** Due to flaky internet previously, this post is a little late in publishing – just pretend that it’s actually the 26th of October….
Hi friends! After months of waiting, shuffling from place to place, and daydreaming about where I might live, I now know my final site placement. While the staff here in Thies have known this for weeks now, us trainees found out last Thursday with the aid of blindfolds and a giant map.
In order to increase the excitement, drama, and overall tension surrounding this announcement, we were blindfolded and led to our site location on the Senegal map painted onto our basketball court. After we were all in place, we tore off our blindfolds and first looked down, and then around. Down to see our city and region. Around to see which fellow trainees and friends we would be living next to for 2 years.
So – Tamba! Actually called Tambacounda, this region, and city by the same name, is located to the south and east of Thies and Dakar. It is a bit above and to the east of The Gambia. It is one of the hotter places in the country, but also one of the coolest, or so I hear!
The next morning, bright and early, we packed into buses, loaded our bags and bikes onto the roofs, and started the 7-ish hour drive.
We arrived in the city in the early afternoon, pulling up to the regional house. Each region here in Senegal has a regional house, usually in the biggest city, where volunteers can go to access wifi, hang out with friends, have meetings, and use as a travel stop.
The next few days were dedicated to seeing our new sites and getting a basic understanding of what our lives will be like starting in a few short months. I am lucky to have an “ancienne”, the volunteer at my site before me. She was amazing in showing me around, introducing me to work partners and my future host family, and cooking with as much garlic as possible!
My house is just 10 minutes away by bike from the regional house. As volunteers we have our own living space and bathroom facilities that are separate from our host family’s. My rooms are so beautiful and quite spacious actually. The walls are blue, I have a giant bed, and there’s a porch – what more do you need?
One of my favorite parts of this trip was visiting a couple gardens that my ancienne has worked on in the city. One is owned by her counterpart, a host country national who acts as a mentor, cultural liaison, and work partner.
The other is a demo garden which is run by a talented female farmer – and my new counterpart – and attached to the Agriculture Office for the city.
Seeing the city of Tamba and biking around my neighborhood was both reassuring and nerve-wracking, exciting and familiar. Reassuring in the sense that as each day passes I feel more and more sure about my decision to come to Senegal for Peace Corps and getting a peek into life in Tamba has only bolstered that feeling. Nerve-wracking because all too soon I will leave the relative safety and structure of training to live by myself, meet scores more new people, and struggle through with Wolof. Exciting that I get to explore a new city and branch out into my version of a Peace Corps volunteer. And strangely, slightly familiar – a smile is universal, and there were so many wonderful smiles, and I think I’m finally getting the greeting patterns down!
All too soon it was time to leave and drive back up to Thies. I am eagerly awaiting my return to Tamba and to getting more acquainted with everything it has to offer!