Sunday, February 22, 2009

The End is Near

After nearly two years of living in Senegal, my stagaires and I are preparing our trip back to civilization. After WAIST we all attended our three day Close of Service conference where we talk about the logistics of reentering American life such as job-hunting, grad school applications, health insurance, and mental readjustment. We were bombarded with numerous forms and reports that we are responsible for finishing before we are allowed to leave, as well as many medical examinations and tests (including urine, blood, TB, and the three compulsory stool samples.) Its really not as fun as it sounds.

While everyone is talking about where to go to school and where to live and what to do, I'm secretly worried about the many behaviors that we as volunteers have picked up in Senegal that may not be...well...considered acceptable to most mentally equipped Americans. As the time draws closer I've begun making a checklist of things to keep in mind as I prepare for my triumphant return.

Once in a America DO NOT:

Pick your nose in public.
Threaten to steal children.
Talk about people (their appearance, behavior, odor, etc.) right in front of them. (They probably speak English too...)
Climb to the roof to go to bed at night.
Comment on the state of every bathroom you see.
Hiss, click, or snap at people to get their attention.
Treat children like personal servants. ("Hey, you, go buy me a soda.")
Walk into a grocery store and ask them to lower the price on tomatoes.
Ask a clerk how their family is before conducting business.
Completely ignore the male population.
Blow snot rockets.
Sleep under a mosquito net. (I'm pretty sure you can't get Malaria in the US...)
Slip a police officer $2 dollars when pulled over for speeding.
Show up 2 and half hours late for meetings.
Get into a car that's lacking all windows, upholstery, has wires holding the doors shut and goats tied to the roof.
Marry a man that already has a wife.
Deny fault for everything and blame the desires of Allah.
Eat off of someone else's plate.
Tell parents that their child is ugly.


America has an intricate set of traffic laws that are enforced.
Toilet paper is plentiful and its use is expected.
Bathing requires nothing more than turning a knob, not filling up cups of water and pouring them on yourself.
Utensils are usually used at meal times.
Its customary to smile in pictures.
If you chase disrespectful children around threatening to beat them with a stick, their parents might be a little upset.

Friday, February 20, 2009

WAIST 2009


This year's WAIST in no way failed to meet my expectations of a fun and fabulous time. Our softball team was made up of around 30 volunteers working in the northern (FuutaWalo) region of Senegal and what we may have lacked in athletic ability we made up for in style! Our team's theme this year was the rockin' 80's. We donned knee socks, short shorts, sweat bands and danced the pony continuously to Cindi Lauper and Michael Jackson as we proceeded to lose every single game...horribly. (The mercy rule had to be invoked twice--this is where the game is called if one team has scored 15 runs to none.) To keep the teams spirits up (and to intimidate the other teams...grrr) we performed the dance to "Thriller" between innings.

Off the field another competition was taking place: who could eat the most hotdogs in one afternoon? Bernard or yours truly? The hot dog sellers knew us by name and started serving up the mystery meat before we even got to the table. At 3:28pm we were tied at 8 hot dogs each. Sunburned, bloated, and both visibly uncomfortable we shook hands and called a draw, wanting to go our seperate ways and nurse our abused bodies.

Throughout the weekend lots of parties took place and lots of alchohol was consumed but I remain happy, healthy, and uninjured. I'd like to thank the academy, my awesome teammates, and all the hot dog vendors that made this weekend possible!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Theres just no place like home...

As Fouta natives struggle to breathe in the last cool winds of the "cold season" my village dwelling days grow numbered. The Humanitarian Assistance Program (a branch of the military run through the U.S. Embassy) recently visited my village, at my request, and has donated about the equivalent of 1,000 dollars to perform structural repairs on the village health hut. (If you take a look at my picasa web site you can see pictures of the dilapidating building, most noticibly the ceiling falling down in one spot.) The villagers are extremely grateful and have already begun work. Things in this country always seem to take forever so imagine my surprise when I show up to the health hut just two days after receiving the money and find all the materials bought and men hard at work. The building now has running water and usable toilets, which is very exciting and quite necessary for any health structure, I would think.

Lately I've been spending the remainder of my days fielding village inquiries as to what stuff of mine they can have when I leave (I feel so loved) and hanging out with my friend Bilo while she works at the boutique and snags me free peanuts and kool-aid. Sometimes I think I'm really going to miss the simplicity and tranquility of this place -- the sounds of children playing and cows fighting, but then I go on a bike ride and while passing a donkey cart filled with children and fire wood, I get pegged in the back the head by a stick and turn around only to see the little shitheads smiling and waving. In those instances I think "Nah...I can get along just fine without this."

It is also pertinent to mention that February is here and that means only ONE thing to Peace Corps volunteers... WAIST! Yes boys and girls, its time once again for the West African Intramural Softball Tournament! So put your mitts on one hand, a hot dog in the other, wedge a beer under each arm and lets PLAY BALL! (Ahh WAIST, the one chance for us to feel truly American as we drink during the day guilt-free under the guise of a sporting event!) Mom and Dad, I promise to try and make good decisions (unlike that "free ride" I took last week) and try very hard NOT to break anything this year, be it body parts and/or my dignity.