November 16, 2004: Headlines: COS - Senegal: PCVs in the Field - Senegal: Personal Web Site: Gretchen Eisenhut in Senegal

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Senegal: Peace Corps Senegal : The Peace Corps in Senegal: November 16, 2004: Headlines: COS - Senegal: PCVs in the Field - Senegal: Personal Web Site: Gretchen Eisenhut in Senegal

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Sunday, January 16, 2005 - 2:25 pm: Edit Post

Gretchen Eisenhut in Senegal

Gretchen Eisenhut in Senegal

Gretchen Eisenhut in Senegal

A long time coming

I could talk about the election, and how unhappy (most) volunteers are.
I could talk about our impending swearing-in, and the fact that in two weeks, I will be living in a village in africa for the next two years. Of course, inchallah I will go to the village in two weeks, because if I flunked my language exam today, which I very well may have, I do not get sworn in, get held back for extra training, do not pass go and get 200 bucks.
I could even talk about the fact that I ate something myseterious and slimy at a naming ceremony yesterday.
Instead, I will take a few minutes to answer questions from cousin Donna, because I realize there is a lot I have not explained about the peace corps, senegal, and what life is like here.

*What prompted you to do this and how did you get introduced to the Peace Corps?
I actually thought I would have to answer this in pulaar today during my exam, but I lucked out. I have had the desire to do the peace corps since my senior year of high school, but I never really thought it would be an acheivable goal. I think I was very idealistic in my idea of the peace corps, but I think it really is a good means to aid people in other countries at a sustainable level, and to fully immerse oneself in another culture. I dont even remember where I first heard about the peace corps, I think I had a very vague idea about what it was, until my last year of college when I applied, and met a few returned pcvs (peace corps volunteers).

*Did a bunch of your friends join with you, or did you brave it and go solo?
I braved it solo, although there are quite a few people from my hometown of turlock currently serving in the peace corps. In one of those its a small world situations, some people have found connections by playing the do you know ... game. One woman from our group studied at uc davis last year, and we have some people in common. Someone else went to high school with some family friends - Dad, that would be your friends who served in the peace corps together. I also think another volunteer is the niece of someone who knows my dad. There is definately a weird mix in people, especially between the business volunteers and the ag and agfos, but we have all gone through this together.

*Do each of you live with a "family", as you refer to your brothers and sisters, etc.?
Yes, we all have host families that we stay with in theis while we train. When we leave for our permanent sites, we will also be placed with families, although I think some business volunteers in cities have the option to move out later. It is comforting to be with a family, and for the most part they help us to learn the language. I do have to say the first few nights were pretty scary, and I am not always comfortable, but for the most part, I think I have a great host family. They have had two couples and one other single volunteer previously, so they know what they are doing by now. When the first couple came back to training, my host family was SO excited. I hope they are as happy to see me when I visit.

*How are families selected?
I cant answer that question, I really dont know. A lot of people around thies know the peace corps, so I think it is fairly competative to be a host family. I believe the host coordinator evaluates things like proximity to the training center, adequate facilities, motivations for hosting, etc.
*What are your living conditions with your family?
I think they are fairly good. It is a requirement to have a room with a locking door and locking window, so I have a safe room. There are 7 kids and 2 parents living at home, and they are crammed into two bedrooms since I have my room all to myself. There is a turkish toilet that doesnt always get rinsed down enough, and a little enclosed bathing area with a drain and concrete floor where we take bucket baths. We have electricity, but it goes out for a few hours every night, and all the cooking is done in a portable gas stove. My family does clean rigorously on sunday. There are quite a few animals outside, all getting fattened up for the tabaski holidy.

*Do you have a bed or do you sleep on the ground?
I sleep on a bed that the pc provided, with a real mattress - although it is a little gross looking.

*It looks like there are beds, sofas etc., but one picture showed them cooking outdoors. What types of food are you eating?
Ah, the food. Well, there was food before ramadam, and food after ramadam. I eat breakfast and lunch at the training center. Breakfast consists of stale french bread and this chocolate stuff, sort of like nutella, and if I am lucky, peanut butter. We also get tea and nescafe, which does not really count towards coffee. Lunch is served in big bowls. I signed up for the vegetarian list, but they only serve veggie meals when it is red meat. Most meals are rice and bony, dry fish. The training center meals are considered really good food by volunteers, so we will see what the villages have in store. There are a variety of Senegalese sauces that I get both at home and at the center. I actually have gumbo sometimes at home, althought it is made with goat.

*Is anything totally gross to you? I'm sure you all were schooled in what to not to offend the native culture, but what are some of the specifics?
Ummmm how much time do you have?
- the smell of the dying fish leftover by the fish market
-just the market in general, if I only I capture that scent and put it on my blog
- poop in the turkish toilet that is NOT mine
- the trash
- eating greasy food with our hands, when oil gets flung everwhere
- horse pooh, everywhere
- when my host brothers bath in the toilet
- goat meat, and mystery meat
- the giant dead rats, dead birds
- getting pooped on by a bird
- cats hanging out watching us eat
- mboom sauce - this is a leaf sauce, really good for you, but absolutely disgusting
- kosam - spoiled milk
-millet, which will be my primary food in the village
- the communal cup
- bleeding animals
- the body odor

More updates and pictures will be coming soon!

When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Changing of the Guard Date: December 15 2004 No: 330 Changing of the Guard
With Lloyd Pierson's departure, Marie Wheat has been named acting Chief of Staff and Chief of Operations responsible for the day-to-day management of the Peace Corps. Although Wheat is not an RPCV and has limited overseas experience, in her two years at the agency she has come to be respected as someone with good political skills who listens and delegates authority and we wish her the best in her new position.

December 18, 2004: This Week's Top Stories Date: December 18 2004 No: 334 December 18, 2004: This Week's Top Stories
RPCV remembers Deborah Gardner's murder in Tonga 17 Dec
Maoist insurgents in Nepal release Swiss aid worker 17 Dec
RPCV Alison Williams exhibits portraits of Malian people 16 Dec
Former Brazil Medical Director convicted of drug charges 16 Dec
RPCV Joseph Opala researched slave trade in RI 15 Dec
Vasquez sees resurgent interest in PC 14 Dec
Senator who wanted duel with RPCV joins Fox 14 Dec
NPCA planning National Day of Action for PC funding 13 Dec
RPCV "Harry" Chandler votes in Electoral College 13 Dec
Critic says Moyers delivered neo-Marxist propaganda 13 Dec
Micronesia RPCV Walter Cavanagh has 1,496 credit cards 13 Dec
PC "Survivor" Julie Berry headed for California 11 Dec
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RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack
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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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