Friday, July 2, 2010

I survived 2 sandstorms and a worm-infested river

and we will get to those a little bit later once you scroll down to the pictures.
just some random thoughts:
1. i swear, if another fly lands on me again, i will go crazy. and hence going crazy. i dont know which is worse for me, mosquitos or flies these days. it's quite the tolerance and patience test which i will sooner or later fail. little do i know that being in the desert, i have it pretty good compared to the luscious dirty south.
2. eating on the ground has it's advantages. anything that falls in the sand, you dont really have to clean up because well, it's in the sand. and it's just more comfortable to sprawl out on the floor (even though you dont really get to sprawl when theres 15 people around a bowl) but at least you dont get butt cramps from sitting on a hard wooden chair. the disadvantage, though, is that when it's real windy, you get sand in your food. and i guess it's fine, the crunchiness and all. sand has never given me any stomach issues, yet. oh the other hand...
3. the other day, i had eggs. bad eggs. and like i said in the past, they dont keep eggs in fridges and i never really understood how that's possible. what's wrong with our american eggs that they need to be refrigerated whereas in india and senegal and everywhere else, the eggs seem to keep forever? well, maybe they dont keep forever. at some point, they start to spoil and i guess there's a fine line for when that happens. i had some bad eggs which results in peeing through my butthole. diarrhea is one thing but it's a totally new experience to urinate out of a body part that normally doesnt urinate. anyway... it then becomes such a momentous occasion when your excrements turn solid. celebration anyway?
4. my first pseudo sandstorm (which later i found out was nothing compared to the actual sandstorm a few days later) was on a bush taxi ride back to my village. sitting on top of a pickup truck when wind and sand is blowing in your face is quite unpleasant. add that to the fact that you have to keep your eyes open because you need to duck away from branches and spines and thorny trees, makes sand in your eyes a sucky position. then compound this with it being night time in the "forest" with no lights except for the car headlights shining some 10 feet in front only. it was quite the wild wild west adventure. and people live here! we passed villages that i didnt even realize we were passing until i saw the faint glow of remnants of their late dinner fire, lightly flickering in the distance. how unbelievably hard it is to live a nomad life. i appreciate so much more. at this point, i appreciate everything more.
5. wolof is a terrible language to give directions in. when you ask where something is, people usually say it's over there. over where? and then they just point and say, over there again. there is no concept of giving directions, nor is this language sufficient to give directions in. theres just never been the need to say, "well turn right at the next building, walk 2 minutes and find the white door". streets have no names here to begin with, if there even is a street. the good thing though, is that everyone knows everyone, so getting lost will be quite difficult, i hope.
6. the universality of life is beautiful. kids in my village were playing tick tack toe with different colored pebbles and drawing in the sand. there were many other variations of simple board games easily playable by drawing the board in the sand that were quite similar to games we've played when we were kids. even language is sort of universal, similar idioms and whatnot. the other day, i learned a wolof tongue twisters: fokki bokki guddi fokki bokki becceg bokki mbokk bunt bunt ben begam. the translation goes something along the lines of 10 hyenas at night, 10 hyenas during the day, the hyenas share eyes, eyes, teeth, something. lol. humans are universal.
7. the teenage girls here play a game where they take a tennis ball and peg each other in the crotch until someone drops the ball, and then the the that threw it runs and the girl that dropped the ball has to peg the girl running away. if the girl gets to a post some distance away, she is safe. otherwise, she has to continue to peg with other people. there are other members of each team that distract or whatnot. i really dont understand the game. it falls into some form of tag team dodge ball but i just dont get it.
8. my family hired a herder to help since now it is the raining season, and their attention has turned towards the fields - growing peanuts, millet, beans... i plan on tagging along one day and herding with him.
10. brands of senegal are quite interesting / intriguing. they have saddam hussein attaya (tea), osama bin laden lighters, and obama rice and underwear. anyone interested in advertising? look at all the fun you'll have in senegal!

now some pictures...
i finally found where the village bread is being made! this is what a real oven looks like.

it's quite the process, and when i learned that there's really only flour, water, salt and sugar in the village bread, i thought "hmm... how simple"

here the balls are being rolled into the long bread.

french braid anyone? the kids take the left over scraps and add an elephant ton of sugar to the dough. older volunteers keep telling me to make friends with the baker so that i can sneak cinnamon and raisins into mine. anyone want to ship me cinnamon and raisins? haha, cant get those here...

