Whew! Just finished a couple of weeks at our community based training sites, the longest stint we will spend at these homestays. I have two more weeks in this homestay and then I will be moving to my permanent site!! As of now, I BELIEVE I officially know all the names of the members in my family, approximately 20 in total (though I am still confused onto how some are related). In Senegalese culture, it is completely appropriate to show up unannounced at a friend or family members home and stay for as long as needed (something I may take advantage of in the states with my minimal Peace Corps salary). Thus, there are often multiple people living in my compound who are as distantly related as my grandmother’s sister’s cousin or simply named after someone in the family…
Aside from slowly but surely understanding the family, I am also beginning to understand the language (which I previously believed to be gibberish). Wolof is a tough language! As opposed to conjugating verbs, Wolof conjugates pronouns and the sentence structure is jumbled compared to English. If I wanted to say “I went to Dakar” for example, I would turn it into “to Dakar I went.” This makes for slow communication as I flip everything around before speaking, though on a positive note, allows for a natural filter. As communication gets easier I am also beginning to realize some of things my family says to me. Their favorite new phrase is “menoo dara,” which translates into “you can’t do anything.” This is usually in reference to my great hand washing laundry skills or my inability to cook food over a few flaming sticks.
Other than slowly getting over communication barriers, the homestay was composed of a few intestinal upsets but nothing out of the ordinary. These types of things are unavoidable when sharing lunch and dinner out of a large communal bowl where people of ALL ages eat with their hands. My sickness allowed me to learn that in this culture, when someone is sick, EVERYONE will continuously ask, “are you healed??” It is culturally inappropriate to say no, so of course I always said yes. For about a week, I’m sure my family had no idea whether I was sick or not.
In other, more exciting news, I have found out where I will be spending the next two years!! I will be posted in a small village of approximately 300 hundred people very close to the Gambian border and in between the cities of Koalack and Tambacounda. I am told I have one volunteer relatively close to me, meaning a couple of hours away, and a city with lots of amenities around 15 kilometers away. Thus far, I don’t know all that much about my site aside from the varieties of field crops they farm, which I am sure is not interesting blog information. This Sunday, however, I will be visiting the area to stay with a current volunteer. I will not get a chance to actually stay in the village as I am told it is too far out in ‘dem boonies.’ But I hope to at least see the region and become familiar with my surroundings.
For now, I’m gorging myself on food from the center, showering frequently, perusing the Internet and speaking lots of English. Oh and sorry to say that I still have no pictures, I have had a few technical difficulties. Hopefully I will get some up with the next post (if you cannot wait, check out a few other PC Senegal blogs that I have links to on the side). Until next time!