Monday, July 26, 2010

Good Old Ameircan Values

This post is a bit of a confessional. The last couple of weeks have been spent in the company of fellow volunteers -- the 42 PCVs that I originally trained with -- and thus have been an unabashed binge of all things American. We have been indulging in gluttony and excess. We've been swimming and sunbathing. We've been passing our flashdrives between our netbooks and macbooks, sharing films and TV shows and then curling up, together or alone, for marathon viewing session of Top Chef, True Blood, and Glee. We've baked cakes (excessive amounts, of course). We've been drinking beer; we've been eating cereal, spaghetti, ethnic food, and fresh vegetables.

Also a part of this all-American bender: We've been fighting for our rights and expressing our entitlement. We've been complaining. We've been gossiping. We've shared our fears, frustrations, and existential crises (which this blogger, for one, has been relieved to learn are not limited to her). We've also shared our triumphs and exchanged ideas, been applauded and awed by and each other.

Being in such a large group of toubabs (white people) for the first time in a couple of months has been both exhilarating and exhausting, difficult and delightful. The purpose of our reunion is our In-Service Training (IST). Since PST here in PC Senegal is so heavily focused on language training, they bring us all back together after our first two months at site to receive training in more technical subjects and logistical skills. The trainings, for the most part, have been worthwhile, but as I said . . . my American cohorts have not hesitated to compain when they feel that their time is being being wasted by a particular session. And the most vocal outcry came in response to the staff's decision to lodge us with our original PST homestay families, in nearby villages, instead of at the training center. A band of renegades raised a ruckus, sending a petition through the ladder of PC beauracracy until we earned permission to stay in the rooms at the training center instead. If ever one needed a reminder of the American tendency to exchange blows over that to which we feel entitled, these recent couple of weeks have provided it.

Before comign to Thies for IST, I spent a few days in Dakar, which turns out to be an exceptionally cool city, with a beautiful coastline and food that can bring your taste buds back from a regrettably latent state.

And now, a few pictures that capture some of the moments of American excess that I've had the joy of experiencing since I left site a few weeks ago. Many of them involve food. Please don't judge . . . in this country, you kinda gotta get while the gettin's good, you know. Soon enough, it will be back to millet couscous, and plus Ramadan's coming! What's a girl to do but overindulge when she has the chance?

Dakar, looking fine.

The view of the Presidential Palace (and beyond) from my friend Joey's apartment, who just completed her service and, ever so sadly, returned home to America.

A touching moment with Kourtney.

Sarah and Kourtney, two of my best friends here in Senegal. Truth be told, we spent more than one full day at the American Club in Dakar, swimming, tanning, drinking good coffee and eating french fries.

Italian deliciousness.

French cultural center. Trying to live up to sophistication that our wine bottle suggests, and clearly failing.

French deliciousness.

Steve and Kim, excited about Jello at the Dakar region meeting.

Dakar region volunteers, "meeting."

Dinner at a Chinese restaurant, where they only spoke Mandarin (good thing we had Justin, a native speaker, with us!), was also delicious. But get this: we were seated on the 2nd floor, and the food was delivered to us on this shelf, lowered on a rope from the 3rd-floor kitchen. Sometimes, the world is . . . simply amazing.

The view from the car one of the days that we had to commute to our old home stay villages.

Jenae, Jillian, and Maddie, cake decorating machines!

So proud of our three cakes: Super Stage Shout Out - Nature Scene - Map/Flag of Senegal

Celebrating all IST birthdays, and those that fell during our first months at site.

Jillian, making a hasty escape after lighting the firecrackers!

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