April 30th, 2010:
By the time I post this, there will be less than a week left until we swear in as volunteers! As I type this I am at my home-stay for our last few days of language training. It’s sad to think that Saturday is our last day with our families here in Nguekokh, but I am so ready to move up north and install into my village. It’s a little scary too that we only have a few more days to study Pulaar and somehow become “intermediate-mid” for the last test next week. If for some reason that level isn’t reached, I’d have to stay back a week to study more before installing, which would not be fun whatsoever, which means I really need to get better at Pulaar ASAP. All I can say is wish me luck, and enshallah (god willing) I will pass. (Why does Pulaar have to be the hardest language?!!)
Day one of counterpart workshop: Wake up, 6am. Drop my phone into the douche, have to stick my hand in after it…well, now I can say I’ve had that experience. CHECK. It was all fine after a bottle of hand sanitizer was smothered all over everything. The drive back to Thies in the early morning was amazing- baobabs, small villages, and a beautiful dusty sunrise turned my day right around to a great start.
The rest of day one was interesting, full of awkward interactions with my counterparts from Boke Salsalbe, the school director and a health relay, two people that I will be working closely with and who will help me integrate/get work done/etc in my site. One claims to speak Pulaar but really only speaks French, Wolof, and a little English. The other only speaks Pulaar and French, but no English. Somehow I managed to make it through the day and get to know them a little bit through a ridiculous combination of bad French, Pulaar, and my diminishing English skills (as my Pulaar gets better my English gets worse).
Each of us in the Pulaar language group had the awkward experience of standing up and reading in front of everyone, in Pulaar, one of the objectives of PROSPERE, the PC Health and Environment Program in Senegal. The majority of the day was spent trying to understand what was going on, since the whole workshop was conducted in Pulaar and French (it’s focused on the counterparts, not PC trainees—it’s to train them on what PC is, what training we go through, how to help us at site, what everyone’s expectations are etc).
After a long day of CPW, we had to commute back to Nguekho to sleep for the night. I decided it was the right time to try and teach the kids how to play UNO since all three adults of the house were nowhere to be seen and it was just me and the girls for the evening (unsupervised children is not uncommon here). It was fun that they eventually caught on to the rules, but then I re realized that UNO is a painfully never ending game, and I don’t actually like playing it that much. They continue to ask for it every night now which is fine except that I always really need to study so I let them play amongst themselves…at least I feel a little more loved by the kids now as opposed to the past few weeks when they have hardly spoken to me out of fear that their grandma or brother would beat them if they disturb me (or at least I think that’s why they never hassle me anymore…).
CPW Day 2: Again, we woke up early to commute back to the training center. We had various sessions on cross-cultural understanding, security, and our 2 month action plan. I talked with my counterparts about exactly what I can do for the first 8 weeks at site after installation. I’ll be installing on May 19th, just in time for the hot season! Rainy season will start around late July/early August, and school ends in the village for the summer in June (I think). So, Day 1: unpack, try not to hide in my hut, and hang out with my family. Day 2: go around and greet people in the village—visit school, health post, people’s houses to drink tea. Over the next 8 weeks I’ll hopefully make a map of Boke Salsalbe, complete my baseline survey, make a seasonal calendar, get to know people, meet the women’s group, organize a group of students to help with the garden at the school, plant the garden at the school, start working at the radio station a little in Pete, research causeries/maybe do one if I feel ambitious, and try not to run off to the regional house an unreasonable amount of times. I hope to stay at site at least 10 days before going to the regional house…that’s the goal at this point. I also plan on doing a lot of reading and studying during the first 8 weeks. In mid-July we have IST (in-service-training) for a few weeks in Thies where we have more tech training.
This past weekend all of our stage went to a small beach town and rented a house for the night and had some quality relaxation time on one of the most beautiful beaches ever. We arrived Saturday morning to a shockingly amazing house right on the ocean and I went promptly to lay on the beach and take a nap. The rest of what was to follow basically involved a lot of nothing…eating, drinking cold beverages on the beach, walking up and down the coast, swimming in the freezing ocean, relaxing and enjoying the entertainment of my stage’s company. It was absolutely a perfect weekend, which made it hard to go back to Thies Sunday afternoon. But this week is already flying by and before I know it we will be back in Thies again and PST will be ending.
I don’t know what else to report on except that my head hurts from all the Pulaar that is spilling out of it. Even as I type this, my every thought is echoed by a random Pulaar phrase (either a translation of what I just wrote or thought, or my commentary on it in Pulaar).
Lang exam results in a few hours, hope I passed!