Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mashed Potatoes!

Tonight’s the last night of internet for 2 weeks! I’m currently trying to upload my photos so you’ll be able to see them on the side left section… I’m sorry I haven’t taken that many, but you have to ask people (usually) before you take a photo and they often as for money.

Today was another full day of sessions, I learned how to give myself a malaria blood smear test, about l-ealth (lady-health as compared to m-ealth man-health), about marketing in Senegal, and about the IT programs the Peace Corps has set up. Most importantly, I learned that I’m getting a phone tomorrow! And I technically don’t have to pay for it (they’re taking the cost out of my “settlement stipend” aka the money they give you when you go to site to get furniture etc). I won’t have free calling/texting to PCVs yet, but I’ll have a phone! I’m not sure what the deal is on incoming calls, but some of the PCVs told me that it’s free for them to get calls or texts from the US.

Aside from the sessions, I also went to the market today to stock up before another trip out to the sticks. I got 5 meters of cloth (if you can see the photos, the blue is for a shirt or pants and I’m having a Western dress made out of the other one). I still haven’t figured out what I’m wearing for Swearing In… so keep posted. I also bought chips and sunflower seeds (for protein) at the toubab store to smuggle into my room and eat without anyone seeing (EVERYTHING is communal). I’ve gotten pretty good at working my way through the market in Thies and talking with vendors about prices (occasionally arguing them down). I think, once I have my phone, I’ll be totally ready (physically) for my llooonnnnnggg trip to the village. Once I get back, however, I’ll know my site!

Dinner tonight was a wonderful send-off meal: meat and mashed potatoes! I pretty much made myself sick on potatoes, but it’s a good kind of sick! I also ate with a few current volunteers and was able to talk to them about their sites. The idea seems to be that for us SED kids, we’ll be as busy as we want to be (which makes me really happy… the less time spent sitting under a tree not talking, the better). I also talked to them a little bit about night noises. I currently live with a rooster, a car that leaves early, as well as some neighborhood dogs that fight in the night. It seems like for the most part those noises don’t change even when you’re in the city. There are also other additions including, goats, donkey’s, mosque’s, and just about any other city or village noise. The PCVs, though, all said they now sleep through them and I’m hoping that happens for me sooner than later.

While I’m not looking forward to MORE time under the mango tree, I know these next 14 nights bring me 2 weeks closer to Swearing In. Also, after this trip, I have one 10 day trip and two 2 day trips to the village then I, hopefully, never have to go there again. Maybe it’ll be better this time but I’m not a small town girl and so a “village” of about 200 people (mostly living within 10 compounds) isn’t really the best place for me. Hopefully, all will work with the phones and I’ll be able to at least text some of my friends.

Finally, I just want to really quickly thank RW for all of the stuff she sent me before which has come SO much in handy… especially when I lost my soap. Best to all, and I’ll be back in 14 nights (Sept. 9th).

A Bientot,

KO

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wishing For Cell Phones!

Today we had sessions all day, language, medical, shots, tech, and a basic expectations to get sworn in session. I also went out to dinner with some of my friends which was great to get out of the compound and to be able to talk to people about everything they're thinking. We have one more full day here, but then we go back to the village on Wednesday and we're all PRAYING we get cell phone before then. I swear I'll put up pictures tomorrow. But back to the cell phone thing... the main reason I want one is because I'm in a very different place (mentally/emotionally) about training and the Peace Corps than the other 2 kids at my training site, but I think I'm in a relatively similar place with a few of my friends... if I was able to just text them and tell them about what was going on or hear from them, it wouldn't make staring at the ground for hours as bad. Hopefully we'll get phones.... fingers crossed... more tomorrow!
A Bientot!
KO

Sunday, August 23, 2009

More Thoughts On The Homestay (Part 1)

