Pictures from Senegal

Friday, October 30

Letters From Abroad- October

I honestly go back and forth between enjoying it here and not. The PC recruitment phrase is "the toughest job you'll ever love." It used to sound cute and catchy before, but now it's like a smug comment that rubs me the wrong way.

At the moment, I'm sick and grumpy. I'm annoyed that everyone compares me to the previous volunteer. I have to say at least once daily that "Je ne suis pas Devon," I am not Devon. I'm not picking up Wolof as fast as he is, I want to do better in French, I don't eat a mountain of food, I don't like peanut butter, I don't go out until 8a the next morning, I don't like play boxing with the kids, I don't want to eat every single meal (with or without my family), WE AREN"T THE SAME PERSON. Get over it.

Yet it continues every day. My family's current favorite thing to do is tell me about Devon, what he likes, dislikes, and said about the US... like they are testing me. Did I know that? Do I agree? Is it true?

We had some health volunteers come this week. They are here to work with pregnant women and births, etc with the local clinics. I've become a translator of French for them. I'm on call for births these days!

Anyway, in passing they asked if there was a place to get a good massage here. I laughed and told them "good luck, but my Dad's girlfriend should be coming to start shop in about 2 years."

Think about you guys all the time, even when not really relevant. I put up all the pictures Dad gave me of you two and my whole family has made a point of coming to my room to ask about them!

Hey All,
We are finished with training and I've be moved to my permanent work site. That means two things: 1) I now have internet access in my room (as in I can send and receive email often), and 2) my mailing address has changed too.

I will have the following postal address for the next two years:
PCV Alys Moshier
BP 103
Mboro, Senegal
West Africa
Par Avion

A few people have been generous enough to suggest sending some items to Africa. With thoughts of saving time, creating a decent list, and hopefully being lucky enough to get a package... I'm sending the below wish list. Most items will be hugely appreciated anytime of the year (don't worry about doubles of anything). Others are obviously a bit more expensive and if sent would make us life-long friends and get you out of a few birthdays and/or Christmas presents.

As a side note to this, to help guarantee that I get packages decorate the box with Christian symbols such as crosses, etc. It sounds strange, but apparently it's bad karma to mess with religious packages according to Senegalese culture. Whatever works, right? Regular letters should be no problem.

Combination lock- No keys, something basic to help me lock up some stuff. They are expensive here. Probably could use 2.
T-shirts- By this I mean basic Haines whites or funky ones from goodwill. Either will be useful if sent it size M.
Fiber supplements- Don't ask me to explain unless you want to hear about poop.
Protein- Ditto. Powder, bars, pills, whatever is easiest- I need to get more.
Duct tape- Universal, and I can't believe I forgot to pack this staple. Did I ever go camping as a kid? Sorry, Dad.
Flash drive- 4g or more preferably.
External hard drive- My computer doesn't have a DVD drive... so to be able to watch movies I have a friend copy them to their computer, format, and transfer to mine. And since there is a huge collection of bootleg in country now the hard drive would be gold. (Kind of expensive so not for the casual send... definitely Christmas present idea.)
Face scrub- The scrub is key... feel so dirty here that a good almond scrub would be awesome.
Quick dry towel- Example link, can be found in outdoors stores, about $30.
Calendar 09 & 10- Sounds dumb, but it would be nice to hang in my room and count the days. A hand journal to keep track of days would be nice too. Like the ones we used to have in college.
Conditioner- Heavy duty stuff will last longer, like Redkin: All Soft. Or if anyone has died hair recently and has that small concentrated tube left over. This is very expensive here, with no apparent reason.
Pens/ sharpies- They always seem to disappear or run out of ink. Sharpie fine points (like a pen) are awesome here, and I can tell when someone has boosted mine.
Crystal Light Live Active/ Propel packets- Also like gold in the world of treated water. Plus the LiveActive helps with digestion and Propel has electrolytes and vitamins which help fight dehydration etc in the land of sand.
Hair ties- Duh. They break all the time.
Disposable razor blades- It's a treat to be able to shave. I will take basic stick or Venus disposable tips. For special occasions throw in shaving cream!
Food Objects: beef jerky, nuts (love wasabi almonds), Oreos, granola bars, candy corn, etc. In general items that would keep and taste good.
Dramamine- The travel conditions here are nightmarish on my motion sickness. Help me out here...

