In Peace Corps/Senegal trainees (or stagières, if you want to get all French about it) arrive and are trained according to their sectors, and there are three Pre-Service Training (PST) groups each year. The Preventative Health Education (HE) and the Environmental Education (EE) people train together, the Small Enterprise Development (SED) and Eco-Tourism (Eco T) people train together, and all the Agriculture (Ag) people - Sustainable (Sus Ag), Urban (Urban Ag), and Agro-Forestry (Ag Fo) - train together.
I arrived, along with the rest of my HE/EE stage, as a Peace Corps Trainee (PCT) in March 2011, and was officially upgraded to Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) status at our Swear-In ceremony in May. Since then, one stage of new SED/Eco T volunteers has sworn in, but none of them were assigned to come down to Kédougou, so within our own region the rest my stage and I were still the newest people. That is, until the arrival of the new Ag PCTs. Over the weekend seven new Ag trainees came down to Kédougou for Volunteer Visits, or demyst, from “demystification,” when the trainees get to visit the sites where they’ll be living as volunteers, see current PCVs working, using public transport, going to the market, and so on. The PCTs are down here for a few days and then they go back up to Thiès to finish PST, and then after they swear in they’ll come back as PCVs to install at their sites.
We’re getting two new volunteers near Salémata, where I live. I’m sad to see the old PVCs go, but I’m also really stoked about the new kids (one of whom is actually older than me) because they seem pretty awesome.
For demysts in Kédougou it’s tradition that the current PCVs cook a big dinner for the visiting PCTs, and even though we were almost out of gaz (propane, I think) for the stove it all came together pretty well. We made Mexican-ish food: salsa fresca, cabbage salad (Kédougou been out of lettuce for a couple months now), a cauldron of beans, some fajita-style meat and onions, and we even splurged on some hyper-expensive cheese (pseudo-emmental, the only kind available) to grate up and sprinkle on top. My favorite part was the giant batch of tortillas that Lili, our good friend from the Jane Goodall Institute/Spain made. Delicious.
The PCTs arriving for demyst made everyone in my stage realize that we’re not the new kids anymore. We found ourselves wondering if just a few months ago we looked so clean (we did) and so eager (we did) and so mildly disoriented (we did) - it’s a funny feeling, meeting what basically amounts to a version of yourself from the very recent past. In any case, I’m really happy with the new Salémata volunteers! If all goes well they should be installing in early November, right before Tabaski.