and the final product. it's actually quite tasty. so much village love is put into it.
the world cup is terrible for senegal, at least for those that can afford electricity. people do nothing but watch futbol games all day. productivity has gone out the door. but i guess it's fun and quite alright. why did i not watch this in 2002 and 2006? totally was missing out. everyone's always curious which team foreigners support. of course i would have to say brasil... duh!
my brother killed a goat. we then ate it. technically, the meat here is all organic and the animals treated much better than in the states so i should be able to eat this more. but im just really turned off my meat here. it's... chewy and skinnier. which makes me think, "how processed is our meat?" chicken here is skinny. chicken from KFC is ridiculously meaty. it's quite sad to think about how the chickens got that way, getting fat and all. when you realize where your food comes from, watching it being killed and skinned and cut up, you just dont want it anymore...
a group of nomadic pulaars i met in the desert... their home is coming up.
just 2 small huts... with no one else around around a 2 kilometers radius. pulaar families live separately from other pulaar families so you just find these small families dotted across the desert.
even farther out. plastic is amazing. and yet it's just so terrible. i cant imagine living the solitude life. what would my world be like?
every time my garden fails, i remember that i am gardening in the middle of the desert. how bad-ass is that?! if nothing is growing, i just look around to my surrounding fields and see that nothing is growing really anywhere so it's ok that i dont succeed everytime. but when things do grow, i just feel so accomplished (haha). below is a moringa seedling/leafling.
my tree pepiniere that i have shielded away from the world. the mosquito net protects from birds and flying insects and frogs and whatnot. the wood ash and niim leaves that i sprinkled around and underneath the pepiniere protect from other burrowing insects and beedles.
i gave my brother some tomato and eggplant seeds. i wonder what those things poking out are...
so below is a watermelon seedling/leafling. i hope with all my heart that it will survive. things keep eating my watermelon and moringa. my mint all died or got eaten, and the lettuce and hot peppers just wont sprout (after 1 week). this may be a project that i will work on - large scale organic pesticides that are cheap or free and readily available. all the farmers in my village complain of insects and birds and other roaming animals destroying their crops and decreasing their yield. i want to fix this. i have some methods that i will try next month... LIVE MY WATERMELON! til then...
i think this is baobab tree. or papaya... surprise!
another shot of my moringa...
and lastly... some unknown plant that i will discover months from now... a flowering one? maybe this one is papaya? we shall find out...
my brother was playing with my camera so he took a picture of my even younger siblings. cute...
now this is the exciting part! so the other day, i got out of my afternoon shower and the sky was getting mighty dark and orange. i thought, yay rain is finally here! so i quickly changed and got out my camera to take pictures of the dark and mysterious sky. it looked like a tornado in the distance so i attempted to capture it on camera (it doesnt come out very well but you can vaguely see maybe if you look carefully or i pointed it out to you)... and then...
my dad runs out of the family compound and yells along the lines of "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?! LOCK YOUR DOOR AND GET INSIDE NOW!" i still had no idea what was coming, but the urgency in his voice made me follow his instructions. as i finished locking up the door, i realized why. the sky got intensely more orange and the wind picked up tremendously (but not enough, just yet). i realized that maybe this is going to be a sandstorm, as i would imagine since i was in the middle of a desert. i began to run to the family compound and just as i entered it, the worst came. it was terrifying hearing the wind howl and sand blowing through every crevice and hole of the room. it grew pitch black. at one point, being the unafraid american foreigner that i was, i decided to open the door and take a quick picture. it was pretty darn dark and my camera was immediately whipped by sand. (i finally knew why none of my electronics would last the 2 years). i forgot to close my window in my own room so lesson learned... later i found a massive layer of dust and sand over everything... EVERYTHING. but anyway...
as the sandstorm died down only a slight bit, i went out and snapped away like any tourist would. the eerie orange that set upon the village is quite what i would imagine mars to look like.
the wind was strong enough to tear down small fences, as you can see in this picture. usually you can see very far if you were standing there facing that angle, but this is as far as you can see in the lesser sand storm.
what followed was a massive rainstorm. there was lightning almost every second that it looked like bombs going off in the distance and surrounding. or at least how hollywood depicts bombs and war scenes. surprisingly there was no thunder. because of my curiosity throughout the ordeal, my family thinks i'm fearless... except for horse scorpions... ::shudders:: the next day, i went around and surveyed the village - the sandstorm wreaked havoc. let the rebuilding (or upgrading) begin...
my garden fence also could not withstand the horrible wind. sad.
a human's view on the bush taxi. it wobbles so you're on an amusement park ride.
usually there are 500 sheep and goats below our feet. i was lucky this day not to have to step on livestock.
decorating your public transportation vehicle in senegal with american christmas tree wrapping and chinese new year lanterns. how... odd.
and then we went to the south for july 4th. WHAT a contrast going from desert to forest. so much green everywhere! this was the river we swam in and let the current drag us from tree branch to tree branch. i most likely caught schisto (schistosomiasis) so i will keep you posted on whether or not i start peeing blood. but aside from that, there were definitely little worms in the water that i, unfortunately, noticed and started picking off my body. i wonder what they were... definitely swallowed a couple of mouth fulls of river water but as of yet, no major intestinal issues.
the "route" to get to and from the river. there was no route. we freehanded the hike. it was beautiful.
i grew slightly jealous that this might have been my sight. comparably, this is much more beautiful. but then i remember that i am more hardcore. and also, there arent as many mosquitos in the desert. i probably got 1000 mosquito bites in the course of 3 days...
what i believe kenya looks like. but still the dirty south...
freehand hiking through the forest
celebrating the fourth of july with a ton of volunteers throughout senegal.
in retrospect, it was quite the hippie meets white trash party. (LOVE IT!) welcome to america, senegal!
and to end with i heart africa... cola. haha
oh and some videos!
my brother rapping. i will translate it for yall someday...

and another of just a video of my brothers dancing... sort of.

in a few days time, i will be exploring dakar since i have to go there for a regional meeting anyway. afterwards is a short 2 week training session in Thies to give our initial observation reports and to learn more in-depth gardening and health skills and training. we will develop our 2 year project plan and begin what we came here for. hurray!

1 comment:

  1. Amazing...just amazing. The sandstorm sounds like a pretty ridiculous experience too. I hope Dakar is awesome!