Though we all know I love to talk, I’m not always the most eloquent of people.  Here are some who are – other volunteers, snippets from books I’ve read – to give  insights on Senegal, living in Africa, and life in the Peace Corps.

“You’re skin doesn’t crawl when you’re in Africa.  If you get that feeling, it’s a bug. Get it off.” – Senegal Volunteer Joey Valente, giving advice after being in Senegal for two years.

Endurance, patience, and determination are necessary for a volunteer placed in an ill-defined job that he is all too often technically ill-qualified for.  He needs these characteristics to stick it out until he can get across to the strangers around him who and what he is and what he is trying to do. – letter from a PCV in Tunisia, from the book Making a Difference: The Peace Corps at Twenty Five

In African culture, the sons and daughters of one’s aunts or uncles are considered brothers and sisters, not cousins […] We have no half brothers or sisters.  My mother’s sister is my mother; my uncle’s son is my brother’ my brother’s son is my son, my daughter. – Long Walk to Freedom, autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Peace Corps volunteers are a special breed of people that are like cheap scotch or Andrew Dice Clay – rough around the edges, and an acquired taste.  Conversations usually involve food, drink, sex, or “constructive criticism” of the country we are serving in.  Peace Corps volunteers as a general rule, mix a junior high social mentality with diverse backgrounds, developed world views, and passionate opinions.  It’s an interesting combination of hormones, outrageous statements, intense discussions, and a wide range of alcohol usage. – Guest blog in Being Ñamoo by RPCV Jonathan Payne, Panama 2008-2010

[Smacks 18th mosquito that has landed on his leg, gives an exacerbated sigh, and exclaims] “I wish I could have rainbow sherbet right now!” – Senegal Volunteer Hans, after a day of “stomach issues” and sitting surrounded by mosquitoes the Kolda Peace Corps house.

It was a world that seemed to have no end, and that, I think is  what made Africa in those days so different.  There was no end to it. A man could walk, or ride, forever, and he would never get anywhere. – Alexander McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

There will always be resistance to me, perceptions of me as a tubok (foreign, white person), as a patron (source of money, gifts), even as I eat what they eat, live as they live, dress as they dress, speak their language. Similar constraints hamper my work… they have no real reason to listen to me – they have done things the same way forever. – letter from a PCV in Mauritania, from Making a Difference

“You know, there has not been one day yet in country, where I’ve looked in the mirror and thought, ‘Yeah, I’d walk up to that.'” – Senegal Volunteer Maggie, on the relativity of “looking good” as a female while in Peace Corps.

My life, and that of most Xhosas at the time, was shaped by custom, ritual, and taboo. This was the alpha and omega of our existence, and went unquestioned. – Long Walk to Freedom, autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Peace Corps volunteers are not trained to deal with enemies bearing arms.  Their enemies are hunger, ignorance, and disease.  By forcing these enemies into retreat, the Peace Corps serves humanity’s interests… – Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps, in Making a Difference

“Things are good.  I just never knew the moon could be so hot.” – Senegal Volunteer Kellen in reply to a “hey what’s up” text.

This is a world which, for all of its richness of culture, often still lives on the edge of survival. – Sargent Shriver, in Making a Difference

A volunteer who taught school in the port of Mesewa on the Red Sea lived on a houseboat and was awakened every night by the mullahs calling the faithful to prayer.  During the day, he endured the camels that poked into his classroom their not-very-intellectual noses, which he would push out he window with a broom. – Harris Wofford, author on Kennedy, in Making a Difference

[It was] a challange never to do himself what he can get the students to do themselves. ‘The Ghanians have a clock that runs about an hour behind ours, a calendaer that runs a day behind.  Time and again I have to choose between letting them coplete a task behind schedule or doing it myself.  I force myself to let hem finish it – late.’ – letter from a PCV in Ghana, from Making a Difference

“The Real Peace Corps” – blog entry from PC Ethiopia volunteer Michael Waidmann



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