Saturday, December 27, 2008

ant bite on the butt

an ant bit my butt yesterday during lunch. it was not a very pleasant experience and now i can't stop scratching at my butt and the bite's swollen to the size of a golf ball.

yesterday after lunch some guys from world vision showed up to give talla seeds and instructions for the dry season garden project. the timing worked out well because just at that time ousmane (my teenage neighbor who has a crush on me) had asked me to change the time on his cell phone for him and i had to step outside to give it to him. martin -- one of the WV guys -- saw me and very enthusiastically started to talk to me about so and so and whatever. i always enjoy dealing with the WV guys because they take me seriously -- that is, they treat me like a colleague and seem to know and/or appreciate that i'm not just some dummy who wound up in a different country but that i am actually trying to achieve something (although the longer i am here, the less i am certain of the "something"). i suppose because we are all working together in "development" we can understand and respect each other.

they were heading out to the valley so talla -- whom i am getting along with more and more everyday -- invited me to go with them. i've been spending my days doing chores in the morning and obsessively reading tolstoy's anna karenina in the afternoons so i was like, hell yeah!! and practically bounded over to the truck. we went to the valley and talla was instructed in potato planting and i listened in -- more amazed as to how much i understand now without effort than just how much goes into planting a potato.

so we have to do all this soil and seed preparation and then on wednesday, they're coming to help us seed the potatoes. it was clear that they wanted me to participate as well, which made me happy until i realized wednesday is christmas eve and i had plans to go to dakar and to make a nice christmas eve dinner with chris. i was a bit sad that i would miss potato planting but then thought more and more about how i've managed to miss several "big" agriculture/agroforestry days because of a combination of being misinformed, out of the loop, or simply away from site and that i was fully in the loop this time and there was no major excuse for missing this. so i -- reluctantly -- chose work over play and decided that i would stay in the village until potato planting day, plant potatoes in the morning, head out to dakar as soon as possible, and instead of a christmas eve dinner, would make a big boxing day dinner.

i've recently been feeling a lot better about my service -- it helps to have had a vacation and i think in the meantime, i had my breakthrough with language and culture. it feels as if everything has suddenly fallen into place and i am finally relaxed and comfortable in the village. wolof comes rather quickly to me these days and i've been a little more chatty than usual. behaviors that used to upset or frustrate me are no longer so and i actually find myself behaving in the same way at times. it probably helps that i am off the mefloquine now and really, my anxiety has amazingly vanished (who would have known that it would have had such an affect on me?)

moreover, i've finally started coming to terms with myself and the fact that my service didn't wind up the way i had "expected" it to. before coming to senegal, i imagined myself as the rockstar volunteer, speaking the language fluently, talking with everybody, loving everybody all the time, carrying babies on my back, single-handedly reforesting the country, making big and wonderful things happen in my village, etc. and when i couldn't be that volunteer i pictured myself as, i was sorely disappointed and frustrated and kept knocking myself for being a crappy volunteer. but i realize now that those were fairy tale expectations for myself and the more of that kind of pressure i put on myself, the more i'm just going to keep on feeling like i'm failing...when in fact, i haven't really. i can only do what i can and while i keep comparing myself to other volunteers, my village isn't comparing me to anybody. i'm just aissatou to them. and these days i'm becoming more and more comfortable with aissatou.

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