Last week, the euphoria of being in Africa ended, and the reality of being here for over two years sunk in. I got a cold, and had a morning where I almost lost it as I was late for class because of a miscommunication with my host aunt about breakfast, had a terrible headache, and was tripping through the thick sand as kids incessantly screamed "toubab, toubab!" in the streets. I would have killed to be home drinking a soy latte instead of trudging through sandy trash piles in that moment. After hitting a low point last week, I started thinking about the big picture of why I'm here, and I feel much better now. Everyone says that training is the hardest part and that things get much better once we're at our permanent sites. My friends at my training site have been a great support, and it's incredibly helpful to be able to talk and hang out with my fellow trainees. I found a running buddy, and running in the morning keeps me sane.
A lot happened in the last couple weeks, but here are a few stories:
* One of my trainee friends lives far away from our language class so he came over to my homestay for lunch one afternoon. We had some time to hang out before lunch, so we decided to play cards while sitting on a mat in the middle of my family's courtyard. Halfway through our game of Rummy, my host aunt said my host father wanted to see me and my friend outside of the compound. My host dad proceeded to tell us that playing cards is forbidden, and we had to stop playing immediately. Apparently my host father equates playing cards to gambling, which goes against Islam. First major cultural faux pas. Oops...
* I was taking my usual afternoon nap after lunch when I heard roaring screams coming from the courtyard. When I stepped outside to see what was going on, I saw a mob of 15 little boys running around, shrieking with sticks and massive rocks in their hands. Confused about what was going on, I asked my host aunt, and she explained that they were on a rat hunt. Apparently a rat and its babies had made a home in one of the cousin's rooms, so the whole neighborhood of boys made it their afternoon mission to exterminate them. The courtyard was chaos, and little boys were running around, laughing and screaming, with a dead rat in one hand and a huge stick in the other. As bad as I felt for the poor rat family, I couldn't help but laugh at this ridiculous scenario.
* Last week I came home for lunch to see a goat head and other organs in a bucket in the courtyard. Guess what was for lunch! My host cousins killed one of our goats while I was at school. Avoiding bone shards and what I think may have been stomach lining was a challenge, but other then that, it tasted pretty good!
This whole experience is filled with highs and lows, and this past homestay stint was difficult. I felt homesick and malnourished at certain points, and it's hard to be at the beginning of a 27 month journey with only one month down. This truly is a marathon experience. Mile 1 done! I realized this week that I need to be patient and stay positive throughout this. It's easy to get frustrated during training, but there are a lot of positives. I'm making great friends in my group and am learning so much each day. Overall, I'm happy to be here.
I find out my permanent site on Thursday and can't wait!