its repetitive cycles of rain and dry. There is certainly none of that sense of ceaseless progress, movement forward like what we are imbued with out West.

Yet in the course of grasses growing dense and tall, I have been traveling throughout Malinke and Pula Futa country. Here's descriptive.


Kondokho


Here's a video I made of a few of my household kids having fun in my hut:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-53Oldn_Wj0&feature=feedu

 A picture of myself, reading at night.

I got myself a table made. That was a major improvement in my hut. It's a simple table but it's made of proper wood, not the typical worthless bamboo they use for furniture here. I never thought a simple table could bring so much satisfaction. At par with getting myself a bed structure. So now, stuff can lay on another surface that the dusty ground. Coming up next is a bookshelf.

There's been more on pump repairs.


Again, training events have been very successful and the project is expanding to jealous neighboring villages. Major headaches don't have to do with teaching the technical aspects of repairs but revolve around creating dependable social structure, especially when it comes to fetching spare parts and financing. But we are looking forward to expanding trainings to a more regional level. More on that later.

Also our school is having a proper brick wall being built around it, which will definitely help protect the young mango saplings as well as the growing school garden from the countless roaming animals or Senegal (mainly sheep, goats, cows and donkeys).

Tabaski celebrations are coming in a few weeks and there's going to be a lot of goat meat along with vegetables in our food (incredible luxuries). Much late night partying as well for a full week. Pics will follow.


Dindefelo



Dindefelo is a Pula Futa village that has become a weird bubble of what West Africa could be but really isn't. The preposterous thing about it is that while it is nicely developed with all sorts of solar panels, hosts a local market, beautiful woman's gardens, sensible schools and all, it all depends on perpetual NGO donations and many people question the sustainability of the developments we see there. Tourism also helps a lot. It is an incredibly beautiful area, though.

Piling up bikes on the way to Dindefelo

Valley mist.
One of the many waterfalls of the region.

Faraba


A group of new PCTs have arrived in country recently and we got the chance to meet them during their site visits. They will soon be sustainable agriculture and agroforestry volunteers. By chance there was a master farmer's demonstration event during that time. We attended that event en masse.

This is my good friend from Kondokho. He acted as the traditional "grio" voice over. 

Okra flower. 




The Silimana

I am situated at the very gates of a Malinke sub-region called the Silimana. There has never been any PCVs in that area but PC has been interested in sending some. I've been asked to scout out the area to that effect. I've visited the villages of Dambala, Daloto, Missirah, Kassageri and Sainsutu.
I must admit I thought I had a good grasp of what Malinke country was like. I was wrong. I thought I was remote, but this particular area is no less than 50km to the closest paved road, has only one very poor laterite road, and many villages are dozens of kilometres off that. Gently rolling terrain gave in to thick dense bamboo forests with several canopies and a constant humid mist. This all culminates with Sainsutu, a border town surrounded by steep cliffs. Baboons, red monkeys, chimpanzees and parrots are the predominant populations there. The daily soundtrack resembles more that of a Vietnamese jungle than that of Senegal. Quite an incredible area!

As for volunteer placement, there is excellent potential in the Silimana, for communities have been responding really well to the conditions and benefits of hosting a volunteer. More on that later.

Kharakhena

I also returned to the village of Kharakhena which is on the paved road that makes it out of Saraya into Mali, towards Bamako. But this time I stayed in the village itself and avoided the South-African mineral exploration encampment. It is not really a village per se but a gold exploration camp, bush African style. Makeshift huts host between 3 and 7 people. Fields are not tended to, there are no latrine structure to speak of, households have no fences, thatch roofs have countless hole and leak a lot of water during rain events. There are no structures that typify a village such as a health hut, a school or a mosque.

A miner sitting on his precious pile of dirt. We call it saprolitic laterite in geology. This one site only counts about 100 such hole, 50 of which are active. They are abetween 4 and 8 metres deep, and are all linked with one-another via underground tunnel systems.

They then transport all that dirt down the hill to the water point on a precarious path.

At the water site they pan the gold.

Women usually do most of the panning.

Gold! About half a gram will reap about USD25.

A proud, hard working man with the fruits of his labour.


 Drying out and isolating the gold.

Weighing the gold

Gold mining is a huge business in this area and while bringing in money to the poorest people, it is a huge problem for the environment, public health, crime as well as legally. I could not go into all the details right now. Maybe later, for much of my work will revolve in this business.
Random pics


 Faraba kids playing in the water

Ray Charles incarnate!

 A soccer game.