Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When the Rooster Crows at the Break of Dawn . . .

. . . Look out your window, and I'll be gone. So says the immortal Bob Dylan.

Hurray, Hurray, we're on our way, we're off to great places, today is the day! So says the immortal Dr. Suess, and today, 40 new volunteers joining the ranks of Peace Corps Senegal are OFF to great villages around Senegal.

Kim, Ann Marie, Justin, and I have spent the last couple of days in our regional capital, Linguere, buying everything we need to install - buckets, mats, machetes - amidst a veritable Sahara sandstorm. Now, the hot, hot breezes will blow us out of town and into our respective sites. Wish us luck!


Looking off into the desert from the roof our regional apartment/office building in Linguere (which we are actually moving out of -- happily, we're transitioning to a larger house down the street!). This photo does justice to neither the amount of sand in the air nor the barrenness of the desert.

P.S. I have a new address! Look over there ==>> :)

P.P.S. I've also added a couple of new photo albums (some of the photos have been in the blog body before, but lots are new) and some fun links to other PC Senegal blogs. Enjoy!

And we're off!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Host Families Party and Swear In

It was been an eventful couple of days here in Peace Corps Senegalandia. Thursday we had a big fete for our host families from our training villages -- we bused in our moms and random other family members and showed them a grand ole time: music, dancing, a delicious chicken lunch feast, speeches, beignets, boissons, and more dancing.

Friday was Swear-In Day, which is a big deal in the Peace Corps miniworld. We left early from the training center, and entered Dakar a couple of hours later under police escort, which - in all honesty - was one of the more fun experiences of my entire life: A moto-cop leading our Peace Corps parade, flashing his lights and directing people to pull off both sides of the road as we drove by.

The ceremony was held at the American Embassy, with a speech by the American ambassador, the PC country director, and a few other big shots, as well as newly sworn-in volunteers from each language group. Yours truly made the Wolof speech! Afterward we gorged ourselves on minipizzas, tartes, and various other hors d'oeuvres. Below are several pictures from the party, party, partying that we've been doing. :-)

Now that we are officially PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS, have raised our right hands and sworn to serve and protect the US constitution, so help us god, we have to leave the comfort and security of the training center and our training villages and go out into the world to fight the good fight. For most of us, this happens early tomorrow (Sunday) morning, when, laden down with everything we own, we will board "sept-places" (rickety station wagons; the preferred form of public transportation in this country) and head out of town for our regional houses. And you know what happens Tuesday? I get dropped off in my village, never to be heard from again. Just kidding.

Team Mandinka, cute and killin' it as always.


Jessica, me, Rachel, Maddie. My family made me this outfit.

Tying my "mussor"

Musicians for the Fete de Familles

They used this huge gourd for all sorts of different purposes - to stand on, to do flips off of, to bang on... turned upside down it was an impressive balancing contraption.

Last moments with my host mother.

Rocking out on the way to Swear-In

DJ Kimmie Kim Hall spun the tunes all the way to Dakar.

Jessica and Steve, Team Ker Sadaro... OH, how I will miss my village mates when we separate this week.

A Rainbow made of Boubous

Beautiful baby blue boys: Dave, Jono, Jamie, Justin, David

Hilariously cute, Kourtney.

Engagement photos with Steve

Mike, Evan, and Charles -- Not sure why they decided to hold pinkies... but it's pretty darn cute.

Dave, Jono, Paul, and Evan, bro-in' out by the banner.

All us trainees, moments before we became real live volunteers.

Watch out for the ever-scandalous knee exposure!!!

Sarah, I'll miss yooouuuuuu....

Wolof speakers FO LIFE.

Amanda takes the embroidery prize. (also, what inspired this pose?)

Linguere region warriors!

Eric, Mikael, and I, at the "American Club" in Dakar after Swear-In.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Remember When I Used to be a Vegetarian?

The title of this post was inspired by my good friend and nearest neighbor, Justin Tien (adventuresofjt.blogspot.com), after I started a story to him and some of our other buddies by casually saying, "So, remember when we used to be vegetarians?" The story I was telling was one of integration -- something that we all strive for and struggle with everyday, which is a familiar story to anyone that has lived in another country.

