Seesa Seesa.

Today marks the 3-week mark of my Peace Corps Service!

Things that have immediately stood out:

  • "Seesa seesa (slowly slowly) seems to be the theme of my village life; meeting people, getting to know the village and their needs, day-by-day life, all incredibly slower than what we’re used to in the states or actually, in Western culture altogether. Part of it may be because it’s so. darn. hot! It really does get so hot to the point where you literally cannot do anything but sit there. Your brain can’t function! For example, some of the hotter days recently: 118 degrees F, easy.
  • Peace Corps’ free-calling between volunteers is a great gift for our sanity! Alhamdoulilah! (Arabic for hallelujah, loosely translated)
  • Major cockroach problem in my room. My nightly routine now includes stomping around my room & killing all the roaches & sometimes crickets. I believe my record kills of the night before bedtime is 6 roaches. :) & the even cooler thing is that I don’t have to sweep up the dead bodies. The other bugs come and take them away during the night… Yay.
  • Everyone here wants to go to “Amerik,” most people ask me if I have a husband and when I say I don’t, they ask me why or the men ask to marry me. Alaa, c’est pas possible. Haha.
  • The children are completely intrigued by me, yet at the same, are completely terrified and will run shrieking if I head their way… :D
  • By the way, I don’t know if you guys knew, but I don’t get internet at my site. :) I will try to get into town at least at least at least once a month! Town is about 3-6 hours away. Seesa seesa…

Also! A project I’m currently working on is the Michelle Sylvester Scholarship program. It’s a scholarship for middle school girls to help encourage, support and continue their education. The scholarship pays for the girls’ registration fees for the next school year and the 3 winners also get to go shopping for school supplies. A common problem for young women in Senegal is that they drop out of school after junior high or they get married and stop their schooling. For only US$200 per middle school, these girls get to receive some recognition for their hard work, external financial support, and encouragement to further their education. 

Here’s a link: 
http://senegad.org/scholarship.html

& here’s how you can help out! I need to fundraise this US$200 to be able to do the MSS scholarship at my village’s college (junior high), a college that only has one complete building and another building that hasn’t yet been completed. There is no wall surrounding the school and no shade structures or trees to protect students from the sun. So as you can imagine, it’s a pretty bleak place & surely doesn’t help the students really feel excited and encouraged to go to school. (But with that said, I’ve sat in on some classes and these kids are so excited & eager to participate in class!!!)

So tangent aside, here are step-by-step instructions for how to donate to this great cause! :)

  1. Go to: https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=685-CFD
  2. On the right-hand side of the page, enter in the amount you would like to donate & hit “Donate >”
  3. Fill out all the donor information (tax purposes)
  4. MOST IMPORTANT! In the Comments section, please write that this donation is for “Sarah Auyeung’s MSS in Medina N’Diathbe, St. Louis” (otherwise, it becomes a general country donation)
  5. Hit “Confirm Information >”

The girls and I would greatly greatly greatly appreciate your help in this! Especially because if I can’t raise the funds, I have to foot the bill myself… & US$200 is too much for my Peace Corps Volunteer budget. ;)

P.S. Please send me your addresses! I would love to send you a letter & also get a response. I would be very happy. :) It’s the little pleasures that matter here. Haha. 

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My name is Tako Wele

In two weeks, I am going to the “Wild Wild North” of Senegal, AKA the Futa (a good day trip away from Dakar, the capital, and Thies, where our training center is)! We found out our sites and we also got to visit our villages. My village, called Medina N’Diathbe (pronounced mah-dee-na jai-bay), is a large village of 8,000 people. It’s ridiculously hot but at least it’s not humid as well. And luckily, my site is right on the Senegal River! I will be swimming… A lot. :) On a slightly sad note: no camels, the one thing that we joked would be a benefit of having a site in the middle of the desert. :( We learned that they’re generally in Mauritania…

This also means that we have only 2 more weeks of training and then we’ll all be sworn in as official PC volunteers! Yay! Just yesterday, I got fabric and went to a tailor to get a formal Senegalese outfit made for our swear-in ceremony. Senegalese clothes consists of either wax or basin (types of fabric).

