Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Next Phase

My time here is winding down, my official Close Services (COS) is less than a month away. At this conference we speak of next steps and how to reintegrate back into good ole’ USA.

As early as July 24th I can leave and be on y merry way back to the U.S. SO now what shall I do with my life? For me this where my life starts.  I have decided wherever life takes me I will like to do Peace Corps again; just to complete my life cycle; this is where life started so I feel it’s just my obligation to finish it here.

Back to the important question: What’s next?

If it’s up to me I won’t mind being a volunteer for the rest of my life, I like helping people, serving others and helping those in this global village of ours. Although that’s one option; what about having a life, having my own family, you know those big steps in life, (that are no quite feasible while being a volunteer).  I guess the next best option is putting myself out on the job market and seeing how I sell.

However, how does all this Peace Corps experience translate into having a sellable resume? Since being here I’ve learned how to live with the minimal, having a wardrobe that can fits in a backpack, I’ve experienced what it’s like to live on less than a dollar a day, I’ve brushed up on my French, now fluent in Pulaar and getting by in Woolof. I’ve learned how to walk the streets without getting dirty; I’ve perfected the art of taking bucket showers, using a douche (lantern). I’ve learned how to look good even though I’m covering up all my body, keeping sweat to a minimum although its 120 degrees outside. I’ve learned how to comfort myself on those lonely nights, how to hug or console myself when there is a problem; I’ve learned how be there for myself; to keep me from going crazy or crying my eyes out at night, because there is no one around me that will comprehend what I’m going through or I can’t fully express myself and frustrations in someone else’s language. Most of all I’ve learned to be comfortable in my own skin; with who I am and not be worried about outside appearances. But how does all this transpire into a resume and make more marketable amongst my peers.

So now I’m at a crossroads going back to America, and not knowing what to do with my life. DECISIONS DECISIONS. Where I’m I going to live, who will hire me, will I still have my friends? Who will want to me my friend due to all the awkward, bizarre habits and things I’ll do and say when I’m back?   

So here it is all laid out, my inner most fears. How I’m I going to make it back in the U.S?

Now I’m looking for jobs anywhere and everywhere, in the U.S, in Africa. I’m willing to go anywhere.

SO just check out the link of my résumé and see how those greats skills I have learned did transpire into resume perfect skills. 


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Peace Corps Is Needed: Now more than ever

This post was inspired by a book I recently read written by Bill Mahner, titled When You Ride Alone You Ride with Bin Laden: What the Government Should Be Telling Us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism.

I hear people ask, is Peace Corps really making a difference? Are Peace Corps volunteers needed? Can't we put the money to better us? But I say, yes we are needed and we do make a difference. We are truly Peace soldiers.

The second and  third goals of PC are, help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served and helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

In our global village this is needed, now more than ever. We have reached a point in American life, where people are clueless about foreign affairs, we don't understand nor take the time to understand other countries or cultures. We are just concerned about us and us alone not caring about others. We (PC volunteers) can be a great tool an asset in fighting the war on terror, because we are learning about others, their countries cultures and beliefs and taking that back to the American People.

John Powers of LA Weekely once said, "They hate us because we don't know why they hate us." So  this is a time when we need to learn about others and stop being such a greedy society, we need to know why others have come to hate us much, why we are not liked and ITS NOT just the Muslim world.

Theretofore as Peace Corps volunteers, we are going out there, learning about others, getting a better understanding of cultures and understanding why there is soo much hatred for Americans. We are following a call of time in which we are not asking what our country can do for us but what we can do for it. A time like World War II, when young men and women easily gave up their life for the cause. A time when rich boys like George HW Bush, Jack Kenndy gave up their future to serve for their country.

As PC volunteers, we are doing what other countries need of us, to learn about them, care about them and just show that we care. Show them that we are not just occupied by our big fancy cars, fashion.

Being here sitting with these people, talking to them, sharing our stories, hearing their stories, we are making connections about why we are not so liked around the world. Why using so much oil is fueling terrorist, how buying big diamonds support the bad guys. We create peace.

