The adventure started early in the morning on Tuesday, September 21, 1999, with a very teary good-bye at the airport. Shannon boarded the plane for staging in Philadelphia where she met the rest of the group that would be training together to serve in Senegal. She also started several series of shots, and if you know her aversion to needles and shots, you'll appreciate that even this was a big deal. She had three shots in PA, and there will be eleven more in Senegal.
When Shannon called from the JFK airport, just minutes before boarding the plane for Dakar, she reported that there are 35 PC volunteers in her group, 4 men and 31 women, all in the areas of health care (Shannon's area) and business; none in agriculture or education. Most are just recently out of college, but there were two in their 40s, one 50ish, and one in her 60s. She likes them a lot.
The city where she will be staying for the three months of training, Theis (pronounced "TAY-ahss"), is just 30 miles or so from Dakar, the capital. There are phones in Theis, but not at the training center, so it will be possible but inconvenient for her to call. She'll get her village assignment fairly soon into the 3 month training period, and then she'll get her village language too. The national language is French, so she has to learn both French and the language of her village. Her role is "rural health volunteer," so she'll primarily be using the village language. I'm rooting for Wolof, not Pular; Wolof (or Ouloff) is easier and spoken by about 80% of the people in Senegal.
Training will be 13 hours a day, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a 2 hour
siesta in the middle. The first week will be in English, and from then on it will be in
French. She'll be staying at the training center for two nights before she moves in with
her host family for the remainder of the training period. The family will be
non-English speaking, so language immersion will begin soon. About half of the
volunteers know French and some are fluent, but some have had no French at all.
She's feeling more comfortable about her rudimentary level of French because they were
told that Peace Corps has been doing language training for a very long time and they are
very good at it. They won't send the volunteers out without a decent grasp on the language.