Thursday, September 10, 2009


Demystification was this afternoon. There is a giant map of Senegal on the basket ball court at the training center and we were all blindfolded, the led by a current volunteer or staff member around, until we were disoriented, and then placed on the map where our post is. Still blindfolded, I heard one of my roommates, Jackie, standing right next to me and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Knowing she was in my region made everything a little easier. Once everyone was placed the staff called out 1,2,3, and we all whipped off our blindfolds and looked down. I was in Thies. Yes, Thies aka the location of the Peace Corps training center is my post for the next two years. I’m not going to lie… it was a little anti-climatic, but I’m happy. None of us really know Thies yet and since it’s the third largest city in Senegal I can really do anything that I want.

I am going to replace a volunteer and live in his room. I’m living with one of the wealthiest families in Thies. The father operates the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, which I’m told is like PC Japan, and I guess they have some pretty nice digs. I will have my own bungalow (my mother chose this word). In reality it’s going to be a cement hut in the family compound. I’m definitely looking forward to having a little separation from the family and a little more privacy. The family also has satellite television and a REFRIGERATOR. I cannot tell you how amazing cold water is going to taste. The piece de resistance of being in Thies is that I can have internet wired into my room. Thank god. That was my number one priority. No matter how lame that sounds or how un-PC that was one of my major requirements and it makes me feel a lot better about everything. Plus, I will be able to post more which should make you all happy too.

I really don’t have too many details. I will be going to the house on Saturday and spending 4 days there so I will have pictures and know a lot more soon. As for work, the boy I’m replacing didn’t have a major project he worked on and I will not be picking up any of his work directly. My goal is Thies according to PC is to work with women’s groups and microfinance which is exactly what I wanted. Thies also has a famous artisan village that I can work with, which I think will be really cool. So the Peace Corps really came through for me. The only thing I asked for that I didn’t get was a project that was in-progress that I could continue working on. I wanted to pick something up because then I would have something to work on right away. I will just have to really force myself to get out there and make business connections. It sounds like my family is well connected so that will help.

Thies is centrally located, which is another bonus. While Tamar got her dream site, an ecotourism site on an island that is supposed to be beautiful, she is pretty far away from me. She’s south of Dakar, which means a several hour commute and a boat ride on a good day. Luckily, one of my roommates Jackie and another girl I really like Katherine are both in the greater Thies area. I’m really happy that they are close so when I have one of my inevitable emotional breakdowns they are close by to hold my hand, go to the toubab store to get food, and some booze. Another nice thing about Thies is that our regional house, the lovely PC owned places with real kitchens, bathrooms, beds, and internet that we can go to for free to decompress, is Dakar. Yay! Supposedly Dakar is real civilization so that will definitely be nice.

Although I don’t really know too much about my site or my future life here in Senegal, it’s an amazing weight off my shoulders to know where I’ll be living, that the Peace Corps listened to my requests, and that if there was a site that I could do Peace Corps my way and actually live through this experience it would be Thies. The transitions of this past month have been ridiculous, a deluge of information, cultural changes, and terror. I’m happy that when I install at site at least some things will be familiar. I definitely don’t know Thies right now, but I do know there’s a toubab store and booze and that’s comforting. I also know that Thies is a transportation hub so when I need to get out I can get out quickly and go anywhere in the country.

Everyone says that the pre-service training portion of PC is the worst part. Your life is not your own and you’re living out of a suitcase and it just sucks. I hope that there really is no place to go but up.

My friends and I were going to go out to dinner and the bar to celebrate knowing at least a little part of the puzzle of our future lives, but it’s pouring rain and when it rains in Africa you just have to go inside and wait it out. It’s amazing how weather affects daily life here. Everything really grinds to a halt. Another fun fact: West Africa has been getting a ridiculous amount of rain, even for the rainy season, many countries are flooding and it’s becoming a little bit of a problem. One of those problems reminds me of The Oregon Trail… yes, a cholera outbreak is a real possibility. That just blows my mind. Cholera? It’s 2009.

Anyway, I digress. No restaurant tonight, but we heard a wild rumor that the training center is serving chicken so it would have been a travesty to miss that anyway. Hopefully, we can make it to the bar after the rain stops, but if not I’m going to lay in bed and stare at the beauty of Glory.

I’m at the center until Saturday morning and then will be back the middle of next week until Saturday the 19th when I go back to the home stay village so keep the emails coming. I’m trying to respond to people as quickly as I can.

Ok, I just ate dinner. It was fried chicken, potatoes, and salad. I inhaled it and am worried I my gastro track will pay for it later. Oh well. The rain continues so we’re all cuddling up inside to go online.

And enjoy some pictures of my stylin’ Africa dress.

Goodnight from Senegal.

1. I peer pressured Tamar to walk to the bar in pouring rain. The gazelle's tasted delicious.
2. I discovered that even though my site it Thies I don't get to stay here and am slated to go back to my home stay village for my village visit. This means full on attack in the morning. No way that's happening. I already talked to the 3rd year in charge of SED so I've made progress, but tomorrow I'm talking to the big guns. Wish me luck.
3. Pictures of the sweet Africa dress/ the fabric print are now up on my blog. Sorry I couldn't load them on the page so they're in the slideshow section.


  1. woo hoo, you got a good placement!

    did you ever make it to the bar? fishbowl?


  2. Your placement sounds awesome!

    You'll be happy to know that your blog is now officially the first thing I check on Google Reader.

    Oh, and I miss your baked goods. That is all.

    -Franklin Jefferson Shaddy

  3. Congrats on the assignment even if it was anti climatic. I just looked up the pictures of your new african clothes and they're awesome! You totally rock the pagne.

  4. Alyssa! This is a random message, but I hope you appreciate it nonetheless!

    Kristen and Leigh keep raving about your blog and I had to see for myself... I just spent 2 hours reading it in its entirety and looking at your pictures. What an amazing experience! I loved the picture of the baobab tree, reminded me of Le Petit Prince, and of course Mme Ibara.

    But, I guess I mostly wanted to give you a little shout-out, let you know that I'm jealous of your experience (even though it does sound so trying). You're a stronger person than I am to embark upon an experience like this! Keep up the great blogs, and I can't wait to hear more!

    Oh, and perhaps a question that maybe I should have gathered from the posts already: In the squatting toilets at your homestay, do they flush or do they just flow down pipes to underground sewage tanks? I guess I'm mostly just wondering about the sewage system in general...

    Take care!