I spent this past week in the Kédougou reion, visiting the village of Salémata (where I'll be living during my two years of service) shadowing current volunteers to get an idea of what life will be like as a PCV, and checking out the village castle. Mmmhmm. The castle.
UPDATE: Volunteer Visit Photos
For some reason it looks mini in this photo, but it is a couple stories high, and as far as anyone seems to know it was built about 10 years ago by a crazy French guy who thought that a cinder-block Medieval-Times-looking chateau was exactly what this little rural village needed...
Anyway. Back to Volunteer Visits. So, we all climbed into a Peace Corps Land Cruiser and drove down to the Kédougou Regional House, which took about 10 hours. The Regional House is a kinda communal house in the city of Kédougou, and it has a kitchen and wifi and plenty of beds. It's where I'll stay every few weeks when I come into town to pick up mail and buy stuff at the market, and it's a pretty nice place with a very beach-town-commune feel to it.
After spending the night in Kédougou the other volunteers who live around Salémata hired a van to take us out to village, which took a couple hours. It's about 80 kilometers (50 miles) out to Salémata, and the dirt road is pretty good but it still tends to be slow going. I have a bike (and a helmet!) and there's a cheap, reliable bus that goes into town several times a week, so transportation shouldn't be too much of an issue for me. I'll also have a very nice little hut with my own little fenced-in backyard and latrine/bathing area, as well as electricity for several hours during the evening on most days, which is fancy if you ask me. I'll be living with the village chief, his three wives, and their zillion children, and according to the volunteer who lived with them before they're pretty great. I met the wives and a half a zillion kids, but the chief was out of town during my visit, so I didn't get to meet him and I also didn't get a name. My name in my training village has been Adama Diallo, so people in Salémata have taken to calling me Adama Tawo, which means Adama-For-Now, and I feel like there's a decent chance that that will stick.
So! I also did actually visit Volunteers! And they were great! My closest neighbor and visit host was an Agriculture Volunteer named Sully. He extended for a third year, his language skills are really fantastic, and it was really nice to go around town with someone who knows everything really well. We met the people I'll be working with, worked on some HIV/AIDS awareness billboards he's been painting, spent a morning leading a tree-seeding activity at the local school, and just generally hung out being very Peace-Corps-ish and talking about how hot it was all day. (It was so hot!)
My other neighbors, Tatiana (Eco-Tourism) and Ian (Agro-Forestry) were also really fun, really funny, and are working on really great projects, like facilitating well construction and helping get schools involved with scholarship programs for girls.
More on Salémata soon, right now I'm going to go work on getting some photos uploaded ~
UPDATE: Volunteer Visit Photos