So now that I've had some time to decompress as well as talk to my friends here about all of our experiences (we were all in different towns), I feel like I have a little more to add. Overall, it seems like most of my friends here had the same experience I had which was that at times it was great and at times it was just really hard. We all agree that once we have cellphones (and free texting to over PCT's) it'll be a lot easier. Also, I want to explain a little bit more about my hf (host family). My hf dad is a "farmer" which means he goes to the fields from 9-11 and from about 3-5 for farming millet and corn. He told me that during Seche (the dry season) he'll have a garden in the compound courtyard for growing veggies. His brothers are farmers, a teacher, and a driver (from Thies to their village). The women spend all day: doing laundry, watching the kids, yelling at the kids, cooking (each meal takes 4 hours to prepare), and sweeping/generally cleaning. The kids that are currently there range from 24 years - 5months old. When there aren't tasks to be done, everyone is sitting under the mango tree in chairs or on mats. Originally they all just sat there, but I brought some UNO cards for the family and now they play UNO all day (I'm really good at my numbers, colors, saying "change directions", "you can't play", and "it's your turn" in French now). Sometimes they switch trees when the sun starts to move around and come through.
I have 2 female hfcousins who are 24 and 22 who go to university in Dakar. They're REALLY nice and super patient with me. Also, they've realized that while my French isn't that of a 21 year old, I'm actually a decently intelligent person and can talk about more than the weather. We were able to talk about Senegalese and American politics, climate change, plans for after school, and other just general girl topics. They said they're going to go with me to the tailor to get my clothes made, so I'm really thankful I have them in my hffamily (even though they're leaving for Dakar at the end of September).
There's also a very interesting connection between Senegal and Canada that I'm just starting to figure out. For the first few days, I noticed that everyone in university seemed to want to go to Canada to visit or to maybe live one day and I just couldn't figure out why... until I realized that Canada is like the French speaking America! One of the cousins wants to live there and one of my professors wants to visit.
Overall, I feel like my French is REALLY improving and I'm looking forward to learning a local language. Tomorrow we have a Med session (which means more shots too! I think Hep A and maybe Rabis part 2?) as well as some Tech sessions. Afterwards, I think my friends and I are going out for dinner.
I think that's all for now! A Bientot!

KO

1st Homestay

I’m back to Thies for 3 days! I’ll give a basic rundown of my daily life (at the home stay):

Wake up at 5am to the rooster crowing outside, lay in bed for 2 hours.

Get out of bed and shower above the toilet (which is not so much a toilet and more of a hole in the ground).

3 hours of class (for French which I feel like I speak at a pretty competent level)

Sit in the compound and eat lunch, back to class, back to the compound for dinner and watch TV, then go to bed, and start all over again. I can never sit in my room because it’s rude to not be outside with everyone. For the most part everyone speaks Seerer (the local language) and only speaks French to me. I do free like my French is improving and in 50 more days I’ll be pretty much fluent.

I live in a family compound made of 3 houses. I have a 10ft by 6ft cement room with a door and not much airflow. Class is in the compound next to mine under a mango tree. The first day all of the kids were scared of us but by the second day they LOVED us and followed us everywhere we went. At one point, I saw some girls squat around a tree and all pee. Another day I saw kids chewing on a wire (not hooked up to anything). I also got to go to church (it was a catholic village) which was really awesome. It was probably the coolest thing, the farthest from the Vatican I’ve ever seen. There was a drum and clapping and singing. Everyone was dressed in beautiful clothes, and EVERYONE stared when I went up to get communion (makes sense, I was the only white person in there). Overall things are going well, but I’m sure I’ll have more to update once I start remembering things from the past week.

Best,
KO

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Spelling Doesn't Matter...

I’ve decided the best way to be keeping up with my blog (while I have LOTS of internet) is to update on my own during the day and post each night… but I lose internet access tomorrow so that’ll really only apply today and in 10 days when I’m back in Thies.
10:30am:
So far it’s been an exciting, eventful day! After breakfast this morning I did my laundry along with 3 other SED girls. The Senegalese women helped us but I think they also enjoyed our questions and general incapability. It really isn’t that hard, but it’s kind of hard to keep things clean. You get 2 buckets and some soap, soapy water in one, clean water in the other. Then you dunk your clothes and start scrubbing them against each other. Eventually when you think they’re clean, you put them in the clean water. I wasn’t sure how well I actually cleaned my clothes, but judging by the amount of dirt in the water, I think I did it pretty well. Next, you hang them up to dry and you SERIOUSLY have to let them dry all the way.. Unless you want mango fly larva in your clothes and then in your skin (so the pcv’s have warned us). After that, our first session was on how to learn a language. We learned that most of the local languages don’t have a specific spelling, everything is phonetic… a language where spelling doesn’t matter… this is my kind of place! Then we had the moment of truth… we found out the language we’re learning!……. So… over the next 9 weeks I’ll be learning… FRENCH!

