VOLUNTEER STATUS

Is this real life? Yesterday my whole Stage, got sworn-in in Dakar! It was beautiful. It was right by the water, and it was such a cool experience. We left Thies at 7am and made it to Dakar by 9am. Ceremony began at 10.

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We sat through a graduation like ceremony for an hour. It featured words of encouragement from the Ambassador and Country Director. On top of that we had 4 guest trainee speakers who gave speeches in some of the local languages we’re all learning. At the end we were called up individually within our sub-sectors and were given our REAL PEACE CORPS IDs!! Afterwards we had a cocktail hour with a fantastic view of the ocean.

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You might ask…. now what? Well right now I’m waiting to be installed. So let me explain some more logistical things within Peace Corps. The day right after swear-in in the early morning, we all hopped in vehicles that PC rented for us and stacked all of our luggage, bikes, buckets, and accumulated materials onto/into. For those of us who have a regional house/capital, we went on our way, so for me I headed to my regional house that is located in Saint-Louis (Ndar in Wolof). On Tuesday I get installed by my Country Director and my Program Training Assistant (PTA). Install is when there’s a big celebration in my community so that friends and family can get a chance to meet me and know their local PCV and vice versa. I finally get to move into my room and stop living out of my suitcase like a nomad! I’m so excited to have a space that is mine and I can unpack and know where things are.

There’s also something called “the 5 week challenge.” It’s a way to encourage PCVs to stay in their communities and integrate fully. If I choose to do the 5 week challenge, it means I can’t leave site for 5 weeks, as the name implies. This essentially means not spending the night anywhere except for in my room (the other places I could stay are with friends or at my regional house). Unfortunately this means for Christmas and New Years I have to be at site, so most of us choosing to do the 5 week challenge won’t get to celebrate the holidays a whole lot. Now you might be asking…. “why would you want to do this, what is the reward?” The reward is eating a fantastic American meal during PST2 at the Country Director’s home in Dakar. This doesn’t seem like a great prize, but when you’re a volunteer, it’s really exciting to have a home cooked American meal.

I mentioned PST2, more acronyms I know, it’s Pre-Service Training 2, so what is that? After 3 months at site we return to the Thies Training Center for a second round of training. I think it’s about 3 weeks long, and we learn more exact skills such as grant writing, earthworks and more. They cover a wide spectrum, but we learn tools to help us with specific projects. It also means we get to come back together as a Stage for more training! I already can’t wait!

Now that I am finally a volunteer, I get some pretty exciting pluses… including FREE CALLING TO ALL OTHER PCVs, A BANK CARD WITH MY LIVING ALLOWANCE, and FREEDOM WITHIN MY OWN SCHEDULE.

Let me leave you with one saying I’ve been told a lot by PCVs: “In Peace Corps Service the days are long, but the months are short, and before you know it your service will be at its end, and all these relationships and experiences you’ve made will be just memories, so cherish it.” That is exactly what I plan to do.

Tiffany

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