Tuesday, May 1, 2012


When one has gone as long as long as I have without writing a blog post there should be a myriad of things to say, stories to tell, revelations to share and general bloggery to explore... that is unless the one in question has been stuck in a cave with nothing to do but ponder existence or something similarly useless, in which case said person should be kept away from communication apparatuses at all costs lest they infect the general population with a malaise for which no one but a bored cave dweller (or PCV) really has the time.  In the great wisdom of Amtrak however I have a wifi connection right now so here's whats been happening in my cave the last couple of months.  Caution this post may have the following side effects: Malaise, Sentimentality, Ethnocentrism, Boredom, and Dry Mouth (It just wouldn't be a side effects list without dry mouth).

Things have been shifting lately.  When I first got to country I was the scared little American who knew nothing about his job, couldn't speak the language, got screwed over and taken advantage of in the cities, didn't particularly like pushy Senegalese culture and couldn't understand why with all of these wonderful attributes garnered zero respect or authority in his village.  If you look at the day to day its hard to see any improvement whatsoever but lately several experiences have given me the opportunity to step back and look at my overall progress.

1. Getting Shot.  Now that got your attention didn't it.  Ok well not shot exactly in the stereotypical sense with blood and injury and whatnot but shot in the sense of something that came out of a gun contacting with me...  Here's how it all went down.  There have been a lot of Belgians hunting birds in my village lately.  Being tourists they don't know what they're doing, don't follow any cultural protocols and are just generally assholes.  One guy thought he was out in the middle of the bush and didn't seem to realize he was right next to a community garden and a village.  It was just a nuisance at first, but he kept getting closer and closer and the women got angrier and angrier and then suddenly bird shot started raining down on top of us.  I got hit in the hand.  It almost left a mark.  This meant war.  I dropped what I was doing, stormed out and proceeded to curse out Mr. Belgian hunter man in my incredibly horrible french which was probably more of an insult then the actual words I used.  Luckily his guide spoke Serere so I was able to redeem myself by properly insulting them both in my now excellent Serere.  It was a proud moment.  When I got back to the garden the women all laughed and asked if I hit him.  The story spread like wildfire, how I had defended the village against the stupid toubab and how it showed that I was really a part of the village. 

2. NGO Ignorance.  My host dad works for an NGO that hosts French students as interns every year and this year the guy was a little... stupid... Ok thats kinda harsh, but I spent some time discussing Senegal with him and lets just say I didn't appreciate his views.  Now I admit I have said some bad things about Senegal, Senegalese people, Peace Corps, you name it, but I've done this in the way you would do it to a family member.  You know honest, cruel, and from a place of love and respect.  This guy who had only been in Senegal for a month was criticizing it left and right and I found myself vehemently defending the people here out of both out of a respect for the culture and a healthy amount of American pride and general contrariness to French arrogance.  The moral of the story is don't mess with MY Senegal.

3. COS Conference.  For those of you not accustomed to PC acronyms COS = Close of Service.   Yes due to some shifting around of things we had ours this month.  AHHHH!!!!! Sorry that's been happening a lot lately for some reason... Yes my training group all came together to write our resumes, talk about job possibilities, and learn how to cope when all of you lovely well meaning people inevitably stop being interested in our stories and experiences.  Aside from some freaking out over the prospect of going home it was fun.  Peace Corps Service for better or for worse starts to look pretty successful in resume format.  For example by the end of my service I will have helped to plant over 30,000 trees. What does that mean?  Nothing out of context but it looks good on paper :-).

4. Adoption.  For a long time my host family has been trying to convince me to bring home one of the kids to America.  I always joked back saying I could put them in my suitcase and whatnot.  Always joking, never serious...  Don't worry I didn't bring home a child in my suitcase, but for the first time I actually want to.  It's never going to happen but if I could adopt my two little host cousins, Moodu and Fatou, I would.  In a heartbeat.  I never thought I would be one of THOSE volunteers.  You know the obnoxious ones who are just a little too dedicated and integrated and take things a little too far... oops...

5. America.  As I write this I'm riding a train heading up to Chico, CA for some much needed vacation time.  This is vacation number two of my service and its absolutely amazing to me how different they feel.  Before vacation last year I was counting down the days until I could leave, wanting nothing more then to get out of Senegal.  This time I wanted to push back vacation to get more work done and immediately started missing the hustle and bustle of 3rd world life now that I'm back in meticulously organized and clean America.  It is nice to be back certainly, but I get the feeling I don't quite fit in here anymore.  I'm still incredibly jet lagged, but stay tuned for a post about my reflections on America once I'm more settled here.

Nothing too profound from my cave this time, just a few clearer interpretations of the shadows on the walls. Maybe if I keep going deeper I'll come out the other side someday... but then how do you ever really know whats real and whats just another cave... man... deep...


P.S. I don't know about the other side effects but a glass of water should take care of that dry mouth :-p


  1. Thanks, Garrison, I've really enjoyed your posts and I'd love to hear about any "reverse culture shock" now that you're back home...

  2. Dear Garrison,
    Your posts have taken me on emotional journey...I've laughed, been brought to tears but mostly informed. Your words have helped me to understand what my daughter Nicky is experiencing... thank you so much.
    Are you really finished with 27 months of service???
    If so...please continue to post... I am eager to read about your feelings and experiences in the "reverse culture."
    Wendy Ulrich

    1. Hey Wendy! Thanks so much for your words and for reading :-). I'm not quite done yet. Just came home for vacation to see my Fiancee graduate from college and get some much needed rest before i finish out my last 6 months. I'll be home for good in early November. I'm going to post in the next week or so about the reverse culture shock I'm already experiencing so stay tuned. Cheers!

  3. Garrison...Can you describe COS. Does PC still "award" you with $7,000 and give you priority when applying for government jobs?

    1. COS is amazingly almost as complicated as applying for and getting into Peace Corps. There's a bunch of paper work, medical exams, and reports we have to do before we can leave. Its not terribly difficult but certainly tedious. And yea we do still get the $7,000ish readjustment allowance and non competitive eligibility for government jobs for one year after we return. There's also a health insurance policy we can buy into for up to 18 months after service.

      This is a pretty good page on the PC site about RPCV stuff.