29 August, 2011

Thies Training Center

Hurricane Irene came through Brooklyn the night/morning before my last night in Brooklyn effectively cancelling my 8am train to D.C. for staging. After many phone calls and some excessive stress at home I determined that a Chinatown bus from Manhattan may be the best way for me to get to D.C. in time for staging (something which my staging coordinator made sound was non-negotiable). My parents dropped me off on Murray street, put me on the school bus one last time. It was hard to say goodbye-especially seeing their sad (somewhat heartbroken) faces through the tinted bus window.
As the bus head out of the city, into New Jersey, I took my last glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. A glimpse which was, fittingly, at her back.
We stayed in D.C. one night where we were able to explore the United States Botanic Garden and the Native American museum which was perfect for a bunch of American plant nerds leaving the country for two years.
The flight was over night to Dakar so we were all pretty punchy on our drive from the airport to the Training Center in the Thies (pronounced Chez). The day we arrived happened to be Kourite, the last day of Ramadan, so there were many people out in the streets getting ready to eat and celebrate. We were able to see some of the preparation as we whizzed (and crawled in traffic) past. I saw my first freshly killed goat butchering from a distance-woohoo. Since we arrived on Kourite we didn't have to jump right into language level assessment and classes but were able to take most of the day to get acquainted with the training facility.
Over the next few days we had basic Wolof classes, some technical training in our assignment field and health and safety debriefing and training.
By Sunday we were allowed to head out of the training center and explore the town. Today we will head out to our 'home-stays' or in-village training sites. Four trainees will stay with different families in a village nearby Theis along with a Peace Corps language and culture trainer. We will spend our days there getting used to village life and receiving intensive language training. Part of the 58 day training will be in this' home-stay' site while the rest of the time will be at the training center. My home stay village is only 8K from Theis and it's called Daxxaar Mbaye .
I'm really excited to finally be in country after close to three years of applying and preparing. I'm trying to soak in as much of the intensive training as possible without burning myself out. I know that the more I pay attention and prepare the easier my transition into my permanent living site will be.
Bearing in mind that I'm a brand new trainee I do want to mention that Peace Corps Senegal is incredibly organized and the every staffer, teacher, PC Volunteer, PC doctor I've met truly cares about us and the work that we're hoping to do. That goes for the Director of the Peace Corps himself, Aaron Williams and the Country Director Chris Hendrik down to the guards at the training center. Before coming here it felt like I'd being going off into the abyss and I would have no idea where I was going or what I was doing but everything is so well planned out and communicated so far that there is almost no stress. My legitimate fears right now include biking 20K+ alone in the super heat after getting to site (not for a couple of months), the inevitable day when my stomach starts to betray me.
Well we're getting a few more vaccinations and then heading to the village! I won't have internet or electricity but I will be available via my cell phone 221 77 360 51 66.

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