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Senegal 3 - April 29, 2003
Hello once again,
Still alive!  Not that there's really anything to worry about.  It's only Africa, right?
A few weeks have passed since my last mass update.  Basically, i've been really busy, something i had not expected from Peace Corps (after talking to former volunteers).  apparantly this is only the nature of the training - once i get sent out to the field there'll be more time than i'll know what to do with!  At least, that's what they say.
Basically, training is set up on a pretty tight schedule - language classes from 8 until 1230, then lunch, then siesta (no complaints there), then technical, medical, or cross-cultural classes from 1430 to 1800.  After that i've got a little space to go jogging, play football (soccer), go downtown and/or to the market, do internet, study, and eventually make it home around 2000 for dinner, which is served anytime between 2000 and 2200.  That's kind of a pain, first of all having to wait 8 hours between lunch and dinner, and also because it means that i always go to bed on a full stomach, which can lead to improper digestion and/or funky dreams.  Of course, we're also on a weekly regimen of mefloquine to stave off malaria.  Common side effects of mefloquine include hallucinations, "vivid" dreams, insomnia, depression, and possible mental breakdown.  So, i don't really know where to place the blame for my bizzare nightly journeys.  This week has been much better, but in the last few weeks i have had some annoying periods of not sleeping well.  I guess malaria's probably worse, so i don't mind the dreams too much.
We have classes even on Saturday mornings, so our only free time is on Saturday afternoons and Sundays.  This weekend was the first time that we were allowed to leave the city of Thies (they want us to spend the first few weeks getting to know our families).  Many people went to the beach or to Dakar - i stayed here.  My friend, Mbidou, had his birthday party on Saturday, and the party was at my house, so i decided to stick around for that.  I'm glad i did.  Basically, from about 10pm to 3:30 am, i danced in my courtyard and in the streets with a few Americans and very many Senegalese friends and relatives.  It all started with the Bayfall drummers.  The Bayfall are a Muslim sect to which my brothers belong - there's a bit of history to it that isn't really relevant - basically all it seems to involve is dreadlocks and patchwork clothes and weekly all-night "chants", especially on Saturday nights, with dancing, drumming, and chanting in Arabic and Wolof.  Both of my brothers, Kalidou and Amidou, are excellent drummers, and so at 10pm Saturday their drummer friends came over and did a little impromptu concert that got everyone on their feet.  By 11 the drummers had left for the chant, and the dj started up the hip-hop.  Hip-hop is, by the way, the only American music that most Senegalese seem to know.  Which means i haven't heard Britney Spears in weeks!  At 2 the Americans left, and my brothers and i wandered over to the chant, and danced, chanted, and drummed the rest of the night away, myself the lone toubab (white boy) in a sea of about a hundred Senegalese.  Did i mention how accepting and inviting the Senegalese are?  No one seemed to mind my presence - instead, they constantly flashed me the Allah "ok" sign (doing the ok sign with the three end fingers spread out spells the name of God in Arabic) and tried to offer me the drums to drum or the club to dance with.  Not wanting to attract even more attention, i graciously abstained from any embarrassing drumming session or potentially disasterous club-dancing.  At the end of the night one of my friends, Moustaffa N'daye, said that of all the Americans he'd met, i was the best volunteer, because i speak French and Pulaar (seeda seeda! (a little bit)) and dance the mbalax (not very well, but does anyone?).  That compliment made my evening.
Next week we've got Site Discovery.  A week ago i finally learned where i will be living for the next two years!  Next week, i'll go up and see the village for myself for four days.  My village is called Dimat Diery, is a "big village" (maybe 1000-1500 people?), is located in the north of the country, along the Senegal River, on the border with Mauritania.  if you're looking at a map, it's close to the town of Thille-Boubacar, between the cities of Podor and St. Louis.  It's a new site, meaning no volunteers have been there before.  It sounds great, but soon i'll see for myself!
Well, that's probably plenty for the moment.  To repeat, letters are greatly appreciated, and are responded to asap!
take care!
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