In the name of true candidness, today has been a tough one in terms of feeling comfortably integrated. After a night of bad sleep and a frustrating language test, the Senegalese habit of insisting on immediate and extensive greetings got to me. In a moment of weakness, I was driven to tears when our tech trainer ordered me to greet him and then harassed me about a cut on my foot. They've warned us about blogging on bad days, but I'm doing so anyway, so stick with me.

Training has continued along fairly uneventfully, or maybe life here is just feeling more routine. Our counterpart workshop was an exhausting two-day event, but having the time to discuss my life and work in Ngaraf with two well-informed and committed village residents made me feel far less anxious about my actual installation. Plus, we rewarded ourselves with a two-day beach vacation, packing all 40+ of us into an airy beach villa for the weekend following the workshop. After that, it was off to our home stay villages for one final week with our families. Now, we've said those goodbyes and are preparing for the next stage in this journey: Swear-In, Installation, and, at long last, the start of two years of service.

In my reckless pursuit of integration, I've gotten myself into a few pickles of late. Last week at the beach, I got bruises and cuts all over my body - mostly on my feet - when waves tossed me into large rocks concealed beneath the surface. Yesterday, just as those sores were healing, I got severe blisters on the balls of both my feet when I played volleyball in hot, hot sand the day after over-enthusiastically pumice-stoning the skin on them. Also, in the last days with my home stay family, I experienced my first bout of real sickness, complete with diarrhea and fever . . . thus successfully reigning in my hubris over "never getting sick." And I broke my phone when I made the rookie mistake of tucking it under my chin in order to pee during a power outage (key detail: the phone has a flashlight on it). Yes, I dropped it in the toilet, or, rather, the hole that serves as a toilet; I retrieved it and cleaned it, but it was broken. (It's fixed now!)

I hate to leave on a note of complaint, but since my inspiration is expiring, I will let these pictures (and their captions) tell the rest of the story. In true storybook fashion, I've even divided the images into four chapters:


Senegalese women have an amazing ability to prepare enormous amounts of food. What you see here is one of several huge pots of beef stew that the women of my compound cooked as a gift to the school.

You can't have a meal without rice! The beef stew was poured over these 40 or so pans of rice. Look at all that food, cooked up like it was nothing!

Giving a presentation on how to make a Nimes Lotion, a mosquito repellent made from Nimes leaves, soap, and oil.

With Steve and Jessica at our super-successful Nimes Lotion demonstration.
(Question: does anyone know if Nimes trees exist in the U.S.?)

This is what I got when I asked the boys to come pose for a picture.

Jessica's siblings, after she painted their finger nails.


Ann Marie shows us how to fry moringa leaf beignets

Evan and Jono show off their "chayas"

Cuddle Fest at the center!

With my two counterparts after the workshop: Monsieur Ba, my school counterpart, and Marieme, my community counterpart


Bus to the Beach!

Dave and Kourtney on a beach stroll

Paul and Maddie, the model married couple

Kourtney and I
(It was about this time that we started planning our around-the world sailing trip for the months after we complete our services)

The coastline

Group Shot


Jessica and Steve walking home after watering the garden.

The Road to Ker Sadaro
(sadly, the road to my Ngaraf has far less trees ... maybe I'll plant thousands!)


I'm sorry if you're over the pictures of massive cooking projects, but I just can't get over it! Here, the women are preparing gallons and gallons of soured milk (essentially yoghurt) to pour over steamed millet to make the traditional baptism delicacy called Lach.

15-day-old Fama getting her head shaved on the day of her baptism

My little buddy, Kine, who likes to sit on my lap and protect my purse from the prying hands of other little tikes.

Steve and his sisters

Crazy, crazy dancing at the baptism - they are SO good at this dance, which involves jumping high off the group and flinging your limbs around wildly

I don't know if it's genetic or what, but even the littlest kids can look good doing this dance.

Steve and I get in on the action.

We don't look quite as good...

More intense dancing at the baptism

Some favorite kids

With my mom (in green) and my Aunt Hady (in blue) -- they gave me this and other beautiful outfit the night before I left!

The picture that sparked the name of the post!
This is the sheep they killed in my honor... so this is me, the former vegetarian, trying to integrate!

Oh! I really will miss my little brothers and sisters in Ker Sadaro.

P.S. You probably all know this, but just in case: you can make any picture bigger by clicking on it, FYI.