28 September, 2011

How Many Nights and Weird Mornings...? a gonzo induced blog post

Fourteen days straight at homestay (village based training) proved to be an intense but rewarding adjustment period. Waking up in the morning to the sound of sheep baaying behind my room, after 7-10 hours of Mefloquin induced lucid dreams, it takes a moment to realize where I am. What kind of strange trip am I on this time? What is the bizarre dialect cracking through the blaring battery powered radio outside my room? WHY are my legs tangled in this light airy net??

It's time to get up, pull water from a well and moisten the saline soil around whichever plants in our training garden haven't been devoured or dehydrated by the Sahelian ecosystem. Then off to several hours of having Wolof syntax Socratically jammed into my remaining neurons.
But first...breakfast.
Any person who wants an excuse to eat an entire 12+ inches of French baguette with butter for breakfast everyday should move to Senegal. In village this has been accompanied by cafe Tuba; sugary, spicy, hot coffee cooked with loads of cloves and ginger which inevitably gives me the hiccups. It's good. And I swear it's prevented me from contracting the violent upper respiratory issues going around both the village and Peace Corps training center. So far the vile health problems often experience by travelers to a new country have yet to be an issue for me. With the exception that acne has gone from a general annoyance to a potential Staph infection. I did experience two days of some intestinal difficulty but nothing someone who enjoys a glass of straight tequila with Pabst Blue Ribbon on the side isn't somewhat accustomed to.
Spirits among my training group were growing low after about a week. It was hard to say why. Although we were aware of and understood what was happening here we hadn't completely accepted it. This was our most marked period of culture shock thus far. Questions were floating around like; "WHY do I have to eat from the same bowl as 7 children, with my hands, as the others lick their finger and just PAW at the food?". I myself was having some trouble forming the palm oil soaked white rice into balls with my hand and delivering it to my mouth. Most of my skirts now have rice kernels stuck to them, dried into tiny hard pellets. Maybe it was the week of inadequate protein or the stress of immersion language learning while living with a family we COULDN'T understand, but all that was clear was that we needed some back up reserves...
We strapped on our running shoes and packs and set off on a jog to Thies to find a store that we could not only walk inside, but which sold fruit (our village is beyond quaint). Packs filled with fruit and peanut form protein we headed back, but not without a cold soda.
After a couple of days of micromanagement and protein loading our spirits were up...and the temperature was down! Two glorious days of cool breezes and refreshing rain and we were back to being the idealistic {coherent} plant loving do-gooders the U.S. government hired and sent to Africa!