Thursday, July 12, 2012

Site Announcements!

This is it, this is what we have all been waiting for, site announcements! I must say, I did not imagine this day being as big of a deal as it actually is. I guess I didn’t really put much thought into it but I am pleasantly surprised how much effort goes into making the moment of this day special - your LCF leading you blindly across a basketball court, painted to include a map of Senegal.

Here you are to be dropped off hovering over the city where you will be spending the next two years in, awaiting for everyone to count to three, which they drag on for about what feels like 10 minutes. Once you take off the blindfold you instantly try to piece together where you are located in comparison to the capital and your closest friends in the stage. I would like to consider myself pretty down to earth and go with the flow, but this had me freaking out! I am not sure if it was the uncertainty of not knowing the project that my life will soon be devoted to or the reality that I am actually signing up to move to a city that I know nothing about and am unsure if, for a lack of a better phrase, if I will like it. When you are living in the states and you consider yourself a world traveler, like I once did, you like to think that you are ready to go wherever the next trip is willing to take you. Be it near or far, you were up for the challenge. But once that challenge presents itself to you, staring at you directly in the face, with realities such as drop hole toilets, pollution, malnutrition, and a lack of WI-FI (I know, the latter of these is not in comparison with the others but it is still a concern of mine) shit becomes real. I know this is the Africa that I signed up for, and please believe that I am not complaining because I understand just how big this actually is, and I am ready to test just how strong I actually am. Back to the point, I will be in a town known as Velingara which is in the Kolda region in the southern part of Senegal. More information to come after I have my visit this next week at my actual site.

We only have about 10 more days with our host families. As this time is ending it is almost bitter sweet. The first day that we were sent off to live with these strangers, many of us about in tears, we were told that in fact one day we will miss these families and become excited as time nears to return from the training center to be able to see them. As much as I like my family, and I really do, I can honestly say that I am not really excited to go back yet. I love having my English time with the 18 other people in my stage. Getting to know this diverse group that I am training with was easy. I must say we come from many different backgrounds from all over the US (including off mainland islands such as Hawaii, St. Croix in The Virgin Islands and Haiti) and this past month I have become so comfortable and familiar with most of them that I feel like I have known them my whole life. As time nears leaving the comforts of our training center I feel as though I should take advantage as much as possible of how easily accessible these fine folk actually are.

There are a few things that I made a note of while I was in Sangalkam this week that I wanted to be sure to mention. They are not worthy of a whole blog post but little things that I feel as though I forget to mention but is crucial in how I live my life these days.
·         The Senegalese lock every door! My host mom will not leave her room without her key and is sure to inform me when I “forget” to lock my room. It is not a matter of security I don’t think but if you loose something then it is viewed as shameful and looks bad on the family.
·         Soap is a luxury here, which is gross to say the least. Simple tasks such as food preparation or post toilet duties do not involve soap and its something that is REALLY hard to get used to and result in a lost of host families receiving soap, included with how-to lessons, as presents from volunteers.
·         Everything is either fried or washed in cooking oil. Period.
·         Meals are usually later starting with lunch around 3pm and dinner around 9:30 – unless you make it very clear that you are tired by 8pm resulting in having dinner at 9pm.
·         If it rains, the power will go out, most likely. This does not pose much of a threat unless you are in an area like I will be that has a six month rainy season. Hello headlamp.

Finally one last thing that I wanted to talk about, and the main reason why I am in Senegal, my project – drum roll please……… Waste Management! Now I know this sounds like a glorified garbage man type position but let me tell you this, it is pretty legit work! When we were all still fresh faces here on the grounds of the Training Center we were asked which niches we wanted to work in – Waste Management, Artisanal Goods, Ecco Tourism & Agri Business. My initial instinct was Artisanal Goods, being able to help women sell their fair trade items locally, nationally and potentially internationally sounded fun, but then reality set in. To be quite frank I am not the most creative person I know, its just not in my blood and so the thought of trying to be crafty on a professional level started to become mentally draining. After a quick session on each of the different niches Waste Management began to lure me in. I am not sure if have been a well-trained soldier in the sense of not littering or if it was merely the fact that littering in the US is simply not tolerable. I wanted to now make this my project to clean up Senegal and make it beautiful so that a) people actually want to vacation here and b) we can turn a profit on all this trash that is lying around. Creating or improving a waste management sector in a community not only creates jobs and removes waste but that trash can also be turned into merchandise to sell, in turn creating income for families. This is something that I knew I could be passionate about and hope that while I am here I am able to not only make a difference in the physical beauty of Senegal but change the though process of the people to understand the value of waste management.

Thanks again for visiting, until next time. 



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