Yeah it’s been a while. Sorry about that. It’s not to be said I didn’t try and write. Trust me I still love you and miss you. It’s just been hard.

I will go into further detail of what I’ve been up to in my next post since I’ve been in my village for more than 10 months now (September 27 was my year in country) and December 8th (right after my birthday) is my year in my village. How time flies when your having fun right?? And yes I’m still having fun. Trust me.

Just a short note to say that I will be writing like a mad women to get my life/pictures into the digital world as soon as the internet/electricity wants to cooperate with me 🙂 I swear I will make it happen.

I Survived 2 Weeks in Africa…What do I Get?: Hopefully Not Malaria

I have been told the first day at my host family is the hardest day of my service. Today I get to meet my 1st host family in Mboro, Senegal (about an hour north of Thies) and start living there with them for the rest of my training. We come back and forth to the training center for more training, language tests and debriefings.I also will get my 1st Senegalese name. I am very excited about this as the closest word in Wolof to my last name is the word for toilet. So needless to say, I’m excited to see what tribe I’m also with. There is a culture of joking cousins, out of the 6+ tribes, each has 2-3 joking cousins that they are sarcastic with. You might give a vendor a hard time when bartering knowing they are your joking cousin. Also shows proficiency in the language.


I started writing this over a week ago before I was on my way to site in the short time I had left with internet access, a table to write at, and my computer (that I left at the training center) Much has changed since then.

My Senegalese name is Daba Mbodji (Prounounced Mbouch) and I live in a small town north of Thies, called Mboro. It’s known for it’s vegetables and fruit market and gardens. My family is small in terms of Senegalese size with only 10 people not including myself. I live with my grandmother, my mom, my 3 sisters and my brother and his wife along with their kids. Luckily my siblings are around my age and my tarondoo (namesake) sister is also unmarried with no children. So we have much in common.

My house has 5 small bedrooms, a living room (with a tv-most channels are in french or wolof) and a shared courtyard (where all the cooking and laundry is done as well as hanging out) with more extended family with house that is connected to ours. So all together there are 20-ish people around at any given time in or around the house. Needless to say I shouldn’t ever be lonely.

I live a few blocks away from a school and a few more blocks from the other 3 volunteers that my site mates here that live with their own receptive families. But even living that short distance I have gotten “lost” a few times in the week I have been at site. I see this as an adventure to get to know my neighborhood and I can easily be  “found” by asking where my families’ house is or calling a site mate to come find me. Or worse comes to worse I can call my brother and try in broken wolof or french to come find me or find where I am. Either way it’s not hard to get lost or found in my town.

I will write more while I’m here in Thies for training in the next few days. My rechargeable battery charger isn’t working so I have not been able pictures. So my goal of being here is to figure it out so I can show you more of my family and my new home for the next few months.

 

Je Suis Arrivé: My First Taste of Senegal

It’s hot here. I arrived in Senegal with 57 other volunteers at 5:30 am, this was a good thing for 2 reasons first it was already 85 F and we were the only ones in the airport. So not was I only tired from not sleeping, I had sweating beading up on every inch of my skin and had to wrangle my luggage. (Yes I packed too much, but I’m still happy with what I brought as I sleep my first night in Senegal in my sleeping/mosquito proof hammock with a very large smile on my face)

After wrangling said luggage, we were greeted by current volunteers, our country director and other wonderful staff. I was more than happy to sit for another hour or so to the commute to Theis from Dakar. And the view on the way was pretty great.

I not only had a window seat on the plane (Dakar has a VERY short runway and the approach just about clips buildings from a water approach-not for the timid flyer) and also on the van ride to the training center and because my batteries were dead I simply took it in instead of taking pictures. Now looking back I’m happy this happened. There were some interesting things along the way, but that was one road in a very small region of this amazing country.

Once we got to the training center we were welcomed again with beating drums and some food, coffee and tea.r After luggage was moved again (I’m wondering if I should start counting) In the heat it started sprinkling and people found there natural places lounging, playing Frisbee and simply enjoying being here. I don’t think any of us in our sleep deprived haze could quite get our heads wrapped around it.  We were here. In Africa. I had said it while I was in the states yet, in less than 24 hours I will be in AFRICA. Crazy.