I have mixed feelings about this but overall am happy, the pro-con column breaks down as such:
I’ll go to my site without knowing the local language which will make integration harder and I’ll only be fluently bi-ligual. BUT I know a decent amount of French so I’ll be able to communicate with my homestay family, I’ll be able to communicate with a lot of people (almost everyone speaks some French in addition to the regional dialect), passing the language level at the end shouldn’t be too hard (you have to show basic conversational skills which, minus some vocab, I think I’m almost there), and I’ll be able to speak French fluently for the rest of my life all around the world! Yay! Back to Language Class!

Lunch was AMAZING today, so far my favorite meal. It was some sort of noodle that looks like cut up angel hair along with the typical meat and vegetables.. But this also included raisons in the sauce! Other than I, it’s important to mention that the “mef” aka mefloquine… weekly malaria pills did NOT give me crazy dreams or insomnia (yet) and I actually slept really well last night. Not only is sleeping well just generally a nice thing, but typical morning greeting is “Bonjour! Qu’est-ce que tu a dormi?” “Hi, how did you sleep?” Also, I’ve found that, so far, crystal light raspberry lemonade is REALLY good with the water and seems to have some stomach calming powers! Off to tech classes (in the air conditioning.. Thank goodness because it’s getting to be the hot part of the day).

After afternoon sessions, I went to the market with a few friends. We were looking for cloth to have pagne’s made (a sort of wrap skirt) as well as some tea and sugar as a gift to our homestay families. We were only successful with the sugar and tea because the cloth seller was way too expensive (he was asking for twice the price that it should be). We walked back and talked with one of the Mauritanian volunteers. After dinner I’m going to pack for the next 7 days in my homestay. I won’t have internet until the 23rd, so don’t expect any updates until then.

We’re all pretty excited to get traditional clothes and another volunteer had the idea, and I’m definitely following to get an underskirt… unlike american “slips” it isn’t plain colored, it’s a bright colored, flashy (sequined or fring-y) that you show when you’re dancing (by holding up your pagne). Quite sexy… I know.

Time to get back to packing! Off to my homestay tomorrow, back on the internet in a week!

Best,
KO

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tobab! Tobab!

Today was another day with 2 classes in the morning and afternoon each. Our morning sessions were an intro to the SED program followed by an intro to the homestay program. Lunch followed with a long session on security in Thies and then a walking tour of the area we’re not supposed to go into. After that we had a quick session on bikes (luckily my dad taught me how to change a tire before so I wasn’t totally lost!). Then we got to actually leave the compound!!! For the first time in 3 days we were let out and led by a current volunteer. My group stopped in “Bon Marche” the western grocery store and bought some food. A few of us decided to go back tomorrow during one of our breaks to go out for lunch and get some fabric to get clothes made. We all agreed, we feel so under dressed here. Everyone is dressed up in completely matching outfits and, in comparison, we all look kind of messy. While we were walking through the market (more photos to come later) in a group of about 6, I got called a “tobab” for the first time. It basically means “stranger” but typically means “white person” and little kids just yell it when they see you. It doesn’t really bother me much yet, but from what other volunteers are saying, it starts to get annoying REALLY fast. I’m really trying just to ignore everything going on around me and everyone calling out to me. Once I get to my site that might be more hard as you’re expected to greet EVERYEONE you know, every time you see them (“hello how are you, how’s your family… etc”).

I think I’m going to start my weekly malaria pills tonight (be on the lookout for posts about crazy dreams as that’s one of the side effects). Other than that, I’m pretty tired from not getting the best sleep last night (it was HOT). Hopefully tonight will be cooler because it rained during the day and dropped to a really pleasant temperature. We also all stayed up last night putting on a little talent show (mostly a kid tap danced and another kid played his guitar).

