Jamie: Student of Wolof

So I already knew I was gonna learn Wolof when I updated earlier today, but I wanted to give my fans (all 3 of you…love you guys. Your fan club membership cards should be coming in the mail any day now) time to comment before I posted another. I wrote the previous post last night. This one I am writing now. Time is weird.

Anyways, so today we had our training sites announced. All of our technical training will be in Thies (technical meaning agriculture), but our lang/cultural training will be in (drum roll please) MBORO. It’s a little north of Thies and RIGHT on the ocean. Apparently it’s a good spot (but who knows, these people may be lying to me). There are 8 of us going (2 lang groups of 4). My group is all UAgs, and the other group is 3 SEDs and 1 UAg. Luckily, I really like the other 7 people I am going with.

After our sites were announced, we immediately went to Wolof classes. My LCF (language cross-cultural facilitator) is Sidy, who is Senegalese. He is awesome and a rapper. He is gonna be teaching me Wolof for the next 8 weeks and also living in Mboro. The LCFs are basically in charge of you during training. The other groups’ LCF, Regina, is also really cool, so we’re in good hands.

The classes were interesting. Learning a language is easier when there’s only 4 people per class. They’re also interesting because Sidy refuses to speak English. He teaches us Wolof, and then explains things in French. It’s annoying but good because I am learning both at the same time. We make a lot of mistakes and laugh a lot. It’s fun. Wolof is a cool language. There are sounds in it not used in the English language, so my tongue is going crazy (insert inappropriate joke [here]). It’s nasally but also guttural, like Hebrew or something. I roll my R’s, too.

After morning Wolof, we had learned a little about staying with host families. Stuff I already knew, pretty much.

Break for lunch.

More Wolof (Naka wa kerga?). Also, “yes” is “waow” (pronounced “WOW”). Awesome.

We then went out again! A bunch of current volunteers took groups out into Thies to explore. I was with Nathan, who is actually my UAg supervisor. He’s a 3rd-year. He took 8 of us around. We went to a couple boutiques (which are grocery stores, although they are tiny) and around a few markets. I bought nothing, but people bought fabric to make local clothes (tailors can make clothes for super cheap).

Walking around Thies was so weird. There is trash and mud everywhere, and taxis honk at you all the time. There are also horse and buggies that can take you around for super cheap. Little gangs of children run up to you and grab your wrist and ask for money. I basically shake them up and walk away briskly. They are scary as hell. Never carry your wallet in your back pocket. I was still freaked out about getting pickpocketed though.

We then went to a more upscale restaurant for a beer and ice cream. The national beer is La Gazelle, which is locally brewed. It was 1000 CFA (African franc…pronounced say-fuh) for this HUGE bottle, which is only like $2. The exchange rate is $1/512 CFA. I didn’t get drunk, but I was definitely feeling it. The alcohol content is higher, too. It was strange though…we were at a more expensive restaurant, and the only people in there were white. One older man sitting alone writing in a journal, and then an older couple with a younger woman (presumably their daughter). Third-world tourism is so interesting. I am SO glad I am able to learn the language and customs. Without the PC, I would be SO lost and freaking out.

We then couldn’t decide whether or not to walk home or take a taxi. I voted taxi because I wanted to learn how to do it with Nathan there. It was only 500 CFA for a 5-minute ride. Unfortunately we had to split up because there were too many of us, and I was in the taxi without Nathan. I was also in the front, where they told you never to go. I was freaking out the whole time (the alcohol wasn’t helping), but it was fine. Apparently you have to bargain a lot. Because we’re all white, they think we’re tourists and try to charge us 5 times the amount something is worth. You have to bring him down a lot. I think knowing the local language well will help in the future, then they’ll know I live here.

Tomorrow I am going to Mboro to live with my host family! I don’t know what the computer situation is going to be. I am not coming back to the Training Center until next Sunday, and I think I am gonna leave my laptop here (locked up). I want to scope out the place before I bring it. Mboro has internet cafes, so hopefully I will be able to update there. It will probably be Tuesday at the earliest though. Wish me luck!

