Days my village had to go to a neighboring village for water because our one well was too low: 1
Baby warthogs seen trotting single file after their mother, tails held high, while on my morning jog: 3
Rainy nights in the village: 2
Minimum number of village kids with raging cases of pink eye: 4
Calves born to my familys cows: 3
COSers from the Tamba region: 6
New PCVs in the Tamba region: 6
Total times my iPod has been sent back to the US for repairs: 2
Hours Steven spent at the Austin Apple Store on Friday in order to get them to give me a new one: 3
Newly-engaged high school friends: 1
Special six month bonus:
The Longer than Fine But Still Incomplete and, Ultimately, Unsatisfying Answer to
Ive learned more than I wanted to about the disgusting things that livestock do. For example, did you know that you can watch a lump of goat or sheep cud travel up and down an animals throat when it swallows and regurgitates? Or that cows can pick their very own noses with their very own tongues?
My tolerance for sweat, dust, flies, screaming children, and noisy animals has increased exponentially.
I am now expert at aiming various substances and objects into the rather small hole of my pit toilet.
I hate sheep. I really hate sheep. Ive gone from quasi-vegetarian to advocating that all sheep deserve to be eaten as quickly as possible.
My understanding of the Peace Corps is evolving. Its not news that Peace Corps is a government bureaucracy, nor that its a government bureaucracy with its headquarters on one continent and almost all its operations on other continents. But getting caught up in the unavoidable organizational politics and inefficiencies is especially frustrating when youre a volunteer. Most of us didnt come here to complain about budget allocations, but its the nature of the beast. I do, however, have a deeper appreciation for the Peace Corps approach to development now that Im learning more about NGOs though my opinion of development work in general is anything but certain.
I now have my Village Guilt under control. If I have a reason to be out of the village, Ill be out of the village. And I will not feel bad about it, dammit.
Im starting to feel vaguely competent in Pulaar: I can respond to most questions or statements directed at me by my family, and I can catch words and even phrases overheard in others conversations.
Food is still an issue for me. Theres only so much millet and peanut water a person can eat before even Taco Bell starts to sound delicious: village food is mostly the same color, the same texture, and, well, just mostly the same, day after day. It comes in a giant bowl, and everyone fusses if you dont eat at least half, preferably all, which is easy to do since you keep eating in the hope that youll eventually feel satisfied, like youve had a real meal. I now weigh far more than I ever have, and dealing with that isnt helped by the absurdity of complaining about being overweight while surrounded by so many malnourished, painfully thin women. A lot of PCVs experience weight changes; women tend to gain, and men tend to lose.
Im still not sure how to interpret toubab, but my latest coping strategy is to cheerfully yell it back at kids who scream at me as I pass on my bike. I refuse to accept it as anything resembling polite, but Im willing to consider that most people may say it without malice.
Two years is going to go quickly. As slowly as the individual hours may pass, the months fly by. COSers are COSing, newly-sworn-in PCVs are swearing newly in their first days at site, and my group has just passed the six month mark. Right now were like the bastard middle children of the Peace Corps Senegal family nobodys excited to see us anymore, but nobodys getting pre-nostalgic about our departure either.
Watching the COSerspacking, writing final reports, buying gifts and souvenirs, throwing village partiesI want to skip ahead. Two years behind me, memories good and bad, home and family and familiarity in sight. Let me have already done thischeck it off, smile and tell stories, not have to slog through the meta-boredom tedium that memory will edit out later anyway.
But then I have an actual conversation about something other than the weather, or the women clap and dance after a meeting, or PCVs get together and dance our butts off, or the sun is setting on my bike ride back to the village, or the rain finally arrives with a spectacle of lightning and wind, and Im so so happy that Im here. Im seeing and learning so much; I feel stronger than I ever have before I turn my head to find that the whole world is open to me. Hell, Ive navigated African PT by myselfwhat cant I do?
No, seriously. I hate sheep.