Yesterday at 4:45am Chris (our Country Director) picked up a group of us at the hotel where we were staying for COS Conference and we all went to the airport to pick up the 17 new SED stagaires. Even though I was sick and had to sit through the rest of the conference all day, I wanted to go great the new stagaires to come full circle. I remember how incredibly terrified I was when I landed in Senegal and how much I looked up to the PCVs who came to collect us. I didn't see any of the terror I felt in their eyes, but it was great to get a first look at them.
The stagaires were in Thies all day yesterday, but I left early this morning for Thies with a group of second year SED PCVs to present on our various projects and give a little taste of what we do to the new kids before they had their interviews about site placement. Katherine and I presented on artisans (it seemed like people were super interested!), Elizabeth and Jackie did Junior Achievement, Byron presented on cross sector collaboration (SED and Ag co projects), Chris on Eco-Tourism, and Lyzz (a first year) on waste management. I know that I would have liked a project overview early on in my pre-service training, since I had no idea what kind of work the PCVs did, so I hope they enjoyed the presentations. I also participated in a safety and security discussion about Thies, but the most interesting part of my day was the site placement interviews.
I am lucky enough to sit in on the site placement interviews and help decide which trainee goes to which site. It's absolutely fascinating. I remember my interview and how it's so hard to talk about what you want when you don't know a damn thing. I feel like the PCV who sat in on my interview really was able to look at the sites, understand who fits into what site, and then evaluate my personality in order to put me in Thies. The fact that I wasn't quiet about my desire for internet/ connection to the outside world probably didn't hurt either. Regardless, I hope that I can help place people at a site where they will be successful and at a site that they love. Listening to the new trainees struggle to find the right words because they're jet lagged, try to describe their perfect site without knowing anything about the sites, and attempt to process all of the information being thrown at them is bringing back a deluge of memories.
All of their questions are interesting and I already feel invested in them since they are a SED stage, but most especially because one of them will be living with my family, taking on my projects, and quasi living the life I've lead for two years. The goal of these interviews in the next two days is to figure out which languages people are going to learn. Since the group is so small (only 17), there will be 5 French, 2 Serere, and 10 Wolof. Therefore, winnowing down the two who will speak Serere is a pretty big deal as they will be placed in one of two sites. There's a lot more variables in play for the people learning French and Wolof, but I definitely have my eye on a potential replacement for myself and for Katherine.
The past 8 days have been insanity with Jazz Fest, COS Conference, and the new stage arriving and it's not going to calm down anytime soon. For the rest of the week I will be spending all day at the center with the new stage and I have to go back to Dakar next for a Junior Achievement Senegal conference.
Artisan Update: I just got off the phone with Katherine who spoke to her tailor, Matar. I have yet to really speak with or visit Mme. Ly. According to Matar, some artisans stayed until Tuesday even though the event officially ended on Sunday and that they actually sold quite a bit of product and that the artisans are generally happy. Apparently, after we left, everyone started singing kumbaya and being best friends forever. Alys' leather worked, Demba, is now a father figure to Matar while Mme. Ly is his mother. They all bonded over the horrible situation and believe St. Louis made the association stronger, which they are now obsessed with. I desperately hope all of this is true because I've been feeling terrible about how poorly Jazz Fest went and how miserable the artisans appeared while we were there. I can't wait to get a chance to go over and see Mme. Ly. I hope she's as positive as Matar!
Messy, but Warm
8 months ago