Travel & Design Blog - BY YASMIN METZ-JOHNSON

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

WIS: My weekend in Keur Katim Village

My arrival at Keur Katim, Koulack

I recently left the city life of Dakar for Keur Katim in Koulack. I went to visit a friend I have made out here in Senegal who is volunteering in association with Peace Corps (she also blogs at www.roots-of-aya.com). Keur Katim is a village 5 and a half hours away from Dakar, a journey I still cannot believe I completed twice by car! I had no expectations of what it may be like although she had told me that she lives in a village with a lovely Senegalese family but I didn’t expect what awaited me.

The journey involved me taking 3 different cars, as I arrived I remember my surroundings being ever so calm you could just hear the engine of a car that past by every 20 minutes. It sounds silly but it was this moment when I saw the short level corn on both sides of the road that it sunk in to me that this feels like the middle of nowhere, this really was a village! After my friend met me from the open road we walked through the low corn into the village which was 3 and a half miles away. Everybody in the village spoke the local language Wollof ; which I just about know the greeting terms only. Only 600 people live in this village with the majority following the religion of Islam.

Me in Keur Katim
Faith's family compound/home - ROA

We trekked into the village and when I arrived at the Jonah Family compound I was warmly greeted by all the family members before entering Faith’s (aka her village name ‘Fatou’) room. I wasn’t at all shocked at her room or the contrast between it and my own room in Dakar, maybe because she had previously described her living conditions to me but I don’t usually find it to difficult to adapt. As I opened her bedroom metal door I instantly noticed the massive green mosquito net that hung above the bed, before I had time to appreciate what she had done with the wall where many photos of her loved ones in USA are pegged along the mud hut facade.  By the time I arrived at her home is was 7:30pm so it was getting dark which only met it was time to turn on the battery powered touches to cook our dinner on the gas stove. She also has another door on the opposite side of her chain of photos. This was her own quarters which included the bathroom in the far corner, but not your ordinary bathroom, this was a village bathroom which meant a hole in the ground for the business. Outside also included her bike, a gas stove we later use to cook out dinner (Spaghetti Bolognaise – which tasted so good!) and an additional bed made out of wooden branch beams that we later slept in that evening due to a very humid bedroom that night.


Back door to Faith's room - ROA
I woke up in this!.. Flawless of course

Fatou's bedroom wall - ROA
All in one toilet and shower - ROA
I surprisingly enjoyed my sleep outside, it sounds cheesy but it was nice to be awaken by fresh breeze and the real sound effect of the chickens. However, as much as I liked the fresh breeze, I do wish it wasn’t so fresh whilst I was washed myself with half a bucket of water that was marginally heated by yesterday’s sun. Anyone who has washed outside will know of my discomfort, goosebumps all over your body whilst trying to wash is not the best feeling. That day (Saturday) before we headed out of the village to go to Poste (the market) I met and greeted a lot of the women in the village, who were all very welcoming despite the language barrier. On that note I have found that during the past few months here that Senegalese people are genuinely warm hearted people regardless of the language you speak. Faith introduced me to the members of her woman’s group whilst I made the attempt to conversate using the very little Wollof I know, in fact when I say conversate I do literally mean “Hi”, “how are you?”, “What is your name?” they appreciated the effort regardless.


Myself and the friendly faces of Keur Katim, Koulack
 Before we left the village we bought some cashew fruits. What on earth is cashew fruits!? That is the first thought that ran through my head when Faith asked me if I wanted any, answering my own question, what is a cashew fruit? It turns out that cashew nuts grow out of a fruit that resembles a petit apple, but when you eat it the fruits textures is similar to a mango, that’s the best way I can describe it I am still trying to sum up how to describes its tastes but I think I am going to settle with a bittersweet clementine. Speaking of fruits I have found that all of them taste 10 times better and sweeter here in Senegal. I know that this is probably because they are grown in the country, but seriously it is not fair how they taste better where I currently am in Africa and are far beyond cheaper than what is supposedly the same fruit in the UK, we are getting short changed big time! I don’t mean to go off topic but it is the sad truth.


Cashew fruit - love-and-adventure.com
The mosque in Keur Katim Village


Charette à chevel - a popular mode of transport in the village

After we ate lunch, we took the charette à chevel method of transport (transportation via horse) into the town center to buy vegetable to cook for our dinner tonight, I bet you can guess what I am going to say about the veg. Once again we returned back to the village around 18:00pm before it got dark. Whilst we cooked dinner (Stir fry and sweet potato chips) using our phone touches I tried to visionally imagine if everyone suddenly found themselves having to live in these conditions of no wi fi, no electricity, rationing of water, who would survive it knowing the luxury life they had lived before? With wi fi almost anywhere, the light switch to your room just a touch away and knowing that endless water pours out of your tap, who  would be able to revert to this way of living the way the people of Keur Katim village live? When you think about it or when you spend 2 days in a village, you realise how luxurious what you would might call an ordinary lifestyle is. Gratitude goes a long way.





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