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.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Giving Thanks

Well IST is officially over which means another Peace Corps milestone has been passed, yay! The week was filled with (mostly) useful sessions, good times with friends and TONS (literally, tons) of yummy food. I think I've neglected thus far to talk about the food that is served at the training center, or I guess the food in general here in Senegal. You see, Senegalese food is really quite delicious but the food we get at site compared to the food at the training center is very different. Senegalese food typically consists of rice, fish and some type of sauce. The less well-off families, including my own, usually have the lowest grade quality of fish for lunch and often eat left-overs or couscous for dinner. This is fine with me, I want to be integrated into my family and eat what they are eating. However, this causes problems when we get to eat 10 days straight of the tantalizing training center food. The training center always splurges for the best meat including not only fish but also chicken AND beef. We get salad and pizza or pasta for dinner and there’s fruit after every meal. This food may sound fairly basic but compared to what’s available to my isolated little village, this stuff is amazing and I gorge pretty hard.

After IST, myself and the 10 pounds I had to have gained headed to the big city (Dakar, capital of Senegal) to enjoy some rest and relaxation and also to celebrate Thanksgiving with the US Ambassador (no big deal or anything). We were invited to the ambassador’s house for a feast that I will never forget. More food talk, what’s my problem? Part of the deal was that we had to each bring a side dish or dessert and the Ambassador would provide turkey, stuffing, beer and wine. I know that I have mentioned my lack of culinary creativity in here before so I was more than proud of the au gratin potatoes and garlic green beans that my friends and I managed to throw together. We may have had to use the Ambassador’s oven to finish our potatoes and they were the last thing to get put on the table but all turned out well and our efforts were praised. Thanksgiving was full of laughs, good food, good wine and even a sing-a-long around the piano at the end of the evening. It was lovely, as picturesque as a scene out of a romantic comedy or something and will probably go down as one of the best Thanksgivings I've ever had.

Though, as the festivities were dying down and I was slowly slipping into a food-induced coma, I couldn't help thinking about my family back home. This is the first holiday season I've ever had in my life away from all of them; usually at least some of us are able to be together. If this experience has taught me anything it is that I am very devoted to my family. I miss them more than words could ever explain and I truly cherish the time that I get to spend with them. Speaking of my family, I would like to share a sad event that was recently brought to my attention, call it a way of healing I guess. I heard about it only last week but it apparently happened over a month ago. It happened when I was having a rough patch at site and my parents didn't want to add to my anxiety. My sweet little Pomeranian pup passed away. Now, some of you that knew her may not use sweet as your top choice of description but she was always there for me. I cried into that dog’s fur more times than I care to admit and there was never any creature (human or otherwise) happier to see me than her. I can’t explain the pain I’m feeling right now because I almost feel numb. It doesn't seem real because I wasn't there having to deal with anything. I thank whatever higher power is up there that I was able to be removed from the situation because I wouldn't have been able to handle it. That dog meant too much to me and to have to be surrounded by her toys or, even worse, haunted by seeing her pass would've been far too difficult. The one thing I wish I could have been there for was to help my mom through it. Roxy – you will be forever missed and thought of daily. Thank you for being such an incredible dog and best friend to me. I love you always.

