This week has been crazy! We had our midterm for tech (I got a 96, whoop!) and had our feedback from our first LPI (I passed with Novice High, yeah!) and after all that we had SITE PLACEMENT!!!!
A week into our time here as PCTs, we were asked what we ultimately wanted at our final site, and the only request I made was to be on the coast. Given I am a Washington girl I knew I couldn’t survive without having the ocean closeby! Something I failed to explain to you all is that I am an Urban Agriculture Volunteer, so I knew I’d be in a small city or big town, I didn’t know what to expect so I just waited until site announcement. We waited 5 weeks to find out sites even though decisions were made 4 weeks ago.
Site placement was really fun, we were blind folded and brought out to this giant painted map of Senegal on the basketball court. Once on the court we were given our packets of information. If you were replacing a volunteer you were given a COS (closing of service) report about their projects and things going on in the community. If you were starting a new site you were given information about the community. On the count of 3 we all took off our blindfolds and saw where we were. For me, I was completely shocked because there was big suspicion that another trainee was getting my site. I got placed in Saint-Louis! Some things to note about Saint-Louis is that it is one of the most coveted sites in PC Senegal, it’s at the tip of the Niayes (big farming area where 80% of the country’s crops are grown), and it’s a coastal city off the Atlantic Ocean. Every year a global Jazz Festival is held here and many PCVs come and visit. It’s also the coolest temperature wise and is a really big tourist city. I see people of European descent often here. The Senegal River meets the ocean in this city and that’s what my pictures are of. It’s sediment heavy right now because rainy season has just ended, but it should be blue again soon.
Some things I have been told about this site are that the only requirement for the PCV serving here is that they have a big heart (aww how sweet), the past 3 PCVs have been male… yay… and it’s more emotionally difficult than physically. Even though I have access to a lot of really good food I think the emotional challenges are going to be much more difficult!
Those are some really simple examples of food I have access to that everyone is jealous of (:))!
My ancien (predecessor volunteer in French) showed me all around his site for FOT. I saw the soccer field where he worked with youth at risk, the educational center for youth at risk, his demo garden that he made sustainable, and the school he taught basic enviornmental issues at. He did a lot more, but those are just a few. I have a lot of projects I know I want to dabble in, but I need to build up my language skills and credibility before I dive in. He introduced me to so many partners for work and students of his (I hope I can remember all of their names). It’s so awesome that he has so many contacts, hopefully I can follow in his footsteps. Wish me luck!
FOT was also really fun because I got to go shopping for fabric!!!
One meter of this fabric was a mill (1,000) and 500. Okay, here we go, let me explain money. Senegal is on FCFA which is franc central african franc. Or for simplicity cfa (say-fa). The exchange rate is about one dollar to 550 cfa. To make math easy you can think 500. However the key is to remember that the standard of living is so different here and being a PCV, the living allowance does not make you wealthy. So even though things seem cheap, given perspective they can sometimes be very expensive. I spent my week’s income on fabric and will spend more getting the three pieces turned into clothes. I am planning on a complet (my traditional outfit for swear in), a skirt, and pants. But don’t worry I’ll be just fine! My time will be great regardless of the money.
My whole FOT experience has been really fun! I’m so excited for swear in and installment. Now I just gotta survive 5 more weeks of training! I am sad about my staging group being divided but I can’t wait to see what we do!