So as Peace Corps volunteers, we are making a difference, caring about others, those people that are so different from us. Making the connections and making America less hated. We are showing people that as Ameicans we care about something more; not just about who we have to step over to get that next dollar. And as we go back home we show America, not everybody is a terrorist and not every Muslim believes Osama.

At least that's how I see it!!
Check out the book if you get a chance

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Being Black In Peace Corps

There has been a lot of talk lately about race in PC Senegal, and I just want to add my 2cents. I must start of by saying I’ve also been that one raisin amongst all the white chocolate, as a result the way I process the race issues is not the same as most. The issues of race for me surfaced when I moved to the U.S as a result I still don’t comprehend the issue entirely. I mean even the issue of race in the PC I just started understanding it because people are talking about. I never knew how comments such as “us whites, us whites in Senegal,” (as there are more whites tahn balck and people just ID with the majority, as its is the American way, majority rules)  were an issue till it was brought, and I guess that is due to my ignorance.  

In training most volunteers, as 95% of them are white just talk about how its hard being white in Senegal an forget to incorporate the minority of the group.  To me this is not an issue, as I understand there are more whites than other race, as they are just talking about their experiences. I remember during training when people said stuff like that, ill just talk about how hard of a time I’m having as been black, or just my experiences. As black in PC I understand the issue but I don’t empathize or quite comprehend. That has always been a problem for me, even between my friends back home, they will say something like that was so racists, they did that just because I was black, I will proceed having a dumb stare like, O really. I’ve had countless arguments with my cousin about it, when it comes to our neighborhood, sport players and as always I just don’t quite get it. As I said blame it on my ignorance.

Well for me, being black in Senegal, I’ve had more issues dealing with the treatments I received from Senegalese people than other volunteers. Mostly people automatically assume I’m Wolof (one of the major ethnic group here) when they see me. They automatically start speaking Wolof to me. I’ve had countless, pointless conversations proving that I’m American. I’ll tell people I’m a American Peace Corps volunteer, and they will proceed to ask me where are you from, “America.” Then they will proceed to ask where is your family from, where were you born and I’ll tell them America (expect a few close friends and my family) and they never believe me because there are no blacks in America. I know telling them I’m from America and I don’t know my origin is a lie. But its just to prove that there are blacks in America, who don’t even know Africa.

Also when I’m around other volunteer, Senegalese will just talk to the other volunteers, the Toubabds and just  ignore me. They will be so excited to talk to my peers, shake their hands, and when it come to me sometimes, I don’t even get a hi.  There have also been countless of times, were I was told I’m not light enough to be American, I need to bleach my skin, or I need to perm my hair.

These things annoys me  because these African treat themselves worst than they do a stranger, then will be so open and hospitable to Toubab , but when it comes to their kind they ignore them, or just don’t care. It annoys me that they have not learned to love themselves and be kind to each other instead of the “whiteman”

Yet again, I’m happy to be black here, because I don’t get harassed, bothered or get to shake dirty kids hands as my peers. I get to blend in more than they do and I feel I reach a level of integration that they will never be able to achieve.

As result of these issues within PC Senegal Liz (well more Liz) and I are coming up with solutions and plans that can be implement to make PC Senegal more inclusive to everyone, black, white, Asian, old young, church goers, gay, lesbian, etc. Because after all, at the end of the day our Peace Corps family is what we have and who we depend on to make it through the years as a Peace Corps volunteer, therefore we all have to be one BIG happy Family.


Its circumcision season here in the Fulladom What does that mean? It means little boys get their pines circumcised. So little boys who have reached that age, decided by their parents get their pines circumcised. 
Circumcised boys, at the coming out ceremony
Couple of boys get together in one house decided by their parents and they will leave there for a certain amount of time, till they are healed. After they are all together they will go to the hospital (for those fortunate to live in cities, if not the local doctor) and get circumcised. They will come home and learn some life skills till they are healed. During this time they are not allowed to see their parents. They are helped, taught by older brothers, uncles, whom have al passed that stage in llfe.

