WHOA

So I made it! I got up yesterday morning, had my last SB (tragic, I know). We got onto a bus and went to a federal building right by the capitol. I got a yellow fever shot, and then we went to the airport. I made some final phone calls, which were sad, then the flight.

THE FLIGHT: Long as f. I wanted to sleep SO BAD, but I only slept for about 45 minutes. I watched ‘Waitress’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (Tim Burton’s).

AFRICA: We landed at 5 AM this morning (seems like forever ago), and got our bags. It’s a PC tradition to tie yarn to your bag so people know it’s the PC’s. It was convenient b/c all the bags had already been grabbed from the carousel. We loaded our luggage on separate carts, and they told us NOT to accept offers for help because they will ask for money. No one seemed to have any trouble…until I busted out of Dakar International. I am surrounded by tiny white girls, yet this guy comes to ME, grabs my cart, and goes “I’m the driver! I can take your bags!” I politely declined, but he insisted. I looked back at one of my fellow volunteers, and he’s shaking his head “NO”. I am freaking out, and telling him no in my sternest voice (which isn’t so stern). Finally this PC-related woman shoves the guy away and apologizes to me. Twas awk and embarrassing and OF COURSE it happened to me.

We then loaded into 3 separate vans (there are 64 of us). We were crammed in like sardines. We then made our way to Thies, which is east of Dakar. The ride was…interesting. I wanted to sleep but I kept looking out the windows. Dakar is stereotypical Africa. Goats/chickens/cows running around, women with baskets on their heads, etc. It was insane.

Then it got beautiful Senegal is known for its’ balboa trees, which are HUGE. The trees are what Rafiki lived in in ‘The Lion King’, and the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom is a balboa tree. They are everywhere. They also have an amazing bird population. Other critters I have seen: huge lizards, and a BRIGHT GREEN caterpillar that was gigantic as well.

When we got to Thies, they gave us bread with jam for breakfast, then we slept from 10-12. It was helpful but also possibly made it worse. We are in the PC Training compound, which used to be barracks for the French army but was given to PC Senegal in 1963. I feel like I’m at camp. I am sharing a room with 5 other guys in bunkbeds. This is only temporary. I am moving in with my host family in a few days, and there I will get my own room.

When we got up, we had lunch, which was yummy. Rice with carrots, peppers, and beef. We sat on the floor on mats and ate out of a MASSIVE communal bowl. Five people per bowl. No shoes on the mats. I was excited because the food was good, but a current volunteer said this would probably be the best meal we ate. Sucks.

We then had seminars all day. Basically introductory stuff, and then we had medical interviews, which were essentially the administration of malaria pills. I am sitting on a bench outside, and I am freaking out b/c I haven’t taken the pill yet b/c I haven’t eaten, and I keep getting bit. Dinner isn’t ready yet though!

After that, WE DANCED. It was AMAZING. One of the coolest things I have ever done. These three guys busted out these drums, and they were GOOD. We danced with the PC locals, as well as the other volunteers. We all stood in a circle and took turns dancing. Normally I don’t do stuff like that, but I got SO into it. It’s really hot here (similar to FL actually, so I’m fine), so I was DRENCHED in sweat. It was something I will remember for the rest of my life.

Tomorrow is language interviews, which means they will test us to see which language class we’re in. I am probably a beginner.

Gotta go. They are hitting the dinner drum (no joke). The compound has wireless here, so hopefully I will be able to update tomorrow.

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Arlington, VA

I AM SO TIRED. I had to get up at 5 AM, and I couldn’t fall asleep until 2 AM because I was nervous/had to finish an ep of ‘The Next Food Network Star’, which I don’t even watch! I had to finish it though.

Getting up this morning and saying goodbye to my family was hard/sad. Luckily my dad took me to the airport, so I didn’t have a blubbering mess on my hands (aka my mother).

So I made it to Northern Virginia aka D.C. It was weird flying in…I saw the Pentagon AND the Washington Monument! I also found the group of PC kids I was carpooling with to the airport. We took a shuttle, and I got to meet my first 8 fellow trainees. They were all super nice. I checked into the hotel and dressed into my fancy outfit (which ironically looked like my bookstore attire: black collared shirt and khakis…I can never escape that place).

A lot of paperwork was filled out/turned in, which unfortunately for you guys is neither entertaining nor funny.

Orientation was interesting. Mostly informational/get to know you. There are 65 people in my training class, and all of them are either agriculture (urban or sustainable/rural), SED (small enterprise development) or agroforestry. We are all leaving tomorrow and will be together for the next couple weeks. I met a lot of people but only remember a few names. There are SO many people, and I look forward to getting to know some/all of them. I haven’t even met everyone! It’s super weird though…I keep thinking things like, “When I get home, I’m gonna have to tell _____ about this!” Then I realize I’m not going home. It’s super sad.

Tonight I had my last supper at this Mexican restaurant called Uncle Julio’s. Not in FL, but apparently they have them in D.C. and Texas, amongst other places. It was delicious.

Tomorrow, we are checking out of the hotel, then going to get our shots (yellow fever included…yikes). Then at noon we are leaving for the airport. The flight to Dakar is at 5:40 PM and arrives there at 5:50 AM (local time) Wednesday morning. I am excited.

My next post will be from Africa! Which is intense. Sorry this one is so brief/unexciting. I am exhausted and need to go to bed.

