Ready to Go

The other day we played Spades, a card game, instead of holding our French class. Our professor was sick and all of us were exhausted from the heat so cards seemed like a nice alternative to the intricacies of French verbs. I went “nil” which in Spades, means that I couldn’t get any points—quite a risky venture. I just barely pulled it off, my hands shaking towards the end. Then I realized that I hadn’t felt that exhilarated in at least a week. That’s when I knew that I’m ready for Pre-Service Training to end.

While for the most part I’ve greatly enjoyed the classes, activities and company of my fellow volunteers, the summer camp-like atmosphere is starting to get boring. Whereas being dropped off alone in an entirely new village used to seem daunting, its starting to sound like the ultimate test of independence.

In college I defined myself by my activities, I was the “environment girl,” a “chronic overachiever” who was always in the college newsletter for one fancy internship or another. High school I was considerably less active and tended to define myself by my friends. In middle school I was always being defined by my peers as being from a certain neighborhood and dressing in a certain way. Before then I’m not really sure I had much self-awareness.

Now I’m Laila, a strangely pale anasara or “foreigner”  living in a Nigerien village, pretending to be Nigerien but, of course, could never actually fit in completely. When everything familiar—language, clothes, friends, family, culture—is gone I’m left with me.

I’m not really sure who Laila is yet. With an incredibly flexible work schedule and job description, how is Laila going to fill her day? It’s going to be an interesting two years figuring that out…Sunday card games under a shady tree