These men will go out dressed as kancorans to get money to help provided for the boys while they are under their care. The boys will sometimes sit on the road on all fours or sing, to also get money and donations. These kancorans parade the streets dancing scaring away little boys and women. They carry around machetes and whips, and they do use the whip to beat boys and women. While parading people, mostly women and children will run after and away from them: getting them to dancing. while doing so they will give them some money. You can even pay them so dance for you, while videotaping or taking photos.  
After the healing period they will have a big ceremony, in which the boys will come out. During this time there will be various kancorans. After scaring boys and women they will have a big dance party in which they are allowed to stan around and watch. Various ceremonial things will be done to the circumcised boys, it involves beating them, doing flips over them, jumping over them, etc. Their family members will all be there with some men dressing up as women and the women dressed in men clothing with makeup and beeds all over them.  
Women in their outfits
Men dressed as women at the ceremonial event

The ceremony

The next day the boys will get dressed in newly-made outfits and parade the town, with some kind of hand-made toy in their hands, without kancorans.  
This kancoran cut someone face open.


thanks to Mr. Pierre for some of the photos

Friday, August 12, 2011

I'm Loosing My Hair!!!

I was looking at my hair natural hair diary yesterday. This includes hair videos pictures since I started my natural hair journey, and I got depressed. On July1st 3 years ago I started my natural hair journey. My hair is now shorter than it was last year, quite sad. It’s significantly shorter, by inches. I knew it was breaking off but I did not realize it was this bad till I looked at my dairy. I’m shredding, loosing hair, I’m not quite sure how healthy it is at the moment, don’t even want to think about it.

I am very sad about this regress. I don’t know what to do. Don’t have all my products here; I’m not doing what I normally do to it, the sun, not eating/living healthy, all this is taking its toll. I know there are better things in life to worry about like, starving children, wars, disease but just had to get this out.

Summer june 13 2010

july 2010

june 2010

july 2010
 I don’t know what to do to get it back to where it was. I am at lost of words. Other than the fact I’m not taking proper care of my hair, I genuinely miss doing my hair, playing with it, trying different styles. This is one thing I always say I miss most America. And yesterday I got proof that its, BAAAD.

I might just lock it and cut it when I get back to the U.S. and start fresh, however, I don’t know how my community will; feel about that. Cutting it now will be worst, so I’m just out of options.

december 2010

july 2011
I  know these pic dont help bu its BAAAD

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A year In, Looking Forward to the Next!!!!!!

Sometime today a year ago, I left America, answering to one of the most important, life changing calls’ of life. Tomorrow, it will be a year in country. At the moment writing, I’m in Dakar, at our PC Senegal office, in the volunteer lounge. My purpose for being here: Liz, one of my rocks in country went home, to Amerique for vacation, so I decided to see her off for, the time being (she better comes back), mid service check-up. I must say all is in order, minus a few chest pains and an infection that is been taken care-off at the moment, and what’s ALWAYS a bonus, getting into some trouble and eating till I drop. Oh and I found out I’ve putt on some weight. OH rice, how I hate thou!

I remember when I first got off the plane, about 2am. The humid air at such hour in the morning was my welcome to Africa, then everyone at the airport trying to be your friend, while looking for some handouts. We them drove about 3hrs to the Theis, and then definitely knew I was in the land of tengana (hospitality), the staffed welcomed us, with joy, big hugs, laughter and OFFCOURSE some dancing at about 5am. The entire I was thinking how these can people be so jovial at cette l’heurre.

