Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pippin Came Home!!

My cat in village ran away last week. He is now, apparently, back. Im in Dakar, but have been calling my host family every day to ask. All of the cats in Senegal kind of look like they came from the same litter, so I have my fingers crossed that my family isn't feeding a random different cat every day by accident.

After everything that has happened here, the cat, my flip-flops, and my ipod are the only things I still own. I like the cat the most, and Im so glad he's back : )

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Oh. My. God.

I probably shouldnt be posting right now because I havent slept in like four days and am feeling pretty anti Senegal right now, but luckily I handwrote a post about a week ago when I was in a better mood, so Ill try and type that up, hoping the electricity doesnt cut out! For the record, I havent slept because these past four days have been Tabaski, Senegals biggest holiday, where tons of people Ive never met come to the village, and the amount of laughing at the white person speaking sereer, and being hit on by strangers, that ensues is bothersome. It is nice to see people that work elsewhere and come back to the village though, like my sisters who are pretty cool. The reason Ive been so stressed out, though, is that this year they rented out a generator to BLAST terrible music from a spot about twenty feet from my room, thus the not sleeping, and we eat nothing but sheep, oil, and pasta for four days. I didnt plan ahead and stock up on snacks, which was obviously a huge oversight on my part. Trust me. You dont want to know what day four of leftover sheep parts in a country where refrigerators dont exist might include. My cat wouldnt even touch it. I took a video on my ipod of what can only be referred to as a meat clothesline. You can probably imagine it, but if youve ever seen viscera hanging next to laundry out to dry and realized how similar they would understand why I have sworn never to eat sheep again. Not knowingly at least. I have been surviving on white bread and lollipops. Oh, and my phone was dead the whole time so I didnt have my usual channel of sanity to tap into. Everything is back to normal now, though, so I am looking forward to a nice, long, nap followed by like twelve hours of sleep. Then tomorrow I will try and get back to work on grad school apps. OK, heres the happier blog post! Fair warning, I cant find the apostrophe, quotation marks, or parentheses, on this keyboard.

And, with my hands poised to write, real life just hit me in the face. I just found out that my Papaw had a stroke this morning, Ill try to find a way to call home, apparently he is resting comfortably. I dont know details, so I wont write anymore. Ill still go on with this other post, though, more as a distraction than anything else. Then Im biking home and going straight to sleep before I can hope to deal with anything.

K, here goes: On my evening walk today, I was listening to the latest This American Life which was about middle school. One 7th grader who had just moved to a new town was explaining how hard it was because in middle school, people care too much about who is cool and who isnt, and its difficult to make friends in that environment. He mentioned that in kindergarten, however, you can basically just walk up to anyone and say hi, want to be my friend?

I remember being in that same situation when we moved from California to Michigan when I was going into 6th grade, and I think my family was worried, or, well, concerned, about how I would do with it. However, I loved 6th grade. I vividly remember standing in Mrs. Levys math classroom straight through lunch while she graded papers, just to watch the snow falling through the window. In Santa Cruz, we used to drive out to Tahoe to ski every year, but Id never lived somewhere where snow could be a daily occurance. Everyone else trooped off through the hallways to the cafeteria and I was rooted to the spot, thinking it was like magic, standing in a snow globe. Beanie babies were cool then, I used to have friends over to trade, discuss our collections, and gossip about how attractive Leo DiCaprio was in Titanic, which came out that year. I also used to disappear for entire afternoons with my Nature Notebook, sitting in the wetland behind our condo watching Canada Geese arrive, build nests, and raise little goslings. Id never seen a Canada Goose before. I also used to watch and draw frogs laying eggs, tadpoles sprouting arms and legs, crawling out of the water and hopping around, and then disappearing when ice started forming on the pond.

Then, however, seventh grade arrived. They shuffled us around, and I didnt really know anyone in my group of classes anymore. Luckily, yearbook and art class came along, and I learned to use Photoshop and my Moms ancient Pentax SLR camera which I still have. I wanted to be Cool, though, so unfortunately, instead of hanging out with the people I really ended up liking, the ones who got into computer games and programming, the unabashedly smart kids, basically, I decided I needed cooler friends, and wore the same rotation of tommy hilfiger and bebe shirts pretty much every week. I wasnt cool, but was happily in denial anyways. I also decided, at some point in there, that it was necessary for me to become a cheerleader. Anyways, crushes on real life, non movie star, boys began, and awkward dances started occuring every month. The first time I danced with a boy, I didnt know how, and remember in excruciating detail as I, in my Gap shirt with a rhinestone cat on the front, put my arms around his waist. His arms were also around mine, and as we awkwardly moved in small circles, I would periodically come around to see my friends furiously gesturing for me to move my arms up to his neck, which I mistakenly took as encouragement, and Im pretty sure I even gave them a thumbs up at one point. I dont think I ever talked to him again after that...haha.

Then came 8th grade. In CA, at the small private catholic school I had attended, the 8th graders were Kings and Queens. They had been there since pre school and reigned over the student body kingdom for a year before entering a mysterious thing called High School. In Novi, MI, was terrible. Gossiping, judgement, what clothes everyone wore, ie. hormones, all hit their boiling point. At that point, I really should have just gone with it and just hung out with the uncool people I actually liked, but hung on stubbornly to some nebulous idea of how to be popular. I got bangs, terrible idea, got a highlighter yellow puffy ski jacket, and wore fluorescent white eyeshadow every day, which looks GREAT on redheads.... : P

Luckily, my family sent me off to the Pacific Northwest for Outdoor Adventure camp that summer, where I learned that there was a lot more to life than worrying about which lunch table to sit at, and that I love hiking camping etc. I still wanted to be a cheerleader, though, since my fixations run pretty deep. I mean, Ive wanted to be a PCV since that summer and here I am. I got on the team, entered high school, continued running track, hurdles at that point, and realiwed that nobody really cared about what everyone else was doing anymore. I quickly fell into place, eventually quit the cheer team, started the outdoor adventure club, worked backstage on plays, was in french club, worked for the newspaper, and ran track all four years. I got a 4.0, got into University of Michigan, and have basically had fun nerding out ever since.

What I want to express, though, is that one of the best things about Senegalese culture, as well as volunteer culture, is that its just like kindergarten. You can walk up to anyone and they are automatically your friend. Senegalese people love talking and just hanging out, and volunteers understand each other and support each other in a way that is unparalleled in the US. Not to undermine friendships at home, I just wanted to say that the ability to be open and supportive towards anyone is something we could all use a little more of in our lives, and something I think Ive learned to do well here. This is where I would insert a smiley face but I have no idea where it is on this computer. Oh well, thanks as always for reading!

Longest post ever, whew. Love you all, wish me luck with the grad school apps and say a prayer for my Papaw! Oh, and ignore spelling errors. Im not editing this, Im going home and going to bed. At one in the afternoon, hehe.