Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hut Life?

Well, not so much hut life anymore. These last few weeks have been more like expat life. I've been house sitting in downtown Dakar - cooking Indian food, watching CNN world, and using the internet in any room I want. I guess the suffering that is Peace Corps is pretty much over for me. Now its 9 to 5 at the U.S. Embassy working on "Pepiniere du Sahel" ("Tree Nurseries of the Sahel"). And at night, I'm going to band rehearsals with Jac et le Takeifa. The song they wrote for the film is incredible. Its been quite an opportunity to collaborate with Jac and the band and with Michelle Cheng, the artist doing the stills and cell animation for the film. And now its only a week and a half until I'm out of here. I've got some paperwork to do for Peace Corps admin. and a few last minute presents to buy. But most exciting is the first official screening of "Elle Travaille, Elle Vit!" ("She Works, She Lives!") at the American Club in Dakar on Sunday, the 28th. The guest list has over a hundred people already and I'm doing a Q&A after the film. Not going to lie - I'm a little nervous.
My tentaive plan for the states is to fly in to Atlanta on October 1st - kick it in the AUG for two weeks - visit my bro and sis in Saratoga Springs for a few days, and then its off to NYC, the city, the big apple, the capital of the western world... Oh New York. I can't wait for fall, for central park, for hippies and hipsters, for old friends and new connections, for art and artists, happenings, screenings, exhibitions and exhibitionists, for dog parks, coffee bars, book stores and thrift shops.
Hope the States are treating you all well. Take care.

Monday, September 1, 2008

One Month Left...

Wow - what an exciting two years. Left my cush and comfortable life in America and moved to some country most people have never heard of. I spent two months doing language and cross-cultural training, then moved out to my remote village for three months, then back for another month of training on agro-forestry technologies, back to the village again, then on vacation showing my friend Sahil around Senegal, and now, here we are. Here I am. Its strange to think about all of our lives on such different trajectories. We have all moved forward - we have all had adventures. I used to sit alone in my hut thinking about my friends in New York City, D.C., Boston, and L.A. - What are they doing? Is it cold there? Man, I missed the cold sometimes. I now have only a month left and its going to be busy. I'm in production on another video, this time for creating and maintaining tree nurseries in the Sahel. I'm working with some really interesting people from Michelle Chang, a visual artist at UCLA to Baba Maal, a world famous Senegalese musician. And as excited as I am about going home, I'm really looking forward to making this movie.

So last month was pretty incredible - one of my best friends from college came out to visit. We had such a good time. We went to Goree Island to see the famous slave house and colonial architecture, we spent a few nights in a Gambian village on an desolate island, we spent some unforgettable time in my village (this was the best part of the trip for both of us I think), we went up to Saint Louis to hear live music and relax in our picture perfect apartment on the beach, we spent the night in a tent in the desert eating Moroccan couscous for dinner and riding camels in the morning, and we spent days in Dakar bargaining for masks and indulging in ice cream and falafel. What a trip.
And last Monday in Dakar, every Peace Corps volunteer from my training group met up for our Close of Service (COS) conference. Each day of the conference was based on a theme; the first day on a theme of reflection over the past two years. We mostly talked about our accomplishments and the personal and professional skills we've developed. The next day was about considering life after Peace Corps, jobs, health insurance, etc. We work-shopped our resumes and started our Description of Service (DOS) and Close of Service (COS) reports. And on the last day we gave feedback to the administration on ways to improve the effectiveness of the Peace Corps and Peace Corps volunteers in Senegal. It was nice to get to see old friends and catch up - sad to say good bye to the friends I won't see for a while. The conference gave us all a bit of closure and well, a sense that summer camp is over. One more month exactly and I fly home. Inchallah.