I’m at the point of my service, we I’ve just accepted the little things, like taking 12hrs just to travel to the capital from my site, due to bad roads, car troubles and just plain greedy people. Accepted, that rice is a main dietary staple, people listening to music on full blast without headphones. Where little things just don’t bother me anymore, or it just depends on the day. I’m also at the point where the things and people of Senegal that I love, I love more and just appreciate, and the others that just annoy me; my tolerance for accepting them is just deteriorating. I’m, also at the point where I’m well integrated enough, that I’ve realized although I’m here to learn these people’s culture and valves, I should remember not to loose myself in the process and what I believe in, what are my values. Although by no small defeat, this will help shape Pamela.

I’m comfortable enough to let them see the true Pam, while still respecting their values, although this is not a two way street. I find myself constantly defending what, I do, why I do it and how things are just not the same in the U.S. Most of all, my thinking of “you don’t have to understand or agree with ones values and beliefs; you just have to respect it,” is now deeply rooted in me.

Is PC what I thought it would be? No. I did not have much expectations coming into PC, I just had a goal of giving back and helping my birth land, giving it something to be proud. I wanted my first home to move forward, with the help of my second, with me as a guiding light. After all that was one of my main reasons for going after my American Citizenship, to serve and become a PCV.

I was expecting more development work and experience, and less cultural exchange. I was expecting to have more projects by now (they say that usually comes in the second here), more sustainability work and a more a defined program and my purpose of being here and how to help and move the people of my community forward.

If I could go back will I still do PC? Yes. It has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I’m looking forward to my next year, with apprehension and joy. I have made a difference, I have helped my community. I’ve made long lasting friends, Senegalese and Americans. I always have a family and home somewhere here in Senegal. I’ve given people here stories to tell for years to come. I’ve placed smiles on peoples’ faces, bonded and made a connection with this country that will always be a part of me. It has raised more questions for me, about my future, my dreams aspirations, and values beliefs, relations, and relationships, and the true meaning of friendships. . It has shattered what I once knew and just giving me a new lens for looking at life.

So clinking the champagne glass and waiting for the next leg of this journey.

Thanks to those who have helped keep my sanity along the way, the emails, messages, and calls.

Loving the many parts of Pamela

Monday, August 1, 2011

America: I Appreciate You

The more I learn about the Senegalese culture, its people, and values the more I’ve come to truly appreciate America and the comforts its offers to those who are fortunate enough to live there. There are things that are just part of the American life, which one takes for granted that becomes quite eminent, while leaving in the middle of no where.

And no it’s just the obvious things that you that are just a evident part of life, the yang to the yang of life, such as, clean running water, 24hrs electricity, Aced rooms, internet 24/7, a sit down toilet. Or not even a properly function car, people being on time, health care, etc functioning public transportation system, getting everything I need without leaving the house(although that I do miss sometimes, lol).

It’s the abstracts and sometimes not so abstract things like the right to a free education, the time allotted for I, JUST TO BE A KID, a government that helps me out when I fall down on luck, the right to choose, free thinking, to be independent, to dream, to believe, that I can be whatever I choose, and that the sky is truly the limit. The choice to have and make educated decision, having education discussions, to hold my political leaders accountable, (now with it been election season), to see free and (maybe not so) fair elections, the change of command without major hassle, or the president trying to change the constitution to suit his needs. With all this election hoopla, I just think back to the day President Obama took the oath of office and became the 44th president of the United States. Most people did not like it, hated him but, its was done drama free, its just amazing to see such peaceful transfer of power that most countries don’t enjoy and most people of the world will never experience.

I do also miss the customer is always right, as customer service is nonexistent in this country. Sometimes you would think you were begging people to give you their products for free, by the way they act towards their customers. I also miss being treated as an equal because of my gender. Here I’m just a second class citizen, were my opinion does not matter and my only domain is in the domestic arena.

Most of all I miss the right to just be ME. I always have to constantly defend why I do things the way I do things. The way I dress, walk, do my hair, talk, etc.

One thing journey has helped be realized is how fortunate I was to grow up in the United States, things that we take for granted that are just the way of life are not even foreseen in this culture. It has made me truly proud to be an American, and now I see what all the fuss is about for that blue book. (American passport).

Rebeled and did some twists