Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lucky 7

Most study or work abroad programs will tell you the usual process of adjusting to a new culture, and some may even show you a diagram of the spikes and plummets of emotions.  It's hard to imagine that someone's emotions could be that predictable, but oddly enough, you really can almost set your watch to when you'll feel up and down.  I went through the initial euphoria, hit a low when reality set in and now am feeling comfortable living in Senegal.  I've been here for 7 weeks now and am feeling good.  Time is starting to pass more quickly, and my swear in date is just around the corner.  

I spent the past week with my host family, and things have gotten a lot better.  My LCF had a talk with my host dad and we haven't had any more weird conversations.  My host mom, Mariama, still hasn't had the baby yet, but she looks like she's ready to do so any day now.  She still does all the cleaning and cooking on the compound, and I feel bad that she never gets a chance to rest.  Every afternoon before lunch, we fill up a tub of soapy water and another tub of water, and she washes the dishes in soapy water and I rinse them and put them away.  It's a nice ritual and gives me a chance to talk with her in the afternoon.  Mariama and I also eat dinner together every night.  The other night, I was frustrated with some personal drama and was venting in my journal when Mariama knocked on my door to ask me to come eat dinner with her.  We sat in her room and ate rice porridge with sour milk on top (kind of tastes like Cream of Wheat) and she told me all about her family and showed me pictures.  I came back to my room feeling really good about being here and completely forgot about whatever was bothering me before.  Living here, the grace notes in life really make this experience worthwhile.  I can be having a miserable walk home, hearing a zillion "toubab" screams, and the whole experience can be redeemed by an old man sitting in a chair on the side of the road smiling and joking with me.  Small victories.

While at my homestay, my host cousin invited me to his wrestling match.  They sectioned off an area of the neighborhood and charged admission for the match.  Another host cousin escorted me to and from the event since it was after dark.  It was a fun event to watch, and after one of the matches, a bunch of the guys (including 2 of my host cousins) did a traditional dance in the center.  To get everyone pumped up, they went around with 10 gallon jugs of juice and water to throw on the wrestlers and into the audience.  

Now I'm back at the training center, and it's a hectic week.  This morning we collectively stuffed and seeded 2,000 tree sacks for Earth Day.  We're also getting ready for the Counterpart Workshop that we're putting on over the next few days.  Tomorrow, all of our counterparts are coming in from all regions of the country to attend the workshop.  We're preparing lectures and activities in our local language which is a challenge.  This afternoon I worked on a powerpoint presentation on the Ecology of Kedougou.  The next few days will be chaotic, but it'll be nice to begin a strong relationship with my counterparts.  

Swear In is May 13th, and everyone wears a traditional Senegalese outfit for the ceremony.  Yesterday I picked out my fabric, and this afternoon I got fitted at the tailor for a traditional complet.  I'm excited to see what it's going to look like!  In 2.5 weeks, I'll be done with training!


  1. It is always so exciting when I see a new blog entry. They are always so full of drama and grace notes and surprises. Its wonderful to see our daughter changing into this amazing person right before our eyes. Thanks for doing this for us.

  2. Congrats Marielle on toughing it out for an amazing 7 weeks so far--you are such a trooper and we are so proud of you! I can hardly wait to see what you look like in your official Senegalese complet. XO Mom