Life as a trainee

Trip Start Mar 15, 2005
Trip End Apr 01, 2007

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Flag of Senegal  ,
Saturday, April 2, 2005


I've just finished my third week of training, and my 15th class in Pulaar. Each class is about two hours, and is extremely intense because there are only two students. An average day for me:

Wake up around 6 AM in my host family's home in the district of Sofraco. I was unlucky in that my home is about a forty minute walk from the center, so in the morning I take the PC bus. I generally dont take bucket baths at home since the center has showers, but some mornings its nice to wash my hair over a drain in the front yard. By seven I'm ready to walk to the bus stop at the end of the street. I use the term street loosely because there are more sand streets than paved ones, and people drive in the sand next to the paved roads because there are less bumps.
The bus takes myself and many of the other volunteers to the center where we are given bread, nutella..or the senegalese equivalent, peaunut butter/jelly and hot chocolate. You wouldnt think that hot chocolate would be welcome in 100 degree weather, but its a taste of home and we all enjoy it.
The tam tam (a kind of drum)beats at 8 for our first class. Usually a language class.  At 10 we have a 25 minute break then another two hours of class until lunch break. Afternoon classes are only an hour and a half, and by that time its hard to stay focused. Technical classes are held in the afternoons. There are 6 others in my technical group training to be urban agriculture specialists. My classmate and I are the only two of the group learning Fulakunda and so we know we are headed south. This week I was told that my experience in biochemistry will be very helpful, and that I should expect to be working with some adaptative researchers in my city (Kolda or Valingara). For the first real week of training the trainers were a little relaxed about speaking english to some of us, but next week the entire center will transition into only French speaking for the classes, and local dialects for outside communication. My french has improved for that reason, but also because my host family doesn't speak English. I was told last night that they were going to stop speaking french all together as well to give me maximum exposure to Pulaar.
At lunch time all volunteers and trainers go to the lunch hut and eat together. There are about 8 large silver bowls of food on matts on the ground.  Five people sit around one bowl and eat with either their hands, or spoons. It took a few days to be comfortable with bowl etiquette, but ive figured it out.
Class lets out at 6 pm and volunteers either walk home or take the bus.  Families here eat between 8 and 10 at night, so that gives me enough time to do some homework before eating. My family has been VERY excited to hear what ive learned each day, and its fun to try and explain.

The people here in Senegal are wonderful! Everyone jokes around with one another all the time. One of my favorite experiences thus far was walking through town with a current volunteer and passing a local woman who was carrying her child.  She screamed for us to stop, and begged the volunteer I was with to take her baby to America. The volunteer translated the Wolof for me, and this is what was said:
Woman: Take my ugly baby!
Volunteer:  No, i dont want your ugly baby!  If it was a pretty baby I would take it to America with me, but its an ugly ugly baby.
Then they both had a good laugh and continued on their way. Many of the different ethnic groups here joke about who was whos slave way back when, and often Pulaars joke with their Serrer neighbors about bringing their children to the market to sell.

Thanks to all of you who have sent a letter or package! I have received several letters already. Packages can also be sent to the address in Thies for the next month or so, but after the end of April probably should wait until ive settled in my own village, since ill be moving south on or around May 12th.

Thus far I am very pleased with my time here in Senegal. I am very excited to be on my own in the South where things are much greener!  The rainy season there is between 4 and 6 months as opposed to the 2 to 3 here in the North/center of the country.
The mosquitos are killing me.  I know I mentioned the lack of bugs in an earlier post.  I must have jinxed myself because my host family lives in a mosquito infested part of the city.  My body reacts very strongly to bites and i have welts the size of quarters or half dollars all over my body.  My least favorite noise in the world has become the buzz of a rogue mosquito inside the supposedly impenetrable net above my bed.

Food prepared by my host family has been really great. Some of the others have complained about really salty fish dishes, but thankfully my mother doesnt like salt very much. There isnt much variety though, most nights I have rice or millet with either bread or a little fish. I've gained a little weight because there isn't much other than carbs here, but I'm not that concerned because once I'm in my own hut I can even out my diet.

I look forward to hearing from all of you!
ngon en e jam ( peace only be with you! )
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