K, the drums being hit for dinner!
KO


PS, I forgot to mention it but we're having 3 Mauritania volunteers join us. 2 came today and 1's coming tomorrow.

Friday, August 14, 2009

<3 Wireless Internet

Sorry for the multitude of posts but we have a far amount of spare time each day and I keep forgetting to say things so I'm trying to play catch-up. Today we had a "cross-cultural fair" where we went around to different stations and learned about a number of things from pulling well water to how to drink tea properly. Because today was a cultural-themed day, I'll got through a little bit of what I've experienced so far.
Food:
Breakfast starts each morning with about half a loaf of bread a person and a variety of spreads (chocolate, peanut butter, jame, butter) as well as instant coffee or tea.
Lunch is rice cooked in a palm oil sauce or a spicier sauce with some veggies and then a meat (yesterday was goat, today was fish). We each lunch by sitting on a mat with a big bowl in the center (about 5 people a bowl). You don't drink with lunch but you drink water after you're done. Traditionally, you don't talk while you eat and when you're done you stand up and leave.
Dinner, I'm not so sure about... yesterday was chicken and potatoes, but they told us that it's usually very similar to lunch.
The bleached water doesn't taste that bad and I'm saving my crystal light packets. Oh, we eat with spoons for lunch (which is typical in most of the country) but we were taught how to make rice balls in case our site doesn't eat with spoons.
Today's cultural lessons also included tasting juices as well as tea. The best juice was made with a hybiscus flower that you boil or let sit in cool water overnight then strain the flower head and add sugar to the mix. It was REALLY good. The other good juice was made from the type of fruit that grows on those huge trees that Rafiki (sp?) from Lion King lived in. That one is also sweet and is kind of milky. They supposedly freeze it to make kind of an ice cream which I imagine would be amazing. We also tasted traditional tea which was SO GOOD. It's kind of like the tea version of espresso if you were to sweeten it times a million. They told us the tea is served 3 times to mimick life. The first time it is more bitter (such is life with strangers and people you don't know) then the second is slightly sweeter (mimicking the relationship with friends) and finally, the last version, is very sweet (to resemble family).
Finally, we got to learn how to tie a pagne (kind of a wrap skirt for women) as well as saw different types of clothing. Even though all of my clothes go below the knee, I still think I'll be slightly inappropriately dressed and was talking with some of the other girls about getting outfits made very soon. I also need to get my fancy outfit made for swearing in (Oct. 16th pending I pass my tests).
Everything I've learned about Senegalese culture I love and I'm so happy that I was placed here. Like I said earlier, everyone is so nice and welcoming (it's considered rude if you don't greet someone, even if they're involved in a conversation you're supposed to interrupt). I can't wait to continue to learn and experience even more.

A bientot,
KO

Always keep your smile!

Senegal prides itself on its hospitality and, so far, I have found the Senegalese to be all wonderful people. Everyone at the training center is so nice and the staff really seems to be here to support us all in our service. We had an intro this morning and are now moving on to our first culture session. After that we'll have lunch then more culture and language, I think. I'm not sure what language I'll be learning but hopefully I'll pick it up fast (we go to live in homestays Monday afternoon). The next 9 weeks are pretty much split between the training center and our homestay so we pick up the culture and language. I started my anti-malaria pills yesterday... I'll be on the weekly ones for the next 2 years (every Sunday!) and the daily ones for the next 2 weeks just to build up my resistance. Shots start today with Hep A, Typhoid, Rabis, and probably other things.
So before I left my mom and I were talking about "just in time" and "just in case" people... allof PC training is focused on "just in time" which I'm pretty excited about because it seems to be a good way. Okay! training's about to start! Time for more water too.
It's hot and humid but the breeze is nice.

Best,
KO

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pictures!


Here's everyone sitting in the "disco hut" on our computers because it's one of the only places we get really good internet.Here's the outside of where I'm living with 3 other girls. There are some showers and bathrooms at the end.
Front door of my room (sorry it's the wrong way).
Standing around waiting for lunch!

Here are some pictures so far! Also, what I left off, was what one of the PCV's said which is everything that's green will die and be brown and dusty by May.

We're Here!

