Saturday, April 30, 2011

camels, and scorpions, and people oh my!

sorry i havent blogged in over a month. it's been a busy 5 weeks. and i think it's time to take a little break right about now...

a few side thoughts before i run through my eventful month:
1. the justin beiber phenomenom. there are 4 foreign artists that are HUGE here. akon, for obvious reasons. rihanna, for obvious reasons. celine dion, because her last name is senegalese if you pronounce it the way they pronounce it here. and justin beiber. they love justin beiber here. i am completely dumbfounded as to why. there have been cases where the kids have mistaken his voice for that of a girls but still, no explanation. it's the justin beiber phenomenon. they're simply in love with him.
2. when i have kids, i am sending them to senegal. they will be the toughest kids ever. babies here are constantly in training. heat, for example. it's already 130 degrees out but instead of letting their babies hang loose in their birthday suits, mothers still wrap their babies up in tons of blankets. no wonder hot aint too hot and warm is actually pretty freezing. babies get training in sleeping through everything as well. mothers bring their babies along to nighttime soirees and other events instead of the usual 'hiring a babysitter when the grownups want to go out'. even with the loud blaring music, the babies sleep peacefully. impressive. what's also impressive is their pain tolerance training. as children, they run around on the 150 degree sand barefoot. and this isnt just sand like on the beach. there are thorns and pricks and spiny spiky things everywhere. talk about developing thick skin or serious pain tolerance.
3. water shortages are painful. my friend lived 2 weeks in her village once without water. she had to ration what existing water she had for drinking. showers were forfeited. gardens died. i dont know how she did it. yang yang had 2 well pump breaks recently, due to the hot weather damaging something. it was not fun. when you sweat all day everyday for 2, 3 days and cannot shower after, it is no good at all.
4. our thought process is changing. when i see trees, i immediately look for seeds to collect. when i see water being thrown around on tv, i think of how wasteful it is and how precious it is. when i use money, i try to hoard change because theyre so hard to come by.
5. my malnourishment has taken on the form of really thin skin. my skin breaks from simple scratches. i really do think i have a worm. i may find out next week when i do my midservice medical and dental exam. we shall see...

hot season is here. we left a thermometer out in the sun a while back. this was around noon, not even the hottest which is 2-3pm. it read 53 degrees celsius. aka 130 degrees for you folks. of course i dont usually just stand out in the sun for no good reason so under a shade tree, it isnt too terrible.

the entire region went to barkedji, annmarie's village, to help out at her HIV/AIDS awareness day event. we started with a sort of battle of the sexes where the kids had activities that demonstrated that girls were just as capable as boys. then there were dicussions and we showed short movies about different aspects on protecting yourself from HIV. it was a pretty cool event and i think the kids got the message. just some pictures of her siblings...

after that, we celebrated annmarie's birthday, in style, with a camel! it was a huge fiasco (will tell this story at dinners when i return) but i rode my first camel and annmarie had a blast turning 25.

we may or may not have had an argument with a couple of mauritanians living/working in senegal. the news of the white people riding camels also may or may not have traveled throughout the region. it quite possibly might turn into an urban legend.

just an awesome blur shot... the balloon makes the day.

then i returned to yang yang where the kids were throwing a culture fair - a 2 day event that included village cleanup, amateur wrestling matches, dancing, a comedy show, a theater piece, trivia, and a soiree. intense right?

the village cleanup was what really got me. on their own accord, they started sweeping the community. keep in mind, sweeping sand is not an easy task, and with the amount of farm animals around, it could ultimately be a futile attempt but still, they made an awesome effort.

all the children helped out. even the really young ones, which was super adorable.

my brother - the one in charge of organizing the event. kinda cool huh?

then at night, there were amateur wrestling matches. village kids were paired up based on size (there were 7 matches in all) and they all had to do the traditional dancing and speeches involved pre-match. the older kids were super exciting to watch. it was almost like a professional wrestling match. the wrestling started around midnight and with the amount of dust and sand in the air, i couldnt really get good shots.

my brother was in one of the matches . he lost but he put up a good fight.

