Heather in Senegal

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

March 17
My flight to Senegal was quick and pleasant, thanks largely to the good books my uncle chose for me.
When my group arrived in Senegal we were greeted by Malcolm, the country director for Senegal’s Peace Corps. On seeing my violin he told me he plays a few instruments and has a group that gets together once a week to try a night of Irish, bluegrass, or folk. They meet in Dakar which is too far from Thies (where I am now, pronounced “chess”) for an evening visit. Hopefully I’ll be able to join them occasionally.
We rode from the airport in Dakar to the Peace Corps village in Thies shortly after landing. Everyone stared out the window at the goats, the boys playing beside the street, the immaculate women in bright beautiful fabrics, the men hanging out the backs of busses, the baobab trees, etc. When we pulled into the village the staff was singing and dancing in welcome. There was a brief welcome for us, they told us where to find clean water (the coolers – never ever ever the taps), and sent us to our rooms. As we walked to the dorms (picture long barracks with very inviting bright patterned bedspreads making the rooms homey) I first noticed the birds. They are constantly overhead and always in song.
The Peace Corps village is a small compound that formerly belonged to the army. The buildings are all one story and look a like stucco. Half the bathrooms have only a hole in the floor. (I only learned the existence of the other half today.) The ground is sand, and it is frequently raked and sprayed. The trees are green, and there is an abundance of flower bushes starting at shoulder height. I believe there are three hammocks. The central meeting place is outdoors under a large round straw roof. I’ve yet to feel anything approaching NY summer heat. May it all be so nice.
The first day here consisted of meals with delicious veg options, a brief welcome meeting, two nap times, a lot of speaking in French, and about an hour of drumming. We all danced. Knowing I was in Senegal dancing with Senegalese to African drumming I couldn’t stop smiling. Early in the day I had felt very nervous and overwhelmed by the scope of what I’d gotten into. Ever since the dancing I’ve been feeling wonderful.
Today began schooling. We had our first lesson on staying healthy, nearly four hours of Wolof, and a lesson on staying safe. I missed most of the last class because it conflicted with my meeting with Cathy, our nurse. These meetings were set up to review any health issues. I was her last appointment of the day, and we spent about four times the allotted time. She was willing to answer questions, so we talked about eczema (which I’ll have to kick because open sores can easily gather infections), shaving (which she said I’d be safer to avoid, again for fear of infections), vegetarianism, body odor, the type of family I may join, and more.
Tonight a bunch of us played Frisbee in the courtyard.
On Sunday I will go to a village to stay with a current volunteer for four days. My job is to walk around, talk to people, look a the plants and flowers, and just soak it up. Such a pleasure.


At 2:28 PM, Blogger Mom said...

Dearest Heather,
Such a pleasure reading about your adventures, particularly when they're positive ones. I like that the Peace Corps stresses health. I can't imagine living totally immersed in a different culture. You're very brave!
Keep yourself SHH!
All my love,
Mom (:-)

At 9:30 PM, Blogger sid and roberta said...

Dear Heather,
We are happy to be able to follow your adventures through the updates provided in your blog.
It seems you are adapting to your new surroundings and sound quite upbeat in your reports.
Keep up the great work!
Aunt Roberta and Uncle Sid

At 4:15 PM, Blogger Uncle Bob said...

Uncle Bob said...
Your diary has the making of a great book or play. And if you can come up with a few catchy tunes, perhaps a musical as well. We really enjoy reading about your experiences -- and are increasingly looking forward to a visit to Senegal.

At 4:27 PM, Blogger SucoSuco said...

I am in awe of you. Never realized how much you and Debra have in common.

Tell me about the vegetables you're eating and how they are seasoned and cooked.

We love you,
Aunt Sue

At 11:36 AM, Blogger Bex07 said...

Hi Heather!

I wish I had known about your blog sooner, but I'm catching up now! I'm so glad you are doing it, because my questions about the current scenes of your life; the sights, sounds, and music, are being answered. I love the idea of constant birdsong, colorful clothing, and African drumming. Loren and I have been talking about visiting you in December, and I am anxious to make plans. He's never been to Africa (and I haven't seen sub-Saharan), so if I can afford to, I will buy a ticket soon, but I may have to wait till next semester to figure out costs. For now, I'm so happy to read your blog. Many hugs,



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