We've arrived at the training center! After a short delay at Dullas and an 8 hour flight (I was able to sleep most of the way), we landed in Dakar just as the sun rose. After nervously going through customs (no reason to be nervous just the whole adventure of it all) we collected our bags. My first bag (the bigger one) came right away... after a while of waiting and starting to think that it wasn't going to come... my 2nd bag came and I was able to leave the airport. As the parade of people with luggage carts started leaving, people kept coming up to us and trying to take our luggage carts in exchange for money. Once we all got settled on the bus we started the trek through Dakar (and lots of rush hour traffic) to Thies. In Thies we were introduced to the training staff and shown our rooms (4 beds in each room, girls in one long set of rooms, guys in another across the way).
If you've ever romanticized about sleeping under a mosquito net, then this is the pace for you. I'm currently sitting on my bed under my net with beautiful printed sheets on the bed. Breakfast was a piece of bread and some instant coffee. We were given a nap time (right now) and later are meeting for lunch and, I'm guessing, the start of training.
I'm really excited about everything going on, all of the volunteers who met us seem to really love being here. So far I've heard that basil is a really good thing to grow because it grows well and adds flavor. There are 2 kids in my group that are looking to get goats (they're both SED- pronounced “said”- so we'll see how well that goes). I saw a few stray dogs in Dakar... who knows... maybe I'll come home with a new friend for Nikki and Sacchi!!
Best!
We've arrived at the training center! After a short delay at Dullas and an 8 hour flight (I was able to sleep most of the way), we landed in Dakar just as the sun rose. After nervously going through customs (no reason to be nervous just the whole adventure of it all) we collected our bags. My first bag (the bigger one) came right away... after a while of waiting and starting to think that it wasn't going to come... my 2nd bag came and I was able to leave the airport. As the parade of people with luggage carts started leaving, people kept coming up to us and trying to take our luggage carts in exchange for money. Once we all got settled on the bus we started the trek through Dakar (and lots of rush hour traffic) to Thies. In Thies we were introduced to the training staff and shown our rooms (4 beds in each room, girls in one long set of rooms, guys in another across the way).
If you've ever romanticized about sleeping under a mosquito net, then this is the pace for you. I'm currently sitting on my bed under my net with beautiful printed sheets on the bed. Breakfast was a piece of bread and some instant coffee. We were given a nap time (right now) and later are meeting for lunch and, I'm guessing, the start of training.
I'm really excited about everything going on, all of the volunteers who met us seem to really love being here. So far I've heard that basil is a really good thing to grow because it grows well and adds flavor. There are 2 kids in my group that are looking to get goats (they're both SED- pronounced “said”- so we'll see how well that goes). I saw a few stray dogs in Dakar... who knows... maybe I'll come home with a new friend for Nikki and Sacchi!!
Best!
KO

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Staging

I made it to staging! We're all here and finished our first day. This note will be quick but today we got here, did about 4 hours of policies and getting to know each other and that sort of thing. Then a few of us went to dinner and now we're all back (exhausted). JN is coming to stop by, she's finishing her internship in DC and is able to make it to the hotel just to say hi. That makes her my official, last good bye! After that, I'm heading to bed so I can get up at 7am to get a shot then off to the airport then off to Senegal!

Well, next time I'll be blogging it'll be from Senegal!

KO

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

80 Pounds?

Here I stand on the metaphorical precipice about to jump off into my new life as a Peace Corps Trainee (the whole “Peace Corps Volunteer” part doesn’t come for 3 more months). Coming along for the ride is a total of 85 pounds of luggage, mostly consisting of toiletries and fun things to make bad days better. Though the Peace Corps says we’re only allowed to bring 80 pounds in total (100 pounds for our friends going to cold climates) but I’m bringing 85 (rebellious, I know). I’m bringing a backpack (15 pounds, that I don’t think they’ll measure), a duffle with only shoulder and hand straps (25 pounds), and a rolling duffle (45 pounds). Together with my (peaceful) army, I’m boarding a plane to DC then off to Senegal 1 day later.

