Saturday, October 17, 2009

Peace Corps Newest Official Volunteer!

Swear In Ceremony: 16 Octobre
On the 16th, we all headed to Dakar for the day. The ceremony took place in the US Ambassadors house (mansion). I was selected to give a small speech in Wolof, the audience loved it. I had it filmed, but there are currently some technical difficulties getting it online. But as Senegal has taught me, patience is virtue.

Installation: 21 Octobre
Now I'm off to my site for 2 years! I spend a couple days in Kaolack purchasing items such as furniture, supplies, things I'll be living off of for a long time. Like mentioned, I will NOT have internet there; not sure how often I'll be online to update my blog, pictures, email, etc. However, setting up a Boite Postale is near the top of my long list of things to do. Snail mail is fun! I promise...

Final Thoughts:
I'm literally packing up my life in a few suitcases and starting a brand new life for two years. It's impossible to truly wrap your head around that concept. I'm nervous, a bit scared, but excited and motivated to begin my new life. The USA will always be my home (I love America more and more everyday), but Senegal is becoming my new home as well.

At our party, my dear sister, Diek Mbaye, said a few words about me that touched my soul. "Gora [Byron] hs been like a son to us in Tivauoane. He is fun, happy, motivated, and we never had one single problem with him. I told him that if you ever have any problems in Karang, he can call his coordinator and come back to Tivauoane for his service. Gora is wonderful. He is more loving, dedicated, and committed to this family than some of my own children."

Thank you, Diek, for making my transition into my new life such a fun and wonderful process. Thanks to all at home who have been staying in contact with me; you guys keep me fueled. Now its time to finish packing my backs, and using the last few moments of internet I can get.

Please keep me in your prayers as I'm keeping you in mine. Ba beneen yoon (see you next time)! Jamm rekk (Peace only).
*PS. Notice my signature line now says "Volunteer"

Byron Yee
Peace Corps Volunteer - Senegal, 2009

The end of PST!

Finally, after 9 long and intensive weeks, Pre-Service Training (PST) is finished!

Final Test: I scored Intermediate-High on my final Wolof test. Now my Wolof is better than my French, and slowly catching up to my English...

Goodbyes: Sadly, I had to say goodbye to my wonderful family. They were given gifts, souvenirs from Seattle, and a thank you card which included the words "Dingeen neek ci sama xol tuusurs" (You will always be in my heart). I cried, they cried - it was a bitter sweet moment. A very special thanks to my family for taking tremendous care of me.

Party!! The PC training center had a celebration a few days later. We each invited one family member, there was lots of food, a Pulaar music/dance group, a large group of Grios drummers, AND a DJ. Senegalese sure know how to party.

*Pictures coming soon....

As a final farewell, selective family members got up and spoke about the PC trainees in their villages. Here's what my older sister, Diek, had to say:

"Gora [Byron] was a wonderful addition to our family. He was patient, polite, funny; we had zero problems with him. Gora has a lot of heart and passion, he is more dedicated and commited to my family than some of my own children."

I hope and pray that my new family will be as kind and terrific as my training family. To the Mbaye family, I was honored to be one of your sons. Thank you.

Byron Yee
Peace Corps Trainee - Senegal, 2009

My first of several strange diseases

When you go to your med officer (PCMO) and they say "That's bizzare," you know you've got something cool.

This strange coloration did not hurt, itch, or was raised. Just pretty colors and designs.

They sent me to a dermatologist in Dakar and he informed me that I had: Photodermatosis

Basically, my arm had exposure to the sun and reacted with fruit or some other chemicals and created this piece of art. I have ointment now, which has helped this strange thing disappear. I've decided to keep a journal of just my medical issues. Over 27 months, it'll be an awesome list!

*Again, don't worry Mom. I'm okay...

Byron Yee
Peace Corps Trainee - Senegal, 2009
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Seetkat: Basically a Muslim fortune teller.

And when better to visit a seetkat than to practice the Future Tense in Wolof?!

After whispering a prayer into a handful of shells, our seetkat told us each of our fortunes. Here's my life according to her:

- You are in God's good grace
- Your family is well. There are lots of people thinking of you in the USA
- You will have two great jobs; 1 in Senegal, and one in the USA when you return.
* You will have 3 girls in your life. I think she was implying that I will have 3 beautiful daughters vs. 3 gorgeous girlfriends, but I'm open to interpretation...

Anyway, to all you family and friends thinking of me at home. Thanks so much!

Byron Yee
Peace Corps Trainee - Senegal, 2009

Counterpart Workshop

Each Volunteer works with two host country nationals at their specific site:

1. Supervisor: This is a government or adminstrative official each PCV must report to on a regular basis; the boss.

2. Counterpart: This is someone who is highly integrated in the community. They help introduce the PCV to important people/places, and help them find and organize projects.

