Site Visits, UNO, and the River-Walker

The last week has been interesting. I went to my permanent site, Sokone, to check it out and meet people. It was cool. The river is beautiful, and there are bridges that cross it, and apparently there’s a nice beach area where you can swim.

Getting there was insane. From Thies, we drove to Kaolack, which is a big town NE of Sokone. In Kaolack, there’s a regional house for PCVs. It’s basically a big compound with about five rooms, a bunch of bathrooms, and tons of beds. There’s a kitchen, and you can get on the roof, which has views of the city. It’s really cool. There are also HUNDREDS of books there. Like, I am freaking out about this library. They have HP, Pat Conroy, all the classics, etc. There are so many books there that I’ve wanted to read. The plan was for people to send me books, but now I don’t need you guys to (although, when new ish comes out, you’re sending it).

Kaolack is about an hour away from Sokone by car, and evidently, the road between the two is the worst in Senegal. I can attest to this fact, although I have heard that every road is the worst in Senegal. This one was pretty bad though. Potholes everywhere, so cars literally zigzag down the road, sometimes driving off the road in order to avoid the cement altogether. It’s funny that, in Senegal, the dirt roads are nicer than the paved ones.

Sokone was cool. Pigs EVERYWHERE. The little speckled piglets were adorable. There needs to be pig-crossing signs because they cross the street frequently and in groups. There was also the usual array of barnyard friends: goats, sheep, horses, mules, chickens, etc. I met my new host family, who I will live with for two years. Their compound is HUGE, and there are a million people in the family. My setup is nice. I get my own separate HOUSE in the back corner of the compound. It’s fenced in (to keep out the goats, which apparently are inescapable in this country), and has two rooms. There’s a big sitting room with a few windows, and to the left is my bedroom, which is also nicely sized. My ancienne, the person I am replacing, left me some furniture. I have a big table, a “couch” (I use this term loosely), a big bookshelf (!), and a double bed. I also have my own bathroom with a Western toilet. Before you get excited, it’s pretty much a Western toilet sitting on top of a hole, so I still have to get water from the faucet outside to flush it. There is also a drain for a bucket bath.

I stayed with the current volunteer who lives in Sokone, Elida. She’s a SED volunteer, so mostly I followed her around for four days while she worked. Although she’s not in my sector, it was interesting to see the daily life of a volunteer, especially one that lives in my site. I was surprised to learn that she mostly speaks French and very little Wolof. Everyone speaks both in Sokone, so now, after Wolof, I am going to learn French because it’s the common language of the area (there are a lot of Sereer speakers, too).

One evening, Elida and I played UNO with the three kids in her host family. We played in Frolof (French and Wolof). We played two games, and I came in last both times. These Senegalese children are ruthless.

One day, we went to a neighboring village to talk to some people. On the way, the walk was fine, but on the way back, our way was blocked…BY A RIVER. Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: Um….where the hell did this river come from?
Elida: It was low tide earlier. Now it’s high tide.
Me: How are we gonna get across? Is there a bridge?
Elida: No. We’re gonna wade through.
Me: Surely you jest.
Elida [taking off her shoes]: It’s fine. I do it all the time

This tennis match of conversation lasted a few minutes, and it resulted in me agreeing to wade through the river. Luckily, it was salt water, and it only came up to about mid-thigh, but I was still pissed. It was a very interesting experience, indeed. Perhaps in a year, bizarre situations, such as these, will seem normal to me. The prospect seems doubtful.

After Sokone, we went back to the regional house in Kaolack to wait for the PC bus. It was late, so we ordered food from a local place. It was so strange ordering take-out in Senegal. I had falafel, which I was hesitant to try considering this is West Africa, but it was actually delicious. Kaolack is big enough that it has a lot of Western restaurants and stores (I even had my second Diet Coke there!).

Well, now I am back in Mboro. I am writing this outside my room on my laptop, and I am going to head over to the cyber café soon to upload it online. Currently, two boys are staring at me, probably confused by what I am doing. I asked them, in Wolof, if they were having fun watching me. They chose to ignore me.

    • Lindsey
    • September 20th, 2010

    Great post. I think “surely you jest” and “Frolof” should both become tags. I’m excited about your library and your living situation in Sokone sounds great. Can’t wait for you to settle in, make the place homey, and send pictures.

    • Gale (aka mama)
    • September 20th, 2010

    Uno sounds fun and Frolof sounds even more fun! Glad to hear your future is looking bright – on either side of the river. What is the internet situation like at your new compound? I, too, am always looking for pictures.
    PS I enjoyed our chat last week!

    • Allyson
    • September 20th, 2010

    I love you. Slash do not be discouraged that the kids are still calling you “toubab”. After meeting me, they will have to redefine “white people”. Plus you’ll be so dirty soon you’ll be brown 😀 miss ya.

    • Lindsey
    • September 21st, 2010

    Love it, White. They WILL have to redefine white person. I hope I’m there to see it.

    • Sca-rah
    • September 23rd, 2010

    It all sounds good. A big bed so I can come and visit and crash with you! So how long on your bike Coco will it take to ride from your new host family to the PC compound? I guess the compound has internet also? Oh and does this new host family have to still feed you all meals? Hey have you got any other mail by chance?

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