And I am here. Enjoying it all. Since we are on the end of the raining season (and it rains as I right this at almost 3am) it is lush here. green beyond green. I was told they thought the rainy season was over and we got just another (and yet another) dose of it, it will start to cool off and the humidity will drop and get “Lion King”-like.  So while we have it I’m taking notes of the plants in the gardens we have in the center’s compound (which is roughly the size of a city block with a tall cement wall around it and many buildings and gardens throughout)

As this week goes by I hope to LEARN a lot. Most of didn’t sleep on the plane or the entire 1st day we were here and we had some training sessions. I hope I retain any of that information, but I did get a chance to sleep and will again after the rain stops and lets me back to my hammock until the breakfast drum sounds. Tomorrow is another day here and I can’t wait for it. (and will take some pictures)

Saying the G-Word: My last week in the United States


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This
week I have seen many friends, co-workers and family before I head off to
Washington, D.C. and then to Senegal, West Africa next week. Strangely, many of
them have not said my least favorite word “goodbye” to me. I’m sure I have
mentioned to most of them how silly I thought it was that friends and family
warned me there were going to cry and have told them back what a happy
experience I wanted this to be. Not sad or with tears. I am sure when looking
back at these days I will not be saying to myself   “I wish
people would have cried more” and that there will be plenty days in Senegal
that I will cry enough for all of them combined. Save the tears for when they
are needed, trust me, I will need them.
 
I
understand that having a friend or family member leave is unsettling, but in
this day and age of electronics, internet and cell phones, communicating across
the world is as easy as ever. I have friends all over the globe that are on
Facebook and with Skype I can ‘call’ them when we happen to be online at the
same time. Handy, right? Unless you aren’t well versed in things technological,
like my mom.
If
anyone asks me what they can do or get me before I leave, I have simply replied
with be happy I am going to do what I have wanted to and please don’t cry. As
simple and priceless as this is, I know it is much harder and complicated as
that, especially for my mom. She has known forever that I am going to the Peace
Corps and I have prodded her to learn how to email and use Skype but still has
not learned on her own. I grew up in a small rural town with 300 people, close
to the dark ages some say (that some be me) but there is a 20,000 person town
nearby. I’m hoping that she will read this by my sending my blog posts to her
email that we have the chance to set up. I have warned how expensive it is to
send things (medium sized flat rate USPS box being around $60-70 US) it would
be much easier to email and Skype, which are both free.
Changing
habits and learning new things is more difficult in action than in theory. It’s
always a good idea to work towards the better but feels impossible whether you
have a support group or not and no matter how small of a change you are trying
to make. I’m sure in Senegal I will have many more hang-ups than I ever thought
possible. 
I do have to say having a 2-year old say “buh-bye” in the sweetest voice ever does make just throw up my hands and puts me right where my friends are. There is some strange part of me that is glad they are sad to see me go, but know that I will have only more to share with them from my travels. 

“After
a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a
soul and you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning and company doesn’t always
mean security. And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and presents
aren’t promises, and you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and
your eyes ahead, with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child. And you
learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow’s ground is too
uncertain for plans and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight. After
a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much, so you plant
your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to
bring you flowers. And you learn that you really can endure, you really are
strong, you really do have worth, and you learn and you learn. With every
goodbye, you learn.”  -Veronica Shoffstal 

I can say the best way I have learned to say good bye, is from a dear friend of mine that works for Kooza for Cirque du Soleil. He has worked the entirety of the show and has seen many faces come an go. As a traveling production they are constantly moving and on the road, seemingly for years. I bawled when I last saw him and now know how he felt. It’s hard when others are sad to see you leave. His words of wisdom…”I will see you again in another part of the world”, which is so true. I hope to see many other people I have met through traveling or working various places. Or in my best friend’s case she will be moving due to her husband being in the military. And of course this post would not be complete without my favorite E.E. Cummings poem.



Shoffstal V. with every goodbye you
learn. Available at:
http://youareremarkable.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/with-every-goodbye-you-learn/.
Accessed July 29, 2012.