Fourth Report


Saturday, October 16, 1999

Shannon calls more often than she did when she lived in Los Angeles!

We got some clarification on a few details this phone call.  Her friend's name is Amelda, not Amelia.  Her language is likely to be Pular, not Wolof.  And her family of 18 people live in two houses, not three. 

Her first announcement this call was that she has hit a wall with the food.   They were told that the monotony would kill them, but she had been doing fine until just recently.  She's giving up food for the duration.  Um-hmm.
     All Senegalese use a  tremendous amount of oil in and on everything, but some families cook with even more oil than her family, so she is lucky.   The most common food is rice, and the method of eating it is to form it in to a ball, wring out as much oil as possible, then re-form it and wring it out again and again.   A fellow PCV observed, however, that it is great for the hands; her skin has never been so soft.  Because Shannon's family is exceedingly progressive they use spoons rather than hands to eat, so maybe her hands aren't as soft as her friend's hands. 
     Most of the Senegalese are Muslim, but the raging liberals there are the Catholics.  They even drink beer sometimes.  Her host family is Catholic, so at home she gets spoons AND beer! 

It's REALLY hot there.  The less hot period she told us about last phone call lasted just a few days, and now it's unbearable again.  Another wall, it seems.  

Soon they will be doing a project in Theis similar to what they'll be doing once they get to their real assignment.  It is an assessment of the area, its needs and wants.  Following the assessment they will make a plan of action and then implement it. 
     When they get to their real assignment they will have to devise ways to communicate health care information to the people.  The literacy rate is only 30%, so they can't rely on pamphlets or other written materials.  They will have to use songs, demonstrations, dramatic presentations, or anything at all to get the message across. 

The group recently visited a clinic that was far different from the first visit.   It was clean and had tile floors and chairs.  The vaccination rate for polio, hepatitis B, and yellow fever in that area is an amazing 98%.  The explanation for such an exceptional site is that there are numerous agencies and NGOs (Non-governmental Organizations) supporting it. 

Peace Corps has been in Senegal for 37 years, and it is well established and well respected.  When they visit Dakar they are encouraged to make it known that they are PCVs and they will get discounts on many things. 

Every four weeks the volunteers get assessed for their knowledge of French, and when it is good enough the instruction in the native language begins.  Shannon will probably be learning Pular, not Wolof.  I was disappointed to hear that, because not only is Wolof spoken far more widely than Pular, it is an easier language to learn.   Shannon has enough else to learn, it seems!
     Her French must be coming along, though, because the other evening she sat on the step and chatted for a while with her host mother.  She was quite pleased with herself!

At the end of next week (around October 21st, just one month after leaving Minnesota) she will get her assignment.  Soon thereafter she'll go spend a week there to meet the current PCVs in the area and her future Senegalese co-workers. 
     The first six months in her assignment she won't be doing any real work, just getting to know the people and the area.  I think it should be a relief after the intense learning they have been doing during this training period. 

Shannon hasn't received any letters from us yet since that first one, though one from her Uncle Jack had arrived. 

As with other conversations, this one ended abruptly when someone else wanted to use the phone.

Fifth Report