|January 9, 2000
When we last
spoke to Shannon she was in the saddest state so far. She has definitely begun the
difficult part of her commitment. She was quite blue. The language barrier, the
strangeness of it all, and the physical challenges were getting to her. She called it
"hard and overwhelming."
The mud walls in her hut are crumbling, the grass is falling down from the ceiling, the
cement floor is cracking, and she can't keep the abundant toads from coming into the hut.
The people don't respect her privacy whatsoever. They come in at will and paw
through her things, taking nothing, but disturbing everything. One child picked up a
tampon and asked, "What's this?" In her strained emotional state, she wasn't
able to see the humor in it at all; it was just a terrible invasion of her private space,
or rather an illustration that she has no private space.
She sees now that in training she just "didn't get it," that's
why others were so much more stressed about what lay ahead of them than she was.
It had been getting somewhat better since she became better at
insisting that they stay out of her hut. No doubt the novelty of having a toubab in
their midst is wearing off somewhat too.
February 7, 2000
I didn't intend to publish the next report until I heard from her with
some more upbeat news, but four weeks have passed since we spoke with Shannon, and many
people have been asking about her.
After she didn't call for the 4th Sunday in a row, I couldn't stand it
any longer and called the Regional Center in Ndioum. Calling every hour for five
hours, I finally got through to the RPCL (Regional Peace Corps Leader), a nice young man
named Craig who had spoken to Shannon when she was in the Health Hut for a week in
Dakar. He was quite blas about the whole matter, and shared with me that in his
first month as a Peace Corps Volunteer he ended up in there for two weeks with kidney
stones because he didn't drink enough water. He indicated that it is quite
commonplace for volunteers to get sick in the first month or two, and then they get used
to everything and are fine after that. Of course I had to keep in mind that part of
his job is to placate concerned parents, but he did quite a good job of it. Shannon
had had a high fever, but she is back in her village now. He assured me that if her
sickness had been anything serious that her family would have been called.
The best thing I heard from him is that she loves her village.
What more could we ask for at this point?
I asked Craig if Shannon was getting her mail and found out that I've
been using the wrong address for six weeks! It isn't too different, just a different
post office box number, and he thought that it was likely that the postmaster would have
noticed Shannon's American name and gotten it to her anyway. So he successfully made
me feel better about everything -- about her being sick and possibly not getting any mail
from home for six weeks. He was very good at his job!
I hope that the next report contains news from her directly.
February 9, 2000
FLASH! Shannon called at 10:30 in the morning to tell us she was
alive. Amazingly, John had just walked in the house to pick something up, so he got
to hear her voice too. It isn't often that is he at home on a Wednesday morning.
She announced right away that it would be a very short phonecall.
She was in Sinthiou-Bamambe, the village where her post office is located, and she had
just picked up "about a hundred" letters. Does that mean 12? 20?
All of those that had been sent to the incorrect address for the last month and a
half? There wasn't time to ask.
She apologized for not having called and said that it has been crazy,
but there is a six-page letter on the way. And that was all our news! She
sounded very good.