So, March 9th marks my one year anniversary in Senegal! In some ways I can't believe I've been here so long, then in other ways I feel like I've been here forever. It's so crazy to think that this time last year I didn't know Wolof, was unfamiliar with the ways of the drop toilet and had never had anyone scream out "WHITE PERSON" when they first saw me. The one question that I have at this point is how exactly is it possible that it's been at least 13 months since I've set foot anywhere near Sesame Place and I still find Elmo and Cookie furs on my clothes? It will be interesting to see if I'm still finding them after two years.
I know it's been a while since my last entry, so I'll try to fill you in on what I've been up to and what the next year (that's right, there's still a whole other year) has in store for me...
Once you're sworn in as a PCV, you have a two-year service; but this does not count the two months spent in training before swear-in. So, although I am at my year-mark in Senegal, I'm not quite halfway through my service yet. I'll probably be coming home in late April of 2013, so the halfway mark isn't too far off! Today is a big day for all of us because making it a full year in-country is a big deal, but the really exciting day will be when I reach my year-mark in-village (May 18). After that day, it will feel like the countdown really begins. Instead of counting how many months I've been in Senegal, I'll probably start counting how many months I have left before coming home. Bottom line, once May rolls around I will officially be over halfway through my service and can start saying things like "next 4th of July, when I'm in the US," which will be exciting!
The only downside to me reaching my very exciting year-mark is that that means that the group of PCVs a year ahead of me is getting ready to leave. Pretty soon I'll have to say goodbye to four of my Team Djolof comrades: Emily, Ann Marie, Kim and Justin. It's going to be so sad to see them go, especially since Justin lives 10k away from me, hosted me on my Volunteer Visit and has basically been my Senegal "mentor". It's not going to be fun when they leave, but we'll all hopefully have Djolof reunions once we're back in the US. It will be a welcome change to see each other in cute clothes, with clean hair, not covered in a perpetual layer of sand or dust. These are the kinds of things that I dream about.
|Justin making his last cup of Senegalese tea|
On the plus side, a whole new group of trainees arrive on March 7th! There will be about 50 new trainees and I get to meet them at the end of March! Obviously, I'm unbelievably excited about this because my region will be receiving six of these new babies once they swear-in. I can't wait to meet which six people I'll be spending the next year with. It's always so exciting when new trainees arrive!
What's Been Going on with Me...
As usual, I've been pretty busy. I went into Dakar in the beginning of February to take the GRE. It was interesting to see how they conduct the paper-based exam. Definitely much different than exam proctoring in America. Then I headed up to Linguere because Team Djolof (the group of people in my region) had another tourney (touring discussion/theater/demo talk) planned! We had previously had a malaria tourney during Ramadan, which had been really successful, so we figured we'd give it a shot doing a Moringa tourney.
Moringa is a tree that is grown here that is basically a miracle tree. Once it's leaves are pounded into a powder, one spoonful of Moringa powder has as much Vitamin A as four carrots, as much calcium as three cups of milk, as much potassium as three bananas and as much protein as an egg. Considering we live in a place where veggies are scarce and people often eat rice (sometimes plain) for all three meals, a tree like this is amazing!
|Theatre: Me bringing my underweight baby to see the doctor|
|Theatre: Hearing the news that my baby's malnourished|
|Theatre: The Doctor teaching me about Moringa|
|Posters displaying the nutritional benefits of Moringa|
Like our last tourney, we spiced up our educational segments with little theatre pieces, chanting, and a lovely Wolof song-and-dance routine to the tune of Shakira's "Waka Waka" song. Hopefully our message got across loud and clear!
|Jenn & I choreographed the Waka Waka dance...|
|And I may have thrown in some Sesame choreography|
|Blustery morning car rides can be fun!|
|And sometimes not so fun...|
|Enjoying a nice lunch out in the bush|
|And we all repped our Team Djolof shirts. Obvs.|
|And tried to knock fruit out of baobab trees...|
|And trying to spot white "toubab" camels in the bush|
The only other big thing in my life is that this year marked the first year since I was probably ten (or how ever old I was when I first stayed awake through the whole thing) that I missed the Academy Awards. As my college friends know, Oscar night is a big deal to me. It's my Super Bowl, and this was the first year that I was unable to make appetizers, have an Oscar ballot, and judge celebrities on their dresses and speeches. Luckily my mom called me as early as possible the next morning to give me the highlights, but still. It was sad. And it made me especially miss my Aunt Terry (who always goes all out for the Oscars), Kyle and the Temple gang (who have a very intense ballot contest going) and Lindsey Kate (who, during commercials, would interview me like I was different actors and ask me questions in weird accents). Miss you all!
What's Been Going on with Senegal...
**My reports aren't the greatest, try Googling any of this stuff if you're actually interested**
I'm not sure if any of you have noticed Senegal popping up on Google News or CNN lately, but the political drama here has gotten very interesting. Our current president, Abdoulaye Wade, has been in office since the year 2000 (kind of a while, huh?). He's pretty darn old (reports say that he was born in 1926, but there's no real record of this, so he could actually be older), and he's been in office for quite some time already. But that did not stop President Wade from wanting to run again. So he petitioned for the length of the presidential term to be changed, so that he could run again this year. It was approved, so he became an official 2012 presidential candidate. Many rumors seem to lead to the idea that, should be he re-elected, Wade will make his son the second-in-command, so should he either step down or die, his son will then be president. And instead of going into all of the dirt, I'll try to keep it simple and say that his campaign hasn't been the cleanest.
On February 26th, we had our presidential elections. My village voted for Wade. Many other villages voted for another candidate, Macky Sall. As of this moment, I believe the votes for the whole nation are still being tallied, but it's clear that this race will come down to those two opponents. I believe we should be expecting a re-election in March. Most details are still unclear at this point, but it's interesting to watch how politics unfold over here.
And on a Lighter Note...
*I'd like to preface this bit by stating that:
1) yes, these are the kinds of things that PCVs do for entertainment and
2) no, we are not ashamed of it
My friend Justin had learned from someone that it was possible to hypnotize a chicken. How does one hypnotize a chicken, you ask? Well, if you are able to catch a chicken and lay it on the ground on its side, then all you need to do is draw a line in the sand in front of its face. For some unknown reason, the chicken is then unable to get back up and just continues laying there.
This might not seem very exciting to civilized Americans who don't encounter chickens on a daily basis... but let me tell you, it's freaking awesome! Chickens hate being caught and if you do catch one, they squawk like crazy until you put it down. So this is pretty cool that there's a way to make the chicken just lay down and do nothing.
Obviously when the opportunity presented itself, I filmed it. So enjoy watching the poultry hypnotist show...
If this is too slow, search "Hypnotized chicken" on youtube and it's posted under my name.
That's all of the silliness that I have for now. I'd like to sent a huge shout-out to my amazing AU roomies Jess and Amanda for sending me some love! I was so happy to get the magazines and photos that you sent. Miss you both so much. And also to my Aunt Anne Marie, who continues to send the nicest cards and packages, and who is in Haiti right now.
Love and miss you all!