Sunday, August 23, 2009


My second full day at my home stay has been just as challenging as the first. While my family continues to help me with my Wolof/ laugh uproariously when I make stupid mistakes, they don’t think I’m eating enough. It is true that I’ve had very little appetite here. It could have something to do with the fact that it’s a million degrees outside, we eat the same food all the time, and in Senegal it is not good manners to drink water with your meal only after. I keep trying to tell them I don’t eat a lot in the US, but they don’t believe me so I just keep saying that my stomach is upset from the water. Oh well. I’m definitely eating enough and most of the food is actually pretty good except that everything is drenched in oil. Tonight we had eggs, onions, and fried potatoes. I think my dad would have been in heaven.

Class was fine today. It’s a lot different from what I’m used to. My first semester of Arabic was a whirlwind and the Fawz was not a nice or welcoming woman she would pace the rows, usually pick me to scream at, and she had a sixth sense about who to call on… she knew that person wouldn’t know the answer. Learning Wolof is the opposite extreme. We move very slowly and repeat everything a million times. It’s slow for me. I wish we learned more in class and were expected to practice more at home, but one boy in particular is struggling a little bit and supposedly PC knows best so I guess I’ll endure and see what happens.

The three big accomplishments of the afternoon:
1. A family friend came over and I help his baby. The baby didn’t cry at the scary toubab until all the adults tried to tell him I was scary. He was adorable, but I immediately got up to Purell my hands because all the volunteers say there is nothing worse than touching children since they are always sick themselves.

2. I went to the market with Tamar and her Senegalese sisters. We bought upukai which is a traditional Senegalese hand fan. It is absolutely impossible to live here without upukai because you can fan yourself and swat the bajillions of flies at the same time. Plus, they’re pretty and cost 45 cents max.

3. I showed my family the photo album I brought from the states. They LOVED it. All the kids are obsessed with US culture and were very interested about boy/ girl relationships, clothing, and going out. A special shout out goes to Katherine, Kristen, Jackie, and Deegs guess why? Yup, they’re all blond. You girls are the most beautiful of my friends just fyi and my Senegalese brother is looking for a green card. He likes all of you. Matt is the loser of the photo album popularity contest. They said he was ugly, which is a common non-insult/joke in Senegal. My family thinks I should find a nice Senegalese man. They asked me what Matt does and I said he works on airplanes, rockets are obviously too difficult to explain, and they didn’t believe me. They said planes come from China. Oh well.

To prove to my family that I will eat I sat with my sister as she made dinner. It was great because I got all the family gossip. The oldest sister is engaged and her fiancé was over last night. I saw him, but my mom didn’t introduce me, which I thought was weird since greetings and introductions are super important in Senegal, but Binta told me it was because her mom hates the fiancé. Binta also has a boyfriend who lives in Dakar where he attends university and plays soccer. They hope to get married and both parents like her boyfriend. Also, this is my dad’s second family. He had a wife and has three grown daughters. One of whom has a husband in the states. As in, she married this guy who lives in Atlanta with another family while she lives in Senegal. Interesting. Anyway, my Senegalese parents think Sharyl and Claude are pretty hot. Mom, my dad guessed you were 40. Good day. He’s 71, which is amazing. I wouldn’t have guessed that, but I don’t know how old my mom is. I also learned that my dad used to be a police officer, but is now retired, which makes sense since he’s way older than I thought he was and lays on the a mat outside fanning himself all day.

The more I get to know my family the more I like them. They are really nice and helpful even if they do try and force feed me. And from what I see around our house is pretty nice and extremely clean. I’m so happy they use soap.

As for the PC experience, I’m still struggling with whether I’m a good fit. Africa time is really hard for me. I just can’t understand how people don’t really do anything all day. I know I get really bored at night even after I’ve done homework, written in my journal, and watched some amazing Spanish soap operas dubbed in French. I hope when I get back to Thies and can talk to some current SED volunteers they can waylay my fears about doing nothing most of the time even though others told me to prepare for boredom.

Well, some amazing/ nonsensical American rap is absolutely blasting from the compound next to me and my family is screaming to each other in the yard and I’m sweating in my room… and that means it’s time to go to bed!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Alyssa, I LOVE reading your blog! I have been checking the past few days and was looking forward to your new posts. Myra told me about your blog and I am so glad she did. It reminds me so much of my childhood in Vietnam and the friendships we had with the Peace Corp. volunteers who lived next doors. The situation you described is similar to the village we lived in South Vietnam at the time. Then, when I got older, I was able to come to the U.S. in an exchange visitor program. In spite of the much more "civilized" environment with all the comfort that we enjoy here, I experienced "culture shock" as you normally would when first living in a new country; I was so homesick and felt lonely most of the time. I have so much RESPECT for you for having joined the Peace Corp and moving to a different continent so far away. Please keep on writing and thank you for taking the time to write. It is so wonderful that you are able to let us here not only understand how you feel but also experience with you through the sights and sounds and smells that you have so vividly described! You are doing a GREAT job! Signed Phuonghang Phan (Myra's mom)