Yesterday afternoon, we all heard loud drumming in the center of the compound, and Awa, our cross-cultural leader, started a dance party! I learned many new dance moves that I'm anxious to try out at the Frontier Room when I get back to Seattle...haha :) At first, a lot of the group was pretty stiff, and we formed a huge circle with the Senegalese people dancing in the center. Soon, we all loosened up, lowered our inhibitions and starting dancing to the beat of the drums. West African dancing is so much fun, and it looked like we were all wild animals dancing around. Later on, some of the local children joined in, and they showed us all up with their incredible rhythm and natural confidence in their dance abilities. It was a blast!
So far, I am really enjoying the food here. For lunch, 5 of us sit around one of the communal bowls on a mat on the floor outside. The large bowl so far has been filled with rice, meat, and vegetables and has been very tasty! I'm learning the culture slowly and have been committing many cultural faux pas in the process. We can only use our right hand for eating and drinking which is challenging! It's hard to pick chicken off a bone with one hand! Senegalese people also do not talk much while they eat, so they're probably all annoyed with the chatty Americans here asking endless questions while they try to eat. The local Peace Corps staff here is very nice though, and they're helpful in telling us the cultural dos and don'ts.
Today I took my french language test and did a technical interview which will help determine where I'll be placed for my site. Until today, we hadn't been able to leave the Peace Corps training compound, but after our Safety and Security lecture, we were able to walk around the area. The surrounding area is dirt roads with mud huts along the sides and lots of litter all over the place. There is an area of abandoned houses that is called the "red zone" where we have been forbidden to go since squatters hang out there and we're huge targets for theft since we're very conspicuous in this country. Next week, we'll get to move into our homestays, so I'll be living with a family for the rest of training (9 weeks). I'm anxious to meet my host family and start to integrate more into the culture.
Last night, as I was brushing my teeth with a headlamp on and using my Klean Kanteen full of filtered water to avoid parasites, I felt like I was camping. This place is a sandbox, and I always feel kind of grimy, but I'm adjusting to the idea of not feeling clean all the time. The girls seem to all have stopped wearing makeup, myself included, as vanity disappears here.
Our days are pretty laid back until we move in with our host families next week. Most of the volunteers hang out in the "disco hut" during downtime, which is that outdoor gazebo like structure I was talking about yesterday. Apparently there used to be a huge disco ball in the center which is no longer there, but is in the process of being replaced. Hopefully we'll get to do some more dancing today!