Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Costa Rica comes to Senegal

Nisha finished Peace Corps in Costa Rica and then came to visit her sister/my friend Emily in Dakar for a few weeks. While she was in country she caught a ride down to Kédougou and I had the pleasure of showing her around Salémata. The ride out was dusty and slow, but we made it, and after a crash course in Pulaar greetings I put her to work painting names on bowls for my host moms. 

We spent a lot of time comparing Peace Corps service in Costa Rica and Senegal, and there were a striking number of similarities. For instance, the roads are terrible, public transport is difficult, host families can be wonderful, acronyms abound, and you eat the same thing every day.

Candid under the mango tree
We spent some quality time with my host family, took the obligatory snapshot in front of the absurd castle that a creepy French man built, had much with my friend Maimouna, and threw rocks at trees in a middling attempt to knock down a few mangoes. 

Having just done her own Close-of-Service, she was really understanding of the miscellaneous loose ends I had to wrap up and gamely hung around during my last work-related meeting. I'd asked my host father to call the meeting so that I could thank everyone who'd participated in the latrine project, solicit feedback and suggestions, and distribute the bars of soap and plastic screening that I'd purchased with the last bit of the project money. (The plastic screening was to replace the metal screening on the ventilation pipes, which already seemed to be rusting on some of the latrines; the soap was a last plug for hand-washing and a token of thanks for all their hard work.) It also gave me a chance to start my good-byes, explain how I would be replaced by another volunteer, and talk about what an honor it's been to spend these last two years with the people of Salémata.

The next morning we day-hiked out to Ethiolo, a nearby Bassari village, and walked around, greeting people, stopping in at the Health Post, and hanging out with RPCV Tatiana's former host family. They invited us to stay for lunch, and then we stayed for tea, and then we stayed to sample some of the local palm wine. Nisha scored big points by offering a giant cup of palm wine to two older ladies on the compound, and then we headed back to Salémata to check out the market.

It was a Tuesday, and Tuesday is Salémata's market day. Everyone comes out for the market, and we ran into all of my host moms, including Mariama, who was selling vegetables and palm oil. 

I feel like Nisha got a really good sampler of all of the things that I do while in village. It was really fun to have her around, she was up for eating out of a communal bowl and carrying water on her head, and really nice to have PCV there for all the acronym talk about COS forms and DOS reports and SPA grants and getting NCI and being an RPCV. There was downtime, day-hikes, work stuff, market day, lunches with friends, and little kids piling in to my hut to ask for photos and band-aids.  

Sajou Ba gets a band-aid for a small scrape on his head. 

Afterwards, I realized that taking her on a tour of all my favorite parts of my life in Salémata was also a really wonderful way for me to revisit the things and people that defined and enriched my Peace Corps service. It was lovely to take some time to really just enjoy being in Salémata before beginning the bittersweet process of saying my final good-byes and I'm so glad that her visit gave me an occasion to do so.

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