Jamie Becomes Legit/Installs

So I know it’s been a ridiculous amount of time since my last update, but a lot of ish has happened, and although I have had endless amounts of downtime since I installed in Sokone, I haven’t had electricity, so it has been hard. Sokone has a couple cyber cafes, but I haven’t checked them out yet.

So the last you saw of me, I was a meager little PCT. I was still in training. Well, folks, I am a damn PCV now! I swore-in as a volunteer at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar on October 15, 2010. It was pretty epic. Basically, we woke up at 6 AM, got in our Senegalese outfits, and drove to Dakar from Thies. The embassy in Dakar is really beautiful, and the ceremony was cool. The country director spoke, and the U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, as well as a few trainees who gave speeches in the local languages. It was even on national TV here in Senegal, which is awkward. A bunch of other vols took pics of me, but I didn’t bring my camera. I have been so lazy in terms of photography since I’ve been here. Sorry, guys. I will figure things out.

The day after I swore-in, everyone in my region (Kaolack) drove to the city of Kaolack to prepare for install. I stayed at the regional house for three days and bought a bunch of things for my site. Kitchen stuff, floor mats, etc. I installed on Tuesday, October 19th. Basically, a PC car drove to my house, the driver helped me drop off all my stuff, then drove off. Luckily, I’d met my new host family when I visited Sokone last month.

So, I have been at site for two weeks now. There’s this thing called the Five Week Challenge, where new PCVs are expected to stay at site for five consecutive weeks without spending the night at the regional house or elsewhere. There is no prize, but the country director wants everyone to properly adapt to his or her new towns/villages.

The Five Week Challenge is difficult though because we aren’t supposed to do much in the beginning. We are expected to get to know our families, walk around town, and meet people. We aren’t supposed to work much because IST (in-service training) isn’t until the beginning of December. Basically, in a month, I am gonna go back to Thies for two weeks and do more training (mostly tech, not language). PST was focused a lot on language, which I am grateful for, but I am also grateful for IST because I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I have a lot to learn about gardening, and I am not comfortable enough with it to teach others (in Wolof) how to properly do it.

So basically I have been reading a lot and hanging out with my new family, who I adore. The family is huge. I have my host parents, and they have like 7 children between them (between 14 and 30). All girls and one boy, who lives in Dakar, so it’s basically a bunch of women and their children, and all their husbands live in other cities and work. It sounds odd, but that’s basically how families work in Senegal.

There are two babies. LOVE THEM. Two little girls around a year old each. Their names are Fanta and Mama, which are hilarious names. They are adorable and love me. There is also three boys who are around 5-6 and look identical. I just now started telling them apart. My favorite is this 3-year-old girl named Nazar. She is CRAZY/hilarious. She is how I envision Sca-rah being when she was three. Nazar is a little spitfire. She either runs around completely naked or wears a variety of Sunday school type dresses. That’s pretty much it. She’s either in her birthday suit or dressed to the nines in lace dresses. She is hilarious and makes me laugh. She has also been seen sprawled out naked on piles of clean clothes.

Another thing I love about my family is that none of them calls me toubab. I am their 7th volunteer, so the kids have grown up with random white people in their house all their lives. The neighbor children, on the other hand, need to be trained. I taught some of them my name, which, OMG, I have a new name! Forgot. Okay, so my new name is random and long and I don’t like it much, but I will rock it. My name, for the next two years, is Malamine Mansaly (mal-uh-meen mon-suh-lee). It is a Mandinkan name, not a Wolof name. The Mandinkas live south of The Gambia in the Casamance, and my family is from there, which is why I have a Mandinkan name. Every time I tell people my name in Sokone, they ask (in Wolof) if I know Mandinka. I always have to tell them no.

Well, yeah, so basically that’s my life right now. I don’t really start work until after Christmas, when I return to site. Right now, I am trying to fill my days with books and long walks and chatting with my family. I am almost fully settled, although I still have to buy some stuff in town that I need.

Okay, Malamine signing off. Ba beneen yoon!

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    • Sca-rah
    • November 2nd, 2010

    Spend your free time takin pics! For real j you need to get better about picture taking ( I can’t believe I’m telling YOU that). I want to see your new room, areas you hang at, and the family (especially mini me). Plus I want to see pics of you! Get on it!! Don’t make me come there and make you cause I will!

    I’m so happy you are loving your new family. That is great because you will be with them a lot longer. I’m loving the sound of this Nazar. She sounds awesome! Babies in Sunday school dresses running around being crazy and adorable are awesome. I approve.

    I miss you! We need to chat more and you need more updates! Don’t wait so long and book it over to an Internet cafe so we can chat soon. Love you!!

    • Lindsey
    • November 3rd, 2010

    Really glad you updated – I miss you! I’m happy to hear you love your new family and town. And I’m jealous of all of your uninterrupted reading. Send me your list periodically, why doncha? Love you.

    • Gale (aka mama)
    • November 3rd, 2010

    So glad you’re settling in…I want to visit and meet your family (once you get electricity)! Get that camera in gear or send some pics that others have taken! Love you!

    • Allyson
    • November 8th, 2010

    Aww, Senegalese babies = 3x American babies on the cuteness scale. Bring one back for me?

    I thought of you today because it’s cold and I dug out my black Gap hoodie– I actually was kind of surprised to see it because I thought you had stolen it and taken it to Africa with you. Ah, the days of us cross-dressing… Make me miss you like crazy Boy! Love, White

    • The Amazon
    • November 16th, 2010

    Okay, so I’ve read all of your posts, just haven’t had the time to reply yet. Two things: 1. Nazar sounds like E Alv a bit. I mean, if she isn’t naked then she’s fancy?? Total E Alv. 2. Mandinkan as in what Kunta Kinte (from Roots) was? I don’t know if you ever watched it, I had to see the whole series in history 8th grade and Kunta Kinte (main character) kept saying his name was “Kunta Kinte, Mandinkan Warrior” whenever the slave owners tried to give him a white name.

    I love your new name btdubbs.

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