Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Travelling Alone (bum bum bum)

Two days before Thanksgiving, I biked down the dirt path out of my village as the sun was rising next to me. I dont know why I havent done this sooner (maybe because its 630am). I had to head into town to store my lifesaving bike, find breakfast, and flag down a car to go to the next big road town before making my big move into Tamba for the holiday.
The entire process went much smoother than expected. Ive been building up this big scary image of the "garage" and the people lurking around the janky cars. It is a miracle that any of the vehicles are functioning. The characteristics of a typical Senegalese car is as follows: multi-cracked windshield, bent or broken bumpers and mirrors, wire-rigged handles, the worst possible emissions test, and lets not get into the general aesthetics.
On the first bus, we crammed more people in than we ever got close to in college (and that says alot). It took an hour to drive to get to the Velingara garage because we stopped ever 5 minutes to pick people up on the side of the Route National. What are bus stops?
During my hour wait to fill a 7 passenger car at the garage, only one man sat and chatted until he was bored of me. By the end of the conversation, I was "married" to a strapping toubob American lad in Keougou, the next region over. I still had to bluntly refuse to give him my phone number after using 5 different get-the-hint lines.
The last sprinkle on top of this trip was the nice bungee cord that secured the broken passenger door.
Summary: It took me 5.5 hours to go 140 Km (googlemaps suggests less than 2) and I will now enjoy the company of my friends :)
I FOUND MY VILLAGE ON GOOGLEMAPS. My hut is located at the yellow star.
Saare Meta
Thanksgiving news to come soon!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

First Vil Thoughts

After only a 5 days, I have come to terms with the fact that I am always going to be dirty. Literally. I cannot walk from my outside slab of cement, that that my grandparents would refer to as "the throne," to my back door without redusting my momentarily clean feetsies with dirt. To emphasize this, my allergies would like to add that the inside of my newly built hut must have internal dust storms because I cannot sweep it enough. I hope the dust doesn't attack my electronics too quickly.

Yes, Im in Africa. Perhaps I should have realized I was going to be living in a field. I cannot say how many times the current volunteers have complimented us newbies on how CLEAN we were up to this point. Don’t worry, Im not going to give in this quickly. Im just going to have to adjust my tactics… Im not sure how this aspect is going to later help me in life. If nothing else, this is added to the general appreciation column.
Village food has been surprisingly amazing. First off, we have cows from which I drink fresh milk occasionally. From milk, by a process that I may not want to know, they also make kosam, which I have eaten for breakfast with lechery or bread. It tastes something like grapenuts in sour, thin yogurt (despite that awful description, its quite tasty). This should have been my first thought: Im not eating rice at every meal now!

Im struggling with the local concept of time and how flaccid it is. I don’t know how to schedule my time between studying Pulaar, hanging out with my new village family, my sane-Jessica time, figuring out what I REALLY want to do here and even some much needed exercise.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Goodbye PC Training Center

Training is actually completed and its time to load up everything that we've collected in our summer camp like training center rooms and scatter across the country. We planned on departing in the wee hours of the morning, but of course left 3 hours late. The Peace Corps is oh so organized. The seventeen of us going to Tamba and Kolda were lucky enough to spend several hours together crammed into only one PC bus. As you can see, we had so much luggage that it overflowed off of the top of the bus and into our isle, under our feet, and even in the small space reserved for opening the door. With that being said, we had to be creative with getting in and out. Being the tree climbing Ag people, we resorted to climbing through the windows.
9 hours and an entire pack of cookies later, we got to our hotel in Velingara (a 2 hour bike ride from my village). The only thing that didnt make it was my poor, neglected Nalgene that was sitting under my seat. I dont know why I ever thought it would live for 2 years.
Move-in date: November 10, 2011

New & Preferred Address!

Jessica Cochran
Corps de la Paix Americain
B.P. 157
Senegal, West Africa

This is a semi-close by town that is easier to access than my regional capitol, Kolda. Ill be keeping an eye on it, so dont be shy!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Swear In

We are the PC Ag Stage, officially sworn in on the 4th of November 2011. The last 9 weeks have reached across the entire spectrum of emotions, from unbelievably shocking to surprisingly delightful. We are now sanctioned volunteers and will be pushing those boundaries much farther, which might be in the definition of being a volunteer.

After celebrating Tabaski, this mighty fine looking crew of 54 people will be parting ways for villages or a handful ofcities. Im incredibly excited to jump into this next stage of service, which, for me, will start on the 10th in the village of Saare Meta (close to Kounkane if you’re curious).
NEW ADDRESS: Coming Soon!!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Before we knew what we were getting ourselves into...

Then we amused ourselves in every way imaginable to make it through training, which may in this instance be better explained by the wonderful people involved.

We learned that our jam-packed PC medkit is a necessity in the most interesting circumstances.

Holidays are hard from home, but a round, green substitute pulled us through Halloween. Yes, we carved watermelons and yes, the Pacman has been crowned allmighty melon.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Its Christmas is November!

I have finally made it back to the beloved training center in Thies for my last week as a trainee. After a 5 long weeks of anticipation, my packageS arrived in my arms (they were in Africa after a short 10 days). Thank you nana for 10 pounds of peanut butter and other necessities (including Papa's poptarts). Thank you Janna and Laura for your precious letters, amazing going away party photos, and unmentionable items. They are called care packages for a reason and I truly appreciate you for sending them. The last two months have been tough to say the least, as you can see by my few short and sometimes cheap remarks, but these little taped up thoughts are really uplifting. Basically, I love you to the moon. And I will probably gain the 5 pounds that I lost back as a direct result of the American goodness.
Much appreciated: drink mix, trail mix, candy, sanitizers/soaps