Peace Corps year 1

Clare, trainee

Dear Shiny Happy (Clean) People –

I’ve found a cybercafe with USB ports and will do my best to upload photos, if Gallery and the connection speed decide to cooperate.

Yesterday we met our host families, who we’ll be staying with for the next seven weeks. I now have a mother (Amy), father, aunt (?), sister (Bébé, 22), younger sister (Ramatali, 12?), and younger brother (Cowboy, 7?). I was named Ramatali Konaté (guessing on the spelling at the moment) upon arrival, shown to my room (small, with a door, window, and a bed), shown photos of family and friends, spoken to in Pulaar, introduced to all the neighbors, and otherwise completely and totally overwhelmed.

I’ve been stumbling all over my French and failing to pick up much Pulaar (pula-fuuta, Pulaar spoken in the southern part of Senegal), but it’s ok because mostly people just laugh at me and keep repeating things until I finally understand what’s going on (or at least understand enough to pretend like I actually understand).

This is when the reality of being a Peace Corps Trainee sets in—lots of work, lots of frustration, but supposedly occasional moments of success. I’ve already had to remind myself that, yes, I chose to do this because, yes, it is going to be fun and worth the effort—hell, I chose to do this because I wanted the challenge.

I’m going to have to start making notes about what to write about (or y’all can give me some suggestions)… my family has a goat and some chickens; Thiès is big and crazy, dirty and loud; everyone at the training center is kind and patient…

I was up at 6am this morning, the stars still bright and the Muslim call to prayer blaring over loudspeakers. I took my bucket bath, gathered my class notebooks, and then waited with Bébé for the Peace Corps bus to take me to the training center—sitting by the road wondering if and when this will feel like home.

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