Senegal

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African Time
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Helen Hildebrandt (Tunisia 1966–68, Senegal 1973–75)
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Marsha L. Allen (Senegal 1984–86)
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Innocence Melts Obstinacy

African Time

by Pat Owen (Senegal 2003–05) Posted on the blog of PeaceCorpsWriters.org on October 5, 2005 • RAMADAN STARTED THIS WEEK, a holy month of fasting for over a billion Muslims around the world.  Every year there is heated debate among astronomers as to exactly what day Ramadan begins, as it all depends on when the new moon of the ninth lunar month appears.  Eclipses, clouds, and astronomical calculations all play a role.  Religious leaders line up on opposing sides, too, albeit for different reasons.   Some of them say that Muslims throughout the world should conform to an announcement coming from Saudi Arabia; others say that different regions should make their own decisions about when to begin the fast, depending on their view of the moon. If you are a Muslim living in a remote part of Africa, all this debate doesn’t matter. I know, because last year at this time . . .

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Helen Hildebrandt (Tunisia 1966–68, Senegal 1973–75)

Monday, November 21 6:18 pm MY NAME IS Helen Hildebrandt. I am from Wheat Ridge and Lakewood, Colorado. I was a kindergarten teacher in Sidi Amor Bou Hadjla, Tunisia and an English teacher in Bizerte, Tunisia from 1966 to 1968, and an English teacher in Ziguinchor, Senegal from 1973 to 1975. I have many vivid memories of my Peace Corps experiences. I can still see the Bizerte children happily playing barefooted at the community water faucet. I remember the frail Tunisian man who carried our two beds on his head all the way across the capital city of Tunis. I recall the 14-year-old Senegalese student who implored me to accept his homework paper in spite of the burnt fringes explaining that his young sister had knocked over the candle while he was studying and he couldn’t spare another sheet of paper. And I reflect on the Senegalese man who walked . . .

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Marsha L. Allen (Senegal 1984–86)

Monday, November 21 7:03 pm DURING MY TWO YEARS I learned many things: A new language, how to adapt to a new culture, how to cope with the sometimes intense and almost unbearable heat, and more importantly, I learned to make life for the people there a little easier. I learned to care about a group of people who thought of me as their daughter, their sister, their friend. I learned to laugh with them and cry for them. I learned the importance of being with them for the good times as well as the bad. I learned both patience and persistence – two very important factors in the life of any Volunteer. I also learned all about that feeling you get when it’s time to leave. That sinking feeling in your stomach. The one that makes tears swell in your eyes. It’s that same feeling that makes your heart . . .

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Innocence Melts Obstinacy

The 1997 recipient of the Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award presented by PEACE CORPS WRITERS for the best short description of life in the Peace Corps. • Innocence Melts Obstinacy by Leita Kaldi (Senegal 1993–96) IN THE MARKETPLACE OF DAKAR, Senegal, amid the welter of vegetables, chickens, dried fish and shouting women, a small boy leans against a crumbling wall staring into space. His bare toes knead the sand; the rags he wears flop around his skinny frame. A gang of older boys push and shove their way past him, turning to jeer. The boy leaps into a ninja position, hands like scissors, knees bent on rigid legs. He must have studied the nearby movie poster where a ninja film had been showing. His eyes are fierce and belong to the world of warriors. The older boys laugh and walk on as the child glares after them balefully. His . . .

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