Please note that the opinions reflected on this blog are solely MY opinion. They do not reflect the Peace Corps or the US Government in any way.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's probably not going to kill me but..

To start this entry off I thought I’d talk about some of the weird stuff that I do and that happens to me. Most of it probably won’t kill me but probably isn’t great either. I also know that most of this stuff may happen in the States but here it’s on an almost daily basis.
These wonderful things include:
  • Inhaling (yes, directly up my nose) all sorts of insects.
  • Accidentally consuming more fish bones than I could count.
  • Trudging unknowingly through what may or may not be sewage wearing flip-flops.
  •  Bathing in water that is tinted brown or has dead things floating in it.
  • Eating food dripping with oil (quite delicious, might I add).
  • Squatting precariously over questionable holes doing mother nature’s business.
  • Getting all sorts of interesting insect bites (good thing I’m vaccinated for everything under the sun!)
  • Going for hours without saying or understanding a word of what’s going on (can’t be great for my mental health, right?)
That’s a pretty good start. I’m sure as the days go on I’ll have plenty to add to this list but that should give you a good idea for now.

Lately I’ve been feeling a little down. I’m finally at site, no longer a trainee. This means I’m feeling isolated and scared. Also I feel quite bored. I am not supposed to start working yet as I’ve previously mentioned so I have A LOT of down time. I’m trying my best to learn the language and be present in my village but sometimes I just need to escape to my room and read or watch movies. One of these times that I was feeling overwhelmed (this morning), I re-read some of my entries in my diary from years ago. I’m pretty good at keeping a diary and have entries dating back to when I was about 7 years old. Those ones are quite boring as my life really wasn’t that exciting then. They consist largely of, “Today I went outside and played, it was fun!” Seriously though, encourage kids to keep diaries, they are eye opening years later.

Over the past few years, however, I talked a lot about my hopes and dreams and what I hope to get out of life. I would like to share some of those hopes and dreams as I’m proud to say a lot have come true. I feel like it’s necessary right now to share some of these because my day to day lately has been less than ideal and writing about that would just bore everyone to tears! Hopefully you enjoy reading a little more about who I am and what I hope to achieve in this life (at least some of what I hope to achieve).

  • I hope to get into the Peace Corps (yup this was a goal for quite some time people)
  • I hope to fall in love (yes…that happened J)
  • I hope to make my parents proud
  • I hope to set a good example for others
  • I hope to make others happy
  • I hope to own my own car/home
  • I hope to see Germany with my dad (he’s German…I want to see my roots)
  • I hope to have children
  • I hope to help others, to make a difference
  • I hope to see the world
  • I hope to speak more languages
  • I hope to get married (at Bear Lake, one of my favorite places in the world)
  • I hope to have my dad walk me down the aisle
  • I hope that I always continue to learn and to better myself
  • I hope to let the little things slide
  • I hope to ride an elephant
  • I hope to climb one of the world’s tallest mountains (did it, Kilimanjaro, woo!)
  • I hope to work for Disney (what Disney freak hasn't hoped for that at least once?)
  • I hope to work for myself
  • I hope to be happy

All in all, I have been incredibly fortunate thus far in my life to achieve many of my hopes. Each day I just need to keep pushing through the hard stuff to get to my ultimate goals. To do that here in Senegal I've realized setting small (I mean, minuscule) goals for myself will get me through the days. Today my plan is to visit the post office and greet some villagers. Maybe I’ll even stop by my office, don’t want to overwhelm myself though. There’s always tomorrow and the next day and the next day….

Until the next day then,


Sunday, August 12, 2012

It's official!

After two long months of training sessions, language/cultural classes, and a whole bunch of ups and downs; I am officially a Peace Corps volunteer! My training group was rare in that we were fortunate enough to have Hillary Clinton swear us in a little over a week ago. This past Friday, however, we had the "real" ceremony. I personally feel that having the Secretary of State swear us in was as real as it could get but we had the official ceremony nonetheless. The big event took place at the ambassador's house in Dakar. There were speeches given by our training manager, fellow volunteers, government officials, our Country Director, and our associate Country Director. I was incredibly moved by several of the speeches and found myself tearing up more than I care to admit. I'm not sure what was more moving, what was being said or the fact that I have FINALLY made it to this point in my life. That being said, I can't believe that in all of my previous posts I have failed to mention one of the main people who got me through this training process, my language and culture facilitator (LCF, Peace Corps LOVES their acronyms), Assane.
This is a picture of me, Assane and Clintandra (the other volunteer in my language class). I can honestly say that I don't know what I'd do without him. He always knows exactly what I need to hear in order to reassure me. I started out in this country brushing up on my French, the official language, but recently tested out into Serer (the local language most spoken where I will be living). Serer, as I've been told by many people native to Senegal, is one of the most difficult languages to learn. At the same time I'm trying to improve my French and learn some Wolof, the most spoken local language in most of Senegal. Needless to say, it's a lot and can definitely get overwhelming. It makes me even more wary of the American education system. Why can most people in EVERY other country speak at least 2, sometimes 3 languages and we can barely speak English?

Speaking of the people in this country... I had my last night with my first host family the other night and it was incredibly tough. I remember how hard my first few weeks here were with that family and how much I didn't want to be there; that last night, I didn't want to leave. I had a point while I was sitting out on the ground with my host mother and brother just talking for about 3 hours and I felt completely content. Life is so fast-paced and rushed in America, it's different in Africa. There are days here that are beyond difficult but then there are days like I had the other night. These times I feel at peace with where I am in my life and with myself. This gives me so much hope for the future that I will, in time, adjust to my new host family and feel at home here.

Tomorrow we head off to our respective sites. I am feeling terrified, anxious, excited, and apprehensive (among a million other things). I am not near to any other volunteers so it will be the first time that I am completely on my own in this country. I'll still be living with a new (different) host family but alone in the sense that I won't be near anyone who speaks English. We are also supposed to spend the first few months at our site just getting used to being there. This makes sense but I'm worried people will think, "What is this lazy American doing here, she never works or anything, just tries and fails miserably at speaking our language?!" Peace Corps is supposed to sensitize the communities against this and tell them the first few months are purely for integration but whether or not people listen to that is a different story.

I know I'm going to have tough times but yesterday, coming home from Dakar, I don't think I'd ever laughed so hard. Looking at my friends there next to me, crammed into this rickety old car, dripping sweat, it was too funny not to laugh. Now I understand why I was asked several times throughout the interview process if I have a good sense of humor. To be a Peace Corps volunteer, you need it.

I think I'll wrap things up here though. Time is a ticking and the amenities in my village are pretty basic so I need to get some stuff here in the big city.

Thanks for reading,