Friday, August 5, 2011

Exciting Times at IST and the Dermatologist

My past three weeks have been so unbelievably crazy I don't even know where to begin! First I travelled to Thies with my fellow Linguere-ians for our IST (In-Service Training). All of us were so excited to get to the big city and eat pizza, drink beer and speak English for a little while, AND meet up with all of our friends.

The actual training part of IST was usually pretty interesting. We had two weeks of all-day sessions. Training consisted of a lot of "how to" projects... how to make nutritional porridge for malnourished babies (which by the way is DELICIOUS and all of us kept eating it), how to make mud stoves, how to write grants, etc. So that aspect of training was good. Other sessions (maternal health in Senegal, the Senegalese school structure, etc.) were more repetitive and boring. But, all in all, the actual training part of IST wasn't bad.

Side note: Team Linguere decided to rep the wild, wild west of Senegal and all wore our Team Djolof shirts the first day of IST (history factoid- our region is referred to as "The Djolof" because it's used to be the Djolof Kingdom back in the day). And, yes, the back of the shirts say "where things go to die," because we're badass and live in the desert. Represent.

So that's what was good about IST, what was bad was that my toe is mean and never wants to heal. One of the first days of IST, our Peace Corps doctor stopped by the Training Center for a med session. I asked if she would take a look at my toe because it still looked pretty gross, and once she saw it she sent me promptly to Dakar for some real medical attention. So I went to a dermatologist who proceeded to cut out half of my toenail and a lot of the infection on the toe. This was fine because I preferred having stitches on my toe for a few weeks as opposed to having my toe eventually fall off. What was funny was that the doctor and I didn't share any common languages except for my very limited French, so he was making a lot of big hand gestures to demonstrate things like "now I'm going to numb your toe," and "don't touch this for three days!" So that was a fun experience.

Then it was back to IST, where we continued learning, and being social with other Americans. Our social activities included many movie screenings including HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART II!! All of my friends at home will appreciate the importance of this for me. The highlight of the film viewing was that all text was written in Russian. Yay for bootleg movies in Africa!

After IST was over, a lot of us hung around the Training Center to attend a meeting for SeneGAD (Senegal's Gender and Development initiative). SeneGAD has a lot of on-going projects that I'm interested in working on and some that I've already been able to help out with, like a scholarship to help village girls continue and fund their education. I decided to run for one of the board positions that was opening up and I lucked out and won! So now I'm SeneGAD's new Training Coordinator, which means that I'll be travelling to Thies to help train the new trainees/volunteers about SeneGAD projects, gender issues in Senegal, plan events with our PC staff, etc. I'm excited to get to meet all of the new trainees when they arrive in-country, and help them learn the ropes.

In fact, I get to go back to Thies really soon- August 17th- to do some sessions with the group that arrived here in June. We also get a new group of Agriculture trainees at the end of August and I'll be able to be with them right off the bat. Selfishly I'm really excited about this because my region will be getting 4 new volunteers from that August Ag Stage, so I'll be able to scope everyone out. We currently have 13 people in the Linguere region (one of which will be leaving very shortly), so 4 new people is going to be really exciting! The people in your region become your closest friends/confidants/support system. It's like the friends you meet at college or camp or your job in America, except that you're the only people around who share a common language and culture and ethnicity.
So, anyway, then I headed back to Dakar to get my stitches out. The stitches came out fine, but my doctor isn't too happy with how my toe's healing. I'm ready for it to get cut off at this point. So that stunk, but luckily this time in Dakar I was able to spend a few days and eat at real restaurants, go to a happy hour, and wear a skirt above my knee. So scandalous! Dakar was fabulous but definitely not within the price range of a PCV. I'm going to have to save up for my next trip.

Now I'm back in Linguere at the regional house preparing for a malaria tourney throughout the region that we're going to do in a few days. We're going to go to each of our villages and perform skits about what does and does not cause malaria (mosquitoes do, green mangoes and evil spirits do not), teach people how to make a lotion that repels mosquitoes, promote the importance of sleeping with mosquito nets, etc. Also, Jenn and I are planning on recording two radio shows which will air in September. We're planning on doing one called "Tea Time with Jenn & Fae" in which we discuss how people make tea in different countries, how too much sugar is bad for you, the truth about caffeine, etc. And we'd like to do our second one on family planning and reproductive health. And we'll obviously be interspersing the educational segments with Glee songs, maybe some new Britney Spears, and Senegal's national pride and joy, Akon.

So that's what I'm currently up to in my life, planning skits about how spirits can't cause malaria and making radio shows about reproduction. I hear that exciting things are happening in America... like shark week, the new season of the Jersey Shore and my bff Kyle getting an awesome new job! Keep me posted on all of the exciting events, everyone. Also, a HUGE shout-out to my parents, my Aunt Anne Marie, and the fabulous Park family for the fantastic packages that were waiting for me upon my arrival back in Linguere. Especially exciting was Kyle's article from Philly Beer Scene magazine about his "Saison de Senegal" beer that he brewed for my departure, photos of family from home, and toys for my little siblings in-village.

I'll be back in Dakar on the 16th to have a follow-up at the dermatologist, and then heading to Thies for my SeneGAD trainings with the new kiddos. I'll be sure to do an update then. And I'm sorry that I somehow disabled my comment feature on here.. I can't figure out how to enable it but I'll get to it eventually. I'll check back in a few weeks with pictures of the malaria tourney. We're making mosquito costumes and have a bullhorn, so get excited!

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