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    • Kittie
    • August 15th, 2010

    Hey, I want fan status too! I’m thoroughly enjoying your experiences & getting to hear about it almost in real time. Good luck with this new move to Mboro. Will be looking forward to your next update:-D

    • Gale (aka mama)
    • August 15th, 2010

    Did you get paid in CFA’s? Where do you carry them – in a wallet? Front pocket? Also, where is your camera living? Laptop? Locked up or “safe” in the compound? It really is a different world….I’m glad you’re experiencing it! Love you lots and be kind to hosts – food and laundry could really be messed with!

      • jamiew1288
      • August 16th, 2010

      Yeah, they pay us in local currency. I am also getting reimbursed in local currency for baggage fees! Yesterday I didn’t bring my wallet, so I just put the cash in my front pocket.

      For the next week, my laptop will be locked in my big suitcase inside my room, which will also be locked. I am bringing my camera.

    • Megan (aka Megoosh)
    • August 15th, 2010

    I enjoy that basically the word for yes is wow-that makes it easy. So for example it would go like this for me “Do you like Britney Spears?” “Wow!” That’s kinda of awesome.

    Now on to important matters, have you met Rafiki yet?

    • Lindsey
    • August 15th, 2010

    Good luck in the new city! I hope you can survive without internet for a few days. Take pictures of the coast, I’m curious about it.

    • Lee Anne
    • August 15th, 2010

    I like the line, “Without the PC, I would be SO lost and freaking out.”, cuz I was thinking, “Without the PC, you’d never be in Senegal!” Glad you got to get out of the compound. I know that you are ready for your host family, but are they ready for you? I see lots of great stories in the future. BTW would like to know if you have an idea yet of what would be good care package items? Just wondering 🙂 Love, L A

    • terry
    • August 16th, 2010

    Jamie, we are also enjoying your day to day accounts and learning a lot from your posts. Shannon graduated from HS with a guy who has been in the PC in Senegal for the last several years. He is rotating out soon I think. His name is Michael Hebert in case you meet him. You never know, small world and all…… Keep the updates coming!

    • The Amazon
    • August 16th, 2010

    I agree with Lee Anne, I laughed because I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be in Senegal if it wasn’t for the Peace Corps love =] Have fun in Mboro (all I keep thinking when I see this name is Mary… kinda similar to Marbu…). I’m sending you a letter within the next few days, but I have no idea how long it takes to get there. Lots to fill you up on, including the newest season of Weeds starting tonight! And beer is cheap as eff. I am jeal.

    • Anna
    • August 16th, 2010

    Hey J, I’m proud of you for getting down & dirty in Africa. Sorry I didn’t get to see you before you left. We should video chat or something so as to properly remember each other. I read your blog every day; stay safe and keep having fun! I’ll miss you (but Allyson and I are coming to visit).

    • Anna
    • August 16th, 2010

    Also, you’re probably sick of getting advice, but a good rule of thumb for traveling anywhere dangerous (which is probably any big city anywhere) is to always walk like you know where you’re going. Even if you look totally foreign/white/like a gringo, I like to think that this helps deter pickpockets. If nothing else it might make you feel better. Anywayz…miss you!

    • Allyson
    • August 16th, 2010

    Language training sounds intense but wicked cool. Next time we videochat you are only allowed to speak Wolof and I will answer in French. Sounds like perfection to me. Love, Weex (yeah, I looked that ish up).

    • Sca-rah
    • August 16th, 2010

    Sidy is a rapper! I’m sold. He shall be my new bf. Love it. Now for a bike name… This is serious and difficult without meeting him first. I mean this will shape your relationship with this bike for the next two years and thus basically determine you overall happiness. Good thing I rock at life so leaving this challange in my hands will be fine. I will think on it and let you know.

    Can’t wait to see where you are staying with your host fam. So if your lang classes are in a different city then the ag training will they bus you back and forth or are you taking the bike? Love you!

    • Blana
    • August 17th, 2010

    Ask the guy who’s teaching you Wolof to give you some Sengalese rap to listen to. And then give it to me.

    The photographic opportunities must be amazing. Make sure to take some of cute babies for me (they sounds creepy).

    • Anonymous
    • August 17th, 2010

    I can’t wait to hear about your host family. Everything sounds super cool and I’m jeal. I can’t wait to hear you speak Wolof!

    p.s. I just realized there’s a comment section!

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