Friday, July 1, 2011


It's JULY!!! AHHH!!! I'm coming home this month!

Allow me to illustrate the passage of time with one of the two most annoying conversations I had yesterday. Out of all the repeated conversations I have in Senegal there are two that stick out as being the most rage inducing.

1. There are 52 states in the United States
2. Why don't you just stay longer/ marry a Senegalese man

I had both of these conversations yesterday with the customs guy at the post office. I was so upset and frustrated by the end of the conversations that I almost left my package there since he was holding it hostage until the end of our conversation.

The 52 states debate is infuriating because it's factually untrue, but Senegalese people have a printed source that says it is. There is a high school textbook here in Senegal which states there are 52 states in the US. To make matters even better it does not list these 52 states it simply says they exist. Therefore, I don't know if they get 52 by believing that the continental US is 50 and then added Alaska and Hawaii or if Guam and Puerto Rico are counted. The lack of critical thinking skills in this country mean that all which is printed is truth. As an American citizen and history buff, I am unqualified to denounce said textbook and am ridiculed for my lack of patriotism and intelligence when I attempt to right this wrong. I was practically in tears yesterday trying to explain the textbook's mistake. It's even more infuriating since it would never stand if I tried to correct a Senegalese person on a fact about Senegal.

With nerves already frayed due to the 52 states conversation we moved on to the "why don't you stay longer/ marry a Senegalese man conversation." There is no correct answer. If I say I miss my friends and family, then I'm told to bring them to Senegal since it's so much better. If I say it's because my significant other is there, I'm told there are many more eligible men who would marry me right now here. Hey, my relationship at home isn't a sure thing, but that man on the corner definitely is! Or if I like it so much here, why would I go home? I know that a lot of this stems from insecurity and the desire to have me praise Senegal, but it's unbelievably annoying and circular.

Everyone always says that two years is nothing. I completely agree and completely disagree. Before I came to Peace Corps the two years was the scariest part. The scariest part should have been coming to Senegal, but since I was completely naive, it was the time factor. Two years seemed like an insurmountable amount of time away from family and friends. It seemed like throwing my life away by not making any money or attending graduate school. I have definitely missed out on things at home and time with friends and family, but while I will never get that time back nor would I want to give that time back, many of those events have been common occurrences and I will reclaim my spot when I come home. Without a doubt I have gained more in two years in Peace Corps Senegal than I would have at home and have become a much better, more patient, and empathic person. Not to mention the amazing friendships and Peace Corps family I've forged here. But, two years is still a really freaking long time and it makes me angry that people who have never left home are telling me it's not. I can also no longer come up with politically correct excuses to live at home and not marry a Senegalese man.

Moral of the story: I can't believe that it's been two years and I can totally believe it's been two great, amazing years!

That was yesterday. I spent the night in the dark with my family who continues to astound me with the awesomely bad food they've been preparing. Yassa (fried fish on white rice with onion sauce), Ngalach (peanut butter, chocolate, milk, millet concoction), Fataya (fried dough balls filled with fish), and Ceebu ketcha (rice with dried fish). I'm seriously impressed with how bad things have been lately so I've been raiding my remaining stash and hanging out where other food is available. The main plus of the power outages is that I actually spend time with my family instead of time spent watching television with them. I love our conversations in the dark while I get to cuddle with Abdou. Everyone is starting to talk about my imminent departure. They claim they're going to miss me and I actually believe them. They're also nervous about the new PCV they're going to get. They'll have to wait a little bit longer to be let in on that secret...

Today I've been out and about running some personal errands, trying to get all of my organizing and packing done, and going to see Mme. Ly. She's working on a couple orders for me and my friends which are still not done, but we had a nice chat anyway. I'm really going to miss Mme. Ly and Khady. It's so peaceful to hang out with them even though their stand is on a busy road with traffic and a lot of people. I always take pleasure looking through their stock and watching Mme. Ly and Khady as they work. My work is pretty much done so I visit for mostly social reasons although we did go over which PCVs who work with artisans will still be here another year and talk about my replacement.

I've been trying to get some work done at Les Delices this afternoon because the real final countdown starts tomorrow. Tomorrow is two weeks left at site, but even that is misleading because I'm headed to the beach tomorrow with my friends to celebrate Tamar's birthday, then it's off to Dakar to be medically cleared and complete all of my COS paperwork, back to Thies for a day with the family until de-myst with my replacement starts, and then three days of goodbyes before returning to Dakar to get on the plane. Two years have flown!


  1. Wow Alyssa, I am so proud of you!

  2. When you first began your service I was most frightened that you wouldn't consider your time well spent. I hoped, sometimes desperately, that in the end it would be the kind of expereince that would inform the rest of your life. I am profoundly happy that it has turned out to be just that. I don't think you got lucky either. I think you invested a helluva lot into making your service the kind of experience you wanted it to be. Please lift a glass for me in honor of Tamar's birthday tomorrow!


  3. BTW: Where is the sout out to the package sender?

  4. Alyssa,

    They are just ahead of the curve, Canada and Mexico will be 51 and 52, not sure we want them however.

  5. Alyssa,
    I often think of you and your journey.
    You are an inspiration.
    At times this year, when faced with a challenge,
    I would think
    "If Alyssa can live in Senegal....."
    That perspective has a way of minimizing most day to day trials.
    Know we are thinking of you these next few weeks.
    Love always...

  6. I got really excited yesterday on Jeff's and I's drive home from up north that it was in fact July - which meant you were coming home THIS MONTH. Jeff seemed more astounded that you would be home after 2 years and asked if it had really been 2 years already. Even though I probably won't see you for another 6 to 9 months, at least you'll be in the Continental US and I can call you. Enjoy the time you have left!


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