Over the course of about 3 days, all of our counterparts and supervisors came to visit us for a workshop in Thies. We introduced them to Peace Corps mission and philosophy, and sat down to create an action plan for the first 3 months at site.

Both of my reps are highly intelligent, passionate, energetic, and can both speak at least 4-5 languages. They are both extremely excited to have me start working and living in my site, as am I.

Here's to the future of great working relationships.

Byron Yee
Peace Corps Trainee - Senegal, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Time for another Speech!

For those of you who saw my WWU grad speech and wanted more, apparently my speaking career is not over yet.

My languague director informed me that I have been selected to give a speech during our Swearing In Ceremony on the 16th; In WOLOF. After only having 8 weeks of language class, you can understand why I might be nervous.

To calm my nerves, the lang. director offered the following words of encouragement: Practice your pronuciation and vocab a lot because if you make mistakes, it will be a failure on our part...

Wish me luck! There'll be a video eventually.

Byron Yee
Peace Corps Trainee - Senegal, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009


What's Senegal like?

They say pictures are 1000 words. Cameras strapped to a forehead and taken on a bike ride should be worth more. This is my route to school everyday.

There are Parts 1 and 2 because internet is slow. Make sure you watch both as they're only 5 minutes each. Enjoy!

Byron Yee
Peace Corps Trainee - Senegal, 2009

Beach Day #2 - Popenguine

The stagiares had a couple days off, which were much needed.

So we hopped into two Alhams and bussed to Popenguine for a night. The beach was absolutely splendid. They say that Senegal is the Paris of West Africa, I agree.

I spent at least 4-6 collective hours in the water. Our beach house was right along the shore; I fell asleep to the sound of waves (and other partiers). We spent all of the next day on the beach taking walks, relaxing, and of course plenty of swimming.

It's the small things like this that keep me emotionally charged and motivated. Senegal is truly a wonderful place. This country is not without faults, but it certainly has its beauty.

Pictures of the beach are here. Prepare to get jealous:

Byron Yee
Peace Corps Trainee - Senegal, 2009

Languague Test #2

Last week we had our 2nd of 3 language tests.

All last week I made a huge effort to speak only in Wolof and a little French. It helped, I think. It was just very exhausting.

In order to pass PST and become an official volunteer, you need to test into Intermediate-Mid level of language.

Score for Test #2: Intermediate Mid. Yay! Now my language work is just for improvement, but I have adequate language skills to become a PCV.

Speaking of which, my Swear In date is October 16th. If my tests go well, I'll officially start my 2 years of service on that date. This also means only 2 more weeks of rigorous and exhausting training before I move into my permanet site.

Please wish me luck, patience, and endurance. Thanks!

Byron Yee
Peace Corps Trainee - Senegal, 2009

Beach Day!

The day following Korite, I didn't have class. After lunch my family asked me if I wanted to go to a nearby beach. Why would anyone ever say no?!

We clambered into a vehicle that was a hybrid b/t a pick up truck and an Oregon Trail covered wagon. Somehow we managed to fit 21 people, food, and of course the tea set, which is crucial to a successful beach day.

The car was very warm and crowded, but not too unsafe. The it stopped twice: once to buy watermelon, once because a passenger fell out.

The beach was beautiful, sunny, breezy, and the riptides were strong. But watermelon and tea were delicious and I couldn't have had a better time with my crazy family.

Pictures speak better (and more efficiently) than words. Check it out:

PS. I am tan, just not compared to my family...

Byron Yee
Peace Corps Trainee - Senegal, 2009


Korite: A holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan, the month long fast.

Korite is determined by a new moon, so it was not announced until the night before. The night before Korite, the entire town/city was out in the market buying food, clothes, and the salon next door to my room was braiding hair until 4am. I slept well, but am very familiar with the Senegalese singer they were blasting through the night...

I woke up and discovered a goat being slaughtered by my brothers. I helped a little, which was fun. Pictures on uploaded, but WARNING! Goats are bloody. But seriously, I've never had fresher, tastier meat.

After a ridiculously huge and wonderful lunch, the all of the kids in the town dress up and ask for thanksgiving (money) from others.

Evening: I had a special boubou made for the occassion. I'm not gonna lie, I looked GOOD. For pictures of pretty (and living) creatures that have not been slaughtered, click here:

Now that Ramadan is over, life has changed. People are no longer cranky, hungry, and terribly dehydrated all day long. We eat a fairly big lunch meal in the late afternoon. And dinner is served closer to 8pm instead of 10pm. Overall, it works out much better with my schedule.

Next year, my goal is to fast the entire month with my family. Wish me luck (and good health).
Byron Yee
Peace Corps Trainee - Senegal, 2009