Eben: Return from Toubacouta

I’ve decided to change things up this time and save my general update for last. As is clear given that I’m posting, we arrived back from Toubacouta safely this past Sunday night after a very nice five-day trip. The hotel was great; the rooms were air-conditioned, and there was a decent-sized swimming pool.   (Unfortunately, the swimming pool and I finished the weekend on bad terms, as I slipped on the side of the pool while playing a game and cut up my foot badly enough to need a doctor and some antibiotics. On the plus side, I did get to see firsthand how a rural doctor’s office works. Not so clean.)  I stayed with Vu (Brandeis) and Sean (Cornell).

Our group was accompanied by five or six University of Dakar students (who originally hailed from the Toubacouta area) throughout our time, which was spent seeing different facets of rural life. We visited two health posts, a tiny health hut in a village, the two microfinance groups mentioned above, and different members of the local political leadership. We also spent an afternoon helping one of the women’s microfinance groups plant mangroves in a swamp area, which eventually and predictably degenerated into a nice round of collective mud-wrestling. And speaking of wrestling, we attended a traditional wrestling event one night (not sure what else to call it other than an event), at which a circle of nearly-naked men danced around until two would fight each other at inexplicable times. The men put large sticks in the ground during their matches in order to ward off spirits, and it’s customary to lie face down while being dragged out of the center of the circle by friends after losing. I figure any reaction I make to this would be taken as pretty insensitive, so I’ll steer clear.

Now that I’m back in Dakar, things have settled back into the same rhythm as before. That rhythm, however, is soon to have another (welcome) disruption; Casimir invited us to stay with his family in Sokone this weekend, which Olivia, Vu, Alex, Rachel, and I will be doing.  Supposed to be some raging Catholic party.  I’ll be sure to report.

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