Pig Shots and Increased Levels of Dorkiness/Fluff

This morning I woke up at 8:26 AM…the earliest I have woken up in a while. I went down to the glamorous (<– sarcasm) Leon County Health Department for my H1N1 shot, which was administered by a lovely woman, Fran, who kept rubbing my back. Twas awk. For some reason they were out of legitimate rooms, so I got the shot in what could have been a storage room for spare furniture. We’ll never know I guess, unless Fran is reading this. If she is, do us tell us what we were doing in there because it was unclear to me.

After that I ran some errands, including buying Allyson’s graduation gift, which is pretty good (but not as good as the grad gift she got me). I also got more passport photos. For some odd reason, the PC needs 18 2×2 photos of yours truly. Unfortunately, I wore a light gray shirt to CVS, which uses a white background, so I now have 18 photos of my floating neck/head. They’re a real trip.

Later, I took a nap, woke up for half an hour, then napped again. I love Double Nap Days (DND for short).

I had lunch with the lovely Brittany (my cousin, for those of you who don’t know/are slow), then went to Trail & Ski to look at Jesus sandals. The PC recommended I buy some sandals for daily use, so I am going to do it. It’s just strange because I have never been a sandal person. I have worn Converse or slip-ons or something forever, or I wear flip-flops. The Jesus sandal is this whole other branch of the footwear family tree that has eluded me. Luckily, the chick at Trail & Ski was an expert. Evidently there has been an epic debate amongst hippies for years about whether Chacos or Tevas are better. Both sell hiking/outdoor sandals (Jesus-style). I tried on both, and they seemed similar, except for the Tevas were $45 cheaper. Both kind of look like strappy women’s heels from the junior prom circa 1993. I still am on the fence. I went home and found myself on camping message boards where all sorts of people discuss this topic. If you have knowledge, readers, then drop it ASAP because I am buying a pair tomorrow.

I went with my Mom to the eye doctor to look for prescription sunglasses (please see second half of post title). I have never been one to wear prescription sunglasses for this reason: I am 22 and not 58. I am not knocking them, so don’t be offended. I wouldn’t have bought some if I truly hated them. I just have always thought they were weird. I wear contacts with regular sunglasses, or I wear glasses and deal with the sun. I ended up getting a pair of tortoise-shell Ray-Ban knock offs. I love them b/c the inside is lime green. I will rock the hell out of them. I mean, the locals in Senegal are gonna come a-runnin’ when I bust out of the school bus from Dakar* (filled with chickens running up and down the aisles). “A rock star!” they’ll say (in the local language).

Tonight, the plan is to get disgustingly drunk and possibly embarrass myself singing karaoke (when I say “possibly” I mean “most definitely”).

PS: For those of you turned off by the fact that this blog is mostly humorous and less educational, then you are gonna be disappointed. Unlike my brainier older sister Lindsey, my blog will focus more on my experiences and my thoughts on those experiences and less on history. I like that sort of stuff, but when I look back in 10 years, I want to read this and remember the times when I was scared shitless or dealing with hilarious situations abroad. It’s the stuff I live for. It’s, to me, what traveling is all about. Learning, of course, is a must, but when I look back on all the places I’ve visited, I remember laughing at the crazy stuff I did. Getting lost and spending two hours finding my way again is more fun/memorable than a castle. This blog WILL have stuff like that though. It’s just that right now I’m in Tallahassee, Florida, which is less exciting than Africa, so I am filling my blog with fluff.

PPS: Fluff fluff fluffity fluff.

*Dakar is the capital of Senegal. I am flying from DC to Dakar on Tuesday the 10th, then taking a 2-hour bus ride east to Thiès (pronounced “chess”), which is where I will train for nine weeks.

Packing

So I am five days away from leaving the country for two years (well technically four because it’s 2 AM). I am moving to Senegal as an urban agriculturalist for the Peace Corps. For those of you who know me, you are surely laughing at the idea of me, OUTSIDE, planting things. Yes, it is HILARIOUS. We will see what happens. Hilarity will definitely ensue. Of this I can promise.

So I just moved out of my apartment in Orlando, so my house in Tallahassee has become a breeding ground for piles of my crap. No flat surface is bare. Books, clothes, and all sorts of knickknacks have actually made a b-line for the door and are lying around on the floor. Fortunately, it is organized chaos, and everything seems to be under control (although if you don’t hear from me in the next few days, come knocking).

In one corner of the living room is my new suitcase (grad gift from the ‘rents, unnamed for now), which is practically filled with the first round of my stuff. It is unfortunate that I filled the majority of a large suitcase with stuff I saw and threw into a pile at random. “Cool…I forgot I owned this shirt. Hey! I should bring it with me!” or “I am TOTALLY gonna want to read this 2,000-page, hardback Stephen King novel in Africa! BONUS: It’ll make a terrific blunt object to beat off attackers with!” When it comes time to ACTUALLY pack, I am gonna be majorly effed (King stays though).

My last week in the States has been spent finalizing my move from Orlando and saying goodbye, as well as doing things for the last time. Finalizing my move = the actual act of MOVING, organizing/hiding all my personal belongings so it’s not discarded by my father, etc. Saying goodbye = totally sucks and I wouldn’t recommend it (nor does it get easier…believe me). Doing things for the last time = this mostly involves gorging myself on American delicacies of unhealthiness…soon I may have to purchase an additional seat on my flight to Senegal just for the left half of my body.

I will try to update this as often as possible, although I am unsure how the internet will be in Africa. I will soon find out!

PS: Don’t think I’m the kind of person who shamelessly and embarrassingly plugs his blog. I’m too cool for that (although my blog totally kicks ass and you should read it 24/7).

PPS: Next entry = The Adventures of Jamie Getting His H1N1 Shot.