I woke up surrounded by four women gossiping in a foreign tongue. I was familiar with their smiles and knew the subtleties of their intonations. I understood approximately a third of the conversation and someone was definitely a calibantè. 1 Lost in my own head for minutes only, I awoke to my reality. The feeling was not so different from tearing open the final fat Pecae Corps mailing sent to my parent’s P.O. Box, or from getting off a plane where people are greeting me in Arabic (Assalaam alekum) and then presuming by my Western clothing that I’m fluent in French, or from the big reveal: taking off the strip of white bed sheet that blindfolded me until I found my feet in Kolda and an envelope with the words Fodé Bayo on the front.
This is final event refrenced above is the big news of yet to share here, as my blogging has been sparse. Fodé Bayo, Kolda is my final site placement, a village of 200 people, 100% Mandinka in a primarily Pulaar region, 10km North of Dabo, where there is a large regional market. We found this information out by being blindfolded with strips of white bed sheet and guided to the appropriate location on a map of Senegal painted on the basketball court in the training center. The packet handed to me had a slightly more specific map with a dot on Fodé Bayo and pages of information written out by my ancienne (the prior volunteer at site). My ancienne was a health volunteer and fortunately, is extending for a third year in Dakar working on the Malaria Initiative. She has a great blog you all should check out and has been wonderfully accessible and willing to answer my tedious questions. I did not get to visit my site during Volunteer Visit a few weeks ago, because I am only the second Mandinka volunteer going to Kolda and the other is in the health sector. However, all I hear about Fodé Bayo is that the potential there is huge and the people are motivated to work.
At this point it feels like my life is slowly being revealed to me, but no matter how much time is given between revelations it is never adequate for the gravity and/or excitement to sink in. Maybe once I get to site. Maybe after 5-week challenge.2 Maybe after IST #TLA (in-service training). Maybe one day I’ll be fully awake and be able to embrace the facts that I am in the Peace Corps and I am living in Senegal for the next two years. We’ll see. Until then I expect it to continue coming up on me in these waves. I’ll just be hanging out thinking I’m in the ocean then boom a wave comes and I realize I am fully submersed. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a fully functioning O2 tank; right now I’d say I have a nice snorkel and some good flippers, having passed my language and tech proficiency. It is also great to know that I have good friends floating out there, not too far away, and highly certified ocean patrol in Dakar and Thies. Alright, it’s definitely time for this metaphor to end and nearly time to fight my colleagues for food around a big metal bowl.
A nearly-official PCV
P.S.- Swearing-in is really soon and I’m giving a speech in Mandinka and it’s all being broadcasted on Senegalese national television!
1. Calibantè (Mandinka and Pulaar)- one who is known to be a trouble-maker, jokester, or player; see Wolof “siisii”.
2. 5-week challenge- if we don’t spend the night at our regional house the first 5 weeks in village Chris Hedrick, PC Senegal Country Director, will reward us with dinner at his house in Dakar.