Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving!

Due to a large Senegalese holiday coming up this weekend, the PCVs celebrated Thanksgiving a day in advance.

Our menu:
- Turkey (yes we have them here)
- Mash sweet potatoes and potatoes
- Beef stew
- Cucumber Salad
- Millet corn bread
- Chocolate-Peanut butter cookies
- Upside Down pineapple cake

Staff: The cook staff was headed by 3 main people, and a handful of sous-chefs (including me). Cooking started at about 4am and finished by 5pm.

The dinner was great, the food was delicious, and the celebration was wonderful. Of course, I miss my family and our traditions, but this is my new family and my new celebration.

What Byron Yee is Thankful For:
1. A big meal that keeps me full for more than 30 minutes
2. A house full of friends
3. Cassie, my nearest neighbor, who will inevitably become a great work partner and my best friend for the next two years.
4. Health, safety, and the ability to serve this beautiful country.

Happy Thanksgiving!! Enjoy the Macy's Day Parade for me please.


**Pictures will be added to my album soon. http://www.picasaweb.google.com/TheByronYee

--
Byron Yee
Peace Corps Volunteer - Senegal, 2009

5 Week Challenge!

Our country director challenged all the new volunteers (like me) to not spend a night in a regional house for the first 5 weeks of service.

I myself successfully spent every single night at my site for the first 5 weeks. The argument is that these first few weeks are the most important in establishing yourself as a strong and present community member.

The incentive reward? A superbowl party in Dakar at our director's house in February.

The first 5 weeks have proven to be tough. Some days are great, some are depressing. Everyday I try to meet and interact with new people in the community. It's exhausting and difficult, but rewarding and fun.

As of right now, the new volunteers have little-no technical training. So for the first 3 months at site, our job is to meet the community, find potential work partners, and improve our language skills. Having no technical skills means having no current work projects. It's frustrating at times, but patience is something I'm learning and practicing in full force everyday.

As a reward for my 5 week challenge, we had a huge Thanksgiving celebration in my regional house (another blog entry).

Here's to another 5 weeks of hopeful success...

--
Byron Yee
Peace Corps Volunteer - Senegal, 2009

Sarax

Like usual, I’m occasionally dragged to various events in which I have no idea what is going on. The other day, my family all went to our neighbor’s new house (which I helped paint) for a “sarax.” Basically it was a house dedication that included large steaming bowls of “laax” (Senegalese porridge), and prayers for the new house and new family.

Sarax also translates to mean charity events; giving alms to the poor, other important building dedications, etc.

Turns out that this new house is for my Senegalese supervisor. So now I’m living with the chef de la village, and neighbors with my supervisor. I really need to behave myself…
--
Byron Yee
Peace Corps Volunteer - Senegal, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dengue Fever Outbreak!

In Mid November, Senegal announced an outbreak of Dengue Fever. Unfortunately, I was one of several victims...

Symptoms: Headaches, rash, vomiting, extreme fatigue, dehydration, and of course, fevers. Dengue fever is truly unpleasant, but there are worse things that can happen. Wikipedia has proven to be a great friend of mine in this country: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dengue_fever

The good news: I'm now immune to 1 of the 4 strands of this fever. And after a week, I literally sweated out the virus. Still enduring some intense fatigue though.

Please don't pray for me. Pray for the thousands of others who are suffereing through this without the aid of Tylenol, good doctors, and a great American healthcare coverage...

As always, "don't worry Mom. I'm okay!"

--
Byron Yee
Peace Corps Volunteer - Senegal, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Another silly health story

So remember when I mentioned drinking untreated water from a rusty tomato can awhile back?

Well my neighbor offered me some bissap juice the other day (of course untreated water). It was very tasty and came in a bright yellow bottle. I saw the same bright yellow bottles in boutiques and after translating the label from French, it turns out I was drinking juice from a used bottle of: Brake Fluid.

Yummy...

--
Byron Yee
Peace Corps Volunteer - Senegal, 2009

├ęglise (Church)

I’m in a town with a large enough Catholic population to have a church about a 10 minute walk from me. That’s where you’ll find me every Sunday at 9am.

First, I’ve only been to one Catholic mass before now.
Second, the service is conducted in Wolof and French. So I have incentive to continue studying French (and Wolof for that matter).
Third, African choirs are so COOL!! I don’t understand what they’re singing (yet), but I almost cried because the music and environment is so beautiful.

After my first visit, they already asked me if I can play piano, drums, sing, etc. Therefore Church, you may soon have your very first Chinese tenor in your lovely little choir…

--
Byron Yee
Peace Corps Volunteer - Senegal, 2009

Mice!!

No, they’re not cute house pets. Yes, they are small and yes, they are incredibly fast. Every morning I can hear them scurrying in the ceiling above my room, and they conveniently poop in the same two places every day.

I made my first trip to the local market and bought my first rat poison. I made a delicious mix of bread, peanut butter, and poison for my friends. After 24 hours, two of the baits were taken.

The Result: I still see mouse poop every day, but no longer see them in my room. While this poison might not have been 100% effective, it did manage to kill a handful of ants and cockroaches as well. Currently, I and the mice are at a peaceful coexistence. Another volunteer (Jessica) told me she woke up in the middle of the night to a mouse chewing on her finger. “It could be worse” is my daily motto…

--
Byron Yee
Peace Corps Volunteer - Senegal, 2009

Installation: October 21, 2009

After the Swearing in Ceremony in Dakar, I spent a couple days in Kaolack buying everything I needed to settle into a brand new life. Starting over from scratch has proven to be very challenging and difficult to think through.

After slowly driving south and meeting several prefets, gendarmerie, and border guards, I officially installed into my new home. My father, Monsieur Mboup is the chief of the village, so I always need to keep his reputation in mind in my behavior and appearance. My new room is nice and large, including my own bathroom. I’m currently having furniture made, so soon I will no longer be living out of a suitcase like I’ve done for the past 9 weeks of my life.

My new family is large, but wonderful and lots of fun. I have two mothers, a couple older siblings, and lots of little kids who quickly became attached to me. They’re a great and loving family, who I know will support me throughout this process.

Moving into a brand new town with no contacts, limited language, and no projects or pressing work is tough. My first 3 months of my service will consist of meeting and getting to know my community. I’ve yet to have any serious technical training, so I’m not even able to conduct any serious work until after February. So for the next 3 months, I’ll be putting my social skills (and what little Wolof I have) to the ultimate test.

--
Byron Yee
Peace Corps Volunteer - Senegal, 2009