Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I'm getting to the point of my Peace Corps service when people are starting to talk about me like I've already left.  My SED Advisor, Talla Diop, visited me today.  He has several acquaintances in Diourbel  he thought I could work with, so we spent a couple hours chasing people around sandy streets and mostly-hidden boutiques.  He would introduce me in a very Wolof fashion – 'This is Awa.  She is an expert in all things entrepreneurial.  You must work with her or your business will fail.' - and then I would try and figure out if they actually needed/wanted my help.  In general, it was pleasant and I got a lot of shopping done while Talla was engaged in loud 'Where are you now?!' phone calls.  But one thing really struck me, every time he introduced me, he followed it with 'she's leaving soon, but she will be replaced!'  He spent a lot of time telling me I could start working with all these people, but I shouldn't really expect too much.

And it's not just my boss.  The Med staff visited me and asked me questions 'looking back on my service.'  When other volunteers ask what I plan to do with my life after Peace Corps, I say what I've always said, 'oh, I joined Peace Corps so I didn't have to think about that.'  They still laugh, but now their laughter is followed by 'But seriously, what are you going to do?'  Even the fact that I'm extending my service until next April (Hello people!  That's a full year from now!)  does not deter their perception that I'm as good as gone/dead.

But this general attitude that I have reached a lame-duck stage of service has got me wondering: how have I changed?  This is what I could come up with:

1)  I enjoy running now!  Seriously, who saw that one coming?  The trick is to have an inspirational motto.  Mine is: If you're not having fun, slow down.
2)  I can drink out of any form of shared drinking vessel.  Before, I could only do this with red silo cups.
3)  I can speak awful French.  This is far above any level I ever dreamed of achieving.  At the end of college, I had settled for 'Fetchez la vache!'
4)  My digestive tract can beat up your digestive tract.
5)  I finally read Anna Karenina.  And it was fantastic.
6)  Recently got blessed by a Marabou so I 'won't have money problems in my future.'  So, you know, I got that covered.

1)  I'm comfortable with an appallingly low level of personal hygiene
2)  I've developed of fear of being in a vehicle that tips over sideways.  Like, seriously.
3)  I enjoy the musical stylings of Akon and think everyone else must enjoy them too.  Now.  Crank it to 11.
4)  A belief that everything is better bedazzled
5)  A willingness to fight small children for food.
6)  An inability to go a full day without a nap.
7)  I put on make-up like an eleven-year-old.  With self-esteem issues.  And who idolizes Amy Winehouse.

Neutral, but different
1)  I expect portion sizes that would amaze even the McDonald's 'heavy users.'  This should probably be a negative, but food is so tasty.
2)  I can diagnose many types of bodily parasites.
3)  I will spend over 30 minutes arguing over a 50 cent price difference.
4)  I went vegan.  This isn't so much a 'neutral' as it is a combination of positive and negative.  Positive: I've drastically reduced my carbon footprint and taken a strong stand against institutionalized animal abuse.  Negative:  I've clearly gone a little crazy.  Who doesn't eat cheese?


MegKell said...

Hey, have just come across your blog whilst procrastinating to avoid packing. I'm coming to Diourbel in the next week or two to do a 5-6 week medical placement in the Diourbel main hospital. We're coming partially overland so won't be there for a bit (starting in 2 days time).. but just wondering if you have any advice for Diourbel. E.g. ways to find cheap accomodation, things to see/do.. I realise it's not a tourist destination, but any interesting recommendations would be appreciated.

Ellen said...


Wow, that sounds really cool. What are you doing at the hospital? Are you working with an NGO or the Senegalese government? And where are you coming overland from?

There's a couple hostel-like places. The one I would recommend is on the route national next to the CBAO bank. Also, you can come stay with me if you'd like. We have an extra room. My number is

Stuff to see:
We have a beautiful mosque. Surrounding it are schools, holy places and a tomb, all which are pretty interesting. Also, there's an alright music scene that's pretty come-what-may. And I can show you the artisanal village if you want woodwork or something made.

As for packing:
Sunblock, wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, pants/skirts below the knee, one scarf that you can tie around your head to enter mosques, one long-sleeve shirt for the same reason, walking sandals, all the shampoo and make-up you'll need (you can get it here, but it's expensive), bug spray

MegKell said...

Hey, thanks for your speedy reply!

We're flying to morocco tomorrow, then the rest overland, so hopefully arriving Diourbel next Monday/Tuesday. There are 4 of us coming, all medical students from the UK, doing our 4th year medical elective in the hospital there.

Thank you for your kind offer of the room, but I'm guessing it may be too small for 4 people! We'll try for a hostel to begin with, but would ideally like to try to find a house/flat of some sort, very basic, for the rest of the time.

Thanks for all the advice, I'd pretty much got all of what you suggested so that's lucky!

I'll be bringing a phone with me, so we'll get in touch at some point in the next week or two.

Thanks again!


MegKell said...

We arrived in Diourbel last week, have settled in and found somewhere to stay nr the hospital now. Just wondering if youd fancy meeting at some point. We have a mobile no, its 221766319818 if you want to get in touch. Not sure if yours is a mobile or not, but we'll try sending you a text.

rebecca olson said...

three cheers for parasites!