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.

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,


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