Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Ana and Rachel

Happy Birthday Rachel and Ana! And congratulations on celebrating a very anti-climactic birthday. Sorry, 20 sucks. A brief re-cap of my 20th includes being denied from a bar after all of my friends got in. Boo. Rachel – please partake in a wonderfully alcoholic Eastern European beer in a huge stein for me. Ana – have some good old under-aged college drinking complete with drunk eating afterward. Have a great night girls. Make me proud and send me the details of your exploits. I need entertaining shenanigans to read while I’m here.

Now, back to reality (my reality) of Senegal…

Today was a good day. Although I woke up completely freaking out and questioning everything I had worked through last night, I calmed back down throughout the day and I’m feeling pretty good about life right now. The major anxiety issue, currently, is going back to my home stay tomorrow evening. I will be returning to the same village and the same family I was with last week. I will be staying with them most of the time until I swear in as a volunteer in October. I will be commuting back and forth between my home stay and the training center. Tomorrow we are going to the village for 14 days, which is our longest stretch and which is really scary since we will be eating the same thing every day, conducting our lives in the French/ Wolof mixture du jour, and probably getting really sick since I have not experienced that thus far. Staying with the family isn’t easy. It’s not like being an exchange student in France. The family is not a Western family with Western values and a Western education level.

I do not think that I have adequately described and painted a true picture of Africa. I don’t know what I was thinking when I set off on this ridiculous adventure, but I was shocked when I got here and I’m shocked/ horrified on a pretty daily basis. I think I thought Africa was going to be a poorer, crappier version of Eastern Europe, but that’s just not the case. Africa is a whole different planet. The level of poverty and just dirt cannot be seen through pictures or even described in my posts. The resiliency and happiness of the Senegalese is therefore wonderfully surprising. The live in a place infested with flies (I can not get used to the flies, they kill me), mosquitoes, rolling blackouts, squat toilets and trash heaps along the street, but they are content with their lives. Yeah, everyone wants to travel to the US to New York or Los Angeles, but very few people understand the United States. It’s incomprehensible that there’s running water in every room in my house, that I have an incredibly attractive Volvo parked in my driveway, that I can put my laundry into a machine and walk away and it will get done, and that I can pretty much have whatever I want whenever I want it.

The changes in material possessions is not the hard part in moving to Africa. I don’t really miss anything that I’ve left behind at home (except the wonderful people who read and comment on my blog), it’s the transition to the slower pace of life. I’m already getting used to the heat, looking disgusting constantly, being continuously bitten by bugs/ being itchy, but I can’t get over sitting under a tree all day fanning myself. I don’t understand how my African mom can sit under a tree all day, not talking to anyone fanning herself. Talking with the other volunteers, this seems to be the hardest cultural aspect to adapt to. A leisurely paced life is never anything that I have aspired to. I ate dinner with a couple volunteers who have been in country for a long time and they made me feel better saying that you can stay as busy as you want to. One girl has only been here a year and has read 103 books. Damn. I am definitely planning on reading and studying a lot more at the home stay this time. I hope adding more activities to sitting under a tree with satisfy both my family’s need for fanning and sitting and my need for some cerebral stimulation.

I will be in the village for the next two weeks. I’m sure it’s going to be a huge challenge and that I’m probably going to hate a lot of it. I just hope that I can start to see the good and the rewarding aspects of service before I really freak out. I did find an internet café or two in my town so I will be updating my blog though less frequently than here. Please send me any questions you have because it will give me something to talk about other than language class, sitting under a tree, and a PC fav… GI issues.

Wish me luck while in the village and please write me emails and check my blog. You have no idea how wonderful it is to get news from home. I promise to respond as soon as I can. You get extra points and a blog shout of for letters. I will also keep track of who sends me the most and that person will get a special prize! So start writing now!


  1. Dear,Alyssa
    you rock! i do not know many people who would go to Africa for two years and not know what there going to do and where there going to live!It sounds like its totally different there in africa than here in the united states. It sounds like a cool adventure! thanks for writting the blog i love reading it!

    P.S i'm still trying to convince my parents to send me to Africa.


  2. Hi Alyssa
    I've never heard you refer to the "chariot" as incredibly attractive before autos must be in bad shape there! Don't worry I couldn't possibly sell her now. She's a permanent part of our family...definitely a classic!

  3. Alyssa,
    Hello from Okemos, Michigan. We are so excited to be reading about all of your adventures! Lauren, Katie and I are amazed at what we read and see! You are awesome! I remember when I loved in Japan and had to ____ in the hole! Squating builds strong muscles! Love, T

  4. Hey! Thanks for the shout out! I had a pretty cool birthday given it was my 20th AND in the middle of my first full week of classes. I had the most AMAZING pizza in the world with a couple of friends and then, because my roomies are awesome, had a suprise party waiting for me after. Not much drunken revelry yet (what I had early classes today!) but it will happen this weekend and I promise to tell you all about any inebriated misfortunes.
    I have to note, though, that sitting under a tree and reading for two years sounds just about my speed. I always was less ambitious ;)

  5. Hey Lis! Thanks for the happy birthday wish. I am going to write about it on my blog, but it was somewhat disappointing. I did have a pretty large beer however and I didn't get carded! But I was called a child in Hungarian, as well as was shown penis by an 8 year old on the street and was offered 10lbs to "hit" a guy. Sooo, all in all, we are hoping for a re-do when the rest of our program gets here.
    I know that they're totally different experiences, but I always feel lame writing in my blog b/c I feel like yours is so cool and different and new. I'm like oh its hot, or oh the toilet is weird... but then again it's way hotter there and I'm also lucky enough to have a flushing toilet as well as TP tout les temps.
    Anywho, I guess what I'm saying is I love reading your blog. I will work on sending you e-mails/post cards when something great happens.
    Love and miss you!

    P.S. Hang in there. You're AMAZING/my hero.

  6. Alyssa,

    Relative to the gift, I would hope that you automatically eliminate your mother since she will hands down be the winner.


  7. Hi Alyssa,
    I just want you to know that you and your blog are amazing. Although I'm not totally suprised at how difficult life is (I watch too many National Geographic shows), I can't in a million years imagine being brave enough to actually live it. If I even see a little spider, I immediately consider selling the house and moving to a new state. (That's the real reason we even ended up in Grand Rapids). I think what you are attempting to do is extremely noble and I'm optomistic that what you take away personally and what you give back to Senegal will make it worthwile. Just think if you can ever figure out how to motivate them to give up a little fanning time to actually sell some lemonade (or guava-ade), how easy it will be to manage any less than steller worker when you come back home. I hope it gets a little easier every day. Much Love, Roz

  8. Hola,

    I sent you a package today! I'm in the running! Although the postman looked at where it was going and said "welp, let's just hope it gets there someday" Very reassuring. Either way, you should be receiving a not very exciting package somewhere between tomorrow and six months from now :)

    Also, I would like to take this time to request my prize. Should I win, I would like all proceeds to go toward buying Lindsay a Camo Ice 40 since we couldn't be there to make her miserable on her 23rd.

    Hang in there!