Monday, June 24, 2013

One Year Down, One Year To Go!

About a year ago I left the life that I had built for myself in Minneapolis and moved to Senegal to join the Peace Corps, before making a quick stop to my second home in Hawaii to visit friends and family. The anniversary of my presence here has made me reflect on how amazing my life was before I left it, how great my life is here now, even though I am living in less than dreamy conditions, and how after this experience the world is in my hands and I will have endless opportunities, whether they are career related or not is a whole different story.
Honesty is the best policy they always say, whomever “they” are, and if we are being honest I should probably start off with why I am in Senegal. I joined the Peace Corps, come to find out like many other people, as a result of running away from something. I am sure it is a combination of a few things like a shitty economy, taking a break from student loans, unhealthy relationships and America in general and if you have the passion to help people, like to live abroad and have the means to for a couple of years the Peace Corps is for you. I am not saying that it is easy; it definitely is anything but easy.
This past year I have cried to language tutors because the difficulties of learning a language that is so different from any other studied, been thrown into a family and culture that I knew almost nothing about, had countless conversations with people where I had no idea what they said or who they were. I have missed weddings, birthdays, funerals, births and who knows what else as a result of this passion, this piece of me that feels unsettled in a place if I get too settled. I delete the Career Builder emails showcasing the latest jobs that I am so called qualified for while missing, or putting off rather, the chance to get that next great promotion with the company that I started off as an intern. With all the bad comes the good and though Senegal makes it really hard to love sometimes, there have been good times; I have watched my host brother grow up from an infant to an actual little person with opinions, I have watched volunteers COS (close of service – after you finish your two years) and have shared what knowledge I do have with those who are just arriving, I have seen the look on peoples faces when I express my interest and support for their projects and felt their genuine appreciation, I have shared both the joys and miseries of public transportation with locals and volunteers all of whom agree that it is anything but relaxing, I have taught my little sister important English phrases such as “I like school” and “I eat rice” (well, it was the first thing I could think of), I have celebrated at weddings at baptisms as a member of the neighborhood, I have relaxed and drank wine on beaches with friends when I just had to get out of site and shared food with ten other people at one little bowl all the while never feeling more like a part of the family than that very moment.
My little host brother, Ablaye, trying to see what I was up to in my room.
Not only are we reflecting on our personal lives and experiences in the past year but we are also looking back and evaluating our level of productivity as a volunteer. One thing that is difficult for some people, and I can concede to this, is how to manage not being micro-managed and responsible for not only the success of your projects but creating them in the first place. Though I have not been as productive as I wanted to the first year, things are just naturally slower here and I need to recognize that, I have another year to make the difference that I came here intending to make.
While on the topic of work and being more productive I have an announcement my fellow readers – my World Connect grant got approved!!!! So exciting I know! Which one you may ask? It is the project where I will be working with youth groups in the Department of Velingara (almost like a county) to hold training sessions for representative of the youth groups who will then re-teach the information in the subjects of business, health, agriculture and waste management. I have a meeting this morning with my work partner in the project to start setting dates, training curriculum and desired professionals to help with the sessions. Work is on the up and up and this is just the beginning of a great second year. Watch out Senegal, big things are happening in Velingara!

Name that artist:

…we’d like to help you learn to help yourself
look around you all you see are sympathetic eyes
stroll around the grounds until you feel at home…

Good luck and talk to you next time. xoxo


Carol blodgett said...

I love reading your blogs my love. You write so well. Keep up the good work and I will see you in September

Kari Cinker said...

Love the post and the pic!!! See you sooooooooooon!!!! :)


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