Tomorrow I move into my new room, my new house, my new village, my new region of Senegal. All for the first time. Never seen any of it before. So exciting! So nerve-wracking/ terrifying/unknown and yet so exciting.
So, here are the things I know about my village so far:
I have already met my Baaba (dad) who will be my counterpart (coworker/liaison to the village). He is a delightful man! Shorter than me, and very round. A stout cheerful man dressed all in blue (when he came to Thies for the Counterpart Workshop). He wore many rings and had the most beautiful prayer beads I have seen yet in Senegal. His black and white checkered scarf around his neck and his little white cap on his head. He is what we call ‘Patron’, or, very well off/well dressed. Which also means, my house may also be Patron.. which also means I have electricity and running water!! Baaba is a wonderful man. Cheerful and helpful with Pulaar. Also, he speaks really great English AND French.
I have 4 mothers. 4. My Baaba has 4 wives.
My house does have electricity and a water spigot (somewhere in the compound, at least)
My village is on the main road and my house itself is very close to the main road.
There is a very active women’s group in the village and they are very anxious to have a female volunteer to work with them and help them garden!
My village has about 1,500 people, which is pretty big.
My compound itself has 4 separate buildings in it, which could mean 4 separate families all related… which means a LOT of names to remember!
There are a lot of children in my compound. I asked my Baaba how many. He started counting, then said… “they all go to school.” haha
There are a few people in the compound who speak really good English and are very helpful at teaching Pulaar (thank Allah).
My closest Peace Corps neighbor is only 5k away from me! His name is John Kelly, but he goes by Jelly. From that, you can assume very accurately about the sanity of this man. He’s really great, full of energy, and teaches the kids in his village karate. He said, if I ever need anything at all at any time of day (even midday when it is scorching hot) he would run to me. No matter what. And he means it. I will probably be working with him a lot, he is an Agroforestry volunteer and I look forward to doing a lot of AgFo work up here.
My village is somewhere between 10-20k away from the Senegal River. Which also means, I am 10-20k away from Mauritania. Both the road, the distance, and the river keeps us very separated from them though, no need to worry. We do benefit from being so close to the river because of the water, and we benefit from being so close to Mauritania because we get a lot of their beautiful fabrics in our markets.
One of the Peace Corps staff guys who knows my family well told me that my family eats very well. According to him, my family has the best food in all of Senegal.
I am about 75k away from two regional houses in either direction.
This is really all I know so far. I will find out so much more tomorrow when I move in!
Five Week Challenge
So, starting tomorrow, we are challenged to spend the first 5 weeks in our village without spending the night anywhere else. This is a really great because the first 5 weeks, at least, are so important to gaining familiarity with your family, your village, the language, everything. I think I would have spent the first 5 weeks in my village anyway (it’s pretty far from most everything anyway) but it is a good suggestion. If we complete this challenge successfully, we get a wonderful dinner of our choice with the Country Director Chris Hedrick. Because of this, I probably will not be accessing the internet during this time. We do get Christmas off as an exception, but only if we make up the days at the end of the 5 weeks. I will be spending Christmas eve at one of the regional houses up here, probably Ndioum. All the other PC Volunteers in the area will be there as well. But, I do have a phone during this time. Well, during the next two years.
My Peace Corps Phone Number!
221 77 673 0081
You can text me or call me on that number! Keep in mind the time difference, but I love hearing from anyone!!
Wish me luck tomorrow as I greet my new home and my new family. Soon I will have a new name. My last name will be Thiam, pronounced “Cham”.
“Jange e jam” -Travel in peace.