the theater piece, comedy show, trivia, and dancing drew out the entire village as well as kids from surrounding villages. it couldve also been the prepared lunch too. but im super proud of the older kids being able to put together this culture fair. things arent easily accomplished here and they were able to do something on a large scale. maybe it's just because im not senegalese... lol

i killed my first scorpion(s)! the first one was huge! like 4 inches! it ran by my foot - couldve stung me. didnt. alhumdulilah.

the second one was tiny so im not sure if it wouldve even done me any harm. it was crawling around something i was carrying so it couldve easily slipped under my shirt or somewhere. see if you can see it on the rice sack.

the tomato plants have finally given their last fruits and now are on their way out. in their stead, i have bitter tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and lettuce (!!!) coming up. how wonderful it is to have vegetables in your life...

my 2nd improved mud stove is looking pretty good. the family has started using it again. it has a couple of cracks here and there which im not too pleased about though. i think it's the clay that im using. i also learned that the improved mud stove has been improved even further. there's a lighter version that works just as effectively. it's smaller so easier to carry/move around, and it uses less material. ooh the wonders of technology and improvement.

i had 2 more causeries both in pulaar villages. they turned out pretty well. good content, pretty good turnout. it just really sucks that i cant understand a lot of what is being said. my counterpart does translate for me sometimes, but it would be awesome to be able to hear the discussion firsthand, unabbreviated.

im starting to see small minor changes in my counterpart and i think this is a good thing. in the beginning, he was extremely lazy and super reluctant to do this project because he felt that he wasnt making any money at all but i think he's starting to realize how important his work is and what an impact he's making. the discussions are getting longer and his content coverage is pretty thorough. it's easier to get him to get on a charrette and go out to these villages now and this i am glad about.

my 2nd pulaar causerie had a guest audience - my new neighbors!

Fae (right) will be living in Mbeuleukhe, 10k (6 miles) away. Jenn (left) will be living in Mboula, 20k (12 miles) away. a year ago, my nearest white person was 34 miles away. 6 months ago, the nearest was 22 miles away. this is way better!
the newbies came to visit the region so i took them bike riding in the desert, camel riding, and other adventures galore. at one point, there was a hand down a poop hole. and by a hand, i mean my hand retrieving a dropped phone. im at a new level of what i find absolutely disgusting and what i find occasionally tolerable.
my neighbors will be moving up here in 2 and a half weeks so, yeah, im excited!

dad and friend (henry) also came to visit me in senegal! yang yang has had a busy april...
i think we spent about $250 per person for 7 days ($35 a day - not bad). this included all eating, sleeping, traveling, and touristy expenses. not too shabby ehh? granted, it was a lot of public transportation but that's part of the fun of being in this country.

i took them to the sand dunes where at night, we camped out, basking in the glow of the starry night sky at night. it's one of the most peaceful places ive ever been. a vast expanse of sand, Adele on your ipod, a couple of good american magazines. this is the life...

took them on their first camel rides too...!

and of course, i got to sandboard - which was awesome!! (video -

the beautiful, majestic desert

we also spent easter with my language teacher, regina's family and friends, as well as reuniting with our old language group, myself, annmarie, and jillian. the booze was flowing, the food was plenty, dancing, music, laughter, fun.

and now i am in thies, tired after helping out at the new kids' counterpart workshop. intently listening and speaking wolof for 3 days straight is quite tasking. the day after tomorrow, i will be in dakar doing my mid-service medical and dental exams. then it's rushing back up for the gammu (religious awakening?) of my village. i also need to continue with the Michele Sylvester Scholarship as well as start the 2nd rounds of my causerie series. and the new kids are coming so we have to help them settle in! busy busy busy... they did say the 2nd year is when things really do pick up and time flies even faster...

well, until next time (around the 14th of may perhaps?)

i hear america isnt in good shape these days... what with the loss of federal funding for planned parenthood and abortion clinics, the millions of tornadoes, the rise of china's rmb and the fall of the dollar, sarah palin, and the burning of korans... not good at all


  1. SANDBOARDING!! the kid - the boy in the first picture of three-- the boy on the left is so cute, he's going to be a heartbreaker when he grows up.

  2. ah, it's too bad that I only learned that Mr. Tien and Henry were visiting you in mid April or I'd have tagged along. haha! (I was in NYC from March 29 to April 18.)