Tuesday, May 15, 2007

From a PCT to a PCV and Installation

It's official...I am now a sworn in Peace Corps Volunteer and tomorrow I am going to be installed in my site which will be my home for the next 2 years, inchallah. I have to apologize for slacking on the updates, believe me there have been many many things to tell I have just been so busy these past two weeks that the internet has not been my top priority.
So I passed my language test and met the required level of intermediate low. Which basically means I can muddle my way through the basics. I am feeling very confident that the next three months I am going to spend most of my time trying to perfect my pulaar. On Saturday we swore in in Dakar in a formal, slightly boring official ceremony which also included the Japanese and the Korean international volunteer swear-in, which meant that there was super yummy food at the reception, like spring rolls and veggie sushi.
This might now seem like big news, but you should have all seen how we rushed those tables!

My computer arrived in the mail on friday! amazing. people cannot believe that i even had it sent to me. Apparently, it's actually not allowed to send it in the mail and I only had to pay 12 bucks in customs fees! (sometimes its beautiful to know people in high places). Had it been a week later adn the other customs guy was working I might not have been so lucky.
So, I am enjoying the safety of uploading my pictures to a secure location, making new playlists to put onto my ipod (huge thrill btw) and havign the possibility of watching DVDs.

I'm not feeling very nervous about going to site--really, i feel relieved if nothing else. Relieved to finally settle in and stop living out of a suitcase, thrilled to finally meet my new family, to see my hut, to stop feeling anxious about the heat and just learn how to deal with it...and of course most importantly, i can't wait to start my community entry phase (CEP)!

CEP means that for the next 3 months until IST in August my job is primarily to work on my language skills adn assess the needs of my community. That means visiting and greeting all of the important head honchos of my town, the prefes, sous-prefes, all of the doctors and nurses at my healthpost and at the district center (b/c my town has both), greet the presidents of the neighborhood orgs, of which there are 11, meet the heads of various womens groups, health groups etc. These greetings will probably take me about a month because often you have to stay for several hours, and if you get caught in the heat of the day then there is no sense in fighting to get back to your own home. Also, for the first week I'm going to be wantign to get to know my family and my neighbors and singling out those people who will be patient enough to help me with my pulaar. I anticipate many many hours of sitting around with the women cooking with my notebooks and dictionaries in hand and not understanding the majority of what goes on.

Sunday the 4 of us installing up north drove to our regional house and spent the night there. We were met by 2 current PCVs who gave us the lay of the land and surprised us by making pizza. it was a lovely night of giggling, eating, telling stories, and bonding. It really is true that the people in your region become your lifelines, your family. We have a retreat all together at the regional house in June for 4 days, when we're a month in. It gives us something to look forward to and commit ourselves to one full month at site without leaving.

Yesterday we drove into the town where we will all be doing our banking and where a lot of us meet up at the only place for miles where we can have a beer and some pizza and feel semi-normal. (one restaurant in town just got pizza 2 weeks ago, and menus too!)
Today we went to another nearby town and watched two current volunteers at their bi weekly radio show. it was so awesome. They have an hour slot and play music and do various health related skits, interiews, and lessons--and people really do listen! they are even approached on the street by people who will say things like " hey i heard your skit about vaccinating my kid, just wanted you to know that i do. we like your program. etc" pretty cool huh? talk about reaching a wider audience. and for an hour i was transported home because this week the theme music was johnny cash. yes, i am definitely in the presence of awesome volunteers.

I am feeling mildly intimidated about taking over for my ancien volunteer. She was just so loved adn did such great work. She's a tough cookie and will be a hard act to follow, but I"m going to try my best.

Today and yesterday we also spent the day buying things for our huts. Mats for the floor, buckets for fetching water, adn washing, soap, fans, foam pads to put over our stick beds, trunks, sheets, you name it. It was so wonderful to have the other PCVs around to bargain for us. Money in Pulaar is insane. the numbers used for money are totally different than the actually numbers. Brilliant right? Of course it's like that....

So think of me tomorrow. Know that I am mostly excited, less jittery than I thought I would be. Ashley and Bernard are going to come in the PC car with me to help ease my nerves. There are all kinds of horror stories about volunteers chasing after the PC car once it takes off and they freak out, but I dont think that will happen to me. I'm tough :) and i'm installing in the evening so I'll just have time to settle in, greet the fam, hae dinner adn pass out.

As for the heat, it's been about 115 during the day as far as we can tell. I haen't exactly been walking around with a thermometer though. Its funny though, once you get that hot, you actually start to feeel chilly? Though I hae definitely decided that I am someone who tolerates the heat MUCH better than I tolerate the cold. Its that CA blood i guess.
The rumor is that the highest anyone has officially seen on their thermometers is 137, but that it stayed that exact same temperature for hours and hours, so then the PCV realized that her thermometer didn't actually go above 137 degrees!!!
I've been hydrating like a crazy person. I haven't kept exact track of how many liters i drink a day, but I'm guessing it's been around 10-12. and I barely ever pee which gives you a delicious image of what a sweaty mess I have been! I think my plan of action will be to shower at least 3 times a day, just for some relief. My family has a refrigerator though which means that I will hae access to ice cold water to drench myself in for hours at a time.

Today we walked along the river adn I could see mauritania on the other side. That was a trip. It was so close, and the water was so blue. I guarantee I'll be swimming in it a lot. I figure we get treated for Schistosomiasis anyway, I might as well not let the meds go to waste right? (sorry mom....but it's just too hot).

FYI, my address in Thies is no longer valid. I mean if you've already sent something to me I'll get it eventually, but I have a new address which I will be mass emailing everyone soon. That being said, you have all been asking me if I want anything, and I nwo have a better idea of things I'd love to have:

DVDs.
Breakfast snacks, fibrous ones preferably. but snacky foods in general, trail mix, granola bars, cliff bars, oatmeal, dried fruit, etc.
conditioner (it's really hard to find and super expensive)
any kind of lotion especially that smells good...but not too too strong,
tissues
pantiliners (good to pile on top of other stuff because customs doesn't want to touch it).
ANNIES MAC AND CHEESE!! I promise my first born child to whoever sends me some.
spices for cooking and baking. all kinds. they will definitely be used at the regional house.
Vitamin C supplements.
business size mailing envelopes, and padded mailing envelopes so that i can send you all more substantial gifts and letters
That's it for now.

Thanks to everyone for your words of encouragement after my frustrated last blog entry. I am doing much better, my spirits are up. I am moving into the next phase of my PC service with lots of energy and enthusiasm, and it means the world to me to receive all of your supportive emails adn encouragement. What wonderful family and friends I have supporting me. It's hard to explain how much all of your thoughts and messages mean to me.
Thank you all so much.

I promise to write more regularly, especially now that I have my computer and can write messages there adn then just upload them. Anticipate many more emails and detailed blog entries from now on. Probably the best decision i've made to have it sent to me.
I also promise that soon I will write about the overwhelming experience that was my sister's wedding and pictures will be uploaded soon.

Wish me luck tomorrow!
Peace and lots of excitement,
Cait

31 comments:

Wendy said...

Oh, I am so excited for you. I'm sure you'll rise to the occasion and easily fill the footsteps of the previous volunteer. You can expect a package from me in the next few weeks. I love an excuse to go to Trader Joe's!

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