Craig's Travels
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2013 Holiday Letter

Another eventful year is coming to a close, and while we may not be as coordinated as this family with our end of year communications, I thought I’d continue the tradition of the simple holiday letter.  Once again, we find ourselves blessed with good health, wonderful friends and a supportive family. Our only complaint is that we don’t get to see enough of you. Get yer tails to Senegal!

Ronit started 2013 finishing her French lessons at FSI in Arlington, VA.  While definitely a frustrating language, she was able to master it well enough to pass her test so we could come to Senegal.  Arriving in March, Ronit set to work as the Agriculture Officer, working on projects that fall under President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative.  Ronit also joined the board of trustees for the embassy’s employee association as the commissary representative, meaning she is in charge of stocking and managing the embassy’s store, a full time job in and of itself.  In addition to development work in the office, Ronit has also taken on a few projects with her former Peace Corps village, which she has visited three times since arriving in Senegal.  Her village family was thrilled to have her back and even more charmed to meet her children.  Ronit continues to exercise four to five times a week, and has her eye on some upcoming triathlons.

Craig also started 2013 continuing his French lessons, but with much less pressure than Ronit, not needing to attain any specific grade, but rather just learning so he wouldn’t be completely lost upon arrival in Senegal.  Having achieved that, he promptly forgot all his French and went about searching for a job within the embassy. After three months and some fortunate volunteer opportunities, Craig was able to get a temporary job with the Public Affairs section helping to support President Obama’s visit to Senegal in June.  His role as “official embassy photographer” gave him unique access to some behind the scenes moments, including a shot with President Obama sitting on the floor with some of the embassy kids.  Immediately following the President’s visit, Craig started his new full time job as the Residential Security Coordinator for the embassy. While not necessarily a job in his chosen career, the position offers a new perspective and gives him some unique experiences.  Craig has been keeping busy on the weekends playing on one of the embassy’s softball teams in the “social league.” And seeing as there was no active Ultimate Frisbee happening in Dakar, Craig took up the charge once again of starting up a weekly pickup game. 

After saying goodbye to some new friends in Virginia, Shai embarked upon our journey to Africa with great enthusiasm.  He spent his first few months at Ecole en Couleurs, a local preschool and in September started at Lycee Jean Mermoz, the premiere French language school in Dakar. He is in a bilingual class (half the week in English, half the week in French), and is learning mostly with native French speakers. His language skills are coming along, and before long we hope he will be the family translator.  He has to earn his keep somehow.   He plays soccer as an after school activity and has made some great friends in our neighborhood, including a French boy who is in his class.

Micah is as playful and goofy as always.  He loves imitating his brother’s every move, but definitely has a strong personality of his own.  Starting in September, he enrolled in Ecole en Couleurs, where his teacher assures us that he sings very well in French, though at home we can only get him to sing in English.  He loves reading stories, watching shows and (when we let him) playing on the iPad, but in the village, we cannot keep him out of the dirt!

This year the Gerard clan also added a new member, our Senegalese dog Rocket, whom we adopted from the Dakar Animal Rescue League.  He is a ball full of puppy energy and certainly keeps us on our toes around the house, but he is a very good dog and learning more every day.

We are very much looking forward to visits from the grandparents coming up in the beginning of 2014, but would love to get some more visitors scheduled on the calendar.  There is plenty of space and we can almost guarantee you won’t get malaria if you visit.

Wishing you a very happy, healthy and joyous holiday season and New Year.
Peace Only,
The Gerards

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