Wednesday, October 24, 2007

free wireless?!

so chris discovered the magical wonders of free wireless internet at a restaurant called magic croissant here in thies. can you imagine?! i am totally thrilled. i am sitting here with two of my good friends with a gazelle (one of the two staple beers here, not fantastic, but beggars can't be choosers) and wireless on my laptop. amazing.

today we had a "street fair" at the training center which was basically a sampling of all the different kinds of street food you can get in senegal. why is it that whatever country you go to, street food is amazingly good while being dangerously terrible for your health (in many ways)? regardless, we chowed down and then danced away the grease and carbs with the trainers.

anyway, i just had to announce that i have free wireless and i love it and that i am fine and going to dakar this weekend. i am very excited.

things have been gradually getting better, i am starting to regain focus. mommy called me last night and i had a wonderful conversation with her and i miss home very much.

write me letters/emails!

Friday, October 19, 2007

i am fully integrated

...and finally the picture you have all been waiting for

gangsta gangsta

i'm okay, really

we're going to the beach tomorrow! we've rented out a beach house and will be there saturday to sunday. can't wait.

i intend to spend at least 24 hours not thinking about and/or speaking in wolof. this is not to say that i dislike the language or being here but i think it is clear that: I NEED A BREAK.

i have also recently been introduced to chakri which is soow (lait caillet/yogurt) and millet porridge dish with a little bit of sugar, raisins, and (as my family prepares it) shreds of coconut (at least i THINK it' is called chakri...)and i have been craving it since but am far too shy (or not audacious enough) to ask my family to make it and/or teach me. they are so incredibly accommodating that i am certain that if i were to mention it, i would have it every single day until i moved out.

as much as i bitched and moaned this past week (as demonstrated in my last posting), i am not in a terrible place or condition or anything. really, things are great and i have nothing to complain about, i suppose i am just stressed. we are a few weeks away from being sworn in and put on site and perhaps i am just going a little nutty from it all. i have a good competency in the language, my pepineer is thriving (but don't ask about the vegetable garden), have good friends to watch my back, and have been healthy as an ox since my first two weeks in country. five weeks into all of this and things aren't nearly as terrifying as i had thought it would be. (we'll see how i feel after i get installed on site!)

this weekend will be a good distraction (hopefully).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

fed up

i've reached by end point. i am tired of everything. i am tired and easily agitated. everything is fine, great, almost perfect, yet i feel pissy all the time. i am impatient and irritable and find myself rolling my eyes at myself and others (mostly myself). i hate looking at myself in the mirror or in pictures because i feel sweaty, oily, blotchy, and full of empty carbohydrates. after all the hard work i put into getting back into shape, one month of a diet that consists of 95% bread and rice, i have a belly again and i get angry every time i see it. then again, it doesn't take much to rile me up and i feel stuck. same people every day, same struggle (language and weight!), same conversations, even the same freakin' bike route from my house to the center. i wouldn't even think of going home as an option but i simultaneously -- for the first time -- am doubting why i'm here and my reasons, motivations, and purpose. all the trainers tell me my competencies in language, technical, and culture is more than satisfactory (top marks, actually) but i feel inadequate, impatient, and upset. i barely understand why i am so upset and do not enjoy this feeling at all. there is no reason for me to feel the way that i am feeling, but i do. i feel isolated, unable to communicate my feelings, restricted from unwinding, and confused about this weird emotional state that i am.

at the same time, i know this is a stage and that i am in the middle of the week of the middle of pre-service training in the middle of a high-stress situation and that this will pass and good times will come rolling around again.

in the meantime, i am going to say that i am permitted to be cranky and will gripe if i want to.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

destiny, korite, and food

i found out my site yesterday! i will be going to a small village (meaning 280 people) on the border of the kaolack region (i don't think i am permitted to give the specific name). no electricity or water (as predicted) and 100% wolof speaking. it is a new site so i will be the first PCV there but they have already started planting trees with the assistance of world vision. very excited. and nervous! went out to dinner last night to celebrate site announcements. it was fun but it is always a little hard to be that gigantic group of americans taking over an entire restaurant.

today is korite (the day of feasting following the last day of ramadan) which has been hyped up to us since we've gotten here and i think most of the PCTs have found it somewhat anti-climactic. however, i suppose that if one has been fasting for an entire month, it is a big deal to finally be able to eat and drink during the day. i helped cook all morning, which involved peeling and cutting a lot of vegetables without the american conveniences of peelers and cutting boards and sharp knives.