I’m really nothing but excited for what’s to come. I’m sure I’ll start to get nervous as I get closer to the hotel about to meet everyone but I know that the next two years has plenty for me to be nervous about so I’m choosing to take in the pure excitement of it all. When Kennedy was establishing the Peace Corps he stated its purpose as: “to promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower” and I can’t wait to do what I can to fulfill that mission. I haven’t done much blogging about the organization itself, but I’ll say quickly, to me, the name implies everything. Tomorrow, I will be joining a large group of people whose job is to go into the world and peacefully exchange ideas. Well, that’s enough philosophizing; I’ll get on with the real meat and bones of this post.

So what do you pack in 85 pounds to hold yourself over for the next 2 years, you ask? I really couldn’t tell you exactly but I’ll try to remember everything:

Clothes:

5 skirts

3 pairs of pants

2 dresses

4 t-shirts

3 tank tops

3 dressier tops

2 long sleeve shirts

1 northface fleece

1 pair of bike shorts, 1 pair of bike gloves

2 pairs of socks (it’s really hot there… I’ll probably never use these)

3 pairs of shoes (1 nice pair of sandals, 1 pair of Teva casual sandals, 1 pair of Teva covered sandals)

2 pairs of pj pants

About a million pairs of underwear and bras

1 rain jacket

Electronics:

1 Netbook (8 hours of battery life thanks Dad for setting it all up)

1 HUGE external harddrive full of movies and tv shows (thanks to everyone who helped)

1 Computer case

1 Computer lock

2 USB Flashdrives

1 Digital Camera

2 Camera Batteries

3 Camera Cards (total slightly over 4 gb’s)

1 Camera Charger

1 IPod

3 sets of earbuds

1 microphone headset (not for computer games… for calling home!)

1 Ipod charger

A Barbie lunchbox that holds all of my electronics

Toiletries (This isn’t as exact because there are a LOT):

52 razors

11 toothbrushes

2 tubes of tooth paste

About 8 sticks of chapstick

5 sticks of deodorant

2 bottles of shampoo

1 bottle of conditioner

Some lotion

Some soap

Some anti-bug bite itch stuff

Some anti-stress spray

Floss

Flintstones Vitamins

Face Wash

3 pairs of glasses

Contacts and Solution (for when I travel)

Probably other things I forgot to mention

Other:

3 albums of pictures of friends and family

3 Notebooks

2 Journals (1 I’m using now and an empty one)

PENS (about 36 of them)

Envelopes

Earplugs

2 alarm clocks

2 head lamps

1 watch

1 pack of sharpies

Some pencils

Scissors

A power converter (everything I have has a transformer)

2 camping towels

1 wash cloth

1 small stuffed sheep from Ireland (thanks parents)

1 small stuffed pug (be on the look-out of photos!)

2 sets of Uno Cards

1 set of regular cards

1 set of Old Maid cards

Batteries!!!! (lots!)

1 nice pillow

2 pillow cases

1 blanket (I hear 70 starts to feel cold after your first year... no joke!)

1 queen sized sheet (I’m small so I figure I’ll wrap myself up like a burrito)

1 spatula

1 can opener

1 knife

Tabasco Sauce

Greek Seasoning

4 Clif Bars

Pilates Cards (lots of time to kill from what I hear)

English to French Dictionary

A ton of Crystal Light and Starbucks Coffee Drink

2 nalgene bottles

Host Family Gifts (key chains of Chicago, photos of Chicago, earings, stickers, ribbon)

Volunteer Gifts (for the volunteer who’s site I visit and for the volunteer who answered all of my questions) Oreos (regular and double stuffed)

I think this is, for the most part, everything I brought. I don’t think I’m forgetting anything major from this list and I hope I didn’t forget anything major from my packing! Everything listed above should make for 2 years of my life… or at least should last me long enough for people to visit or ship me things (probably toiletries if you’re thinking ahead…). With the things on this list as well as a good attitude and (hopefully) a (surprising) knowledge of French, I’m off to join the Peace Corps and do what I can to “help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.”

Best of luck to everyone over the next two years! I’ll update as regularly as I can and please update me whenever you get a chance through email or letter. Talk to you sooner than later! A Bientôt!

KO

Friday, August 7, 2009

What's Happening Next?