Now that the sad news is over I would like to use the rest of this lengthy (sorry!) post to express the things I am thankful for in my life because… tis the season after all!
  • I am thankful for my parents. I am thankful for their health, their generosity, their support, their success, and their love. I have never in my life felt anything but unconditional love from them and for that I am incredibly grateful.
  • I am thankful for my little sister and the close friendship that we have.
  • I am thankful for my older siblings and the amazing relationships that I have not only with them but their families.
  • I am thankful for the friendships I've developed with other family members and some of the amazing friendships and relationships I've had over the years.
  • I’m thankful for the time I had with my amazing little dog and all the joy she brought into my life.
  • I’m thankful for my health.
  • I’m thankful for the many opportunities I've had over my life to not only travel to beautiful places but to also live and work abroad in a completely unique and challenging situation.
  • I’m thankful for my education and the opportunities it has given and will continue to give me.
  • I’m thankful to be an American. Now, more than ever before, I can truly appreciate the freedom and rights that we have there.
  • I’m thankful for the good in the world. For the people I see helping each other out.
  • I’m thankful for the beauty of nature. A sunset. The waves crashing on the shore. Baobab trees. I am experiencing nature at a much slower and more intimate pace over here and it feels great.
  • I’m thankful for laughter and the fact that I have a sense of humor. Life would be much more difficult if I wasn't able to laugh things off.
  • I’m thankful that I have the ability to get up and walk somewhere, each and every day. 
I could go on and on and on but I feel that about sums up most of the big stuff. I guess I’ll end this post by saying I’m thankful for you. Whoever you are that is reading this and getting something out of it.

Until next time,


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

At least once

First of all I wanted to start this post by apologizing for how long it has been since I have written anything. I am a slacker. I usually try to wait to write posts until I feel like I have something incredibly witty or fascinating to say. Sometimes I forget that just the day to day things that I am doing are probably interesting to at least someone, right? 

I thought I’d begin this entry by talking about what I have been doing during this hiatus since I last posted anything. This past week has been the beginning of our IST (in-service training, I don’t have to reiterate Peace Corps’ love of acronyms). This means that I have been out of my site and participating in various sessions that are supposed to help easier facilitate projects in my village. This also means that I have officially been sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer for 3 months now! For those of you that don’t know, I am living in Ngallou which is a small village located in the community of Palmarin, Senegal. My village is situated right between the coast and the Sine-Saloum Delta. 

The program that I am a volunteer under is Community Economic Development and my focus is on the eco-tourism industry. This is largely because I live in a beautiful place that has a lot of potential for touristic activities (come visit me!!) but it’s also my job to make sure that this tourism is sustainable, environmentally friendly and benefits the local population (those are the main components of eco-tourism in case you didn’t know). See said beautiful place below.

The past few weeks have consisted of me making my way around my village trying to assess how I can help. I have already decided to implement an English class for interested eco-guides to better communicate with their clientele. I am also working with a local hotel in basic business principles such as marketing, accounting, customer service, etc. Along with the eco-tourism jazz I am also working on several secondary projects that include a school garden, compost/waste management projects, coastal erosion evasion work, a carbon offsets program and also collaboration with the local artists on expanding their product lines. Each day involves a new set of challenges and slowly but surely I am finding my place where I can be of use here in Senegal.

Well. Now that you’re caught up on most of the lengthy work-related information I have some of my more typical words of wisdom (ranting) that I would like to share. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the development of a society, namely of the United States. Because of our incredible wastefulness during our industrialization period, other countries are suffering the consequences out of the mess that we’ve made. We were able to progress and develop in a way that most other countries cannot copy due to the environmental detriment that we created along the way. I think that now, more than ever, we owe it to not only ourselves but to the rest of the world to try and live a more simplistic lifestyle.

I personally think everyone should have to do a few things in order to understand how many people in this world live. At least once in their lives, I believe everyone should have to take a bucket bath. I think we should have to experience washing our clothes by hand. Furthermore, we should have to walk down the street or possibly to the next town over to wait in line and then pull water from a well in order to take care of ourselves and our families. As a society we are so incredibly wasteful with our resources. We leave the water running while we shave, take incredibly long showers and use a washing machine to clean 3 or 4 articles of clothing. I feel like I had other examples that were related to issues besides water consumption but I will have to save those for another day (as I can’t remember them and I REALLY want to get a post out today).

Wrapping things up I’d like to say that my posts are never trying to get political or drastically change anyone’s views in life but if I can caution you to simply think twice about things then I would say it’s worth it.

I will try and make my next post sooner rather than later but in the meantime thank you for reading and trying to be the best person you can be!