as much work as cooking is and as many empty carbohydrates i am consuming here, i appreciate the amount of time and effort put into cooking. it fascinates me more than ever that most americans are quite willing to have their meals come out of boxes and don't know where exactly their food came from. while -- in my opinion -- cooking takes up far too much time of senegalese women, i can certainly appreciate that we take the time to socialize around cooking and eating and that it is a communal activity. however, i must say that what is not different between americans and senegelase is that everybody eats too fast! i feel like i am always one of the last stragglers at the bowl. i am quickly learning that in order to get the good stuff, i've got to shovel it up like the rest and when i do so, i usually wind up with a bellyache. interesting dilemma.

for clarificiation's sake, "at the bowl" is literally what it sounds like. senegalese epicurean culture involves everybody eating out of one big bowl. food is often eaten with the bare hand (right hand only!) but sympathetic senegalese will provide spoons for toubabs (foreigners). at first this concept was kind of difficult for me, as i am all about personal space and all, but my brother-in-law explained to me that if he raises his daughter to eat out of her own bowl, she will forever be selfish and hoard things to herself. i found that quite poignant and telling of senegalese culture where what is mine is yours and what is yours could quite possibly be mine (so long as i ask). recently i've started to try eating with my hand more often and while i do not prefer it, i don't mind it too much. moreover, i find eating out of the bowl rather comforting because it forces interaction and conversation and in reality, how different is it really from fondue or chinese hot pot? well, maybe it is a bit different, but the point is, i don't mind the communal aspect of it and am starting to get used to it. in fact, i found myself rather taken aback the other day when i heard about a past volunteer who was a vegan and had his own separate bowl for his entire service. while i understand one's dietary preferences, i feel like one is missing out on a big part of senegalese life if one does not eat out of the same bowl as the rest.
must go, as it would be rude to withdraw myself from the family on such a holiday as this. so far korite means

to me: new clothes, new weaves, lots of cooking, and loads of food and goodies. not too shabby!

Friday, October 12, 2007

today i find out my destiny

today is site announcement day!!!

in less than an hour i will find out my site and my new home for the next two years.

training is plodding along. i have started my practice^pepineer with my partner and we have seeded over 100 trees. we have also started our gardens with 11 types of vegetables.

this weekend is corite which will involve my sisters dressing me up, possibly braiding my hair (again), possibly sewing in a weave, and teaching me how to cook senegalese food. i am very excited. next week we go to the beach.

Monday, October 8, 2007

meti na

today is a sad day. we came into the center on what seemed to be just a regular monday morning and found out that our security director passed away this past weekend in an auto accident. he was the first friend i made here at the center. he encouraged me daily and made sure i was doing okay.

it has been really sad and a really intense mourning process. classes are cancelled and we are waiting for the body to return to thies. the trainees have taken up a monetary collection to help support his surviving wife and five children. i drew a card for all of us to sign. it has been hard and has brought op a lot of my unreconciled feelings regarding my other losses.

we, as a community, have lost an integral member who did everything he possibly could to keep us safe.

it is a sad day and something i was unprepared for.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

soxla na sangu

it is currently 95 degrees out and i kind of miss east coast sweater weather and hot apple cider from terhune's. mmmmm i love their apple cider. the other week i went to the market with my sisters and got very excited when i saw shelves full of apple juice. each week i buy some kind of food product for my family as a gesture and was totally set on buying a gallon or two of apple juice. i was salivating just thinking of it. upon closer inspection i discovered that it wasn't apple juice but vegetable oil.

i got a phone call from my parents today! yaaay! it was nice. i miss them and it was good to hear their voices. they sent me a care package that i haven't received yet and i am so excited for the day i get a package slip in my mail cubby. my dad felt a little embarassed that i (seemed to be) begging for things via my blog so for the record, i am not at a complete dearth of goods or it is not as if my (real/american) family is not taking care of me...i am just being greedy for love and affection.

last night was a night of fun as the agfos went out for some drinks and i came home giddy from having my first real evening outing (even though i was home by 9PM). i also managed to get a cab and get him to take two bikes in the trunk on my own in wolof although i did not succesfully bargain the price down (more because i didn't want to waste time and miss curfew than anything else). after dinner my sisters decided to teach me the art of senegalese seduction and we were rolling on the floor laughing and giggling as i blushed and they poked fun and teased me. it feels great to have a rudimentary comprehension level that allows me to understand humor and i have already succesfully made a joke or two in wolof.

i still wake up everyday amazed that i'm here and that only a few weeks ago i was living a cushy life in the states. i wonder if this feeling of amazement ever really fully leaves in the next two years but i must say that there is something wonderful about waking up everyday with that sense of awe and literally learning something new everyday.

this week i find out my site which is VERY exciting and not this coming but the next weekend we are all going to the beach. maybe i can finally get a tan.

also, as of today, senegalese phone numbers have changed so my phone number is now 221 77 700 51 34. no prank calls, please!

