Tuesday, December 27, 2011

almost done...

another month of busy busy. but first some celebrations! host dad went to mecca and came back. that's kinda cool. he now gets to put el hadj in front of his name. and he brought back holy water and gifts for everyone. he looks saudi arabian. or what i imagine saudi arabians to look like. 

the missionaries (who are awesome) invited us over for thanksgiving dinner. it was super awesome. but the interesting part was the turkey. we had to first buy a turkey. a living turkey. that we had to kill ourselves. and pluck ourselves. and clean and prep ourselves. yeah, fiasco is the perfect word to describe what happened. the turkey murdering that is. dont have any pictures (i think my friend does though, gotta find it) but just imagine blood squirting everywhere and everyone screaming.

anyway, it really felt like america. turkey, and mashed potatoes, and baked chicken, and creamed spinach, and creamed corn and a lot of other delicious goodies...

and homemade pumpkin pie with homemade whip cream! who knew you could cook all these things in africa...

started up the health talks project again. this time we're talking about hiv testing and convincing people to get tested. i had videos to show them and we gave good arguments and hopefully, the women and men are convinced and we can get testing started early next year. we'll see... they thought the laptop was cool though.

this lady is a gem. shes one of the women im working with. shes the one that gives the health talks in her own village. and she gave me a chicken!!

here is my chicken. notice that it's sitting on water containers. notice the little birds in the background all staring intently at the chicken sitting on the water containers. theyre all thirsty but my chicken is not being nice. my chicken is a tough little guy. maybe we'll eat it before i leave this country... (oh god, eating my own pet chicken...)

the women at the garden are literally awesome. the day after the fence went up, they already started working the soil and seeding things.

and then after just one week, things started sprouting.
the fruits of my labor!! (well theirs... but still!!)

so the following week, i invited a fellow agriculture peace corps volunteer (abby) to come do a quick training on double digging beds and amending them with manure, ash, and neem leaves.

she also taught them mulching to save water and protect the beds, as well as how to make homemade inexpensive pesticides. i hope the women put all these new techniques and technologies to use.

the little girls decided to braid my hair. never let a million different girls braid at once. they all come out different sizes and different in general. it looked... lovely.

most adorable child ever...

so after the health talks and gardening stuff, we took a little break to celebrate good ol' american christmas. on the beach of course! beautiful...

the weather was perfect. not too hot, it was pretty much paradise. yeah, life is good...

oh and next year, we want to do a marathon (and invite oprah and/or ellen out) to raise money for girl's education. my friends made this awesome cute video... check it out!


so yeah, merry christmas and happy hanukkah everyone! i'll see you all in 2012.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

finally feeling somewhat accomplished...

the month of november was not only busy because of holidays or surgeries and translating. my garden project was also in full swing and i was aiming to finish everything within the month. this particular village was  extremely awesome in that they were completely motivated and hardworking and on board with all aspects of the project. everything ran smoothly and rather seamlessly. which never happens in senegal. so i got really lucky. 

this village really isnt my village. it's about 3k (1-2 miles) away from mine though, so really close. they heard of other peace corps volunteers bringing gardens and one day last may, when they saw me biking by their village, they stopped me and said "hey, come look at our garden space". it was really a dilapidated garden space. the fence was pretty much non-existent because there were goats and sheep getting inside. it needed work. 

so i wrote a grant sometime last june. and after months of peace corps bureaucracy, the grant finally came through in october. and we began work in november. before tabaski actually.  

first we had to acquire all the materials from our road town. this included bags of cement, the chain link fence, fence posts, wiring, hoses, watering cans, etc.

the fence posts had to be cut. holes needed to be made for the wiring. and the corner posts needed 90 degree reinforcement melding.

we then needed to transport all this material 20 miles. cement and metal. things are heavy.

first, we began with construction of a water basin. it's a relatively large garden space, some 45 meters squared for 20 women. one water faucet is not sufficient to water this garden so we needed a water container where multiple women can access ready water simultaneously. a 4 meters cubed water basin is sufficient.

the cement brick making process for the water basin...

then i went away for 2 days for a regional meeting. when i came back, it was pretty much done. GOOD JOB GUYS!!

then i had to go away again for the cleft lip surgeries. but when i came back, they already put the fence posts in the ground.

with cement too!!!

functioning water basin = check!

finally, 2 days ago, we assembled the chain link fence. many of the village came out to help.

other women were cleaning their future garden space and getting rid of the weeds.

more photos of the fence construction. 180 meters of fencing is a lot of fencing to put up.

the corners looked so good!

and the very last of the fence. all that remains is a door and then the garden will be fully functional. thinking about purchasing some seeds for them...

i didnt have to do anything. they did everything. and that's what makes these kinds of projects pseudo sustainable. yes i did bring 75% of the financing but they also had to contribute monetarily as well as labor-wise. i just sat around and watched, directed, supervised. the men wanted to show me their hands when they were done. blistery. cracked. working-man hands. 

they did a good job.