Monday, January 20, 2014

Living The Dream: Job Searching and Cheese Plates!

As I am sitting here trying to write, and honestly picking peanuts out of my teeth since it is the only crop that you can pretty much rely on year around and, it is not rice, I can’t help but think about all the things that I make note to write about, which I can never remember when it actually comes time to write, versus the things that end up flowing from my fingertips more naturally onto this aged MacBook. 
We are COSing (close of service) the first week of May we were told, not sure on an exact date yet, and we all find ourselves reflecting on these past two years, what we are going to be doing after COS and how exactly to blend the two lives together. We are constantly being told how great the work that we are doing is and we are constantly scrutinized for being spies or foreigners who come in and don’t really do much. Whichever side you fall on as a volunteer you can’t help but feel just as lost about life towards the end of your service as you were pre service which is ironic because being lost is the reason most of us pack up and leave America in the first place.
Before I get too far ahead let me clarify a few things first. Usually, groups from a specific sector, be it Agriculture, Health or Community Economic Development (CED) in Senegal’s case, come the same time ever year creating an easy transition for communities with a volunteer leaving and another one arriving a month later creating a two-year cycle. The Community Economic Development sector, which is where my work lies in, has been separated into two groups now arriving twice a year in Senegal once with the Agriculture sector and again with the Health sector. We are the smallest sector within Senegal so it was decided that, since a lot of money goes into trainings, it would be better and easier for everyone if we were mixed in with the other sectors. That being said the CED group that is coming to replace us is now coming in March for training, instead of June. Long story short, we get to leave early. Now I don’t want to sound extreme on either end. There are people in my group that are excited that we get to leave two months earlier and there are those that signed up for two full years and plan on staying here until that time is up. I would say I fall somewhere in the middle. Honestly, I couldn’t be more excited to see friends and family that I haven’t seen in nearly two years. On the other hand I like being abroad, I always have and I probably always will. I am not saying that Senegal is a destination hot spot, I think my mom can attest to that, but it still fills something that I find missing when I find myself in a routine for too long. So I am not sure when we will be leaving but we have our COS conference, a conference every PC Volunteer goes through before COSing to help us transition into life after service (job searching, resume writing, final administrative responsibilities for PC), the first part of February and will hopefully have a better sense of everything afterward.
Sitemate Rachel and I at a local soccer match 
So where does this leave all of us now that are getting ready to do whatever is next? We find ourselves passing on our knowledge to the new volunteers that arrive in country, be it about where to find the best and possibly only cheese plate in the country or where to find cheap beers when you are at your regional house, we obsessively look at and change our resumes, we job search and hope that we get one that will actually let us start when we are able to start, we plan, change, and re-plan COS trips to some exotic far away land before we get tied to a desk in America, we start giving everything away including things that are meant for the trash but you know the kids at your house are just going to dig it out and play with it for an hour before they leave it on the ground and we, with a smile on our face, slowly let people down when we can’t commit to a new project idea because we are leaving but someone soon will replace us and we are sure they would love to help!
Two years may seem like a long time, and some days it is longer than you will ever know, but it seems that right when you get fully comfortable with where you live, with the transportation, food and cultural norms, you have to start packing and saying goodbye. It is true. Development work is hard. Living abroad with a host family and without a salary while you do it is even harder. People say that if we really wanted to make a change that volunteers should commit more time and while I agree with that to a point I am glad that I will not be one of those volunteers. I have loved my time here in Senegal but I also love my life back home. This is nowhere near a goodbye from me, I still have another three months, but that will come and go just as fast as this past year and a half.


Mom555 said...

I love reading your blogs!! I can only imagine the turmoil you are going through. Although it will be bitter sweet for you to leave, I look forward to seeing you again and hearing more about your adventure abroad!! Love you and miss you!! Happy Valentines Day!

Mom555 said...

Mom555 is Cherie by the way.


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