Day Nine - Sunday, February 3rd, 2002 - Sanyang Nature Camp

It was strange, in the morning I thought I heard rain but it turned out just to be the wind rustling the leaves of the trees. It would be odd to get rain at this time of year since the rainy season is not until June or July but we were told that early in January there had been a freak spell of rain for three days but this is very unusual now during the dry season. After pulling myself out of bed and having a shower (the windmill seems to be working) I made my way to the eating/communal area only to see that the bread had not yet been fetched so I made my way to a hammock and had a bit of a rest (busy so far today).

Breakfast included watermelon today along with the normal bread, bread spread and “jam”. I do have to have a word about the bread spread. It is truly vile stuff. The first day at the camp I had put a rather generous spread of it on my bread thinking it would be either butter (such as we have at the hotel) or a good margarine. It is neither. It is an oil spread, at best. It literally coats the inside of your mouth with a bland no-flavour slick. Nasty stuff. We have taken to putting a THIN layer of it on the bread and adding salt to it (it has NO flavour). The jam is not much better, EXTREMELY sweet and with no flavour, fruit or otherwise, of it's own.

The first thing on our agenda was to visit Sanyang and see some of the local facilities. We had the choice of a few different options: Health Centre, Vegetable Garden/Fishing Village or the VDC. I, along with Philip, chose the VDC since we knew that we would most likely be having to do something with the local governments around the country. We all went to a meeting room in the Health Centre then split into our various groups (Philip and I stayed where we were). Philip and I were then given what was obvious was a canned speech about the VDC and what it does in Sanyang. I basically took notes while Philip talked. We learned that the VDC in Sanyang is one of the most successful in the country with credits including the building of the Health Centre itself along with it's impressive solar panel-powered water pump (also very expensive). It was also quite interesting to see how the VDC worked in conjunction with the council of Elders and the Alkalo in the village.

After each group had done their research we presented to the whole of the volunteers and (a bit disconcertedly) the VDC as well. It was a bit overwhelming but quite well received.

We then were guided by each of our individual hosts to our home stay homes. These are homes that we will each be staying in towards the end of the week for next weekend. These are private citizens who have opened their doors to one volunteer (each) to stay with them (and will have been paid a small remuneration for the, what they consider, privilege). My homestay was about a mile north of the centre of the village along a small dirt road. We passed by the secondary and nursery schools (which had a half day today, it seems) and through a number of fields on our way to my (soon to be) home. The head of my family is a teacher of Koramic Studies at the English school in Sanyang. His English is quite good and he was very friendly, promising me that during my homestay I would be sat down and taught a lot of Wollof (oh, goody).

Mr. Oastas Cham lives in a small house in a small enclosure that includes a field where he grows various vegetables and a few fruit trees. Entering his compound which is surrounded by a reed fence you encounter another small reed fence (probably to keep much of the sand from blowing in) before you get to the main entrance to his house. We were led into the front main room which is long and rectangular with a number of chairs and a sofa along each wall facing each other. There is a bed at the north side of this room and a dining cabinet (full of pictures as well as china) at the other side. There are rooms leading out from each end towards the rear of the house. As I entered the house there were not many people about and the lady of the house came into the room and invited me to have lunch in another room but I had to decline since we were having lunch as a group in the VDC in just a few minutes. I was also surprised to learn that a number of his older children speak French as well (which is not too bad since my French is a LOT better than my Wollof).

It was a bit awkward but I was saved a bit when Christine, who will be staying with the family next door showed up with her head of the household to head back to the clinic for lunch. We chatted a bit as we headed back to meet the others.

Some of the volunteers had an interesting experience with Jane having been given a bushel of grapefruit – when she expressed an interest in one or two in a tree as they passed by, their guide sent a child up into the tree to pick some. No problem with fruit for a while at the camp then.

After a bit of a wait we were all taken into the meeting room again and sat around the tables (the members of the VDC and council sat along benches on one wall) when they brought in the food. There was a LOT of it. The rice alone would have fed an army, never mind the food. The vegetarians had been each made a small bowl of vegetarian food (the village had been told well in advance) and the rest of us tucked into the main courses: Chicken Domadah on Couscous (delicious but VERY, temperature, hot), fish and a bit of beef as well. They also had a bit of Plam Oil Soup which I did not try but Jane did (she did not really like it – VERY oily, hum, go figure). It was odd since they gave us soft drinks to drink as we dug in. I got some appreciative comments as I attempted to eat as much as possible (which is treated as a great compliment) – though even I had to eventually call it a day. There were great mounds left over and I felt quite guilty (as I licked my fingers clean – before going off in search of the tap outside so I could clean up).

After lunch there were a few speeches to wrap up the day before we broke up to get ready to return to the camp. Jane and I managed to also get the recipe for Domodah before we left (I will HAVE to try it out at my house whenever I get one…).

  • Domodah (to be cooked with chicken or whatever)
  • Fry the following in a skillet:
  • Groundnut Liquid (crushed peanut paste)
  • Tomato Paste
  • Onion
  • Hot Peppers
  • Cook until simmering (I believe the “Groundnut Liquid” consists of raw peanuts so they will probably have to be cooked a bit). Then add a flour/ water mixture to thicken then, if required, add a “Maggie” cube (a stock cube) at the end for extra flavour.

We headed back to the camp with the grapefruit rolling around in the back of the car where we all got out and split up quickly to relax a bit before dinner. As I was making my way back from my hut (which is one of the furthest away from where we eat) I was called by the language trainer Ebrima (not to be confused with VSO Ebrima who drove us here the first day) who had spotted a large lizard in an area that had recently been cleared (by burning) in the camp. I missed it but I will be sure to keep my eyes open – according to Ebrima it was a few feet long (SURE it was Ebrima!).

I took the chance to do a bit of homework in a hammock before dinner. We also had a chance to try some of the grapefruit which was very good - - much sweater than I have been used to in Canada and the UK.

Another dinner at the camp followed by cards. Oh dear, very predictable.

⇒ Continue to Day Ten - Monday, Feburary 4th, 2002 - Sanyang Nature Camp