I packed up all of my belongings for hopefully the last time for a while! I bargained in the market for a metal trunk to store the additional items I've accumulated here, and packed my 2 suitcases to the brim. Somehow 2 other volunteers heading to Kedougou and I packed all of our bags, boxes, and bikes into a Sept Place (a small car with 7 passenger seats that most people use for transport here). Yesterday was a long voyage down to Kedougou in an insanely hot car with no A/C. We left Thies around 8:45am and made it to Kedougou around 8pm, coated in red dirt from the road. Feeling tired and dirty didn't prevent us from enjoying our Install party though. We arrived to a feast of Cheeseburgers that the other volunteers had prepared for our arrival. Those burgers tasted amazing!
Today the other new volunteers and I went with the Country Director to the Bassari initiation ceremony near Salemata, where boys wear masks and paint their bodies red and fight one another as a rite of passage. To get to the remote village, we drove along narrow, bumpy red dirt roads through green trees. With the beautiful scenery, tribal masks, and costumes, I had an "I'm in Africa" moment and felt very excited to be here. When we got back from the ceremony, the other new volunteers and I shopped in the market and cooked dinner for everyone in our regional house. It was a cool experience for us to bike to the market and buy food using our local languages and then come back and figure out how to cook it using the equipment we have at the regional house. It turned out well!
It's great to finally be in Kedougou, but I'm anxious to move into my hut on Tuesday. I am excited to have my own space and to be able to settle in and unpack. Living out of a suitcase for the past 10 weeks has been rough, and I feel like all my clothes smell gross. Tomorrow I'm going shopping in Kedougou to buy stuff for my hut (buckets, kettle, foam mattress, etc). Right now I feel exhausted. Last week was full of last minute training, language test, swear-in prep, installation prep, etc. We also had to pack everything and prepare to leave the training center, and there wasn't much downtime to do that. Yesterday I was in a car for the entire day, and today has been full of activities. When I get to my hut, I'll probably have the opposite problem though. I'll finally be able to digest everything that's going on. I'm excited for Tuesday!