Wax:

  • generally used for day-to-day activities
  • patterned with bold colors

Basin:

  • generally used for formal attire: weddings, funerals, etc.
  • bright, bold solid colors with a sheen to the fabric
  • usually tailored with embroidery along edges and on the chest

So for the past few weeks, we’ve learned where our sites are, we’ve visited our sites, and spent our last long period of time with our CBT families. It’s been tiring and lots of learning Pulaar has been happening. And my birthday just passed! :) A few things I’ve come to realize in these past few weeks or they’re just interesting and I want to share:

  • There is a weird dichotomy between the amount & areas of skin that is culturally appropriate to show. For example, shoulders and sometimes breasts are okay. However, KNEES are a huuuuuge no-no.
  • My new name in the Futa is Tako Wele. Tako, AKA taco, a type of Mexican cuisine that I’m sure you all know and love, and Wele, which means delicious in Pulaar… Also, “new” in Pulaar is “kesso.” I was introduced as, “Ko wolonteer kesso. O wiyete Tako Wele.” (She is the cheese volunteer. Her name is delicious taco.)
  • This last time we went back to our CBT families, I felt so much more comfortable in their home. I didn’t feel too much like a guest this time around!
  • On my birthday, we went to the beach and got some ice cream at a resort. This is when it hit me that I can now speak Pulaar better than I can speak French. I’ve gotten to that point. Haha. :)

So what’s coming up? Counterpart workshop for a few days where we meet our work partners and they go through a training that will help them help us with our service, among other things. Then a Dakar Day, where we visit the Peace Corps Office and medical center and the US Embassy, a weekend off (yay!), CBT for a couple days (our goodbye days wahh waaah), then a few days back at the training center… and then, SWEAR-IN! :) 

A bit more about what I actually do, perhaps…

Just prepping you guys beforehand, this may be a very bland post or a very interesting. Depending on what floats your boat… :)

So. I am currently 5 weeks into training. My stage is about 60 PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees), 40 or so from Senegal and 20 from the Gambia (if you look at Senegal like a dinosaur with its mouth open, the mouth part is the Gambia). :) We’re the first stage for Senegambia to work together and join part of PST (Pre-Service Training).

While at the Thies (pronounced Chess) training center, life is pretty structured. But at this point, it’s kind of nice to have your hand held. :) Typical day:

  • Breakfast (baguette with options of: butter, jam, beans, or CHOCOMOUSSE & coffee/tea) between 7-8AM. Chocomousse is one of the types of chocolate spread that they have here in Senegal. Chocopain, Chocomousse, Chocolion, Chocoleca, etc. Just put “Choco” in front of any word and I’m sure they have it.
  • Class/sessions/seminars from 8AM-1:45PM with a snacktime at 10:30. Again, what’s served at breakfast & snacktime ko gootum (are the same).
  • Lunch at 1:45PM. Normally a large community bowl. A bed of rice, sometimes cooked in sauce, sometimes white. With a good amount of vegetables (cabbage, carrot, cassava, potatoes, jahatu or bitter tomato, eggplant) and some kind of meat. This kind of dish is called Cheebujen in Wolof. (Wolof is the dominant African language in Senegal and I am learning Pulaar, the second most spoken language.) In normal circumstances, most people eat with their hands, I mean with their right hand. VERY IMPORTANT. RIGHT HAND = FOOD HAND. LEFT HAND = POOP HAND. In a place without toilet paper, this is very important.
  • Class/sessions/seminars from 2:15PM to 5:30PM.
  • Then free time!! Oftentimes, I end up playing frisbee or walking 10 min or so into town to buy stuff.
  • 7:45PM for dinner. & for dinners, they serve raw veggies for salad, some kind of carb with a meat sauce. Senegalese food is DE.LI.CIOUS! With that said, they put a LOT of oil and MSG into everything. Yaaay!
  • After dinner, more free time. There is a Catholic bar near the center and oftentimes, people will go to the bar. We also have activities here at the center. WE WATCHED THE HUNGER GAMES LAST NIGHT. We have our ways… ;)


That’s day-to-day life at the training center, but we also hop around to different places. For the last 2 weeks, I’ve been at my CBT (community-based training) site in N’guekokh. Or Ngeexoox. Depending on if you wanna spell it the Pulaar way or the Wolof way. I know. Throws everyone off. I’ll talk about day-to-day life there in another email.

