Peace Corps year 1

index, month 6 + bonus material

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 family’s 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

“How’s the Peace Corps?”

…I’ve 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 animal’s 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. I’ve 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. It’s not news that Peace Corps is a government bureaucracy, nor that it’s 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 you’re a volunteer. Most of us didn’t come here to complain about budget allocations, but it’s the nature of the beast. I do, however, have a deeper appreciation for the Peace Corps approach to development now that I’m 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, I’ll be out of the village. And I will not feel bad about it, dammit.

…I’m 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. There’s 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 don’t eat at least half, preferably all, which is easy to do since you keep eating in the hope that you’ll eventually feel satisfied, like you’ve had a real meal. I now weigh far more than I ever have, and dealing with that isn’t 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.

…I’m 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 I’m 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 we’re like the bastard middle children of the Peace Corps Senegal family… nobody’s excited to see us anymore, but nobody’s getting pre-nostalgic about our departure either.

Watching the COSers—packing, writing final reports, buying gifts and souvenirs, throwing village parties—I want to skip ahead. Two years behind me, memories good and bad, home and family and familiarity in sight. Let me have already done this—check 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 I’m so so happy that I’m here. I’m 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, I’ve navigated African PT by myself—what can’t I do?

…No, seriously. I hate sheep.

18 replies on “index, month 6 + bonus material”

You are doing awesome. We are all impressed. And I definitely, definitely understand the sensation of wanting to *have done* something more than actually wanting to *be doing* it.

Well, you probably can’t become president … but the rest is pretty open.

If it’s any consolation, I think all of us in new situations with a set end date will always feel that longing to get back to “normalc”y interspersed with weird moments of “Oh, wow, THIS is why I’m here,” which does nothing to mitigate just how much we want out.

Perhaps you now understand my position on chickens.

Also, who is this high school friend?

And finally, when people want to do good, there is always red tape and politics. Don’t let the man get you down- that’s exactly what he wants.

Keep it up! You are living a grand adventure that someday you can bring up in casual conversation like “yeah, I remember that time when I was in Africa.. and the sheep.. geeze” and everyone else will feel plain shown up.. not that this is why you are doing what you are doing.. but It would certainly be a perk 😛 Then there’s the whole “appreciation of the little things” that I’m sure comes with all of this.. yup yup.. You Go!

Okay- not to abuse Clare’s blog, but really. Suzanne? Was that a, “Don’t I make you sick” wink or a, “haha, of course it’s not me” wink?

Please let it be you and not my arch-nemisis.

I’m sure Clare won’t mind too much…

It really is me! It was an ironic sort of wink, as in “I personally find it a bit suprising that it’s me, but it really is me!” (surprising, isn’t it?) (and I will refrain from using further smilies even though it’s tempting…)

How are you? You must be finished/nearly finished with your master’s?

Leslie – So close, so close.

Matty – I KNEW I should’ve been an Ivy League C student…

Jason – I sincerely hope to not be that RPCV who starts every conversation with “Well, when *I* was in Africa…” — I’d rather show people up by telling stories that make them ASK where I did all these cool things 😉

Rolin – Where’s my damn postcard? I hear Shreveport is lovely this time of year.

Maryann – Yes, it’s true. She’s even threatened me with a poufy pink bridesmaid’s dress.

How can anything as innocuous as sheep inspire such loathing? There must be an untold story here. Just curious, Mama

Innocuous my butt. They’re smelly, noisy, dirty animals whose only redeeming quality is that they’re good for eating. Except that most of the time you have to smell, hear, and look at village sheep, rather than get to eat them.

I’ll try to get some pictures/videos that convey the true essence of sheep better than I have so far.

hi clare, just wanted to know that i enjoy reading your blog. i’m somewhat related to gretchen, via marriage to her so called rockstar uncle rob. we live in dunnville, ontario, canada and we are cheering you peace corps ladies and men on from here, where the only sheep we see look all cute and sweet out in the fields around town. the goats do too. maybe you should come visit here when you’re done in africa and start lovin’ the sheeps and goats again.

People will ask, but only about 5 percent of them want or understand your stories. Eyes start to glaze over.
Cherish every moment of dancing your butt off. Such pure revelry may never be done when you are Stateside. A reckless abandon born from the lack of resposibility the next morning other than:

So, I just started reading this at work and I will continue to read it when I get home. I just searched “Peace Corps Senegal” on google and this came up.

I just turned 21. I want to go into the Peace Corps after college, and Senegal is up there on the list. Would you recommend it, both the Peace Corps in general, and Senegal as a country?

Short answer: yes and yes.

Longer answer, really a question: What are you looking to get from Peace Corps?

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