Monday, June 6, 2011

Life in the Village

So. I have been living in Salémata for almost three weeks now, and things are going pretty well. I have one host father, three host mothers, and an entire fleet of host siblings, cousins, and I'm-not-sure-if-I-really-understand-how-we're-related-but-sure-yea-thanks-type relations. My host family is nice, and other than the to-be-expected awkwardness of moving in with a family of strangers, there haven't been any real problems. They've already hosted one volunteer, so they know about Peace Corps, and generally what to expect. However, specifics are sometimes tricky. For instance, the two oldest teenage girls expected to eat their meals with me. Just me. In my hut. While all of the other women and children ate together in the courtyard area. Which felt profoundly weird. I felt a little bit bad explaining that while I knew they meant well, I just didn't want to do that. They were mildly confused as to why I wouldn't want to eat in the comfort of my own room, but respected my wishes nonetheless.

I'm currently in my Observation Period, so I'm not supposed to be starting any big projects or anything like that yet. I'm supposed to use this time to get to know my way around, start to integrate into the community, and get a sense of how things work in the village. I've been working on my Pulaar language, getting furniture and things for my hut, reading under the mango tree during the heat of the day, fetching water, helping women shell peanuts in the courtyard, riding my bike around, and doing some prep work for my Baseline Survey. I also bought some house paint and color tints, and over the next few weeks I'm thinking of doing some small painting projects, maybe a World Map Mural at the nearby elementary school.

The staff at the Salémata Health Center (recently upgraded from being just a Health Post) seems really great and I've spent a few mornings just chillin' in the Health Center waiting room, introducing myself over and over again and feeling really weird about being invited to sit in on people's medical consultations. (It did turn out to be quite informative, though.) I also came for the monthly Vaccination Day and got to sit at a little table, helping the pharmacist fill out the vaccination ledger, and for a "causerie" meeting, where people from the Health Center and local NGOs got together with one of the local women's groups to talk about

I've posted some photos of my hut, and when I come back to town in a few weeks I'm planning on posting an album of my host family and some of the things I do around the village. And, of course, the castle.

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