Monday, March 17, 2008

Night Swimming

On Friday night myself and 6 other PCVs went to visit a fellow PCV (my closest neighbor) in his village 7K away. His two years are up (though he’s extending for a year in Dakar) and wanted to have a little get together/barbecue for his family so that we could meet them all and see his village.

His village is along the river and so of course, as the sun was going down, we all got it in our heads to go for a swim! (We girls had to wear long skirts/pants of course). Some of you may know that these rivers are not exactly the most sanitary. Schistosomiasis anyone? Animals and people definitely use them as toilets, as well as wash their clothes and dishes in them. But when its still 100 degrees at 8pm adds to the enthusiasm of 6 other PCVs we all jumped in and swam across the river to Mauritania! It was such a cool thing to do, to stand up there on the banks of Mauritania and look back and see Senegal. Perhaps it was not the safest, or most sanitary thing to do, swim in an unknown and fairly deep river with a current in Africa at night, but we all made it safe and sound and showered off all the remnants afterwards.

No harm done? Not totally sure…

During the swim I couldn’t help but sit back for a moment and think about how cool I felt doing that. I was envisioning the conversation a few years down the road… “this one night, in Africa when I swam across the Senegal River to Mauritania under the stars with 6 of my friends…” It just made me reflect on all the adventures I’m having here whose “coolness factor” probably won’t hit me until I’m home in America sharing them with others.

That night we ate a ton of meat and I spent a long time dancing with some kids in his family to Akon, Sean Paul, Shakira, playing on his Ipod speakers. It was so fun to be there under the stars, after a swim and a meal, with friends and little kids. For a few hours I felt “Peace Corps normal.”

The next day was my stage’s one-year anniversary in country! Woo hoo! Which happened to coincide with my jr. highs big annual celebration. Two days of sports games, club performances, lots of music, dancing, and a final soirée. So the morning after being in my friend’s village I woke up at sunrise and caught a car (lucky me…not a charet!) to my town. I dressed up in my brand new Senegalese outfit complete with gigantic headwrap and attended all the day’s events. As I am an invited guest at these kinds of functions I’m always given a chair among the mayor, official ministers, and teachers in the shade with cold drinks. I was even asked to get up and speak! So there I was in front of probably 500 people (mostly kids) thanking and praising them for their celebration and telling them how much it meant to me to celebrate my one year in country with them etc etc. It made me feel very loved to see all those faces and to realize how many people in my community know me. Afterwards I had a bunch of them come up to me and tell me how much they loved my speech (all of 1 minute long. And yes mom, I have pictures).

I came back just after dusk totally exhausted with some of my siblings, only to spend the rest of the night in my douche with Giardia, or some such disgusting virus. The jury is still out on whether or not it is Giardia, amoebas, or some other lovely parasite, or all of the above. I’ll find out next week some time after my very dear friend gets to haul down a my stool sample to the PC med office in Dakar. What a guy huh? But thank god for the PC med kit and Oral Rehydration Salts is all I can say. That, and cell phones and cell phone reception because I was able to call the PCMedical Officer for counsel and seek sympathy from my mom and family at home.

I’m assuming it was something in my friend’s village that has made me ill, so perhaps our fabulous night swimming adventure was not without consequence? (Absentmindedly ingested some river water maybe? I shudder at the thought).

What a classic way to celebrate my one-year anniversary in country right? Sick as a dog with some hideous GI bug. Ah well, I’m feeling a bit better today and at least I got to have a great adventure and participate in almost all of the jr. high’s activities (For obvious reasons I could NOT go to the soirée, though the music blared all night long and I would have loved to have gone and danced with my teacher friends all night).

As soon as I find out what is wrong with me, and assuming it’s not just a passing 1 time only virus, I’m sure I’ll be started on a whole slew of fabulous medicines with all kinds of side effects, but for now I’m functional and well-hydrated and I’ll still be able to make our radio show on Tuesday no problem.

I hope this entry doesn’t scare off any visitors who think that I’ll be a reckless hostess. It’s just that after a year you start to let your guard down a little bit. But this has been a perfect reminder that that’s stupid and makes you miserable. Time to be a bit more careful maybe? Though a day off to lay around, nap, hydrate like mad, and read and drink ice cold crystal light is not all that bad.

Though as I type this, it is 112 F in my room.

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