Thursday I arrived safe and sound in Tambacounda, my exciting urban center for the next two years, after an eight-hour sept-place ride across central Senegal, which if I squinted often looked a heck of a lot like Texas or somewhere off in the American West.
We had heard that the road between Kaolack and Tamba is notoriously bad, and certainly it deserves every bit of its reputation, seeing as it’s more like decade-old Swiss cheese than a road. Cars, Alhams, super-sized 18-wheelers, charettes—all the traffic weaves back and forth and sometimes off, dodging potholes, craters, and each other.
The regional office in Tamba is great—very relaxed, with a great PCV library (more than just checkout-line trash fiction), a big roof for sleeping on, and an outdoor shower. Most of us have spent both nights so far sleeping under mosquito nets up on the roof, the most exciting part being that we were actually cold this morning. Granted, that probably means it was about 80 degrees, but it felt great.
Tamba itself is nice, too—a dusty crossroads town that’s much less aggressive than Thies (except for the kids, who are very enthusiastic about yelling “Toubab! Toubab!” at us). Yesterday we opened bank accounts and were taken on a guided tour by Ashley, the Tamba PCVL (Peace Corps Volunteer Leader), had a regional meeting (there are about 20 or so PCVs in our area), and then ate fantastic veggie burgers and salad prepared by the current PCVs.
Today we began the shopping excursions, buying buckets and spoons and rope and such to outfit our huts. It’s a tiring process that would be outright impossible if we didn’t have the more experienced PCVs to help us bargain, which is what you have to do for just about everything but pre-packaged food. The seller starts out at two or three times the “real” price, and you argue back and forth, usually all in good fun, until you either agree on a price or give up and walk away (which is sometimes the best way to get them to go lower).
I’ll probably attempt some more purchases this afternoon then finish up tomorrow, when we plan to cook a nice big extravagant meal as a combo last-night-together/Clare’s-birthday/pre-Thanksgiving celebration. Then Monday, off into the unknown.
I know I should/could do the past weeks (and my feelings about the upcoming weeks, ack) better justice than this short lame post, but, well, it’s hot and I need a nap. The good news is that I’m currently at a cyber cafe that only charges 350 cfa/hour (though I don’t know that I’ll be able to upload photos from this one), my cell phone gets reception (we’ll see if it actually gets calls from the US any better than it did in Thies), and I know my new PO Box number:
PCV Clare Major
(dunno if you need to use the “PCV” part, but it looks cool…)
That’s all for now, but I’ll probably treat myself to some birthday internet time tomorrow, perhaps looking for a place to upload photos from swearing-in in Dakar, which was quite an affair (and yes, the finger food was superb).