Monday, October 15, 2012

Close of Service (COS) Exit Interview question #2 - A story

2)      Peace Corps service is characterized by a lot of ups and downs. What was the most rewarding situation that you experienced to an extent that you felt good about your decision to come and serve here? A situation that made you think that the time that you are spending here is worthy. (You can share a the full story)
a.       I think the ups and downs are both rewarding experiences that one may not realize immediately. They are both ways to learn about yourself and your surroundings. My decision to come to Peace Corps wasn’t to make myself feel good it was to learn a different way of life and begin to understand the diversity in this world.

However, if I were to give one example of a situation that warmed my heart and put a smile on a lot of peoples’ faces was the day I taught my sister to write her name. The event was a small example of life’s challenges and not just in the fact of teaching her to write her name. The event had depth.

We had been playing with my camera and drawing pictures then, taking photos of them. She really likes her photo taken and so, I challenged her. I told her she had to write her name and where she was from before I took her photo again. She groaned but eventually agreed.

Teaching in Senegal is really just copying. Here I made my sister sound out each letter and syllable of her name. I gave her examples of other simple words with similar sounds. When she messed up I simply said, “I don’t think that letter makes that sound.” Not once with all her begging, crying, and moaning did my hand take the chalk from hers.

I don’t know how much time passed. It didn’t matter because we were there with one goal and everyone, including my now present father, silently pushed my sister on. Again, we sounded out the letters making it to her last name. She pronounced each syllable and wrote just a little quicker now until finally she got it….Fatoumata Kamara Togue.

Wow! I was thinking maybe she wouldn’t do it, maybe she would just give up but no. With enough encouragement and the write amount of reward she was willing to struggle. Why should I be shocked? She does it every day. She has a reward: Food, Life. She has a struggle: Daily chores, farming, washing. And so, she struggles sometimes enjoying it and sometimes not.

Then, finally something clicks…….Fatoumata Kamara Togue. Snap….I took her photo as she looked at the chalk board which her name was written. She smiled and took the camera to admire herself and her work. Then, I proposed she write her father’s name next. She reluctantly agreed again for a photo. This time her struggle was less. She remembered the sound of the letters and how to write her last name and the name of her village. Again, I took her photo.