But what’s coming up? I’m hanging out here at the center for the next 5 days or so. Then WE FIND OUT OUR SITES!!! And the Gambian trainees leave… :( :( So sad! Tigitigi (really really). And we’ll spend a week at volunteer visits (basically staying with a volunteer and getting a feel of living at site). Then back to our CBT sites for a few days and then back at the center for another few… We’ll do a lot of hopping for the rest of training. But we have to pass a few tests, etc at the end of staging to be able to swear-in as official Peace Corps Volunteers!!! That’s on May 11.

So until then, thank you Peace Corps Senegal for holding my hand. :)

A post on day-to-day life at my CBT site to come! 

Hey girl, you’re slicin’ onions!

^^^ That. Is a direct translation (well, the you’re slicin’ onions part) for the Pulaar way to say that someone’s looking sexy in slang. Hahaha. :)

By the way, I apologize for any English grammatical mistakes or awkward sentence phrasings. My French and Pulaar knowledge are shooting up like spaceships and my English is gradually sinking… Mom, dad, & all my Chinese-speaking relatives, I have been able to speak Chinese! Accidentally when I’m trying to speak in Pulaar/French. All the little snippets of languages I know come out at random times. Including Spanish… It’s pretty interesting. I’ll try to record something for y’all. Haha.

Just got back today from being at my CBT site for the past 2 weeks. Few things that I noticed.

  • I didn’t recognize a little roll of toilet paper when another trainee pulled it out of her purse.
  • I definitely work on African time (no sense of urgency or time).
  • My body greatly enjoys a high carbohydrate/high sugar/high sodium diet. (Hey mom, finally going once a day now! Yay!)
  • I was given some Sprite at my cousin’s house and I thought it wasn’t sweet…
  • I am obsessed with ultimate frisbee.
  • I think I will die come the hot months in June/July.
  • And I think I’m allergic to ant bites… I don’t think a bite swollen to the size of my hand is a good thing… 

And with that, I will blog later. Off to play frisbee!!


 

TOUBAB! TOUBAB!

Today officially marks the 14th day that I’ve been in Senegal. Time flies & yet I feel like I’ve been here for SUCH. A. LONG. TIME. Training seminars, language, friends, host families, gardening all blur together into this ridiculous conglomerate of what’s called Pre-Service Training (PST).

So days here are full of: SAND. SAND. SITTING. SITTING. SQUATTING. WATER. WATER. WATER. And SUGAR. SUGAR. SUGAR. 

First week & a half or so, we had a ton of seminars, vaccinations, & lots of excitement, meeting new people, having our entire days scheduled. Definitely felt like 6th grade camp. We’re in Africa? No way! This is totally summer camp in America. With a bunch of sand.

But it has been amazing. So much information, so many amazing new friends, peers, mentors, and such beautiful people and culture. There are quite a few things that the states could benefit from.

For the last 5 days or so, we were given the languages we’re to learn (which also gives us a hint of where in Senegal we’ll be placed for our 2-year service) and we went to our Community-Based-Training (CBT) sites to live with our host families. My Senegalese name is Korka Sow. It has been quite an experience! First things first: they don’t speak anything but Wolof, Pulaar, & my sister speaks French. So it is definitely immersion at its best! J My family also doesn’t have chairs. And they only have measly lights. And a 6-inch TV that gets static-y Vampire Diaries in French. They also put a pound of sugar in everything. Everything. Definitely gunna be diabetic by the time I finish my service… Haha. But I love them. They’re sweet and patient and very good-natured. :D

At our CBT sites, I’m with 2 other Peace Corps Trainees (PCT) & we have language classes and work on our gardening! I love them to pieces!
J

Tomorrow, we’ll be leaving again for our CBT sites for 2.5 weeks. So just you let y’all know, you won’t be hearing from me for a while…

Hope this satisfied a bit of your curiosity of how I’ve been. Love you all and keep me updated about your lives too!


P.S. If you really want to get a hold of me, my Senegal phone number is +221-77-883-8445. Just enter it in like that. Without the dashes… But uhh, it is quite expensive. I think. I can definitely text you guys though! <3 It’s like 25 cents for me to text international.

P.P.S. The title, “Toubab! Toubab!” is what all the little kids yell out when they see us foreigners. Haha. 

P.P.P.S. The best part: NO. TOILET. PAPER. Just think about that.

 

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