As I continue the packing, I’m learning more about what is going to be happening over the next few months. I thought I would explain (as well as I can at this point) what I think will be going on. Just remember this isn’t exactly what’s going to happen and I can’t really know what that is until I’m there but this is the best as far as I know:

August 11th: Fly to Washington DC and begin an intro that involves policies and our expectations as well as some get-to-know-you types of things.

August 12th: Wake up and get shots! Then get on the plan to Dakar!

August 13th: Picked up in Dakar and drive to Thies. Once we’re at the training center we have our French test, if we pass intermediate level then we start learning our local language. If we don’t pass then we do about 3 weeks of French and try again.

About 4 days later: We move from the training center to a host family with whom we live for the rest of training. The majority of our PST (pre-service training) is focused on language and culture so all of this takes place within the smaller community that our host family lives in (along with a few other pct’s (peace corps trainee) host families).

At some point during training: We go visit an SED site.

Mid-October: If we meet all of the qualifications for being sworn in, we’re sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers and we move out to our site!

About two months later: We return to the training center for a 2 week training session, this time mostly focusing on our specific area (for me small enterprise development).

Sorry this isn’t all that descriptive and might actually be completely wrong, but this might help a little. Back to Rosetta Stone for me!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

T-Minus One Week

With one week to go before I head to DC then off to Senegal, I’m getting my final preparations together. The “farewell tour” ended yesterday when my dad and I got back from L.A. It was really great to see family and, overall, it’s been a great month.

This last week is full lists, packing, reading, and some final mental preparation. I have a master packing list that I’ve been working off of to make sure that I get everything I need before I head out(I’ll post it online once I’ve gotten to the final copy). My mom read a PCV’s blog where she said that she had brought more to her country than her entire host family had. After hearing that, I’ve sort of used that to influence my packing philosophy. I figure I can get things like clothes in Senegal (and I’ve heard I’ll want to get clothes there) and I should fill my bags with things that will make my bad days a little better, things like Flintstone’s Vitamins. The main office sent me a ton of reading material and I have to re-read my invitation packet to make sure I have everything I need to bring with me.

Finally, this entire process inspires a lot of unplanned reflection. So far, it’s pretty much all along the same train of thought: wow. I’m moving to Africa in a week. It really isn’t much of a breakthrough but I’m going! Each time I read more about the training process I’m getting a little more excited and nervous. I learned that there are 51 of us going together in a week!

I have to go so I can get back to sorting my purchases (and watching Shark Week).

A bientôt!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

the farewell tour...

Sorry for another brief update but a lot has been going on and more yet to come! After taking the GRE, A came to Chicago for a week before we went to Ireland with the rest of the family. The Ireland trip was a great time with my family. After Ireland, A and I drove to Missouri to visit his parents. On the way, however, we stopped by Iowa City to see an old roommate. It was great because I hadn’t seen her in a semester because she was studying abroad. That continued the “KO Farewell Tour” as I’ve come to think of it (we might even get shirts… just kidding) through the Midwest from Chicago to Iowa City to Macon, Missouri. Long story short, the time in Macon was really fun. It was great to see A’s home and everything around it. His parents were so welcoming and we had a great time around Missouri.

After 5 days of drive-ins, dinners, golfing, and visiting, A and I headed back to Chicago so I could drop him off at the airport (for his flight back to NY) and continue on home. It was a great ride and we were able to spend time together before parting for about 8 months. After this goodbye, the reality of the entire upcoming adventure really hit. I’m so excited for everything coming, but I can feel an increasing intensity of everything. A’s hoping to visit April at the latest and I’m sure it’ll be great (travel plans are going to be made once he knows what his “busy season” is). The “farewell tour” has 2 more big stops, tomorrow in Wheaton and Sunday-Monday in L.A. After seeing more friends, I’ll be going to visit my Grandma and some family in California. More to come, I’m sure.

One final note, the Mauritania PCVs were sent to Senegal while some things are being worked out in Mauritania and I’ve only heard positive things about the training house in Thiès. I can’t wait to be in Senegal and I think wonderful things will be coming soon!

Now, something completely unrelated: https://www.snuggiefordogs.com/