Friday, August 19, 2011

the sword in the stone

during the lovely month of fasting, we decided to make better use of time devoted to general inactivity by traveling to all of our villages and giving a talk about malaria. there are 13 volunteers in the region. so we visited 13 villages in 4 days. the villagers spanned a total distance 140 kilometers or almost 90 miles.

each talk included skits and performances debunking the myths of malaria contraction. people believe you can contract malaria by eating unripe mangoes, or walking in the sun, or drinking too much milk/yogurt, or dancing excessively, or even that spirits give you malaria. we explained in numerous ways the only way you can contract malaria (mosquitoes), via skits, puppets, songs, and slogans. we talked about the symptoms of malaria and how there are free malaria rapid tests and free drugs for malaria at every health post. but most importantly, we talked about prevention.

(my village turnout was, eh ok. they just love to be fashionably late. seriously, it's a terrible habit of theirs. but that's yang yang for ya...)

we talked about proper use and care of mosquito nets. we talked about mosquito population control via destruction of their breeding grounds and habitats. we also introduced how to make inexpensive insect repellent - neem lotion - using local ingredients. purchased ingredients cost no more than 60 cents for a batch of insect repellent that can last for a month. pretty good indeed.

for the 4 days, we had a total turn out of around 1400 people. not bad. now hopefully, people will actually make the insect repellent themselves. combined with mosquito nets that they already own, it's really possible to eradicate malaria from the area. once mosquitoes with the parasite are completely prevented from biting people, they will eventually die off and leave a remainder of mosquitoes that are malaria free. it's doable. but it'll be tough.

just some pictures to sum up our work days...

interesting discovery: if you wrap yourself up in a mosquito net, people think you're a mosquito. intriguing...

in the end though, we really have to thank peace corps for their local support. our 4 day event could not have been done successfully without a car for transportation and a local counterpart to reiterate and enhance our talks. no matter how great our language is, it still sucks. our sentence structures are choppy, we dont use idioms or metaphors correctly. basically, we're speaking as if we were 4 years old. so having a local peace corps worker with us really made our points clear and further drilled in the facts. it was also helpful that he was multi-lingual. our villages are largely comprised of two different ethnic groups so his ability to speak both wolof and pulaar was a great asset. no one was left out of our talks and everyone understood everything in the end. hurray!

but peace corps aside, this ramadan has been less active than the last. last year, i at least could have gone to work in the fields but this year, the rains have been late. nothings growing, everythings dying. it's been bad... but not for long! the rains have finally come. theyre about a month or two late but it's here at last!

storm clouds are really pretty... never noticed them in america.
details details details.
i think if nothing else, peace corps has taught me to observe the now, observe the details. in america, we're constantly thinking about the future, about 5, 10, 15 years from now. when am i getting married? how many kids will i have? where will i be, professionally in a few years? will i own a house? what colleges should my kids go to? we're looking at life as a big picture. but now im learning to slow down and look at the details. back then, a mound of sand was always just a mound of sand. there can be patterns and footprints in them but it didnt mean much to me. but now as i watch mothers track where their children have gone by simply looking at their footprints, distinguishing a particular track out of the many overlapping layers, it's extremely impressive.
life, in many ways, is more beautiful now. (sorry, that sounds super sappy. blahh)

with rain comes water activities. such as a makeshift slip and slide. dangerous, actually. but lots of fun.

rain is great. it turns things green. the weather is cooler. but there are also many downsides. there is a massive proliferation of mosquitoes and flies and bugs in general. not fun. and with this proliferation in bugs, there is a proliferation of toads - noisy and destructive. they burrow right in your garden, the holes destroying roots and killing my vegetables. death... the humidity that follows is also not that pleasant. living on a farm surrounded by the animal droppings of cattle, horse, donkeys, sheep, goats, and chicken, the humidity brings out this... earthly fresh stench. it's very... organic but not a smell i appreciate. the droppings also become softer, aka messier to deal with.
other not so great rain issues:
because it's raining, the well pump people have decided to turn off the well pump most days, which means it's a race to see who has the largest water storage system in their family compound. once water is depleted, people have to travel around 3 miles for another water source. but with the rains, we've been just using rain water. which has it's negatives. the rain collects on the tin roofs. the water tastes kinda... rusty, metallic. i always wonder if this is bad for your health... we also store the water in plastic containers that, thanks to the sun, have made the insides coated with algae. the water that i shower with has algae particles in it and is generally green in color. does that make showering purposeful? i guess im still removing dirt... eh
but more of a conundrum is my room. it leaks... everywhere. i am constantly reminded of that cartoon the sword in the stone, when arthur, merlin, and archimedes are in the tower and there's a huge rain storm and everything is leaking and getting soaked and they use tea kettles and umbrellas and buckets to catch the water. i've been finding random containers to catch the water in too. otherwise, things will get moldy again like last year. dont want that...

islam is an impressive religion. it's all about submission and obedience. people pray 5 times a day, as early as 530am in the morning. you're not allowed to drink booze or eat pork. there are rules upon rules. the really religious dont even listen to music. and people are convinced to fast for a full month. if you can convince a group of people not to eat, drink, smoke, engage in sexual activities, or have any fun within daylight hours for a full month, that's intense.
but the fasting does make you appreciate every drop of water, every grain of rice. the hunger sucks but is manageable. the thirst is really what gets you.

anyway, just hanging out in village with kids and attending baptisms and stuff. still waiting for peace corps to approve of my garden project. cant wait for the trip to dakar right after this month of fasting. gonna eat til i burst!

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