Yup! You read that right! The Peace Corps gives us exams. I just took my first language exam today and I have a tech one on Monday. We all get taught a native language here, for me that means Wolof! French for me is something I have to pick up by myself in the cities. As you move towards more urban areas French gets mixed in with wolof more. I’m continually amazed with Peace Corps because I’ve only been here for less than a month and my language skills are good enough for me to be in conversation with someone about who I am, what I do, where I live, etc.
First let me give you some background. Training is 10 weeks long here in Senegal, but may differ if you are in another country. I am considered a “Peace Corps Trainee” (PCT) until swear in which is December 4. Training is tech heavy (tech includes all the skills encompassing agriculture) in the beginning and language heavy towards the end. We spend about 2 weeks at the training center, then we disperse and go to our local communities, this phase is called CBT (community based training) (my last blog post was about this). We get divided into language groups, usually consisting of 3-4 trainees per language facilitator (LCF). CBT is the time to make mistakes, learn about Senegalese culture, practice tech in real life, and of course learn language. Each CBT stay is a different length, 6, 11, 14, 4 days.
Inbetween stay 2 and 3, which is where I am at, we find out site placement and go to field orientation training (FOT). I may be wrong on that one, but it’s something like that! I know you’re probably so sick of acronyms, so am I, I actually get tested on them too, thankfully not this one :). FOT is where we visit the site of the PCV (you should all know this one, but just in case, Peace Corps Volunteer) we will take over for. Every region has a “Regional House” simply known as mini America among us, it has wifi, bunk beds, and we can wear shorts! They vary in size but all have those things. That’s where we will be staying for FOT.
Since I have been here, I have slowly been learning things about myself (as expected), some things are good, some things are not so good.
– I like to sleep a lot, even though I am not a good sleeper. What that means for me is I am a light sleeper, caffeine heavily affects me, and I have yet to sleep through the night here. However, I love going bed at CBT at 9 and waking up at 7. I don’t function well on little sleep, like under 8 hours.
– I am very right dominant, but with the wrong things. In this country the scenarios you use your right and left hand in matter A LOT! It’s extremely cultural. If I am walking I like to hold things in my right hand, but when someone comes to shake my hand, I have to switch arms. If I like to pick up and set down my mug at breakfast with my right hand, that means my left hand is static, but is holding my bread, the thing I put in my mouth. Now this really isn’t the end of the world because I wash my hands with soap, but some families don’t have that luxury so being culturally aware is vital.
– I am a happy person. I have been told this my whole life, but I never would have thought this blessing would matter so much to me in my life. My CBT mates have already noticed that about me, and its only been a couple weeks. It’s not so much that I am an optimist, but more that I like to laugh, and crack jokes. Here in Senegal the culture is all about laughing. When men ask for a Tubaab’s (foreigner) hand in marriage (yup it happens), the best way to go is say “Ndax am nga xaalis bu bare” which translates to “do you have a lot of money to pay for my dowry” Or I might say “Am nga net jëkkër” which translates to “I already have 3 husbands” (polygamy is legal here) or something along those lines. That has yet happened to me, however men love asking me if I have a husband, and if I say no, they tell me they’ll find me one. You might think the best way to handle this is to say you have a husband in the states, but my own opinion is that the Senegalese love to laugh and if you crack a joke, you’re more like one of them, and seeing that I am here for Peace Corps, I am going to try and live with that mindset. Everyone has different strategies, this is mine.