Monday, April 26, 2010

Laugh? Cry? Punch Someone in the Face?

My first instinct for beginning this post was to say that there is a fine line between frustration and hysteria. However, I feel like that line has turned into more of a big sludgy mess that I get to trudge my way trough on a daily basis. It’s not a bad thing-some of the best experiences come from situations that involve some mix of wanting to laugh cry and yell all at the same time. These situations also mean that our brains have the chance to reach their full adaptive potential. If a person is given glasses that flip their vision completely upside down, it only takes their mind a day or two to flip the images and compensate for it. Then if they take the glasses off, their world would be upside down for a time. I have only been here for a little over a month, and all of the things that seemed so foreign and exotic have become pretty normal. Im almost afraid of what will seem normal after two years here. Like eating spaghetti out of a bowl with my hands. Or hopping on a charette (a sketchy wooden platform on two wheels that is pulled by a horse) to go to the market. Or riding in a small car with a shattered windshield and 7 other people.

The rest of this week will be taken up by a workshop where everyone's counterparts from their future sites are coming to Thies so we can go over what to expect for the next two years (ha...ha...). There will be 83 people here at the center, all speaking different languages from all over Senegal. We were split up by language groups to plan and prepare training sessions. There are 5 groups, and my group (the Seereers) only has 3 people. So, they lumped us in with the Wolof group. We were supposed to translate some lessons into our local languages to present at the workshop. However, our language teacher is not here, and the only written material in Seereer that we could possibly use as a reference (in existence, as far as I know) is a Bible. Since there is nothing about Peace Corps goals and expectations in the Bible...there wasn’t much we could do. Not that it mattered since all of our workshops are going to be in Wolof anyways. I can say “good morning how are you?” in Wolof and that’s it. Oh well : ) This is going to be an interesting week.

But, we have next weekend off and get to go to the BEACH. Yessssss.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dakar Day

Dakar is like paradise on earth. With an abomination of a statue (its brand new. please look it up). But, it is 1am so this will be quick: So...I should post more, and trust that I will once training is over and I actually have time to hang out at my site and go use internet sometimes to get work done. But, I think its funny that the extent of my communication with family has been limited to this blog and blog posts thus far : ) I love you all and hope you had good trips to Florida and California and South Carolina!! Talk to you soon!

Oh, also, my hut is awesome. Pictures soon. I have been Soxna Ngome up until now (one of my many new names, one of which is Spraggles)but now I have an official Seereer name for the next two years! Yamma Diome. : ) Short for Mariamma. I like it a lot. Yay.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Site Placement!

I just found out my site! The current volunteers and staff brought all of us trainees out to the basketball court where a huge map of Senegal is painted on the ground. We were all blindfolded and walked out to our sites, where we promptly started reaching for people around us and calling out to one another. When I pulled off my blindfold, I realized I was on the coast and started jumping up and down and yelling with happiness. I am taking over for a current volunteer, and talked with him about the site. It’s a short bike ride away from a gorgeous beach and touristy town called Mbour. The village is about 500 people, and I’ll be living in a compound with a family. Apparently my site dad is really active on the organic farming and agricultural scene. He has three WOOFers there right now! The only school is a kindergarten, which means I get to hang out and work with kids in FRENCH which is exciting! There is also a private school, so I’ll get to do some work with them as well. Apparently the site has upwards of 30 gardens, so I have some freedom to work on other things. There are bees there, and nobody currently beekeeping, so I’m going to find a way to start that up! I have always wanted to keep bees. Get ready for some honey and mead gifts from Africa. Also, the village is one 3rd christian, one 3rd muslim, and one 3rd animist. Which means people are laid back instead of crazy conservative! there's a church, too, which will be nice. Since its on the coast, it doesn't get too hot. Relatively, of course. Im still in Africa. Its still going to be hot.

Most of the other volunteers in the area are eco tourism volunteers, which means there are cool places to visit! There is a reserve where you can kayak through the mangroves, and also a big game reserve (ie giraffes, etc).

I just put up new photos, including some from the beach I will be near so you can all see it : ) A group of us navigated the sketchy world of public transportation in Senegal on Monday, in order to spend one of the best days at the beach to ever exist. I’ll write about it later!

For now, my site is called Louly Ngogom and I’m really happy! Tomorrow we go back to the homestay villages for a few days, and then I get to spend a week in my village with the current volunteer. Hope you’re all doing well!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Today we went to Easter mass at a cathedral in Thies, and it was an experience. The church was surprisingly nice inside, with its little stained glass windows and high blue ceilings. The stations of the cross were painted on the walls, with the first 6 stations depicting a black Jesus. However, at the 7th station he miraculously morphed into a toubab (white person). They forgot to teach us about that in catholic school. The music was by far the most inspiring of any catholic mass I have ever been to-Drumming, dancing, singing. I had no idea what they were saying, but it was awesome! In the past four years alone, I have been to mass in Canada, Greece, Switzerland, France, and Senegal. And America : ) The mass did last for two hours, though, and thats too long to be standing in any building in Africa. It's been hitting the 130's lately, so...Im sure you can imagine what that was like.

On another note, when I got to my homestay last week, it was freezing cold by Senegalese standards (so, like…70 degrees) and my family looked hilarious. Normally, the Senegalese take extreme pride in appearance since it is viewed as a sign of respect for others, rather than an expression of individuality. However, cold weather clothing is wholly exempt from this train of thought. Throughout the night, they broke out the most random bits and pieces of warm clothes I’ve ever seen, and I still have no idea where they came from. One of my little brothers was wearing the hood to a puffy ski jacket velcroed upside down on his head. One of my 15 yr. old brothers was wearing a matching pink jumpsuit which said Princess on the back. A lot of people were walking around in bathrobes. My family is really funny. They're nice, but Im still not used to how differently everyone acts here. Plus the fact that I understand about 1/10th of what they're saying at any given moment.

One of the hazards of learning a new language, is that people tend to think you are practicing all the time, and therefore don’t actually answer questions or tell you things-they just smile and say “that’s right” no matter how many times you ask. Or, worse, is when you are practicing and they think you’re serious. So, for example, if you say to yourself, “Im full” and your mom thinks you mean it and gets offended because she is currently making you lunch...that’s not good. And then you dig yourself even deeper into a hole by trying to correct it by saying, “no! I am hungry!” which she takes to mean youre hungry NOW and so she gives you a HUGE bowl of noodles and oil right before making you eat an equally ginormous lunch. Or if you ask what your mom is cooking, and suddenly you are handed half a fried fish to eat. That’s fun too.

OK, my laptop is dying so I must go! Ill write more later.