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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Permanent site visit

I just got back from a 5-day visit to my permanent site.  I knew a few weeks ago (when I got my Fulakunda language placement) that I’d be headed to the Kolda region, but I didn't know my city/town/village placement until last Wednesday evening.  The training staff blindfolded us and led us to a spot on a giant map of Senegal.  It was really fun and dramatic.  My site placement was Teyel Faring, which meant nothing to me at the time, but now that I’ve seen it, all I can say is: for the next two years, I’m going to be living in paradise. 

Adrienne, with hut.  In a little less than a month, it will be my hut. 
 I’m planning some pretty epic interior decorating. 

The family congregates under this mango tree to nap out the part of the day when
 “the sun is much.”  I have probably eaten a dozen mangoes already.  So good.

There are six baby goats and a dog named Obama.

Adrienne (top picture) was my host for the visit.  She’s leaving me some big shoes to fill.  Her community loves her and her language skills are intimidating.  Unfortunately, I think Adrienne’s counterparts may have forgotten that although she’s fluent now, she wasn’t always, and it’s going to be hard for them to deal with the fact that her replacement can only communicate with the vocabulary and grammar of a toddler.  Adrienne has had an awesome service filled with successful projects, and I’m looking forward to continuing her work, but I’ve got a lot of language to learn before I can do that.

I was assigned a new name by my new family: I’m now Kadjatu Sabaly.  My namesake has 6 kids, including the cutest 5-month-old infant named Mariama. Kadjatu says her kids are now my kids too.  My host dad is the village chief, and my host mom is the midwife at the local health hut.  There are three schools in the village, all of which I might be able to do some programs with.  There are a half-dozen other Peace Corps volunteers within easy biking distance of me.  The nearest town with electricity is Velingara, which is only 15 kilometers away on a flat paved road, so I can probably go there at least once a week.  In Velingara there’s a hotel with good wifi I can use as long as I buy a drink or two.  There’s post office there, too, and I can get mail if you feel like sending me a letter:  B.P. 157 Velingara, Senegal, West Africa.

My favorite part (of course) is that the village is surrounded by baobab and palm trees full of chirping tropical birds.  I was told that if I choose to go running on the forest trails in the mornings, I need to keep an eye out for baboons (“Awesome!” “No.  Seriously.  Baboons.  You need to be careful.”) My 12-year old brother, Alpha, apparently goes into the woods a lot and returns with buckets of fruit, so hopefully he’ll take me on as a foraging apprentice.  I didn’t get the chance to wander during this visit, but I love that the forest is there and I’m so excited to explore over the next two years.

I don’t have too much else to say this week.  Tomorrow, I’m heading back to Sambalaube for my final language immersion homestay. I feel strangely guilty to go back to my language family when I’ve just met my permanent family, like I cheated on all the Baldes and they all know about it. I’m excited to get sworn in as a true Peace Corps Volunteer and to start my service in Teyel Faring, but I’ll definitely miss my Sambalaube family.  They’ve been so good to me and taught me so much.  Anyway, I probably won’t have access to electricity until I get back to the training center on the 27th, and at that point it’s only a few days before I swear in.  Training is going by so fast, and I can’t believe it’s almost over!  Talk to you later!


1 comment:

  1. Awesome, Barbara! So glad you like where you are placed. It sounds as though we will be getting some excellent pics as you explore the countryside a bit. FYI - baboons are very dangerous. Do you run the other way or drop and stay if you run into one? Ok, I am concerned enough that I looked it up for you:

    Baboons: Survival Tips

    When you encounter baboons on a hiking trail, here are a few things you should do and a few things that you should avoid:
    •Remain calm, and stand up straight to display a strong and confident yet non-threatening behavior.
    •Do not walk through a troop of baboons; instead, wait for an opportunity to walk around them, or wait for them to leave before you proceed.
    •If baboons don’t appear threatened by your presence and if they won’t move from the trail, keep your distance and make a loud noise, such as clapping your hands to encourage them to move on.
    •Do not smile or show your teeth; male baboons may view this action as a sign of aggression.
    •Baboons can mock charge you and sometimes back off when only inches away.
    •Get rid of any food that you may have in your hands by securing it in your backpack.
    •Be prepared to quickly unclip and leave your backpack if a baboon tries to go after any of your gear or food inside.
    •Never feed a baboon, and never try to grab back food or anything else that it takes from you. Baboons can fight aggressively to defend food that they’ve taken.
    •Avoid using pepper spray, as baboons can interpret it as an attack and act aggressively to fight back.
    •If a baboon presents itself aggressively by standing tall, showing its teeth, vocalizing a threat, or charging towards you, don’t make eye contact, and back away slowly without turning your back.