Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Goodbye Euphoria, Hello Reality!

The past couple weeks were rough, but I'm now back in the comfort of the training center for a few nights!  Living with my host family has been a challenge.  After seeing where all of the other people in my language group live, I realized this week that I have the most difficult living situation in terms of room conditions, cleanliness, and host family.  My room is barely larger than my bed, and was not cleaned of all the dirt and dead bugs before I arrived.  As hard as I've tried, I can't seem to get rid of the pungent mold smell.  This week, fly larvae started crawling out of the family squat toilet and up the walls of the stall.  My host father creepily kept asking if I had a boyfriend and wouldn't drop the subject after I repeatedly said I had no intention of getting married in Senegal.  It got to a point this week where I realized I needed to say something to our cross-cultural coordinator.  I didn't want to complain, because I knew I would face uncomfortable conditions here, but after seeing that everyone else seemed to be having a very different experience, I decided to speak up.  My cross-cultural coordinator was glad that I told her what was going on and is going to talk to my host family before I go back this week.

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!


  1. You have the courage of a lioness! Must have something to do with your Thai tattoo eh? I imagine the Peace Corps is very happy to have someone as positive and tolerant as you are. Good Job!

  2. African men never stopped asking you if you are married or have a boyfriend. I just started saying yes, and he is very big and tough and that usually stopped it, although I still got a few proposals!

  3. Marielle---Why were you avoiding the stomach lining? and the toothpicks? haha! At least we don't have to worry about you getting some protein now. As you may know, by the way, goat is the most served meat in the world; so you have lots of company. Keep your head up (easy for me to say). xox/Kevin