Friday, February 11, 2011

i climb trees in my spare time; what do you do?

i live on a farm. there are goats and sheep and chicken and horses and donkeys and cats and dogs and cows (and the occasional camels that pass through, but no pigs because we're muslim) everywhere. you know that customs form that you have to fill out every time you re-enter the states, the one where you normally check no for a list of boxes that ask random questions like are you smuggling shit (literally) into the country or have you been doing naughty things abroad? well, back in december when i went home, i paused for a second on the question that asked if ive been anywhere near a farm. i wasnt sure how familiar customs agents are with the lives of peace corps volunteers (my passport has a huge sign on the cover (and in back) saying "hey, im in fucking peace corps bitch!") so i guess i finally had to check yes for something. wasnt too much of a hassle. i did the right thing by not bringing the footwear that i wore on the farm back into the states. i mean, i only step in poop all the time!

goats have pretty much destroyed everything in my garden. it looks like world war three - a battle between plants struggling for life, already in an inhospitable environment such as this desert, versus demon goats that eat everything. and i mean everything. the teeth marks along even my small moringa trees (yes, they are no longer little shrubs anymore but small trees now) are disheartening. it seems that some of the moringa trees, the "neverdies", are dead. again.

(a picture of remains of a struggling eggplant plant (?) after being bombarded by goats. i think it'll make it. who knew that by surrounding things with pieces of someone's collapsed cement house, it could look so artistic!)

dad once said that there are 3 things destroying senegal: goats, donkeys, and children.

the other day, dad built me a new fence to keep the goats out of my garden. i helped out minimally because dad thinks i'm incompetent in just about everything. which, to some extent, is true. at least when it comes to manual labor and farm work. my holes are never dug correctly, or deep enough, or fast enough, or at the right angle. i cant even rake the sand correctly. africa is teaching me how to become a real man.

a military cargo plane was flying very low over my village and some of the little kids were screaming in horror, running away and crying, afraid of this massive creature in the sky. how cute. a mother laughs and says it's only an airplane. are airplanes so foreign an object as to elicit a response of bewilderment and terror? amazing. where do i live again?

sometimes i fail to understand this country at all. when i got back from my regional meeting the other day, i saw that my aunt had a staph infection on her arm the size of a baseball. it was oozying and pus-ing. i asked her why she didnt go to the health center and she said it's because no one was there. apparently, the doctor has gone away for a couple of days. my counterpart. he does this a lot. when he's out, people arent treated. the other day, i asked my 12 year old brother what he learned in school and he showed me his school notes. chicken scratch looks more legible. i asked him to read me his lesson and he just stared at me and said he couldn't read it. in a school system that teaches based on rote memorization, straight copying and repeating, no wonder kids here dont learn or absorb anything. whats the point of education then? and some days the teachers go on strike. unlike america, there are no substitute teachers. a teacher strike means no school. and then when the teachers end their strike, the students go on strike protesting the strike of the teachers. aka, no school. how outrageous is that?

ive been reading books like mountains beyond mountains and three cups of tea. people like Greg Mortenson and Paul Farmer make me feel ashamed and inadequate as a human being. how am i contributing to this world? are my two years here in senegal just a complete waste of time? i built mud stoves, taught some people how to make mosquito repellent, and supplemented my family's diet with an occasional extra vegetable. that's it? feeling useless and unaccomplished is an understatement. i guess on a positive note, my grant money has finally come through and i hope to be starting the maternal health causeries soon, inshallah.

in the mean time, i play with kids. we climb trees, we play soccer barefoot in a field of thorns, we draw pictures in the sand, we race, we wrestle senegal style (i wouldnt call it wrestling. it's more like me lifting kids in the air since they cant knock me over). i get petted because i have a lot of body hair (comparatively. im only asian. imagine the amount of petting caucasian males get). the kids are greatly and funny.

this is a homemade toy gun or slingshot. pretty ingenious if you ask me. and it's completely environmentally friendly - recycled, made from a random piece of wood on the group, some used rubber, used nails, and random things are pellets.

(the little one, if you havent noticed, is quite the character.)

riddle: how many senegalese children can a medium sized niim tree hold?
answer: at least 10. we couldve packed it like a sept-place but then, i would feel sad for the tree.)

took another bike trip the other day (my knee is so f'ed up). 25 miles from any paved road, one can find beautiful mosques such as this one. i wonder where the money came from to build such a massive (use the trees as comparison of size) structure in the middle of nowhere and why waste it on a mosque when roads are shitty, children dont have enough to eat, health care is practically non-existent, and the school system is abysmal.

BUT... at least the camels have returned to the region!

my first mud stove is almost ready. it takes forever to dry. i was impatient so i tried to flip it and ended up cracking the rim. luckily, the expert, michael, says the bottom 12-15 cms are what really matters so i can just chip the top away to make it look more aesthetically pleasing. i hope it works? im getting bad feelings...

oh and miraculously, i was able to shrink these videos and the internet was kind enough to let me upload them over night so here they are!

happy valentines day everyone. (irony in africa?)

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