Many Firsts

It’s official, I have been at site for 5 weeks! Peace Corps Volunteers in Senegal have told me they often never spend 5 weeks in a row at site because there are many meetings and events happening outside of their site they are required to go to. This past week I had a taste of what that meant.

Work Zone Meetings:
On Thursday I participated in my first work zone meeting. Technically I am in a region (Saint-Louis) with 2 work zones. My work zone includes my site mate who is a CED volunteer in the city of Saint-Louis and my stage-mate who is a SusAg volunteer in a village about 20 km away from the city. The 3 of us make one work zone, and out of Peace Corps Senegal, I believe we are the smallest work zone. A work zone is a compilation of volunteers by area who span a range of sectors so they can participate in cross-collaboration. For example: ag people, such as myself, grow food, which is important for teaching nutrition. So we work with health volunteers often. Between CED and ag volunteers, there’s a lot at play in the marketplace for the prices of vegetables grown in the fields/garden including scarcity, distance, and demand. So a work zone meeting is a chance to share and come up with new ideas. Since my work zone is so small we usually join with the other PCVs in my region, who form the other work zone around Richard Toll (another city in Senegal). We met at my regional house and talked about logistics and our current projects.

Alana’s visit:
Alana is another volunteer from my stage, she’s in the Richard Toll work zone but in my region. Since she was in town for our work zone meeting, she asked me to show her my tailor so she could get some Senegalese clothes made. My tailor lives in my neighborhood, so she also spent some time with my family. Alana is the first PCV to visit my site. She also speaks Wolof, so she was able to communicate well with my family. I learned a lot from her visit. She’s a village volunteer, and I noticed that we know slightly different vocabulary. For example she knows a specific verb for planting potatoes in Wolof it’s “dax.” So I learned a lot of neat vocabulary from her. While she was here we also took the bus because we went to part of the city, I only know how to return from by taking the bus (haha, yes true). I haven’t taken the bus since FOT, so that was a first since I’ve become a PCV.

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Gem Sa Bopp Meeting:
For the past 6 years there has been a camp for girls that PCVs put together that happens in September in the region of Saint-Louis called Gem Sa Bopp. Every region participates in a girls/youth camp, either combined between several regions or by themselves. Ours is combined with Louga, Linguere, and Saint-Louis. We had our first planning meeting this past Saturday in Louga. 3 PCVs and I took a Sept-plass to Louga for our meeting. A Sept-plass is a type of vehicle you can take for public transportation to travel around the country. They remind me of old station wagons. They hold 7 passengers (sept = 7 in French). They typically only stop at big sites, so they are the fastest form of transportation. Since I haven’t left Saint-Louis yet, I hadn’t taken one until Saturday. Because they hold 7 passengers, they wait for the car to fill before they leave, so sometimes if you get to the garage (the car terminal) at an odd time of day, you might wait hours before the car departs. Another choice is to buy out the rest of the seats if you have the means to. The meeting was in the cultural center in Louga, so I got to see some other PCVs from my stage as well as meet the PCVs from Linguere and Louga, which is always fun.

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Water Trouble:
For the past 4 days, I haven’t had running water at my house, and neither has a large portion of the city. Last night we had water for an hour, at which point my family filled up all their reserves (which is where we were pulling our water from for the past 3 days). We’ve also been putting off doing laundry because it’s hard to laundry with a limited amount of water. This is the first time I haven’t had running water for more than 48 hours. I’ve bought a couple liters of bottled water, which I feel slightly guilty about because I hate supporting the bottled water industry, but you got to do what you go to do.

More Clothes:
I’m just sharing this because I think it’s fun. My site mate brought up an excellent point of doing something fun for myself for completing the 5 week challenge, so I went to buy some fabric. I took it to the tailor yesterday, and I am hoping to get a dress made! Below is the fabric, when I look at it, I feel like I’m underwater. This is the first time I’ve gotten anything made at site, so it should be fun!

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In recap here is the list of my firsts:

  • work zone meeting
  • bus ride within Saint-Louis
  • visit from a PCV at my site
  • sept-plass ride
  • gem sa bopp meeting
  • visit to the tailor to get something made.
  • living without fresh water

Cheers to new experiences,
Tiffany

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