A couple weeks ago I got my hair braided for the first time. After my mom got her hair braided in during her visit Mariama Kesso decided that she would also braid my hair before I left. So the day finally came, I bought some meches extensions and she went to work.
It didn't hurt as much as I'd imagined it would, and it only took about an hour. (Kesso is a pro.) Jackie had had her hair done in her village, Diarra Pont, the day before, and she came to take photos and sit under the mango tree while Kesso braided and braided and braided.
Jackie asked for her hair to look like the crazy braided mohawk that she's seen on a little girl the week before, and her hair turned out amazingly well. She didn't even need any extensions!
Once we were all coiffed and fancy we put on our complet outfits and headed out to introduce everyone to the Peace Corps Volunteer who'll be arriving in May to install in Salémata.
Her name is Katie W. and by all accounts she's pretty fantastic. She's still in training but came down for Volunteer Visit (VV), where Trainees have a chance to have village life demystified, meet their soon-to-be host families and counterparts, and just get a little bit of an idea of what lies ahead. During the days leading up to site announcements I fretted and wondered about who would be coming to Salémata. (Would they like living in a rural site? Would they decide it wasn't for them and Early Terminate? Would they be motivated and fun? Would they be as completely exhausted and out of it as I was during my VV?) As soon as I met her my anxieties were all assuaged. She's cool and fun and super smart. She studied Reproductive Health and already has her Master's, her Pulaar is really coming along, she can get by in French very nicely, and, best of all, she handled the ridiculous barrage of information and introductions and hellos and good-byes impressively well. She even brought out a fancy complet and dressed up with us!
Here are Katie W. and I, and Katie W. with our friend and shopkeeper Wouri, and the two of us with Jean-Jacques, Salémata's head nurse and our Professional Counterpart. On the last day of her VV (and my last day in Salémata) we took the obligatory silly photos in front of the castle with Jubal and Katie O. and Jackie, greeted the Imam and the radio DJs and the neighbors and her new Community Counterpart and pretty much anyone who crossed out path. We drank frozen bissap juice and snacked on packs of cookies and just generally had a lovely day. Our host family prepared an amazing, amazing dinner (fonio and meat and vegetables in a delicious sauce) and then stayed up under the mango tree, just watching Guinean music videos and chatting.
As sad as I am to be moving on, it's a great comfort to know that Salémata is in good hands. Katie W. has a good host family, a beautiful site, and the best PCV neighbors anyone could ask for. As the saying goes, life in Senegal may not be all Skittles, I think she's a great fit and very much hope that she will have a wonderful and rewarding two yeas of service in Salémata.