Although that news consumes a lot of my thoughts and conversation, I've been maintaining my projects at site. The Citrus Union is meeting next week to monitor their record keeping progress and ask questions. Demba has started branding his products. This is an innovative step for him and I hope it leads to many like it. The women's group is trying all kinds of fruits and vegetables in the dryer. Their preparation room should be finished before mango season. That means we will be drying many mangos, packaging, product testing, and saving for personal consumption later. If all goes well, next mango season (approximately late April to June) they will package, save, and $ell.
I was also invited to be a guest trainer for the new group of trainees. I had a few days being trained and preparing then we picked them up in Dakar March 1st. Seeing their faces fighting a blend of confusion, tiredness, and excitement gave me flashbacks to my arrival and how unnerving it was. I am jealous of them because of the beautiful journey they have ahead but I am glad to be out of those shoes. Truly. PST is a difficult two months. I'm glad I was around to answer all their questions. Professionally, it was a great week. I led a session on handicrafts and recieved some constructive feedback on my style, content, and appearance. Apparently the presentation was fine but my hat was a little too dirty. Socially I was able to have long awaited conversations with far-away friends. I intensely value my time with each volunteer I get to see so I was quite tired by the end; but updated.
Afterwards I was able to bike and visit two friends in the Fatik region. Countless activities were programmed but the highlights include wrestling, live Sereer music, duck for dinner, first cashew apples of the season, baobab climbing, island hoping, ferry riding, and salt flat camping.
I also learned recently my lifelong pastor, Peter Smith is moving to Hanson, MA. I have no doubt God is working wonders in his life and those around him. It does feel weird to me though to have another major change waiting for me back home. I recently got to watch one of his sermons online thanks to firstthomaston.org and it sent my mind flying. I especially appreciate his words while being this far away and after not hearing them in so long. I look forward to catching up with him and seeing him speak in Hanson.
Finally, my tickets are booked for Italy! I'll be flying to Rome May 28th to meet up with my mom and dad. From there my plans are, well, not planned. But they involve an extended stay in Wales. Although I'm really enjoying every moment right now I look forward to this trip with vigor. It will be a special time with my parents since I haven't seen them in 18 months. I also hope to have some time to reflect on the experiences I'm having now. But it will certainly be difficult as I will want to enjoy all that there is to see in Italy and Wales.
I often feel the need to write down profound thoughts that stem from complex situations and new experiences. I think part of that comes from a desire to account for the pain of separation from America. But I'm feeling a change. I'm learning that happiness isn't about a constant change of scene. And I'm learning that not every moment needs to be a revelation. I enjoy all that's happening here and a lot of that is simple and seemingly mundane. As I speak and understand Wolof I discover differences between everyone I meet. As I participate in cultural exchange I find more peace with how unique I am. And as I see other volunteers and their sites, I see just how throughly different these two years are for each one of us.