Happy New Year, I hope that 2013 was a good year for you! You’ll have to fill me in on what you have been up to this past year after your done reading about my adventures.
So I moved out to Senegal with the Peace Corps. To be honest it’s not exactly what I expected. The amazing institution that is PC turns out to be somewhat mismanaged, and the other volunteers mostly a group of kids just graduated from college and keen on continuing the party.
I had been hoping for some hands on experience working in development, with a group of dedicated professionals that were knowledgeable about the communities that they were working in. While that’s not exactly what I’m getting; there are people who are really dedicated to the work they are doing here. What I am definitely getting is experience on how development programs are implemented on the ground and the knowledge to critically identify development ideas that sound good in theory but are not actually plausible.
More than anything though, I’m getting a ton of cultural exposure. I’m living in the northern most part of the country that is furthest into the sahel and also the most conservative. I live out in a village of about 1500 people called Belel Kelle – don’t bother googling it, it’s not on the map – the closest town is called Taredji. The region that I live in is called the Fuuta and it is where Pulaar people live who are traditionally nomadic herders; it is also the language that I learned to speak. I live with a host family and have my very own hut (wooo).
I’ve been working on teaching basic health to kids in school and getting solar energy in my health post (there’s no electricity in my village). My Pulaar at this point is pretty much fluent and my French is steadily improving. Other than that things have been pretty low key, catching up on my reading and toying with the idea of applying for a fulbright. I spent xmas in the regional house and new years in Dakar (it was nuts); children should not have firecrackers for a reason.
Keeping up on my blog has failed miserably, but hopefully we can keep in touch this way. Please feel free to fwd this to anyone you think might be interested in keeping in touch that I may have forgotten, and please write back to let me now how you are doing!
Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!
Mariel C. Garcia
Preventative Health Volunteer
Peace Corps Senegal
Region St. Louis