September 14, 2003 - Personal Web Site: Peace Corps has prepared us well, I think, so nothing is really beyond me by PCV Pat Owen

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Senegal: Peace Corps Senegal : The Peace Corps in Senegal: September 14, 2003 - Personal Web Site: Peace Corps has prepared us well, I think, so nothing is really beyond me by PCV Pat Owen

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, September 14, 2003 - 2:15 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps has prepared us well, I think, so nothing is really beyond me by PCV Pat Owen

Peace Corps has prepared us well, I think, so nothing is really beyond me by PCV Pat Owen

Monday, June 23th, 2003 12:30PM Kolda, Senegal

Dear Friends,

I am just coming out of my first 10 days in my African Village. It's been wonderful, hard, baffling, frustrating, hysterically funny and everything in between. Peace Corps has prepared us well, I think, so nothing is really beyond me. But it is daunting at times. I really do need to use my Pulaar now, as only one adult and a couple of the teenagers who go to school speak some French. And, as they warned us, the dialect of Pulaar in my village seems to have some variations from the version I learned in Thies. For example, yesterday I took my bike into a nearby bigger village, to get some supplies, and when I returned a boy asked me where I'd been. "Mi yahii et jooni mi artii" I proudly said (I went and now I have returned). No, he said, "Mi yahatno and jooni mi arsii." Ach; but this is good; as I have learned before with this language, patterns will emerge and I will get the hang of it. My job for the first 6 months is just to settle in, make my hut my home, meet people, practice the language, make a map of the village, and monitor the growth and harvesting of 4 types of seeds they got from Peace Corps. It's hard for me not to have more to do. Already they have labelled me as the person who never sits! Which makes me laugh, but culturally, I think I do need to develop more tolerance for doing what feels to me like "nothing".

I love my little hut with the royal blue door and the slats painted in Senegalese flag colors. It's about 15 feet in diameter with a perfect thatched roof whose design I lie and admire as I look up at it every night. My front door opens to the main village common area and the back door opens to a small backyard with tall bamboo fencing around it. Two chickens and 5 little chicks seem to have made it their home; at least, they are there most of the time. This isn't unusual as the village is filled with about 100 donkeys, goats, sheep, cows, dogs, chickens, and their babies, who wander at will. This makes for some interesting sounds at night outside the hut door!

I have so much I want to tell you about, but have to let you know that I have to go to Dakar tomorrow because I have a sore eye. I think it's a simple abrasion, like I used to get from time to time when I used to wear contacts. Normally, at home, this would not be a big deal; I'd call my eye doctor, get an appointment the same day, and drive the 20 minutes downtown to get it taken care of and be on my way. But this morning, I called the Peace Corps medical office and it really does seem that the only solution for me is to see an ophthamologist, and the only ones are in Dakar! Actually, I should count myself as lucky, I guess, as Peace Corps Volunteers with eye problems throughout West Africa come to Dakar for treatment, which entails a long car ride out of their village plus a plane trip. For me, it's just the car ride, which I am not looking forward to as it is about 12 hours on bad roads. Mostly though, I feel sorry for my village because I know they will be confused and worried. I just came into Kolda to make the call to Dakar thinking I could get a prescription for something over the phone and didn't realize I would have to go to Dakar for treatment. Their last volunteer got truly sick and had to be suddenly evacuated. So I think they are going to think that us volunteers are a pretty fragile lot! I will get word back to them so they will know where I am and why, and that I will be back. This whole thing too, reminds me of how we, or at least I, take medical care for granted; I'm sure my village friends have had corneal abrasions and have just suffered the consequences, with infections or bad vision.

So, I have to admit, I'm bummed out; I hate to interrupt my time in the village when I was just getting started! But I am trying to look at this as simply being part of the whole experience and imagine it like a board game, drawing the card that says, "Tough luck, return to Dakar!" At least I'm still in the game and the village will still be there. And what a village it is. I really am learning so much.

I listen to shortwave radio every night before bed and sometimes in the morning before going off on my run, and worry about the world. It seems like such big things are happening--the unrest in Iran, the continued suicide bombings between Palestine and Israel--that are so beyond the everyday life of people here. It seems so off base, because the everyday problems of lack of rainfall for crops, lack of water for drinking in the well, lack of sanitation and education, and total overwhelming poverty are the "news" items here. But of course, they are not news here, at least to the people living here, as they have dealt with these things their whole lives. But if the all the sparring world forces could mobilize for good instead of for conflict a lot more lives would be saved.

All for now; I should be able to email from Dakar, the land of relative plenty!



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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Senegal; PCVs in the Field - Senegal



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