I have already admitted and will always be the first to admit that Pre-Service Training (PST) this summer was grueling and the most terrible and difficult thing I've ever done. I really didn't think that I could do it and I did not hold high hopes for our In-Service Training (IST) which started this week. Now that I've officially been in country for six months I should know that I should never expect anything because whatever I expect probably wont happen and IST has been a great surprise. Today we really had four great sessions.
The morning kicked off with a cross-cultural question and answer session regarding our first four months at site (I can't believe I've been at site four months today!). The questions really ran the spectrum from serious to ridiculous to why is my host mom still "breast-feeding" her 4 year old grandson. No one has been able to answer my questions about Ahmed and his relationships with Khady (his mom) and my host mom/ his grandma. When I brought up the fact that he calls his grandma mom and his mom by her first name, several other volunteers said they have similar situations with their families where everyone calls the family matriarch mom. The Senegalese instructor acting as moderator assured me that Ahmed knows his mom is Khady, although I'm still not sure, but everyone agreed that it is fairly unusual that Ahmed's grandma is still using her breasts as a pacifier four years in. Every family has it's quirks and this definitely does not phase me anymore!
Going back into the air conditioned heaven that is the SED training room we had an incredibly interesting lecture from a Senegalese man who was the economist for USAID for twenty years. He gave us a run down of Senegal's economic history and the country's economic prognosis. Neither are very optimistic. Regardless, everyone is telling us that this is a great time of change to be a SED volunteer as Senegal is receiving a ton of AID money. It was shocking to hear about how many people live in poverty and don't consume enough daily calories even though I live here see people begging in the streets. I'm a little removed from some of the hardship living in Thies and with a fairly wealthy family.
During lunch Katherine, Jackie and I had a grand plan to go to the garage and get delicious chicken sandwiches and then go pay our internet bills. Obviously the plan was partially foiled because Orange, the internet provider, decided to close a half hour early for no reason, but we did get amazing chicken sandwiches and since the Orange office was closed I got to swing by the post office and I got a letter from Shirley! Yay! Still no package, but I will keep checking... I can't wait to get it!
The afternoon held more interesting sessions. Representatives from The World Wildlife Fund and 10,000 Girls came in to talk to us about working with NGOs in Senegal and how Peace Corps and work with NGOs. It was really inspiring and it sounded like opportunities abound. I hope so. 10,000 girls was especially interesting to me since its goal is to keep girls in school or if they've failed out to help them continue their education. I really want to see if I can somehow create a partnership between 10,000 Girls and Keur Yaay. I think it would be awesome.
We even ended session early and a bunch of the SED kids got a beer at the Speakeasy. A great end to the day.
I think that's pretty much today's wrap up. I should mention that the weather has been spectacular and that I've been wearing a sweatshirt. I wont tell you how warm it actually is here since all of my friends and family in the Mid-West are still digging out of the snow!
Messy, but Warm
6 months ago