Friday, September 26, 2014

Being Here

It's really hard to describe what being a Peace Corps Volunteer is like. Especially because it's hard to describe even to myself. I've tried to tell friends about this and I know it's a talk I'll have to give many times when I'm finished with service, but I think it will be nice to try and briefly summarize now and reflect on how it changes over the next year.

For one thing it's a dynamic experience, which inevitably causes a changing state of mind. In the first few months it was hard to form an opinion about anything since everything was new and shocking. But after time, maybe months 6-10, this new world became very old for me. I started to get frustrated with the culture, the people, and the things that used to be funny to me but then just seemed unhuman. Like seeing people dangling from busses on the highway, eating rice every day, and recieving constant verbal derision. Integration became a task of forgetting how weird it was for me to be here, something made impossible by my bizarre environment. That's pretty hard to talk about too. Because this is supposed to be a magical experience in which there is so much personal growth and peace. But the truth is, part of this is really difficult. I sometimes feel much less patient than I was. I don't appreciate everyday interactions as I should. And I'm still homesick. I am continually trying to embrace that reality and find out how to make it work. And it should be talked about. I shouldn't avoid these conversations just because the Peace Corps has been my dream. I have learned though that this will likely always be a transitive time of my life. I don't think I'll ever be completely unaware of how foreign I am here; something I pictured for myself before I arrived. I still have opportunities to thrive, impact, and inspire, but I emphasize my limited time here to work partners. After I'm gone, they will continue to do this work and they will have to thrive, impact, and inspire. In sum, that's how it feels to be a PCV for me; living in a transitional life-changing experience while trying to pass on some inspiration to those around me. 

So yes, I've had some really dark times that are likely to continue. And yes, I was pretty scared of Ebola for a few days after the case in Dakar. But no, I'm not going home. I am one year into this and at times my coping strategies still don't work. But I'll persist out of half dim-wittedness and half stubbornness. As corny as it sounds too, I signed up to help people and to serve my country. That job's not yet done. And possibly never will be. But I've found out that's hardly the point. 

For those in the Northeast who I haven't been in touch with, I am sorry. Keep doing what you're doing and know that I care. Although one year really felt like a year, I'm sure the second will go by quicker than we think. Cheers to another  (plus some). 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Another Picture Post (Mangrove Edition)

Here are some photos of the mangrove reforestation I was involved in a few weeks ago. You can read a lot about it at but here are some pictures from my POV. 

Some friends getting excited. 

Me and my bucket. 

The sunrise.

The breakfast spread. 

The sunrise encore.

Toucan-ish bird. 

This one is dedicated to Katherine LaRegina because I figure she would want to see what Senegalese pigs look like. Adorable. 

An inventive parrot cage. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

The last few weeks in pictures

Senegal's social media response to Ebola. I was quite impressed. 

New barriers broken with my host sister. (Those are my sheets below her underwear).

Planting field crops in the sun.

Which actually isn't too good for my skin. 

Planting field crops in the rain. But mostly just watching it rain. 

My birthday on the beach. Quiet. Relaxing. Delicious. 

And making soap with some friends!

 I hope everyone in America is having a great transition back to school. Here school does not start until October so we still have some time for vacation here. 

This weekend I am off to the beach and then some meetings, reporting, and medical appointments after that. I will likely have much more to say afterwards.