My poste de santé where I worked for 6 weeks
I arrived in my village in the late morning. This is where I would be spending the next 6 weeks doing my internship at the Poste de Santé (health clinic) in Ngohé (pronounced ‘n-goy-yeh’). I was really nervous to get off the bus that was dropping each of us students off at our sites. I was especially nervous since I was the 2nd person to be dropped off first. When Waly & Miriam and I visited my poste de santé (PDS) and I met the two nurses, Fatou & Eliane, and the pharmacist, Boucar. Philomene, the doctor and also my supervisor, wasn’t there because she was at a funeral in another village. When I stepped off the bus, all the nervousness I had felt before went away and even though it was sad to say bye to everyone for the last time in a while, I felt really excited to be here. After I met everyone at the small PDS we walked a block to my home for the next 6 weeks. We headed on foot for a block to my new home with all my belongings for 6 weeks: a small black duffel (this is actually an impressive feat! I’m usually a terrible packer and always over-pack), a backpack, two plastic bags of toiletries, and three 10 liter jugs of water (I was bracing myself for the worst water situation! Miriam laughed when I said I had bought 3 jugs since everyone had only bought one). Along the way I found out my host papa is actually Miriam’s uncle! She said she hadn’t been there since she was little. I said, ‘we’re cousins!’
Courtyard of our house, basically a big sandbox for the my younger siblings 🙂
I was surprised to find my house was actually made out of concrete blocks and not hut. It only has 4 rooms, all of which are bedrooms. A kitchen hut to the left of the courtyard, and the toilet/shower to the back left. Everywhere else is just open space and dirt. It was just so strange to introduce myself to yet another Senegalese family and go through the whole awkward process again.
A couple of my host brothers and friends. We typically all sit like this every night and just gather and talk
I greeted my mother & 3 brothers in Wolof only to find out that they speak Serer here because it’s a Serer village. There goes all my Wolof! After Waly and Miriam left, what was happening seemed more real. It finally sank in that I’m actually in an African village. The rest of the afternoon consisted of me being awkward and standing around trying not to look awkward. But, I’m always blown away by the hospitality in every place that I go – in Thailand, in Dakar, and here in Ngohé. My two brothers and dad cleaned my room for me. It used to be my brother’s room but he moved all his stuff and now he’s sleeping in a dirt room without a bed! Sometimes, I wish it wouldn’t be considered impolite to refuse their hospitality. Terango (wolof for ‘hospitality’) is huge in Senegalese culture.
A part of my room. My table and chair that my host dad bought for me 🙂
I wondered around the open space, following cute little chicks and would stop and stare at the landscape with baobab trees and brush everywhere. My dad came back later with a new mattress that he’d bought for me. Before, I had sat on my bed – felt the hard board underneath – and thought to myself, ‘okay, I can handle this, at least I have a bed’ So you can imagine I was grateful when I saw the mattress! He also bought me a little tin of coffee, sweet condensed milk (for my coffee?), a box of sugar cubes, and a plastic bag of apples and bananas. I was overwhelmed with all the goodies!
At 2pm I ate lunch with our neighbors and right as I stood up and said ‘sournaa’ (it means ‘I’m full’ in wolof) when I was done, my sister called me over from the stick fence to eat lunch at our house. My eyes got wide and I felt sick at the thought of more food. I remember back on the bus, we had all been joking about how skinny we’d all become when we get back to Dakar but, I’m eating in the village twice as much as I normally do! Of course, I tried to eat as much as I could so as not to offend my host family.
Later that night…
At 2:30am I woke up in a torrential sweat. Plus I had to go to the bathroom, not a good combo. Right before I woke up I had felt a giant bug (with countless legs) crawl across my body and it was a very good thing I was too sleepy to really think about this giant, fat millipede and the fact that it had been crawling on me didn’t faze me. It was so incredibly quiet as I walked outside. There are literally so many stars that I can’t even find the big dipper. I could even see the milky way! I survived my first night in the village!