In conclusion, a special thanks to Krystal and Amelia who have already sent me amazing packages with what they claim was nothing. What is nothing to you is gold to me. Thank you so much. I love you guys!

Take care everyone. Don't think I don't miss you.
Love, Alys

I'm pretty sure that mornings here are the worst. I never want to get up. I have enough fans on me so that I actually feel cold and use a sheet to cover up. Getting up means accepting that I will out into the world and sweat like a beast, screw up language, and play Devon for yet another day. It means bugs will seemingly attack me, I will long for solid ground, closed toes shoes, and air conditioning, and that in some way or another Senegalese culture will annoy me for another day. Yup, mornings are the worst.

But luckily something delightful generally happens at some point in the day, and it makes things better. Yesterday the health volunteers came over to use the internet and we had a nice chat about Africa (by that I mean the side effects of Malaria pills). After, my Dad and I drove them to the store. Then I was going to meet up with my friends from Texas, but as I was sick my Dad drove me all the way to their door. He also walked me inside to make sure I was ok, and actually meeting people who were waiting for me. Very nice of him.

Clearly we are down to the little things, like it's nice to get a ride from my Dad instead of walking. It's nice to be able to speak English a little, it's nice to have friends that buy all your beers (don't ask why I'm sick and drinking... you would too if it was cold and free in Africa), and when I finally got back home my Mom had made me soup for dinner. One because she knows I don't like West African-style couscous and two because I'm sick and she knows, from Devon, that soup makes Americans feel better (the first thing I'm happy to hear about from Devon).

That's all for now. Will try to keep my head up and only write to you in the evenings when I've been having a good day.
Love, Alys

Inshallah (God willing) this letter won't get erased before I've finished it. The interesting thing is, this word is like a catch all excuse for anything that the Senegalese mildly intend to do, but is reasonably certain they will not be able to accomplish- at least by the proposed timing. I would equate it to a "yeah right." For example, I told the Catholic priest I was going to come to church last Sunday to meet the congregation. He said "Inshallah." Only he was right, because by Saturday I had a serious cold that made me sleep most of Sunday, never leaving the house. Sometimes, I start to feel like it's a curse.

Anyway, about my life in Senegal: I just spent 9 weeks learning French. I feel like I'm fairly decent. I can generally express my desires or thoughts. By the time I graduated the program I really feel I had better French then the Japanese have English coming to Hino. So that's a little plus.

For as much ambiguity as I went through figuring out where in the world I would be whilst joining the Peace Corps, it felt like a 180 degree change of direction after that. My program director asked for assignment and location suggestions. So, after spending a few weeks in my training site, learning what the current volunteer was doing, and adjusting to life here... I asked to be permanently assigned to Mboro. I asked for this (remember that if I ever start to complain) and they gave it to me- no questions. Pretty cool.

Mboro is an almost beach town, 3 kilometers inland (a short $0.25 taxi ride) and lucky enough to be built up by a phosphorous mine. The town is quite western compared to almost everything in country. My family (part of the wealthiest middle class or poorest top class) has western furniture, the ability to eat vegetables at every meal, 2 TVs, an oscillating fan in almost every room, a maid and another women that does laundry, and a backyard full of fruit trees. I have my own room (every volunteer does) but with a half bath (western toilet and sink!). I have windows that have Venetian style slats that open and close. The walls are painted concrete and roof is metal sheets. The floor is a darker concrete. I have a double bed with giant mosquito net, a desk and chair, small dresser, and lamp... all made of wood. I just bought a mirror.

These days my only job is getting to know the community and learn Wolof. This will go on for 3 months. At the end of this, I should have a decent idea of a handful of projects to take back to a 3 week conference with other business volunteers. There we'll get start-up techniques and development planning training, etc, specifically tailored to Senegal. There are so many ideas I have... like start a community trash collection and compost pile collaboration, start a radio station for health and business tips to be broadcasted, reopen the fruit product transformation plant that was closed, start a community employment board for the maids and households that want them, and have adult beginner entrepreneurial education classes. The list goes on.


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