My life has been pretty crazy most recently and is only just starting to slow down and develop a routine. In the first couple of weeks in February, all of the agricultural volunteers that arrived with me in Senegal in August (totaling 54) got together at the Training center for our In-Service Training (IST). These were two very exhausting weeks involving 8-5 everyday in the classroom or garden, trying to obtain as much knowledge as possible about farming in Senegal/what our future job involves. After finishing this training, I returned to my village on the 16th of February. Now, as other Peace Corps volunteers may attest to, is kind of a strange and stressful transition period. The first three months in village (before IST), is when our time should be spent getting to know the community, chatting while shelling peanuts or drinking attaaya. However now, all of the sudden, things are expected of us. I feel pressure from myself, the community and my colleagues to get some projects underway/be of some importance within the community. Though something you learn very quickly as a PCV in developing countries is that nothing happens fast. And in addition, you as the PCV, are never to lead a project, only to facilitate or hopefully initiate motivation. This is of course all in the hope that our projects will be sustainable and after we return to the states there will be some sort of community structure in place to continue them. In addition, we have to be very careful in the projects we choose for this exact reason –sustainability. The community must actually be interested in the project and have some investment, as opposed to it being imposed upon them. Thus, here I sit, still slightly nervous to take the first step and trying to be sure that everything is in line before I do so.
Most recently, I have been spending lots of time in my small 12x12 meter garden space, digging beds and seeding things like tomato, lettuce, carrot, eggplant, okra, and Moringa (a great tree! A craze in international development work, google it!). I hope that I can set up some demonstrations in the garden that will be of interest to the village, i.e. mulching, composting etc. Though this is all under the assumption that my baby plants will survive the fast approaching 120-30oF sunshine (now at about 100oF). Other than this my head is spinning with more projects but it may be a while until I know where to start.
Before I go, I do feel obligated to update a story that shows a little of what Senegalese hospitability really means. A few days ago I traveled about 5 kilometers away on a horse drawn charette to a tourist camp nearby. A Frenchman owns the camp and brings in small groups of people to visit Senegal and go hunting for various bird species in the bush. Every once in a while they catch a warthog and since this is way too much meat for just those at the camp, they often offer it to the few catholic villages nearby. A few Senegalese that work at the camp asked if I would like to try a taste the next time they catch one. Of course, I was thrilled to integrate more protein into my diet and responded with yes. A few nights ago, I had completely forgotten about this encounter and turned in early, around 9 or 10 pm. About 10 minutes after settling into bed, I got a knock at the door from a friend who works at the camp. I opened it to find him struggling to hoist a large front leg and shoulder of warthog into the air to show me. This leg had been FRESHLY cut off the carcass, still covered with course warthog hair and a lovely tick crawling on it. My friend was completely expectant that I would simply set the raw piece of flesh on a shelf in my room, wait until morning and consume the kilos of meat all to the myself. After much shock and babbling on my part, I finally convinced him to at least cut the meat from the leg, throw the remains to the dogs in the bush and then I would keep the rest in an enclosed bowl through the night. Needless to say, I did not sleep at all that night as I assumed rabid dogs would break down my rickety door in search of the raw hog. All turned out okay, I ended up cutting off a small piece for myself and carried the rest to a nearby catholic friend. Anyway, just goes to show you, you ask for a little, they give a lot!
Until next time! Love you all, sending some of this sunshine your way!