Thursday, January 7, 2010

Am Kersa

I'm back from the village and it was amazing. Well, the language training that is. The language training was mind-blowing. I feel like I didn't speak Wolof at all before three days ago and that I have such a long way to go before I stop sounding like a complete idiot... if that every really happens. The language instructor we had was fantastic and we covered an amazing amount of material. It was like being in PST again so I can't say that I had the best time, but I will say that I listened to and attempted to absorb and incredibly amount of information. I have a lot of Wolof studying to do in the next few days in an attempt to really learn the material. The most amazing part of the training was that it wasn't scheduled and was a recent addition. I don't know if I could have ever really grasped the language without this intensive course and I'm hoping for another one!

Apart from the great language instruction (my brain is literally bursting right now) we also had some really interesting discussions about Senegalese culture; my favorite being about am kersa. Kersa is a word with many meanings, but we distilled it down to having good intentions and being an overall good person. Again, I have to stress how wonderful our instructor was because not only does she know her Wolof grammar, but she was brutally honest about her perceptions of Peace Corps and Senegal. As faithful readers know I have struggled with what I have perceived as a lack of motivation and general complacency here. Ouly, our instructor, helped me understand more of the underlying rational by explaining Kersa and how Senegalese should strive to be good people, work hard, and do good things.

I related this to The American Dream. From an early age Americans are taught we can do anything with hard work. Unfortunately, much of the world's population outside the US doesn't see this aspect of The American Dream, they see CSI Vegas with all the fancy gaggets and American movies full of expensive goods, Desperate Housewives with its immaculate neighborhoods. People don't believe me when I tell them there are people who can't find a job in the US, or people who have no money, or even homeless people who live on the street. Many people here think that the streets in the US are lined with gold and that Americans don't have to work for the luxuries we enjoy. And that's not true. (Sidenote: It's also not true that if I'm currently an unmarried old maid at the age of 22 and that if I don't get married by the end of my service that I will be too old and ugly to find a husband... but that's a complete other story/ rant.)Kersa is a sister to The American Dream. They are both about living a good life and looking to improve yourself.

This lead to the question: Do Peace Corps volunteers actually help? Ouly definitely thinks so. She discovered Peace Corps as a teenager and wanted to work with the organization since and has now been with PC almost 20 years. She's a wealth of information, but we've also taught her simple things like not to throw trash on the ground to more complex ideas like women can be entrepreneurs. During PST I really struggled with the idea that I would make a difference. I've been able to transform my ideas of success and I think I've already made a difference in Ahmed's life and I'm sure I can do good work in the future as well. That was sappy. Moving on.

Other than class the village was pretty uneventful. It's really small - only 7 family compounds so I just sat around with the family after class and talked about the volunteer they had before me. Their favorite subject about this volunteer was his girlfriend's ass. They wanted to know if I had seen it. Too funny. This was my first true village experience since I lived in a town during training so it was interesting, but I'm happy to my site is in a city and I was so glad to come home today and be with my family.

Speaking of my family... this is a reenactment of the converstation I had with my mom when I got home today.

Me: Mom! I missed you!
Mom: We missed you too! I'm so happy you aren't in the village anymore.
Me: Me too! They fed me bad ceebu jenn. (My mom LOVED this and went on and on about how there's sand in village ceebu jenn and how she's making me good ceeb tomorrow).
Mom: We are going to have a great dinner tonight.
Me: I need to take a shower and unpack my bags.
Mom: Yes. Please take two buckets into the shower with you. You came from the village and you're very dirty. Please shower before you unpack your bag.
Me: (Attempting to leave the room before I burst out laughing - my family is so city elitist. It's hilarious)

Ok, I don't know if that was as funny for you as it was for me, but here's another amazing quote.

I'm on Skype with my mom and Ahmed comes banging at my door while wearing a huge winter coat since it's a frigid 75 degrees here. I let him in and ask if he wants to see my mom in America. They say Bonjour to each other and then we leaves. I hear him go outside and see Deenba. He then says "I just saw Alyssa's Toubab mom." Priceless.

Moral of the story. I'm happy to be back from the vil, but very happy that I went to the training. Now, I'm ready to stay put for a while and enjoy life at site.


  1. Alyssa,

    Welcome back, I miss the daily posts. I can't believe you don't tell us how the former volunteers girl friends ass looked? It sounds like Ahmed if figuring out the way of the world.


  2. Well that did it. I am head over heels in love with Ahmed! From my perspective, in "America", at the other end of the skype screen, Ahmed's eyes were big as saucers when he saw me. It occured to me that he had forgotten you are white because he seemed so surprise that I am white. I don't think he sees you as a toubab. He is a beautiful boy with the sweetist voice I've ever it the French language? It is with great pride and humor that I will forever be your Toubab mom! It was great to have such a long, deep, belly laugh with you even if it was on skype Alyssa. Merci Beaucoup Ahmed!