Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Installation (aka. Cait's Inferno!)

I have arrived! I am now at site and currently laying in my douche/shower area in back of my hut at 6:50 in the morning on Saturday, May 19, 2007. I have been at site now since Wednesday evening but today is my baptism! My new name is Binta Lam. I adore my new family, and again am lucky enough to have about a million sisters. There are probably 15 or 30 people living in my house. I’d say half are children under age 15, which is wonderful and totally chaotic all at the same time. So when I update this entry several days will have passed but this is the first go with the computer in the few blissful moments of privacy that I can muster in the morning. I’ll start at the beginning:

You always hear horror stories about installation, people running after cars, crying, locking themselves in their huts, those that are already ill vomit everywhere (there is an urban legend that one volunteer even messed herself in front of her whole family!)…but no such fabuloust tale from me. The Peace Corps van dropped me off around 5pm and the staff stayed for about a half hour and chit chatted with the family. That first night was pretty overwhelming, but mostly just scary. The thoughts were racing, what am I doing here? Can I even do this? It would be so easy just to go home…
But I’m still here, so I obviously made it through the night.
Because it is so sweltering hot (more on that soon) I’ve been sleeping outside with the rest of the family under the one tree in our compound. There are several stickbeds surrounding it and I have one to myself and we all bring out our mats and I set up my mosquito net and around midnight it finally starts to cool off and life is good.

You’re all probably wondering how I’m doing with the heat? Well….it’s hot, and horrible. Right now, at 7am it’s 94.5 F. On Thursday I left my alarm clock outside in my douche just to see how hot it was at the peak heat of the day, and it was a whopping 148 degrees!! No, that is not a typo…I’m being totally serious. My hut during the day is usually around 120. I have been hydrating like it’s going out of style, so no worries there.

But last night was the first night that I did not sleep a wink because as I was warned “I just sweat through the night.” It was literally too hot to sleep. I was getting desperate for some privacy and wanted to try and figure out how to sleep on my own, so I tried sleeping in my douche, but the cement had heated up all day and was horribly hot. So I tried sleeping under the shade structure outside my hut, but again, the cement radiates heat and blocks the little wind that there is…so, tonight I will again sleep around the tree with my family and have to move to my douche for some alone time when the sun wakes me. It was a good experiment, and now I know. (in case you’re wondering, it is absolutely out of the question to sleep in my hut. Yesterday it did not get below 100 degrees inside all day. Not sleepable.)

I realize that this entry is all about the heat, but it pretty much consumes all of my energy. It’s so difficult to do anything else, and I’m trying to figure out how to keep myself sane, and mildly cool so that I can get things done. This will take some time.

Since day one I have greeted the mayor and his office, various prefes and sous-prefes, gone to the dispensaire and greeted the head nurse there, saw vaccination day (every Friday), found the district health center (by myself I might add…very empowering), lunched at my counterpart’s house, been to the post office, sat around with my sisters talking about America and Senegal and the differences between our cultures (one of my highlights thus far, as I did it in mostly Pulaar with French as a supplement), made a family tree, been to the weekly market, saw the daily market out in Kanel, attended a women’s and babies group meeting that my ancien started with 10 first time moms in the town, ate my first dish of Jaco (a dish with mashed up and boiled leaves and fish…it’s SOOO good), unpacked and decorated my room…the list goes on. The women’s group wants me to lead a health talk next week so that they can start up again!! Stressful, but thrilled that they already trust me to take over her job so readily. I am working on what topic to address first! There are so many to choose from…

So despite the advisary that this is community entry and you shouldn’t be doing any actual work, it feels great to have some tasks at hand. I have been keeping a daily work journal of everything that I’ve been doing so that I can look back after my 3 months and know that I had a successful and productive CEP.

The gears are already turning the more and more I see. But in the mornings I am at my best and I’m so happy to be here and be working, but during those hot hours of the day, I want nothing more than to run away to a hotel with air conditioning and hideaway.

I have not made any lists for awhile so here it goes:

#of times my family has asked me if I have a kind of medicine, or cream, or product, or bandage: 10+ (my ancienne and I have a strict ‘no giving away things from your med kit’ policy…not sustainable, they need to be encouraged to go to the dispensaire)
# of liters of H20 I drink daily ~ 12
# of times I pee ~ 5 (yes, the rest leaves me via sweat. A nice thought)
# of times I’ve wanted to cry because it’s so hot: 3
# of times I’ve felt total elation at being at site: 4
# of times the water and electricity have cut out : 1 (all day, this is very typical)
# of times per day that I cringe when the adults smack the kids: everytime. It never gets easy
# of goats in our compound: 6
# of CFA it cost to buy a huge bag of ripe delicious mangoes: 250 = 50cents

So there you have it. I will be writing about the ‘baptism’ later which I’m sure will be totally overwhelming, much like my sister’s wedding in Thies. There are going to be many people, all speaking Pulaar at least, but none the less it should be an adventure!

Haa boye!

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