Friday, October 5, 2007

fly friday!

so it is friday and i am exhausted. this has been a long week.

yesterday we created our agfo pepineers (tree nurseries) which involved sifting two parts sand to one part cow shit (12 loads total) and then filling 400 sacks. then we (8 agfos left) seeded 10 sacks of 12 types of trees. i love the manual labor but i am tired and my shoulders hurt from all the digging and wheelbarrow pushing. i am going to try to convince somebody to give me a massage.

today they trucked all us toubabs learning wolof to the place du france and set us loose to practice our wolof on random senegalese strangers. i made a lot of new friends and think that my wolof is improving which makes me happy. i can make basic sentences and am able to chat with my family now with the assistance of my notebook and massive lists of verbs.

i also received my first homestay evaluation and my family has said nothing but the highest things about me and say that i am fully integrated into their family. they also tell me that my wolof is improving and apparently my picking up spoons after we finish eating is "helping out with chores." they and their friends insist that i learn 5 new verbs a day and quiz me daily. i appreciate it very much and know that my wolof is improving because of them but sometimes it is absolutely exhausting going from an entire day of work and learning wolof and agfo to home where i have to think in wolof all the time. i might have "complained" about this already but it s really the only major qualm i have with life here and its really not too bad. ultimately, i just remind myself that i didn't come to senegal to do things my way and i will just have to deal with things the way they are. in the end, everything will work itself out, inshallah.

tomorrow is saturday which means only a half day of work and then i have the rest of the weekend off. i can't wait but i do have a bunch of exams to study for so it isn't that much of a break. i think kira is going to come over tomorrow to practice wolof with my family and then the agfos are meeting for drinks in celebration of our new peps. it is nice to have plans. i will definitely squeeze in some sleeping.

life really is more exciting but every time i sit in front of a computer i am at a loss for words. i wonder why that is. maybe it is because i am always tired and need to sleep more. i try to sleep in more but the mosque's iman always wakes me up at 5:55AM and there is really no getting back to sleep after that. it's amazing how early i wake up here. but biking in predawn is one of the most enjoyable parts of my day so no complaints here.

will write more soon. i am happy, healthy, and well. keep the updates coming, write me letters/emails, and think of me often!

Monday, October 1, 2007

everybody here is perfect

something to be known about the senegalese is that they are perfect and absolutely stunning. the women are gorgeous and the men are strikingly handsome. perfect skin, hair, teeth, eyes, everything. it must be in the water or something.

i haven't seen one zit on a senegalese once since i've gotten here.

me, on the other hand, all i seem to do in this country is sweat and vomit (not a lot of vomiting recently alxamdoulilah) so i sport a new friend each week on a different locale of my face and it has been a lot of fun learning to not care about these kinds of things. just as i was getting over the gigantic volcano of a zit on my right cheek (face, not butt), i went home and my sisters all individually on separate occasions asked me about my pimple. at first they were all like, "poor aicha, you get bit my mosquitos everywhere!" and then i tried to explain that its not a mosquito bite and just a pimple but they all started panicking about it and had a 20 minute rapid-fire wolof conversation with each other about the condition of my face. afterwards they kept telling me the entire day that i had to see the PC doctor regarding the zit. all i could say in response was "c'est n'est pas grave!" and they were all like "hmmm...yes, but you should still see a doctor." so apparently people do not get pimples in this country and i have yet another characteristic that makes me a freakshow in this country.

BUT i got my hair braided by my sister so i've got rows for the first time in my life and everybody has been telling me it is beautiful but i feel like an imposter/poser and it has given me a horrid headache so as cool as i felt in my rows, i am getting them taken out tonight. i took a picture though and will try to post a picture of my ghetto fabulousness as soon as i can figure it all out, inshallah.

i stink today! i am going to go take a bucket bath.