I’m currently writing from a cybercafe in Kaolack, Senegal, a stopping point on the way back from five days of a “demystification” site visit—we’re sent out in ones or twos to spend five days and four nights (really three days since a day is spent in each direction navigating public transport—sept-places, which are station wagons that spend most of their time driving half-on or on the shoulder to avoid the massive potholes in the paved road, a term I use very loosely; “Ahmans,” mini-buses that cram people, bags, and livestock into every possible corner, with extra passengers hanging out the back; and charettes, wooden carts pulled by sad, bony horses or donkeys—we spent four hours on one Wednesday, going to and from the weekly market in Foundiougne, and I still can’t quite sit right) with a current PCV in our assignment area.
I stayed with Dell, a Sustainable Ag Volunteer, and her host family in the family’s compound—about a dozen cement huts with thatched roofs in the middle of corn, millet, sorghum, and peanut fields. I can barely begin to list my “firsts” from the past few days—first: Pulaar name (Ramata Jallo); attempt at carrying water on my head (fairly successful); night spent outside under a mosquito net (very pleasant); meal of millet eaten by hand out of a communal bowl (with three fish on top—I like rice better)… There are so many more, but with the heat and the “Time Remaining” clock ticking down, not to mention this French keyboard layout, I don’t think I can remember them all right now.
I’m happy. I’m dirty, most likely smelly, and am looking forward to a cold Fanta at lunch, but I’m happy. So far all 30 members of my staging group are still here—most of us 22 to 26 or so, fairly recently out of college, and excited to start learning and working. Only a few people have gotten sick in this first week, and I’m happy to report that I’ve been free so far of exciting intestinal troubles, worms boring into my flesh, or Larium freak-outs (though I think the part about especially vivid dreams as a side effect is true).
Today we’re headed back to the training center in Thiès for seven weeks of intensive language and technical training—I’m eager to find out what language I’ll be learning, because nothing was more frustrating than not being able to understand or talk with all the people I met.
Hopefully soon I’ll be able to post some pictures and find an internet cafe in Thiès that I can go to on a regular basis—I’ve wanted so often to be able to share everything I’m seeing, hearing, feeling and, yes, smelling with all you beautiful people back in the U.S. or elsewhere.
I can’t process everything right now—dirty streets and children in ragged American T-shirts, not to mention the faded Madonna stickers on all the autobus windows… a thousand blessings upon anyone who has sent me a letter or an email (letters are more likely to get a response since my internet time is so rushed) and I hope you are all doing well at work or play or school (yes, even in heavenly Berkeley). I’ll most likely be getting a cellphone in the next few weeks and receiving calls will be free, so I’ll let y’all know as soon as I have that set up.
I refuse to be one of those people who ends posts and letters/emails with the local form of “goodbye” just cause I’ve known how to say it for a week, so instead:
Happy, sweaty, and only craving a veggie burger the tiniest bit,