Eighth Report


December 5, 1999

Shannon was back at the training center in Theis when she called early Sunday morning, just over a week since we had heard from her last.  I sure hope that the calls are as frequent when she gets to her assignment destination in Matam.

We discussed Sara and Jefferson's upcoming visit to Senegal in March during their respective spring breaks from college rather than in May when school gets out.   Shannon concurred that this would be a very good idea because the weather in May is as bad as it gets.  She has been told that the heat and wind in May are unbearably bad, so bad that she was told to imagine trying to breathe with a hot hair dryer blowing in her face.  Then the suggestion was amended to a hot hair dryer blowing sand in her face.  I know that I'll avoid a visit to Senegal in May!

Shannon had received all three of the boxes we sent for Christmas and said they were just WONderful.  I know that they were pathetic, but she insisted that it is really wonderful to receive packages.  When I asked what she liked best, she wouldn't really say.  The only thing she mentioned was the Stove Top Stuffing.  See... I told you it was pathetic.
     She also received a card I had sent, but it had been opened.  She assumed the postal people were looking to see if it had money in it. 

Shannon's Pular language instruction is coming along, but it is a very, very difficult language.  The bad news is that it is hard to learn.  The good news is that it is the second most prevalent language in all of Africa, second only to Swahili, so it will be helpful later when she is traveling around Africa.  Her friend Cira is very fluent, and Shannon seemed confident that in time she would be too. 
     The downside of her siblings visiting in March is that she won't know Pular very well by then.  Cira said that it was four months before she was able to even pick out phrases in Pular and six months before she could hold simple conversations.
     Shannon giggled when she spoke to us because she was grasping for English words.  Most of the time she speaks Franglais, a combination of French and English, and finds it difficult to speak in just one language or the other.

One of the trainees, Amelda, the only African-American trainee, quit Peace Corps and will be going home.  She said that she was leaving because being there didn't thrill her enough to sustain her like it needed to in order for her to withstand the inevitable hardships.   She was at peace with her decision, though, because she had seen and done what she wanted to, such as Goree Island, the famous place near Dakar where slaves destined for America were housed. 
     Amelda's quitting Peace Corps spawned a conversation with some of the volunteers about parents' reactions.  Amelda's mother was thrilled and screamed with delight, whereas her father was cool and accepting of the decision, telling her to "do what you need to do."  Another trainee said that her parents would be the opposite, that her dad would be the excited one and her mother the cool one.  Shannon said that she couldn't even imagine what her parents' reaction would be to her quitting Peace Corps, and I agreed with her.  It is just unimaginable.
     Occasionally people have questioned whether or not Shannon would be able to come home if she wanted to.  Those are often the same people who just don't really understand why she would want to do this in the first place.  But my guess is that only serious health problems would send her home.  Peace Corps is so right for Shannon, and others who know her well concur. 

Ninth Report