Friday, September 18, 2009

Region Visit

Okay, let's see if I can get through all of this. There will be no pictures this time around, because I took very few and, honestly, I'm too lazy to walk over to my room and get my camera.

Kedougou and environs
Kedougou is absolutely beautiful--full of rolling hills, tall green grass, short-ish (10m) trees of all kinds, corn fields, millet fields, cows, seasonal streams, the Gambia River...I know, it's the rainy season, and it won't be nearly as amazing in the dry season, but it's Truly Beautiful, and I hope that everyone comes to visit me. Maddy, my parents, Kevin and Jess are all on the list somewhere, and I expect everyone else to sign up, pronto.

Party and Dinner
When we arrived in Kedougou after a 12-hour car ride (that's fast, apparently), the current PCVs were really happy to see us. They were so happy that they'd spent a ton of money and time making a dinner that included: hand-ground hamburgers, onion rings, sweet-potato fries, fried okra, potato salad, coleslaw with RAISINS (!!), tomatoes, cheese, and homemade hamburger buns. I nearly died of amazing.

The village I visted was beautiful, welcoming, and tiny. I fell down in the mud and the villagers observed that "The mud got her dirty". So as to avoid embarrassing me.

Warthog sandwiches
Are readily available, cheap by US standards, and very tasty.

Journal Excerpt
September 16, 2009
Kedougou, Senegal
Warthog sandwiches last night at the Relay. Tasty, and ruined only a little by the pompous drunken Briton who really, really liked one of the current PCVs. I guess he thought the way to impress her was to say that she should take over the Peace Corps trading up from a napkin and that we're all too cynical to do good development work. And that America sucks compared to the UK. Foodwise, of all things. Because we do not have Cornish Pasties. Really.

Village. I got all weird and self-conscious about Pulaar in front of my host, but he was really nice and it was extremely reassuring to see a place sorta similar to how mine will be, at least in terms of language. It was awesome to hear everyone speaking Pulaar. But I did not practice enough. On the trip there, though, I could feel myself getting sicker and sicker. We'd had dried fish and rice in town before leaving for the 5km ride, so I was already feeling a little crappy, and had in general feeling like there was building internal pressure in a lot of areas. Weirdest feeling--we got there (finally started hating my shoes, the TevaFlops with no heel straps, because you can't walk up a muddy slick hill in them, period) and I lost my host in the cornfields. It was beautiful, and nice in a detached way, riding along through the fields on narrow, winding paths. When we arrived at his compound, after he found me, I was well into the chills phase of heat exhaustion. He sat me down in the shade, and brought me water to drink and bathe, but for a while, I just sat and sweated, sweated, sweated. My face felt as though someone had taken sandpaper to it, even though I was not even sunburned. After a while, I came back to earth, but it was a little scary how easy it was to get that messed around.

Notes on the Journal Excerpt
I have since bought Emilie's Keens from her, and that has solved the heel strap issue.

Oh, and I hate my ex-bike. I named it Gimp, because at the Kedougou Peace Corps house we discovered that the front brakes were beyond easy repair. So, we disconnected them. Then, the inner tube spat bubbles when I inflated a tire. And the frame was too small. Took it out to the town with a road where we ate the dried fish (ew), discovered the chain jumps the cassette pretty easily. But nevertheless, I have regained confidence in my biking ability, even though I am in terrible shape. Not bragging, just saying, because even with a totally unfamiliar and craptastic bike which could barely shift gears and which was heavily loaded in back and had no front brakes and even with me having mild heat exhaustion and shoes that spat out my feet and flung mud all up my back (to my HAIR) when I tried to walk anywhere relevant and the incredibly rocky, uneven, and muddy terrain nonwithstanding, I did not fall over, skid, or lose control of the bike.


I remember swearing my way up a hill, clashing through the gears and feeling horrible for abusing the machine, muttering every obscenity I could think of (and some that I couldn't), and cracking myself up, suddenly, in what was a true Peace Corps Moment (TM). Sometimes you get a breath of fresh perspective when you really need it... "&*$&*@ing *#& of a bike I swear I'll @#*#&ing kill it when I get back @&@#ing Peace Corps won't give me a bike well @#&^@$% them I hate that I'm breaking this bike, because (oh @#*@$ that's a ROCK!!!!!) something is going to break soon, but oh look, it won't be me, because $*@%ing Peace Corps didn't give me a bike with front @#^#$%ing brakes. Hahahahahaha OH @^#&#*^!!!" After that I hated it a little bit less, but it was still frustrating. I mean, I know we can fix bikes and that riding on top of the cars really does them no good at all, but *still*.

Today is a hard day, not in an "I'd like to ET" kind of way, but because I'm underslept, I'm running out of stamina, and training (PST, Pre-Service Training) is only about half over. I feel like I'm the stupidest person in my language group, and that really bothers me, because a big part of my identity is that I am intelligent. I also truly do not like certain circumstances surrounding and related to my language class, as some of you may have gleaned. And, so as to remain fairly circumspect (being as this is a publicly identified forum), I'm not going to specify further, but if you are curious, try to imagine the kind of person with whom I would completely not get along, and then put me in the same room with that person for multiple hours per day. It's just an exhausting day, we had a really intense session about rape and sexual assault, I'm discouraged, I am chafing in a subordinate position to someone I feel is totally incompetent (never a good situation for me), I'm feeling isolated and insular and really tired of the specific ways that the world continues to suck, and there is not a break coming up anytime soon.

My family in Sangalkam is amazing, but staying there is not restful. Jeneba just had her baby, which is wonderful, except I do not like babies. I also do not like parties, and here comes Korite (one of the biggest holidays of the calendar) and right behind it, a Dennaboo (say it "Den-uh-boe"), or baptism. And a language test, which, coinciding with a trough in my competence is really not great. Frankly, I'm sure this is just a PMS-y kind of day, and normally I am neutral-to-chipper...but, yeah. Not all blog posts are happy ones, and I just wanted to let y'all know the other side of training: there are days when nothing feels right, everything is overwhelming, there is no respite in sight, and you want to cry, go to sleep, hide, scream, or who-knows-what. Because you feel stupid, you feel overwhelmed and inadequate, but at the SAME TIME you just want to go out to site and get the training over with, already.

But on the up-side, I'm not really sick, my laundry will probably dry before we head to Sangalkam, we just got paid so I have plenty of money to go shopping for things to take with me to village, and I talked with Maddy, Kevin, and Andrew and they made me happy. And I got a really wonderful note from Bert, too. Thank you all for being wonderful!

1 comment:

Boydo said...

Phew! Sounds exhausting. I'll see if I can find a just-add-water bike in the Acme catalog and send it over =]