West Africa Love

Peace Corps Volunteer Experience in Mali and Guinea

First Week in Pre-Service Training

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It is our 6th day here but it feels like we’ve been here at least double that.  We’ve had a lot packed into each day.  It’s surprising how relaxed I feel. It really hasn’t hit me yet that I’m in the Peace Corps.  I never really imagined myself being a PCV but I never really imagined myself working in the Silicon Valley either.  I still haven’t had a moment where I feel like “OMG I’m here”, mostly because the Peace Corps has done such a good job of easing us in.  They’ve been keeping us pretty sheltered here in the training center.  Tomorrow we go to our village homestay but I’ll be in the same village as 5 other volunteers and not too far away from the rest of the volunteers.

I realized I didn’t really explain why I decided to do Peace Corps in the last blog.  It’s mostly because I really wanted international development work experience.   I could’ve tried to do this in Latin America but after living in Senegal and feeling the energy here I really wanted to come back.  Also I felt that I would be relatively comfortable in Latin America and I wanted to learn more about West African culture.  I’m really curious to see how the conclusions I arrived at during my study abroad experience will change.  Those experiences were largely based on city life in Dakar, Senegal which had a very different colonial experience based on its location.  People in Mali have had a different experience and we will be experiencing village versus city life.

Anyways, I started taking my malaria medication on Saturday.  I decided to take Mefloquine because I had already taken it in Dakar and it’s the only one that you take once a week vs once a day.  I didn’t have any side effects the last time but I had started taking the medication while I was still in the States so I was probably able to deal with them more easily.  The symptoms include: insomnia, lightheadedness, nausea, hallucinations, vivid nightmares, depression, anxiety, etc.   Sunday before lunch I was feeling super nauseous and lightheaded and it didn’t help that I was also adjusting to Mali heat.  I’d usually be ok after I ate lunch but at times I would think I was going to pass out, or throw up, or both.  This isn’t even the hot season but it got up to 101 degrees today.  Then I also had insomnia for the first 2 nights.  I’d wake up at 3 am and not be able to go back to sleep =/

I know you are all anxiously waiting to hear about my bathroom situation.  It hasn’t been as much of a shock as I thought it would be but that’s because they haven’t forced us to use the salydaga yet (a plastic tea kettle that you clean your bottom with).  We still have the option of using toilet paper.  I’m adopting hybrid method right now to help me transition.  For those that are really grossed out about this think about it this way. You wouldn’t consider your dishes clean if someone told you they had been meticulously wiped clean right? Using water instead of toliet paper actually makes more sense.

One of the things that has really surprised has been the fact that we were told to NEVER congratulate a pregnant woman or even acknowledge that she is pregnant.  Apparently if you do tell her she’s pregnant she will deny it and claim that it is just rice and water.  They told us it is because you are jinxing the unborn child and also alluding to sex which is not talked about openly.

Off to our homestay! I’ll be posting pictures soon =)

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Author: moniq77

Peace Corps volunteer in Mali before the program was suspended due to security concerns. Finishing my service in Guinea.

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