March 23, 2010

my nemesis.

My first night at my Senegalese homestay:
It was somewhere between 2am and 4am. I'd been pseudo sleeping all night; most likely because this is my first time trying to sleep inside an oven. I found a swatch of my foam "mattress" that wasn't soaking with my sweat, and drift into a malaria drug induced psychedelic dream. That's when my nemesis strikes.

The most horrific cry rips me out of my sleep. I wake up malaria med high out of my gourd, tangled in my mosquito net, panicked at the shrill scream of a dying creature. I jump out of bed, still attached to my mosquito net, into a pool of water leaking from my water filter. Welcome to Senegal.

Only a week later and I feel pretty savy. Now I know that the nightly death screams are simply the nay of my nemesis--the donkey. I know how to make a joke in Wolof, how to eat meals from the communal bowl, and most importantly, bathroom etiquette where there is no toilet or toilet paper.

I am back at the training center in Thies for the next two days. It's a lot like summer camp except instead of arts and crafts time, we learn to make mud stoves. Then I head back to my homestay village, Tassette, for two weeks. I love my village time. It's an amazing way to learn the language and really integrate into local culture.

Right now I have the capacity of a three year old. I do a lot of "Lii lan laa?" (What's this?) to learn. As predicted, my first word was hello, which proved incredibly difficult because greetings in Senegalese culture are a mini dialogue. Next, was "thank you" and "I don't understand". I wasn't exactly blessed with the physical characteristics of a social chameleon, blending in is not my strength. So, naturally, my next word was the word for white person, "tubap". Three weeks til fluency. Inshallah.

My name:
While I was in Kenya I was called "Emily". Thailand it was "Amery"; and China it was "Ann". Rather than go by a broken version of my name, I was given a Senegalese name. My neighbors dubbed me Aida. I felt like by giving me a name I had made it "in". They wrote me a little name tag so I wouldn't forget my new Senegalese name. I went home giddy and proud. I was so excited to announce "Aida laa tudd" (My name is Aida) to my host family.

My excitement was not shared. My family immediately started talking over one another. One of my sisters took my name tag and scribbled out my name. What?! Apparently, giving a name is a big deal. Naming someone is an honor, and one that my family did not intend to let the neighbors do. So, an hour of acting out a "What is your name?/ My name is.." dialogue followed, ensuring that I would not be confused about my TRUE Senegalese identity. My name is...........Yacine.

Enjoy running water and your next cold drink. All my love!


March 02, 2010

i wish life was a musical

Today marks day 500 since I officially submitted my application to join the Peace Corps. It has been a long process with lots of mixed emotions. After every step in the process, I couldn't help but start making mental packing lists for my inevitable departure. Around day 200 I started to realize that an actual invitation to serve was like the proverbial carrot, always dangling just outside my reach. To use the Peace Corps slogan, life was calling. I couldn't, and PC clearly advises you not too, wait around any longer. Time to go teach in China!

Days after I accepted a position teaching English in Taizhou, China with my BEST friend Kate, Peace Corps called to talk about country placement! Lovely. I withdrew my application from active consideration and went on to have five of the most awkwardly amazing months I could have expected.

Now on the other side of my "that was so weird..." China experience, I am getting ready leave for Senegal. "Getting ready" is code for running a lot of unnecessary errands, saying goodbye to people and running water, and watching trashy day-time television. Really, I'll do anything to avoid packing--my one nemesis. I even went on a run today. Gross.

If only life were a musical. I could hit a few high notes and woodland creatures would flock to help me. I'd finish packing, and my catchy little number, in minutes. Alas, without the assistance of my furred and feathered friends only one item has made it into my bag. Valentiena's hot sauce. Not only a delicious additive, but I am convinced it will serve as a priceless defense against mysterious Senegal gastrointestinal issues.

Yep, just me and my hot sauce living in Senegal for 27 months. Although, I don't know where, another Peace Corps carrot I suppose. My assignment is to serve as an Environmental Education Extension Agent. The first nine weeks are training in Thies which includes lots of language learning and skill building. I imagine it's also "try-outs". A time to assess your sweet skills and what kind of environment you can handle being placed in. I watch Bear Grylls, bring on the Bush.

I'm going to go turn on and off the lights for a while. I'll do my best to update this with tales from my PC experience. Thank you for being in my life!