Im baaaaack! Sorry for the long break, but to be honest I’ve been at site for over a year now (as of December 9th hooray!), and I forgot about blogging. But last month, I went home for three weeks and people would be like…what happened to your blog? I liked your posts! Which inflated my already healthy sense of ego enough for me to post again. So hey. I’m back.
While I was home, people kept asking me “How is it? How’s Senegal?”, and if you have ever been on the recieving end of one of these questions, you know how hard it is to summarize an entire country and life experience and culture to someone who has never been there. Usually I would resort to telling my hilarious story about that time I ate monkey, or I would say “oh I just read kindle books in my hut”. Both of these things are very true, but don’t really say anything about my actual job or what Senegal is really like.
My official position is an Agroforestry Extension Agent, so I extend agroforestry techniques to farmers in my area. Mostly, this just means I plant trees. So we make tree nurseries, do tree care, collect seeds, that sort of thing. This all usually happens between April and September, so now I’m doing “cold season” projects. I mean it’s not really that cold, its just cooler and not rainy and not good for planting trees. So I’m starting a garden with my local elementary school, a scholarship and leadership club for middle school girls, and I’m planning a few formations on pruning and citrus trees. Whoopie! This is why when people ask me about my life here, I rely on funny short stories and irrelevant facts. Because I like my job here a lot, but its just like other jobs, where the more you talk about it, the more technical and specific it gets. If you really want an in depth analysis of my work here, I can just send you my Volunteer Report Form (VRF). Monitoring and Evaluation are like huge parts of this job as well, so you can nerd out on my numbers if you really want.
People when I was home would also ask me if I felt any different. I don’t know that I’m actually that different, but I have learned a few things throughout my service here:
- Peace Corps is my first job right out of college, so I’ve learned important things about meetings. Like unless you have something original to say, don’t say anything because otherwise the meeting will last 8 hours because everyone likes to hear the sound of their own voice. Also, I learned that you probably shouldn’t combine your meeting notebook and your diary. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been looking at my notes for the last meeting and then said “Dear Diary…” out loud. (Just kidding, I don’t say Dear Diary. I’m an adult, so I write “Dear Journal”).
- Bike racks can carry so many things. I’ve carried: farm supplies, 20 mango saplings, 5000 tree sacks, a dog in a bucket, three humans, a desk, paint cans, a hiking backpack, and a banana shoot on my bike carrier.
- Shaving is overrated
- Drinking tea with your neighbor counts as work in Peace Corps
- Comparing your service to anyone else’s is pointless, because your site, sector, and personality change everything and so there’s no common bar to compare yourself on. (And if there were a common means of comparison and we could make it a competition, I would obviously win)
- Playing soccer is super fun in Senegal. I think my biggest accomplishment so far has been convincing my village’s soccer team to call themselves Equipe Sata. Which would be like convincing my hometown team to call themselves Team Abby without actually playing in any games. I’m the best mascot ever. Actually sometimes I do kick around with them at practice, and since I’m the only foreigner and also only woman playing on the field, they give me a lot of space and I can pretend the reason I can carry the ball for so long is because I’m just as good now as I was in my high school glory days. We have a big game against another village coming up on New Years Eve and I’m crossing my fingers for some second half playing time (if we’re ahead, they say). Go Equipe Sata!
- Education is important. I think this is something I’d been told in the past, but I see it more here.
- I feel super badass when I speak another language – and also it makes me more integrated into my community. Everyone loves a good joke in Mandinka.
- Kindle is the best invention of all time. I have like 175 books in my backpack right now. I read so much here that I actually even swapped out some of the young adult vampire forbidden love romance novels that I usually fall back on for some adult fiction, non-fiction and classics. In the past month I’ve read Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. (That last one is because the copyright is out on old classics so I can get them for free on Kindle. Plus if Bella from Twilight loved it, maybe I will too). I mean I loved books before, but I love skipping my afternoon nap and reading even more here than I ever did at home. Send me all your reccomendations and let me virtually contribute to your upcoming book clubs.
- There is no such thing as a car that is too full
Maybe I’ll update my blog again in the next few months – but until then, everyone go to my Facebook and look at Cricket