Joal Journal

8th October

Julia and I made our way to Joal on Tuesday afternoon, after saying our goodbyes to everyone in Kaolack, we got on a sept-places to Mbour and then one to Joal. The journey was around three hours in total and cost us only about £6. Unfortunately we couldn’t see much of Joal or Mbour as it was pretty dark when we drove through. However, we ended up going to Mbour the following day with our host Aïcha to buy boubous, one for Tabaski and another for daily wear. We will be spending Tabaski, a Muslim festival in November, in Dakar with some of Amadou and Aïcha’s extended family. Tabaski involves new outfits for everyone, the slaughter of an animal and families getting together, similarly to Christmas. We went to the tailor in Joal today to choose patterns for our boubous and get them fitted. I chose a royal blue velvet fabric for Tabaski, which is potentially a rookie error, as I’m sure I will be boiling in it, but hopefully look alright and not too sweaty / disgusting… Amadou’s home is lovely and the family has been very welcoming. Julia and I are living with Amadou, his wife, Aïcha, their daughter, Marieme, son, Mouhammed and their cousin, nicknamed, Babo. We had a potato salad on the first night here and a traditional meal called something like, Cheh (?) for lunch yesterday, which was really nice and spicy. At home, we speak English with Amadou and French with Aïcha and the kids, as well as greeting the locals with the basic Wolof that we learnt in Kaolack. My French and Wolof could definitely do with some improvement, but I’m sure I’ll become more fluent towards the end of the year.

I’m considering joining the church choir at some point, maybe after the teaching has started, despite being completely unreligious and living with a Muslim family, they’re not adverse to the idea. I figure it will be a good way to meet new people and practice speaking the different languages here, as well as keeping up my singing. There are also American Peace Corps working in Joal, who Julia and I look forward to meeting.

Yesterday we took a fairly long, hot walk to the Lycee and met some of the other teachers. A few of them proposed to Julia, and Amadou pointed out the ones that had two wives, some were claiming that they wished for a third. Although the schools should have technically started, everything seems to be rather delayed here and we’re not sure when we’ll be getting our timetables. I’m thinking of helping out in the IT department, as well as teaching English, or getting involved in the school website design. We also plan to continue the art club that Kirsty and Louise started here last year. When walking around the streets of Joal, we often here shouts of Louise, and have to correct them by introducing ourselves. I’ve kept the name given to me in Kaolack, Aminata, but Julia has been given a new name Kadija, pronounced Hadija, which she’s been having trouble remembering. We haven’t seen too much of Joal yet, though we visited the market a couple of times, the hospital, (as Babo has been unwell), the post office, where we collected some letters from Project Trust and Julia’s family, and passed by a few schools. I’m hoping to explore more soon and go to the beach, which we drove past on the way to the post office, and saw lots of colourful boats lined up on the shore.

It seems that due to being on the anti-malarial Doxycycline, the sunburn on my chest, arms and forehead will not disappear. Fingers crossed in a week or so I’ll be looking a little less red!

10th October

Last night, Amadou and Aïcha went to the house of their maid and brought us back some milk. The milk they generally get is powdered and I think all dairy products here are quite expensive, as most are imported from France. However, this milk was from the cows of their maid. I’m sure I’ll be used to it soon, but it did seem pretty funny that instead of popping to the shops to buy some milk, they went down the road to someone’s house who was handing over milk, which was still slightly warm, having been freshly squeezed from cows.

Today we visited the middle school. As I was buttering my baguette, having not yet showered, Amadou asked, ‘are you ready to go?’ So I quickly put on some sun cream and rushed after them out of the house. I definitely need to get used to waking up earlier. The middle school seems nice, it has a basketball court, which was covered in goats, and we also looked at the IT room. Tomorrow, the only German teacher in Joal is coming over to discuss teaching and grammar with Julia. Yesterday was the fourteenth birthday of Aïcha and Kadija, twins that live nearby. Julia and I baked them a chocolate cake, and had a slice each before visiting their house. Unfortunately because we used margarine for the icing instead of butter, it wasn’t quite as nice as it could have been, but I’m sure we’ll use any excuse to bake more cakes soon!

11th October

For dinner last night, Julia and I attempted to make pizza and chips. Aïcha helped with the chips and they were lovely, the pizza, on the other hand, was a bit of a disaster. Amadou went to Mbour, so he was able to bring back some cheese (and chocolates for us!) Julia made the pizza bases, covered them with tomato puree, a small amount of cheese on each one, as we didn’t have much, and some onions. Unfortunately, the pizzas were being heated from above and seemed to burn on top, but the base barely cooked at all. However, they weren’t quite as disgusting as they sound, just not quite what we had in mind… At the moment, the whole family is at their various schools and Julia is discussing plans with the German teaching. I’ve just finished drawing a map of our local area to send to Project Trust, along with the risk assessment and initial impressions worksheet, which is almost complete, except for the section of our first day of work, which of course is still to happen!

I woke up at ten to six this morning, ten minutes before my alarm was due to go off. This was so I could collect water for washing my clothes, before there was a water cut. It was pitch black, so I left my room with my torch on and shone it into the hallway, right where Amadou happened to be praying. (We’ve had a lot of funny experiences accidentally disturbing people praying. In Kaolack, Conor came up to the shopkeeper, Omar and patted him on the back shouting his name, before realising that the reason he wasn’t responding in his usual cheery way, is because he was praying). Anyway, after a bit of faffing around, struggling to open / unlock doors and carry leaky buckets, I managed to get two buckets full. I then waited for the kids to shower, as they had to be in school for eight, and then took a bucket shower because the water cut out. Later on, we went with Amadou to the fish market. It was huge and bustling, with fish of all different shapes and sizes scattered over the floor and being carried in crates on the heads of fishermen, running in from the sea. A lot of people came up to Julia and I, to propose, as we waited for Amadou to make his selection.

12th October

Amadou and Julia have taken Marieme to the hospital, due to her heat rash. We did some painting today. I painted palm trees, the sun and sea for Mouhammed and he asked me to add a lion and him to the picture, I went for a stickman at that point. Afterwards, I did a heart and some flowers for Marieme. Mouhammed then asked why her picture was nicer and he and Babo requested pictures of hearts and flowers of their own, along with the British and Senegalese flags. When I gave the picture to Mouhammed he said ‘thank-you, sister’ in English, and the feeling of homesickness I had earlier this morning went, and I felt a lot happier. Marieme is currently wrapped up in the British flag on Julia’s bed and we’re listening to Akon’s ‘Freedom’.

13th October

Julia, Amadou and I attempted to get a taxi to basketball practice last night, but as it was rush hour and there’s no apparent queuing system here, everyone kept trying to jump into the same taxi and we didn’t manage to find one that would take us for less than 500CFA, so we decided to go another day. I may just go to watch the first practice and discuss the choir with the P.E. teacher, as he’s a member, and I am definitely not good enough to join the team with Julia! Aïcha has decided to get a new maid after Tabaski, so until then, at least, Julia and I will be helping out a lot more with the housework and cooking.

15th October

We went to post some letters and to the hospital with Marieme yesterday. There, we met some friends of the volunteer’s last year. We ended up going to the beach with them that evening, which was a long walk, but so much fun. The water was less ferocious than in Dakar and the girls were all really lovely and said they hoped to improve their English. One, who was my age, is going into her second year studying Law in Dakar. We may be seeing them again today and visiting the island, Fadiouth.

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