I'll start with one of my latest downs and what I truly think has been the root of a lot of my initial discomforts here. As most of my friends and family know, I have been to Africa before. I was fortunate enough to get to experience the east coast of Africa when I visited Tanzania. I went with a bunch of other students from my college to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and work with a few local orphanages. Climbing Kilimanjaro was incredible and I was very proud of myself but I was even more proud and at peace sitting in the dirt and playing with the orphaned children. I always had the idea of applying for the Peace Corps in the back of my mind but it was then that I realized this idea had to become a reality. The people of Tanzania were incredibly friendly. Everywhere we went they wanted to talk to us and be our friends. I felt immediately welcomed and almost as if I belonged there. Senegal has been a little bit different. It's not that I haven't felt welcome (Senegalese people are nothing but hospitable) but I also never remembered feeling this much like a tourist or an outsider while I was in Tanzania. Peace Corps is invited to the countries and communities that it serves in. Volunteers are here to help and to be integrated into the culture. Obviously that will come in time but it has just been something I've had a little bit of a hard time with.
Now, some of the good stuff. These are in no specific order, I just like to write down things as they come to me that have made me smile over the past few weeks. This is also all stuff that has happened at my Senegalese home (funny, culturally awkward things typically don't happen at the Training Center when I'm surrounded by other Americans).
My family is extremely kind to me. They always remember when I like something and try to give me as much of it as they can. This means lots of mangoes, chocolate, candies and more. I have two nephews that are 7 and 3 with whom the bonding has been interesting. The 7 year old and I get along great and he loves to tell me in explicit detail (in French) whatever may be happening right at the moment it's happening - "Alexx, I am whistling, do you know how to whistle? Oh look, that frog is jumping towards us, etc." The bonding with my 3 year old nephew though has been slightly different. He's really not used to being around strangers (white people) and has had a hard time warming up to me. That is, until I spent one evening teaching them how to do push-ups (real ones, man style). They thought me getting down on the floor was just about the funniest thing they had ever seen and proceeded to make me do push-up after push-up (about the most action my arms have seen in months). It was great fun.
Those of you that know me well know that I'm not the most fashion saavy person in America, let alone when living in Africa. Therefore, whenever I wear something that is even remotely good looking (aka skinny jeans instead of my typical loose north face pants) my family hoots and hollers and their favorite English way of telling me I look halfway decent is "You are fashion!" Cracks me up every time.
My mom has taught me the Senegalese way of cutting onions. This entails no cutting board and holding them in my hand. I proceeded to cut about 12 onions by hand and only nicked myself once which I consider a raging success.
The final funny thought I'll leave you with tonight has to do with the name of one of my brothers. This particular brother resides mainly in Dakar (the capital of Senegal) so I rarely see him and only met him recently. I didn't know his name originally so I would hear my family talking about someone they referred to as Peace Co (at least this was how my American English brain heard and spelled what they were saying). For the longest time, I assumed this person that they were adamantly talking about was me. I thought they had nicknamed me Peace Co (short for Peace Corps) and were CONSTANTLY mocking me right in front of me because I couldn't understand the local language they were speaking. Only when I finally confronted the situation in my broken French did I come to learn that Pisco is definitely not me but my little brother! This situation still provides a good laugh for me and my family from time to time.
I'm sure there's tons more but I'm about spent on blog time plus, word around the center is that we get pizza for dinner so I'm definitely going to go check that out.
As always, thanks for reading!