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.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

dear medical schools, accept me please

forwarning: the images of surgery in this blog post are not that graphic so i think you'll be ok. but you are warned nonetheless..

the other day, i had such a wonderful/unique/extraordinary opportunity to work with a group of american plastic surgeons who came to senegal as part of the Global Smile Foundation and Smile Train. they fixed 30 cleft lips in just 4 short days, all pro bono. it was such a pleasure to be able to take part in their work and really in the end, i have to thank them for this unforgettable experience. 

cleft lips are a problem especially for babies because the gap making breast feeding very difficult. it's even more difficult if the child has a cleft palate as well. but even for cosmetic reasons, children with cleft lips get ostracized and made fun and stared at and get rocks thrown at them. this culture particularly does not like different things, weird things, non-"normal" things. so fixing cleft lips and palates is quite life changing.

we were invited because the doctors needed translators. the patients dont speak english. the doctors dont speak wolof or french or pulaar. so we were their intermediary. it was awesome. 

the female surgeon on the right is 1 of 4 plastic surgeons in all of west africa. and we're talking muslim backwards-for-women countries. a female plastic surgeon... if only i could bring her to my village to have a talk with all the young girls. marriage isnt the end all be all. you can get out of this village. there is a better life in senegal.

this is abdu. he is one of the greatest most optimistic, cheerful, wonderful kids i know. he has what is known as a bilateral cleft lip. that means two slits instead of one.

i dont have a better shot but this is abdu post surgery. you can see that his lip looks much much MUCH more normal now. watching the surgeries were miraculous.

one of the best parts was that we got to scrub in and actually watch the surgery! not only that but i got to help prep the operating rooms as well as help with simple, menial tasks like cutting sutures. but how cool is that?! i actually got to assist during the surgery! life couldnt be any better

some more surgery pictures...

she looks so good...

the group photo at the end with all 30 patients...

and the doctors that changed lives...

so dear medical schools, this is what i really want to do. i dont know how else to put it except that im ready. really...

Friday, November 18, 2011

sheep mass murder day!

i sincerely apologize for not posting more. really limited internet access these days. but it's ok because you guys probably dont even notice anyway. but november has been a pretty busy month. i think i'll be writing 2-4 blog posts at once so i'll let pictures do most of the talking.

forewarning: there are some gruesome images in this blog post. killed sheep. sheep guts. body parts. scroll ahead if you dare.


what a lovely holiday. i think i wrote about it last year but here's just another reminder. (plus, my camera was broken this time last year so finally some pictures!) muslims celebrate tabaski in commemoration of god asking abraham to sacrifice his son and right before abraham fully commits, god substitutes a sheep for his son. abraham has done his part showing his devotion and obedience. so now once a year, millions of sheep around the world synchronize their massive death. and really, i mean millions. google it.

the family has been feeding this guy and keeping it pseudo immobile for the past 9 months now. 

children (and adults) walk around throughout the day greeting each other. asking each other for forgiveness. and asking god to keep the world going so that they can celebrate tabaski again next year. and the year after. and on and on. 

last minute, my sister decides 1 sheep is not enough so she brings out another. we're killing 2. which i really think is excessive. there are only 14 people in my compound. 2 full sheep?! death...

my sister is frying up some potatoes to get ready for breakfast... at 12pm

everyone dresses up for tabaski in their new clothes. they look good. and since everything is so new, the material is super stiff so it sounds like a garbage bag when you walk. 

the kill...

you then dip your finger in the fresh blood and give yourself (sorry for not being pc) something that looks to me like a hindu dot. it's supposed to bring good luck.

and now the sheep are being prepared to become eatable meat. it's quite interesting to watch your food being processed. it brings a new meaning to "fresh" meat for one. but two, to see where everything you eat comes from, to watch it being killed, to watch it being dissected... it's fascinating but i dont know, got kinda turned off by red meat. (i was definitely so by the end of the day... more on that later)

post skinning...

removal of innards and separating out the edible parts and the nonedible parts. liver and kidneys and heart... yummm (sarcasm)

the fat is also all saved. it's grilled later on and i must say... grilled pure fat is kinda tasty. weird

squeezing out shit from the intestines. cleaning the intestines later. sausage anyone?

my brother is grilling a testicle. he says they are delicious.

pre-breakfast grilled meat = 1pm (the day starts much later as you can obviously see. everyone has fasted since morning while preparing the food.)

breakfast of more meat = 2pm. i added the touch of pickles and olives. made the meal more special.

every part gets eaten. nothing gets wasted. a great facet of this culture. the head is... not as bad as i thought it would be. but the way they prepared it wasnt so great. luckily it was dark that night so i didnt see much of what i was eating. otherwise, maybe i wouldnt have eaten it at all.

lunch of... oh look! more meat! = 5pm

im extremely impressed by the amount of meat people can consecutively consume here. 2 full sheep. that's a lot of meat. we were eating it for the next 2 weeks actually. think 14 consecutive lunches and dinners all with sheep meat. and that's why in retrospect, i hate tabaski. too much protein overload.

my sisters looking pretty.

this was the outfit i donned that day. (i borrowed it haha). eating dinner at 9pm. surprise! you know what i had for dinner...

so that was the holiday...