Saturday, July 21, 2012

Volunteer Visits

So I am sitting in the wonderfully airconditioned computer room here at the training center and I am trying to think of things that I wanted to mention in this post about my four days or so with Pamela, the volunteer that I am replacing (my ancienne in PC lingo). This brainstorming session is only resulting in me wanting to take the road trip back down south to Vélingara and start my project!

It is not that I don't like Sangalkam but its a small village and, for lack of a better phrase, I get bored. There is only so much studying one can do before you want to go out and do something and since my language skills are still pretty low there is only so much communicating I can do with family and neighbors before I revert to sitting and listening to conversation in a foreign language. We are going to be at our CBT (community based training) sites for seven nights this time around, the longest period thus far, and I am looking forward to returning back to site. I look at it as the sooner I get done with this week the sooner training will start to wind down and the sooner I can go to my permanent site.

My ancienne Pam!!
My time with Pam in Vélingara was great! I was able to learn the logistics of transportation to and from Vélingara, tour and get to know the streets and important places well enough to survive, and meet other volunteers in my region and even in the same town - yup I said it, there will be REAL AMERICANS in my town, which will come in real handy when I just need some time to turn by brain off and relax! Along with getting to know important places in my town, such as where the boulangerie (bakery) and hotel with WIFI was, I also was introduced to some of the key partners in town that I would be able to work with if I wanted to. Though there is already a PC volunteer working with this organization specifically, there is a large presence with the organization World Vision.

With my visit I was able to bombard Pam with questions regarding the project that she has started and I will see through with my service. There is a lot of work that has to be done with the project but to Pams credit a lot has been done for me. The project, in a nut shell, is a service to residents of Vélingara to have their trash and plastics picked up multiple times a week to be disposed of in a controlled area where sorting will eventually take place. From here it opens the doors to providing trash bins in public areas to reduce trash in populated areas. She has already outlined a project plan, funding, and started providing the service in one of the areas of town and its up to me to continue the project and expand it into a successful association. Right now the trash is being picked up by one person via donkey and cart with hopes in the future to be able to provide the service to the whole community with multiple drivers and perhaps a vehicle or two to dispose the trash.

With the project being more clear it is important that I focus on language the first couple of months that I am physically at site. Without French language skills, and eventually Pula Futa, I will not be able to work with community members to build the project. With that being said I am still working on finding a host family that I will live with during my service. I would have been more than welcome to stay at the residence that Pam is currently staying at but it just wasn't right for me. There have already been two previous volunteers at this site and so I feel I would loose the sparkle of a new American and be more of a drain on the family. It is always good to switch families every once in while to ensure that you are not imposing and they actually are excited to have a foreigner live amongst them for two more years. Along with wanting to not totally drain the hospitality out of this family there is also some tension within the family that I would prefer to not even get involved in. There are two different households that I would "belong" to with two different head of the households and already it was clear that each family thought of me as their American. I was named, and renamed, and talked to about who I should pay for each bill because the families don't and can't share money. There are just too many factors right now going into this new site that I would like to avoid, if possible, and now would be the time to change. So with that being said I should know in the next week or so if another family was found for me and who they would be. The PC staff is working with the my ancienne Pam, my supervisor, and work partner to look for a new family.

Well as for now I should be getting in the van to go back to my training site. This week I need to make sure to get an outfit made for our Swear In ceremony at the American Ambassador's house. I bought fabric here in Thies  and plan on having the wonderful boys that work at the family tailoring business make me something real fancy, so stay tuned for a picture with my new Senegalese outfit! Until next time, take care and PLEASE leave any and all comments. Its nice being able to read outside perspective on my little world.


Rebe said...

I stumbled across your blog a while back and have been following your adventure from Madrid.

I just spent two weeks in Germany, where I only knew about 5 German words. Luckily most Germans speak some English, so I can hardly imagine what it would be like to learn and be immersed in a language completely new to oneself. But as you know from studying in France (and what I've learned from my years in Spain), it's great that you'll be immersed; the less English you read/think/speak, the faster you'll learn. Keep it up!

Looking forward to reading about the beginning of your volunteer project.


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