After a 7-hour flight to Brussels, 2-hour layover, 6-hour flight to Nairobi, 2-hour layover, then a 2-hour flight to Dakar, I have finally made it to Senegal! We got here pretty late on Wednesday so the Peace Corps put us up in a hotel right on the coast of Dakar. It was gorgeous (at least for the 5 minutes I could look at it the next morning) but we all bee-lined for bed. I don't think I had ever been so tired. At least 30 hours of consisitent traveling will do that to you, along with a 5 AM wake-up call. But, alas, (after, I'm pretty sure, inhaling a mosquito in my sleep) we finally made it to our Training Center in Thies, Senegal.
We were welcomed very warmly by the staff and other volunteers. After a few brief introductions we went straight into training for the entire day. Who knows how to use a squat toilet? I sure do! With only 8 short weeks to learn everything you can about an entirely new culture including their language, they don't give you much downtime. The long day was followed by an even longer evening when I couldn't connect to the internet. This seems like a minute problem but when you've had a long day, even the smallest problems can feel catastrophic. On a positive note, the training day ended well when a drum circle was started and local kids came and danced with us. One small boy in particular came and stood next to me and just grabbed my hand out of nowhere. That small gesture refocused me and reminded me why I wanted to come back to Africa in the first place.
Fast-forward to the night of mosquito bites, intense heat, and a certain cat making it's way into our room (I'm now positive that the cats here are spider felines as my roommates and I were awoken by one literally climbing the screen INSIDE our room. Not entirely sure how it even got in there which was slightly disconcerting considering the size of the rats they have here). Anyway, today has been more training and placement interviews to determine where exactly we will be going and what language we need to focus on. Bonjour francais, so we meet again. The rest of the afternoon will be spent with more immunizations (no rabies for me!), cultural training, and crash courses in the local language.
I'm feeling a mix of emotions about this entire process. I go through intense thoughts of fear and doubts about my ability to handle this. I miss home, familiarity, and my loving network of people that surrounded me there. I truly have no room to talk, though. There are people that have been here 2 years or longer. They have loved ones back home, they don't like the heat or bugs and they certainly get lonely. Yet they are here, handling it, and loving it.
Above all, I'm going to push on. Whenever I'm discouraged I just have to remember that little boy who grabbed my hand. He really is what this is all about. Creating a better future for the people of Africa and letting them see how positive a relationship with Americans really can be.
Lots of love.