The first big event was counterpart workshop. This was a 2 day marathon of meetings and introduction to the counterpart(s) with whom we will work for the next 2 years. My first counterpart that came was my host family dad. I had not yet been to my village or met anyone from there so meeting my dad was great. I found out once again that my village is the land of milk and well...milk. Maybe I should do beekeeping as a secondary project (milk and honey?). My dad has 3 wives and about 10 sons and 5 daughters. I say about because its easy to forget one or two when you list off names and count as you go. So I will be going from one sister in America to a house full of 15 siblings, most of which will be brothers. We could start our own football team with a family that size. I also found out that the well from which I will be carrying water is a nice distance from my hut. Hello morning workout. I will be an expert at carrying buckets of water on my head by the end of the two years.
Also during homestay, I had the opportunity to explore numerous beaches along the Senegalese coast. We also had a beach weekend where all of us packed (or crammed rather) into 2 Alhams and headed to Popenguine. We rented 2 gorgeous beach houses for the night. For never swimming in an ocean before I hit Senegal, I sure logged a lot of hours in the ocean here. We got to jump off a huge rock (or rather small cliff) into the ocean. Amazing! I also tried to learn to bodysurf. I have officially decided that bodysurfing is kind of like being assaulted by the ocean. I never really got the hang of it real well so I drank about half the ocean each time and ended up with a few pretty good scratches. But it was great fun!
One of my fellow Nguekhokh volunteers had a host sister graduating and getting a teaching certificate. We were all invited. What we had not yet realized is that we really are celebrities. We were put in the front seats and the griot (an important community member) kept desiring us to dance. A crowd full of Senegalese people but it was the toubabs who were needed to get the party started. So about the end of the night, the head of the school asks our class to speak a little Pulaar in the microphone. So we stated our names and thanked the town and the mayor. So in America we could then head back to our seats, but no, we were required to dance in front of a crowd of about 200 people including the mayor. Not cool! Lets just say, even if we get nothing done in our two years of service, our villages will probably enjoy having us just for the entertainment factor.
Last week we finished homestay. I was really sad to leave my family and the host family's of the other volunteers. They were so helpful and really cared about us and took care of us. My family gave me some fabric to make an outfit and a headscarf. I can't wait to go back and visit and see my little sister who will probably be walking by then.
I guess I should add in here that I passed my language and technical training. Pulaar is pretty tough but its getting better. Now if I just new a little French or Wolof so I could talk to the majority of the country we would be doing swimmingly.
Friday, my fellow trainees and I swore in as official Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV's). We went to a big ceremony at the US Ambassador's house which was taped and aired on TV. Oh and the best part, we had a police escort from Thies to the Ambassador's house in Dakar. It was like we were royalty. They even let us drive on the wrong side of the road half the way there. It was great fun. After the ceremony, the Ambassador served us wonderful Senegalese style American food. I've never been so excited to see brownies.
Currently, I am sitting in the regional house in Kaolack waiting for installation into my village on Thursday. We've been shopping all week for all the little (well some of its little) homey touches that we will need once we get to our sites. Best of all, we've had a little R&R which was much needed after the end of training. Lets just say the last few nights at the training center we got little sleep. After all, we won't see each all our fellow stagemates until December for IST (in-service training).