After 2 months of training in Thiès and TawaFall and a few days of preparation (i.e., buying stuff for my hut) in Kaolack, the day finally rolled around for me to be “installed” – i.e., officially move to my permanent site (Kaymore) with all my stuff. I was the third of three PCVs to be installed on Wednesday, October 21, in the Nioro du Rip region (many others installed that day in other regions). The Peace Corps had arranged for a sept place (car with lots of trunk space) to come along with the Peace Corps car since the PC car wasn’t big enough to hold all 5 of us (2 PC staff people and 3 PCVs) plus all of our stuff, so we packed the sept place full of our stuff, threw the rest in (and on top of) the PC car, and took off from the Kaolack regional house around 9am. The morning involved meeting all the “important” people in and around Nioro, like the government officials there (since it’s a friendly formality for all of us to meet), the police chief (since the PC is legitimately concerned about keeping us safe and healthy, and the police department can help with that), the forestry department workers (since another PCV and I will be working with them), and the parents of the PCV living in Nioro (since Nioro will be our closest escape from village life if we should need it, though if things continue as they are right now, I don’t anticipate needing to “escape” from Kaymore very often). Then the other PCV was installed in the early afternoon, and I stayed at the PCVs house in Nioro because there wasn’t room in the PC car for both of our stuff. We took off from Nioro for Kaymore around 3pm knowing that there was still water covering the road to Kaymore (it had actually risen since my demyst) so we would have to take back roads – i.e., sandy paths for horse/donkey-pulled charettes through fields. Luckily there was a village every 15 minutes or so, so we were able to stop and ask to make sure we were going the right way. At one point I thought the car might tip over sideways because the road was that uneven, but luckily we didn’t. :) When we got to Kaymore I didn’t even realize it because we came in on a side road that I had only walked down once during my demyst, but I quickly got my bearings and directed the car to my home. My mom, Soukeye, younger brothers, Moussa and Cheikh Omar, counterpart, Moustapha, friend, Yassa (aka Yassa Poulet – more on her later for sure), friend and teacher, Malik, and others were gathered out front of my compound with many chairs and a large matt waiting to welcome me to Kaymore. We chitchatted for a bit, and then unloaded the car with all my stuff (my original baggage from the States had more than doubled with the stuff I had bought in Kaolack for my hut). When that was done (it didn’t take long with so many people helping), we waited for the chief of the village to finish his prayers – and while we were waiting some of the local music women beat on plastic buckets and metal bowls and sang, and women would periodically get up and dance (and then give the women singing a small amount of money) – including Yassa, my mom and I.
My mom dancing.
When the chief came, he gave a speech welcoming me to Kaymore and blessing my time here. Then my counterpart gave a short speech explaining my work in Kaymore and blessing my time here (I have gotten better at recognizing when people are saying a blessing/prayer and now know when to say “Amiin” [aka Amen] and when to put out my hands with my palms up in front of me [to show you’re open and receptive to the prayer] and when to move my hands over my face like I’m pretending to rinse my face with water [as a way to emphasize reception of the prayer]. Then the “president” of the women’s group in Kaymore gave a short speech welcoming me and blessing me. Then one of the Peace Corps staff members gave a short speech talking about what I’ve been doing for the past 2 months, what I’ll be doing for the next 2 years, how everyone in the village can help me (ex. speak slowly to me until I understand Wolof really well), and (duh) blessing my time here. (Malik, my friend and Wolof teacher, sat next to me the whole time and summarized/translated for me, which I was really thankful for – it would be more than slightly anticlimactic to not know what anyone was saying about me during all these speeches!) When I was thanking Malik for translating for me, he kept repeating “It’s no problem, no problem at all.” And then he said, “You left your home and family in America to come to Senegal for more than 2 years to help us, the least I can do is help you in small ways like this.” All I can say is that I am extremely thankful to know that he and his family are right across the street from me. Then there was more singing and dancing for a short while before everyone dispersed and the PC car took off. I had anticipated feeling quite sad and nervous when the PC car pulled away but I wasn’t sad and only a little nervous – Kaymore was already starting to feel like home.