Peace Corps year 1

gallery update

I added a few photos to the IST album… the rest might have to wait until I’m back in Tamba, where the connection is actually a lot faster than here in the “big city.”

Peace Corps year 1


This past weekend was spent in Dakar at W.A.I.S.T. (the West African Invitational Softball Tournament), where teams of ex-pats and PCVs from Senegal and surrounding countries converged for softball games, eating hotdogs, and not sleeping much. It was all sorts of a good time—I got back to Thiès with 100 cfa in my pocket.

About W.A.I.S.T.: if you’ve heard of it, you’ve heard stories about it.

They’re pretty much all true.

… Except about the bonfire being the best event—there were no American snacks and the beer was gone by midnight.

But other than that: yes, the “social league” is better at drinking on the field than playing softball; yes, you’ll see more PCVs in two days than you’ll see otherwise in two years; and, yes, the Marine party was lame.

I inadvertently played an inning on Saturday when our “real” team hadn’t shown up by game time—I stood in the outfield and hoped the ball wouldn’t come my way. Thankfully it didn’t; then the rest of the players showed up, there were a few on-field wrestling matches, and the game finally ended when the Mauritanian PCVs couldn’t score any more points because our score was so low. The only game we won was against the Benin PCVs, who actually managed to be worse than we were.

An album of judiciously edited pictures will eventually go up.

IST ends Saturday, and then we all head back to our sites to experience our first ungodly-hot hot season.

Peace Corps year 1

cultural exchange

The best thing about being in Thiès, other than the hamburgers at the recently-discovered “Chawarma Snack”: catching up on Muñeca Brava.

Peace Corps year 1

training days

It’s strange how coming from the village to Thiès last week felt as much like moving between two separate worlds as coming from the US to Senegal did five months ago.

There are so many things you see in the city that you would never see in the village, and vice versa. In cities, you see tight pants on teenage girls, colored hair extensions, guys in awful tracksuits. In my village, women go topless, the girls braid their hair into mohawks, and the boys go out to herd the cows in virtual rags. Hour after hour of TV in Thiès versus conversation by the campfire in the village. The occasional round of tea versus a constant flow. Twenty-somethings who date around versus girls married (as second wives) by 15 or 16.

Hell, just the fact that there are fat people in the cities—big is still beautiful here, though that’s perhaps being Westernized out of the current generation of teenagers. On TV, on the street in Thiès, it’s clear that a big woman in a big boubou with a big headwrap, holding a big ol’ plate of food, is something a man would like to come home to. Yet I know maybe three or four tubby villagers. Basic nutrition, basic education, basic so many things are just entirely different.

So that’s the context for IST. Coming back to Thiès and thinking, “Whaaaaa?!”

Our field trip yesterday was fun, though—the Ags tagged along with the Agfos to the Monastere de Keur Moussa, a Catholic monastery that has extensive gardens and orchards. The monks grow grapefruits, oranges, kumquats, mangos, bananas, papayas, and assorted vegetables and make jam, cool artwork on cards, perfume, wooden statues and crosses, a West African instrument called a kora, recordings of kora music, and goat cheese! We were all very impressed, and the goat cheese was fantastic.

group shot

Additions to the IST album are here.

Peace Corps year 1


Uploaded a few photos from IST, with more to come tomorrow when I write an actual post in an attempt to use up the ten hours of internet time I bought today.

Today’s highlight thus far: goat cheese made by monks!

Peace Corps year 1

i:m2 addenda

(Supplementing last week’s post…)

To prove that, yes, every Peace Corps experience is unique:

Minimum number of Small Enterprise Development (SED, i.e. business) PCVs known to have DSL internet at his/her apartment: 1

To elaborate on the joys of having a puppy in the village:

Number of severed goat legs Bandi found post-slaughter and brought into my hut to munch on: 4

… And I forgot to explain the three possible village conversations:

1) The weather.

“Senegal’s cold!”

“Senegal’s not cold! America’s cold! Senegal’s hot!”

“Oh, but it’s cold!” (while hugging self and pretend-shivering)

“Ha! No, right now Senegal is a little cold, but America is very cold.”

Variation: Senegal = America

“Oh, it’s cold! Today, I think Senegal is cold like America.”

“Ha! No, right now Senegal is a little cold, but America is very, very cold.”

2) Last names.

“Bah? Bah is bad!”

“Ha! No, Jallo is bad!”

“No, no, Bah is bad; Jallo is good.”

“No, no, Jallo is bad; Bah is good.”

“Ha ha ha!”

3) Statements of the obvious. The possibilities are endless:

“You’re cooking!”

“You’re sitting!”

“You’re going to the well!”

“You came back from the well!” (Bonus: “You got water!”)

“You slept?” / “Yes, I slept.”

“You woke up?” / “Yes, I woke up. Peace only.”

However, these three possible conversations can only occur once the greeting cycle has run its course. Here’s a game for everyone who wants a taste of saying “hello” in the village. I think of these as “gerbil greetings”:

Pretend that you and everyone in your village are moving around in person-sized gerbil balls—you know, like the plastic ones you’d stick your pet hamster in to give him the excitement of repeatedly running into walls. Every time your gerbil ball bumps into someone else’s gerbil ball after an interval of ten minutes or more, greet them. Make sure to use the sequence of greetings appropriate for the time of day and whether or not you or they may or may not have just arrived or returned from somewhere else.

Mmm, village life. Though I will miss it while I’m in Thies for three weeks of In-Service Training (IST).

Ok, parts of it at least. I really like my family, and I feel like I’ll be able to get to know the rest of the village, too, with time. Also, it’s been easy to find a daily routine, and as long as I can keep pushing that routine away from boring towards comfortable, I feel like I’m establishing a good base for actually being useful.

That’s the idea, at least. We’ll be learning more about how to actually be useful during IST, which sounds like it’ll be mostly technical training since budget cuts = no language trainers. Honestly, all us Tamba kids are thinking about right now is how great dinner will be tomorrow night at our favorite ex-pat restaurant. Mmm, lasagna.

(new photos… woot!)