Pictures from Senegal

Wednesday, June 29

Site Announcement

About half way, or one month, into PST (pre service training) PC Senegal has a special ceremony for the newest stage in which they announce each trainee’s future site of service. This is the day one finds out where he or she will be for the next two years of their life, so the staff tries to make it as memorable as possible. At the training center in Thies there’s a slab of concrete out behind one of the huts with a rudimentary map of Senegal painted on it. For the ceremony trainees are blindfolded, then taken one-by-one by the hand and led to the place on the map that represents their future destination.

In September of 2009, that was me. I was shaking nervously and held the hand of the volunteer next to me. I’d been training in Mboro long enough to realize the town was ok. I’d heard from Devon, the current volunteer and my now predecessor, about his work and it seemed to match what I had been doing before I’d left: essentially spending hours on the computer. I’d emailed my supervisor (APCD) and asked to be placed there, but given how little options we had throughout the rest of the PC application process (I narrowed down the continents, than got to say yes or no to Senegal) I didn’t know if that would mean anything.

Yet, suddenly, in that moment I didn’t want anything to do with Mboro. Everyone was excited to go somewhere new. Why hadn’t I seen the fun in that? Why did I want to guarantee and ok thing if there was the possibility to end up with an amazing thing? I’d never been a gambler, and I suppose that’s what let me to send that email for Mboro, requesting something I already knew.

When all fifty some trainees in my group were standing on the Senegal map, we lifted our blind folds and looked down. I was on the coast. I was basically where Mboro should be. I looked at my hands, which were holding a large manila envelope with the words “Alys Moshier, Mboro” written on them and I nearly burst into tears. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to go back to the only place I’d already been. I wanted something new, something exciting. I cried later that night, and seriously contemplated quitting Peace Corps (or ET: early termination).

I didn’t, obviously. And since then I’ve grown to love Mboro. If I had all the information I do now back then, I would pick Mboro again every time. I’m confident enough to proclaim that it’s hands down the best site in Senegal. I am not joking. Mboro, I love you for so many reasons.

So how do I convey that to my future replacement at their site announcement? The answer is that manila envelope. Inside of mine was a fourteen report written by Devon about all his successes and failures in work accompanied by words of advice. But that’s not enough. I’ll write my own work report, and I’ll attach it to Devon’s, but this time my training class has decided to add a bit more. The envelopes will also include maps, basic descriptions of all the projects in the region (should he or she want to join in on any of them), a great picture of the site, and three fun facts written by the exiting volunteer.

Fun facts about Mboro:
1. The Ndaws are the best family! They are willing to try new dishes or leave you be if you don't feel like eating. They love chatting (even in English) but are content with the hours you may feel like passing alone in your room. Sometimes I think they aren't really Senegalese when Mom is making diet friendly meals or tending the flower garden... or when Dad jumps in his car to Thies to buy Mom's birthday cake. 

2. Food; it just can't be beat! It’s hard to envision not eating at home (because the food is that awesome), but for those times when you do venture out let it be known that there are some pretty cool pork houses, a place to get stir fry, and even a restaurant that serves a 3 course linen-table-clothed air-conditioned meal. And nearly every random thing can be found in town: cinnamon, Tabasco sauce, ramen noodle packets, Heineken, Nutella, ice cream... 

3. Mboro is a worker's gold mine! I dare you to dream up any project and I bet you a beer I could find someone interested in it! That goes for secondary projects too. And it is so easy to let work spill over into the void of American comforts. Some of my favorite projects have been recreating designer leather bags at a fraction of the cost, cooking experiments (the Mboroise love stir-fry!), and English class jeopardy games.

For my part, I couldn’t pick just one photo. Instead, I used Picasa to create a collage of my favorites. Perhaps I’ll make my way to Thies for the actual announcement and take a healthy dose of enthusiasm to the new guy or gal. Later, during their visit here (just under one week of quality one-on-one time) I’ll do my best to take him or her to all my favorite spots, talking up the town, and showing the lucky bastard some of my old blog posts about the awesome food or family bios. Hopefully, he or she will request this place by name. I hope they don’t have the same reaction I did. I hope to instill as much enthusiasm as I possibly can. Peace Corps isn’t easy, but a great site can certainly make the difference!


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  2. Thank you very much for the site announcement!!!