Friday, March 12, 2010

Learning to Live in Senegal

Training is going remarkably well! We're still in the early stages and basically locked in our compound, but we're learning all sorts of important things. In addition to the unbelievable number of Peace Corps acronyms, we learned about all the yummy Senegalese foods, several important unfamiliar objects, some basics on planting a garden, how to fetch water, how to pee in a small hole, how to eat rice with our hands, and the proper behavior when in the presence of someone doing their daily prayers. This morning, we even had our first "survival Wolof" lesson, and we've all been like broken records repeating the greeting over and over ever since. (Since there are several local languages in Senegal, many of us won't be using Wolof in the villages we eventually will be placed in; we will start training in our "permanent" languages tomorrow, but for now we need some Wolof - the most common language - to get around the city.) We have our lunches in the tradition style: we sit on mats in groups of 4 or 5 and eat out of a big metal bowl in the center of our circle -- it's quite fun, and phenomenally tasty as well! I'm relishing all the over-stimulation and onslaught of new ideas.

My fellow trainees are all truly good and interesting people, with unique and important qualities to bring to the group. I feel SO very lucky to be amongst them. As a group, they are also exceptionally hilarious, and I find myself laughing about 80% of the day. We've been playing volleyball and doing yoga and sharing card games and having sing- and dance-alongs... and also, of course, working hard and having lots of discussions about our futures here in the country.

Here are some photos, which fall into mini-album called "First and Lasts." (heh heh, my creativity is waning, I'm sorry.)

Remove Formatting from selectionLast stateside meal: Sushi and Saketinis

Last piano bar dance and limbo fest in the U.S.

Last view of American soil

First moments in Senegal

First Senegalese dance party

First time carrying water --
I'll try to master the no-hands technique in the next couple of years -- I'll think I'll have plenty of practice
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  1. Times sure have changed, when I was in the Peace Corps (Philippines 88-90) one of the hardest things for me was being so cut off from my friends and the world. It'll be great to be able to follow your experiences via this blog... let me know if you ever need anything or if you want to talk to someone who's been through it.

    John/Mr. Frank

  2. Thanks Mr. Frank! I love to hear from PC Corps vets. Times have changed, but not that much... starting next week we'll be off the training compound and staying in small rural villages, where we'll be a bit more cut off. Hope you're well!

  3. Hi Em!

    Just thought I'd say a quick hello and recommend that you keep up the blogging. I want more! It all sounds wonderful.

    On another subject all together...I am completely in the dark about the availability of American culture over there - namely movies - but if you get the chance, you should watch the newest Coen brothers film, A Serious Man. Very interesting, and full of Yiddish/Hebrew. It made me think of you and I got all verklempt.

  4. Emily! How glorious this new chapter looks! I wish that I could be a fly on the Senegali wall to get a fuller taste of your daily adventures. Until I make it down there for a visit though, this blog will have to do... so keep it coming! By the way, thank you, thank you, thank you for the awesome chaco flip flops; how thoughtful and generous of you and a wonderful surprise! I've been wearing them despite the wind and rain :)

  5. I'm already loving your posts and can't wait for more! You'll have to teach me some of your new dance moves next time we see each other, hopefully in Senegal!
    Gros bisous, tu dois parler beaucoup francais maintenant!