Pictures from Senegal

Sunday, September 26

Demystification

Half way through language training, about a month after arriving, a new volunteer will learn where his or her permanent site will be. Shortly thereafter nearly a week is dedicated to aiding the new trainee in a demystification process about what it’s really like to be a volunteer. This is accomplished, preferably, by visit the proceeding volunteer. As this isn’t always the case, the trainee will then visit the next closest volunteer in the same program. This past week, I was that volunteer. For 4 days I hosted the volunteers-to-be headed to St. Louis and Louga, the next two largest cities to the north of me. They are two lovely ladies who were very enthusiastic about the work to come even without the lengthy discussions covering all the possibilities available.

The ladies arrived on Sunday morning after an expedition was made by my father and me to Tivaouane, where Peace Corps had dropped them off. As it was still early, my family went back to sleep and the three of us got some breakfast and sat in my room playing 20 questions. Really, it was more like 200 questions, but I was happy to oblige. Hours passed and we discussed my living situation, my family, meals, expenditures… leaving no stone unturned. After lunch and nearly frozen yogurt dessert we were off to catch a party at the local church. Unfortunately, we had missed the memo that this party was to take place directly following mass- in the morning- and by the time we got there it had already shifted to a house outside of town. We settled for a beer in the nearby boutique. As the town was enjoying a lazy Sunday, we spent the rest of the afternoon in my room talking and watching movies. After dinner it was an early night to bed.

Monday was spent discovering Mboro. Actually, most businesses were still closed after the long holiday weekend so I spent a lot of time talking about people we couldn’t actually find. I did manage to give exciting encounters of my projects, such as the girls’ camp, business classes, and marketing campaigns, whilst passing empty buildings. After we’d worked up a sufficient sweat, it was back to the house to make a power point presentation on all the things we’d discussed; an item to be delivered at later training sessions. As my family was eating fish for lunch, we headed to the local club for a “sandwich on the plate,” which goes to say meat and veggies with a basket of bread on the side. Our afternoon plans of heading to the beach were derailed by the rain. This seemed to confuse my family who thought we were going to bathe, so why should it matter where the water comes from??? Instead, we watched some more movies. After dinner we headed to my favorite boutique once more to meet Charles (you remember Charles, right?) for a drink. This proved to be entertaining as they got to see me in action hammering out a few work items with Charles in French. Charles shared his ideas on volunteerism and all the things he figured they could do in their respective sites.

Tuesday was Thies day. Before heading out, we stopped in a hole-in-the-wall I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing before to grab some breakfast. Sautéed meat, onions, and potato wedges served over an optional portion of spaghetti reminded me of steak and eggs back home. Successfully navigating the Mboro garage and unloading at our destination in Thies, we met up with friends at a favorite restaurant for a before-lunch drink. The purpose of the day was a welcome to the new comers of our region of Senegal volunteers. Current volunteers, exiting volunteers, and their replacements had a good time of getting to know each other. After drinks, we changed locations and got lunch. After lunch we went to a third venue for more drinks. As afternoon became evening, my pair and I headed back to the garage and Mboro (after a quick stop at the western grocery store for movie snacks). Dinner and a movie became a formal traditional at this point.

Wednesday had originally been ear-marked for a trip to St. Louis. As I’d never been there I’d called friendly volunteers to meet us there and show us the ropes. Unfortunately, I was informed that no space could be had in the Peace Corps lodgings and we’d have to rent a hotel room. In addition, no one would be available to show us around as other Peace Corps trainings were taking place that same day. As trainees generally have little money (so as not to get them in too much trouble?), we had to forgo the trip all together. It was later learned that a regional party for volunteers from the northern area of Senegal was being conducted on that same day… and we were essentially not invited. Hmm, not the impression I would have given to the volunteer headed to that town.

So, with St. Louis out of the question we had another great day in Mboro. We kicked it off with coffee in a new shop I hadn’t tried. Chatting with the charming and enthusiastic owner, I found myself excited for a new friend and possible work partner in town. The place has the potential to be the closest Senegal would come to a café or Starbucks and with a little effort could be turned into the perfect place for a visiting tourist. Next we visited the local school where Devon’s grand contribution to service lies. For lunch we headed back to the club for another pass at the “sandwich on the plate” with Charles. Whilst there, it was discovered that my friends from Texas, who had been around last year, had return that very morning for another 5 month pass at life in Mboro. I exchanged numbers with them before we headed out to don swimsuits and sun block in preparation for the beach. We stopped briefly at my women’s group’s place of business to catch a glimpse of cereal production in action and taste the local juices. The beach itself was warm, as was the ocean, and we were left alone- save a few friendly waves- to relax. Upon our return, you guessed it, was dinner and a movie. We were invited to a local tam tam dancing experience, but as that party didn’t get started until 3 hours after its designated timing (about midnight) my threesome decided to skip it, much to my mother’s disappointment.

Thursday, we packed up early and my father drove us to the garage. He was kind enough to negotiate the price of the ladies’ baggage and they were off once more to Thies. I hope I speak for all three of us when I say a great time discovering Mboro and my life here was had by all.

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