IST and the Holidays

So, when last you heard from me, I was fresh off a whirlwind 2 days at the Urban Ag conference in Thies. Since then, I have completed IST (In-Service Training) in Thies and hung out in Dakar. I was busy busy busy until I wasn’t wasn’t wasn’t.

Let’s start from the very beginning (I hear it’s a very good place to start). IST was two weeks of additional training at the Center in Thies. I was expecting a lot of tech training (i.e. gardening), and in theory, that’s what it was. What it ACTUALLY consisted of was the UAg-ers sitting in a room listening to PowerPoint presentations all day for two weeks. I did learn a lot, but it was WAY too much sitting when we should have been outside digging in the ground. We did do a little of that, and it was super helpful, but I was definitely disappointed because I was expecting more hands-on training. I mean, I do feel prepared to go back to site and start my garden and begin working. I’m looking forward to it, for sure, but I definitely could be MORE prepared.

Things I did during IST:

Doodled so much out of boredom I now have a decent sized portfolio
Went to an artisans expo in Dakar and bought African goodies (for myself and others)
Went to my country director’s house in Dakar for the Five Week Challenge party
Watched ‘The Lion King’ at aforementioned country director’s house
Led the ‘Grease’ sing-a-long at the party as well (my sisters would have been proud)
Ate CHINESE food in Dakar (the owners don’t speak English, Wolof, OR French…only Chinese)
Caught up on ‘Glee’
Went dancing at a club in downtown Thies

I left Thies on Sunday and came to Dakar. There’s a train that runs every morning at 6 AM, and it’s supposed to be a really cool way to go to Dakar. So, a bunch of people from my stage woke up at 5 AM, gathered up our luggage (a month’s worth), and walked to the train station. Let me tell you, the train station is pretty far from the Training Center, and we couldn’t find taxis that early. We finally arrive at the station, and OF COURSE the trains don’t run on Sundays, even though we asked some Senegalese people the day before if it did, and they said yes. So, we ended up taking the bus, which was fine. Personally, I was livid that I woke up so freakin’ early for no reason, but it’s fine now. We made it.

Since then, I’ve been hanging out in Dakar. This city really has everything. I ate delicious pad thai last night, and I have eaten amazing ice cream on several occasions. I went to the only bowling alley in West Africa and took photos in the photobooth there. I have been swimming in the pool here at the American Club, which is an exclusive club for ex-pats. It’s free for PCVs. I have gone to Cassino a couple times, which is a French grocery store that is AIR CONDITIONED. I walked up and down the aisles experiencing reverse culture shock. Cassino even has Ben & Jerry’s, which blew my mind. I know I’ve only been here for four months, but it has been a mega-Senegalese four months of Wolof and ceebu jen only.

Today is Christmas Eve, which is very surreal for me. It doesn’t feel like the holidays at all. It’s difficult to get into the Xmas spirit living in an Islamic country. Dakar is more decorated than the rest of the country, but it’s still bizarre to be away from my family this time of year. The PCVs staying in Dakar all have Secret Santas, and we have a White Elephant gift exchange planned for Xmas day. It should be fun. For New Year’s, I am headed to St. Louis, which is the second largest city in Senegal. It’s up North, also on the Atlantic coast. It’s an old French colonial town, so there’s lots of cool architecture there. It should be fun.

Anyways, readers, I hope all of you have an amazing Christmas and a happy New Year. Relish in the fact that you are with your family in a country that celebrates these holidays. If I don’t update again, I’ll be seeing you in 2011.

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    • Sca-rah
    • December 27th, 2010

    Sounds like fun. We missed you at Christmas. I think that you should keep a list of all the places you want to take people that come visit because it sounds like you have been hitting or hearing about a lot of places. Just a thought

    • Mom
    • December 27th, 2010

    Loved talking to and seeing you on Christmas Eve….it was a wonderful gift – thank you so much! You have been busy and have probably become spoiled surrounded by more Western civilization than you’ll experience for months – prepare, Sokone is ahead! You sound interested in your future projects and I’m looking forward to hearing about how we can help. Love you forever and I do recognize how blessed I am to be surrounded by family over the Christmas holidays. Looking forward to next Christmas already, Mama

    • Lindsey
    • December 28th, 2010

    Sounds like you are crazy busy – or at least surrounded by people all the time. I’m glad you learned a lot at IST, but I guess much of the training will be on the job. Hopefully there are some legit notes in your doodle portfolio, at least.

    Have an amazing time in St. Louis. I think it’s great you are getting to see so much of the country already, not just at your site. What date will you actually be back at site? Happy New Year!

    • Lindsey
    • December 28th, 2010

    Also, how did the “Lindsey is a dork” tag – my personal favorite – fit into this post?

  1. Well, I just figured out how to subscribe so that I don’t have to type in the URL each time!! Jamie, belated Merry Christmas! How different to be away from family on a holiday. However, from reading your blog, you are having once in a lifetime experiences…I love PB and banana…can I send you PB??? How??? I had a whirlwind tour of Jax and Atl to see my family for Christmas…looking forward to seeing some Whiteheads soon. It looks like I should keep this short, so I will sign off. Happy New Year! Enjoy! Love you!

    • Sca-rah
    • December 29th, 2010

    I was wondering the same thing about the “Lindsey is a dork” tag. I mean it is a fact but if we are adding random fact tags then there should also be a “Sca-rah is awesome and neva forgets!” tag. Actually that should be a tag in every post.

    • The Amazon
    • January 6th, 2011

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year my love. I bet that pad thai had nothing on Pei Wei’s (okay, it was probably better but considering all the adventures and activities leading us to Pei Wei, it’s better ;] lol) So glad you’re caught up with Glee, even though this season is slacking. I still need to send you your DVDs so please send me an address; thanks =]

    Love you!

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