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,