Being at In Service Training (IST) in Thies was a great change of pace, and I really enjoyed seeing the friends from my training group who I don’t get to see very often. Being back at the training center was like going back to summer camp. It was comfortable and familiar, and we slept in bunk beds in a room with our friends. The center served delicious food, and it looked like a paradise compared to a lot of our sites. While I may have been pickier about what I ate when I arrived in Senegal, I'm now elated to eat any mystery meat after my diet of plain white rice at site. It’s funny how quickly perspectives change.
We had sessions all throughout the day, some useful, some not. Overall, I left the training feeling very motivated to start working. I learned some technical skills such as how to make nutritional porridge and how to make a rocket stove. Maternal and child health is interesting to me, and it’s an area that needs a lot of attention in my region. I learned about “Care Groups”, where a group of women attend health training sessions every month led by a volunteer and counterpart, and those women go out and teach the other women in the community what they learned. An example of something they could learn how to do is making nutritional porridge for their children. The lead mothers would each have their own section of the village and check in on those families and teach them what they learned. I like the idea of empowering women to raise the level of health in the village. I’m still thinking about what I want to do, but I’d like to create some system in Nafadji that would be focused on training women to be sources of health information for the rest of the village.
Before I can begin any projects, I need to do my baseline survey to see where the community is at right now. I’ve created my list of questions and will be going around to every compound to gather data. The categories of questions I created are: demographic information, water and sanitation, nutrition, maternal and child health, malaria prevention, and education. I’ve translated my questions into both French and Malinke and will be creating an Excel spreadsheet to organize my data when I’m done collecting it. Once I finish my survey, I’ll have a better idea of what the community needs and what they would like to see me do during my service.
After IST was over, I stayed at the training center to attend a SeneGAD meeting. SeneGAD is the Gender and Development group in Peace Corps Senegal, and they work on projects dealing with gender issues. I’m now part of the group and would like to stay involved in it, especially the projects that help keep girls in school. When the meeting was over, a bunch of the other volunteers and I took a van to Dakar.
Being in Dakar was a lot of fun. I ate some amazing food, including the delicious ice cream at Nice Cream! For my birthday, some friends and I went to the beach on l’isle Ngor, and I had a blast! We took a very entertaining narrow wooden boat ride, packed with people in life vests, over to the island. After relaxing at the beach all day, we went back to the regional house to get ready to go out to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. Yes, I do see the irony of going out to eat African food in Africa. It was very tasty!
After 2 weeks of eating delicious food and speaking English with my friends, I boarded a nightbus back to Kedougou. The bus was surprisingly clean and airconditioned, and the 12-hour ride went by fast. The following day, Ian and I were determined to get back to our sites since we had been away for so long. We got to the garage at 9am and the sept-place had already left, so we were stuck taking an Alhamdulillah (looks like a broken down minibus). After waiting for at least an hour for the van to fill up, we were on our way. 15 minutes into the ride, the tire started falling off, so we pulled over. After our driver and others in the van determined that it was not fixable, they flagged down a huge blue Camion to take us the rest of the way. I lucked out and got to sit in the front of the truck with the driver and 2 other women, but Ian got stuck in the back with everyone’s luggage, rice sacks, and all the other people who had evacuated the Alham. He said he had a live chicken on his foot during the ride. But we made it to Saraya! From there, we biked back to our sites, and I’m back in Nafadji! It feels so great to be back! I missed everyone!
It’s Ramadan right now, and I’ll be writing a blog on that soon. Right now I’m fasting and am very hungry!