Monday, October 15, 2012

Close of Service (COS) Exit Interview question #2 - A story

2)      Peace Corps service is characterized by a lot of ups and downs. What was the most rewarding situation that you experienced to an extent that you felt good about your decision to come and serve here? A situation that made you think that the time that you are spending here is worthy. (You can share a the full story)
a.       I think the ups and downs are both rewarding experiences that one may not realize immediately. They are both ways to learn about yourself and your surroundings. My decision to come to Peace Corps wasn’t to make myself feel good it was to learn a different way of life and begin to understand the diversity in this world.

However, if I were to give one example of a situation that warmed my heart and put a smile on a lot of peoples’ faces was the day I taught my sister to write her name. The event was a small example of life’s challenges and not just in the fact of teaching her to write her name. The event had depth.

We had been playing with my camera and drawing pictures then, taking photos of them. She really likes her photo taken and so, I challenged her. I told her she had to write her name and where she was from before I took her photo again. She groaned but eventually agreed.

Teaching in Senegal is really just copying. Here I made my sister sound out each letter and syllable of her name. I gave her examples of other simple words with similar sounds. When she messed up I simply said, “I don’t think that letter makes that sound.” Not once with all her begging, crying, and moaning did my hand take the chalk from hers.

I don’t know how much time passed. It didn’t matter because we were there with one goal and everyone, including my now present father, silently pushed my sister on. Again, we sounded out the letters making it to her last name. She pronounced each syllable and wrote just a little quicker now until finally she got it….Fatoumata Kamara Togue.

Wow! I was thinking maybe she wouldn’t do it, maybe she would just give up but no. With enough encouragement and the write amount of reward she was willing to struggle. Why should I be shocked? She does it every day. She has a reward: Food, Life. She has a struggle: Daily chores, farming, washing. And so, she struggles sometimes enjoying it and sometimes not.

Then, finally something clicks…….Fatoumata Kamara Togue. Snap….I took her photo as she looked at the chalk board which her name was written. She smiled and took the camera to admire herself and her work. Then, I proposed she write her father’s name next. She reluctantly agreed again for a photo. This time her struggle was less. She remembered the sound of the letters and how to write her last name and the name of her village. Again, I took her photo. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The things that Sprint through your Head

The future has been a main topic of any conversation with any person. Everyone is curious. From the taxi drivers who only speak wolof (I speak Pulaar) all the way to both sets of my parents. It's fun and exhausting.

Of the things running through my head I have paper work to finish, cups to poop and pee in, rashes to have medicated, and a journey to plan (this one seems to be the most difficult as it literally can lead anywhere). However, there are always those little moments that catch you and put you in the place called HERE and at a time called NOW (a tribute to The Peaceful Warrior if you'd like captain gravity). I'd like to share one of these moments with you guys now because current PC volunteers found it amusing and I need to find out whether or not our humor here still cooperates with the humor there.

And so it goes....... Recently, during the month of Ramadan, I had two couch surfers from Spain contact me about their trip to Senegal and a possibility of coming to Kedougou. They were two girls on their summer vacation and wanting to travel cheaply before returning to school in September. I said why not (Ramadan is a difficult time here because nobody eats or drinks anything) and responded to their email.

Long story short, I was on a trip up north visiting a friend and broke my phone (3rd one in 2 years. Water is all I have to say). Miraculously, we found each other in the transit house in Tambacounda. It was movie like. They said, "We're leaving to Kedougou now," and I said, "Are you Spainsh?"  The rest is really history. We got on a bus and traveled South.

They first went to the common tourist spots (i.e. waterfall and animists) while I made it back to village to make sure it was okay to have guests for the big breaking of the fast, Korite. Of course, it wasn't a problem i was told with a very 'are you stupid?' look. Now the event really begins.

It rained the couple of days we had been apart and well, the river swells when it rains. Every year I have to take a paddle boat to cross the river for a few weeks and this years I had to get two Spainsh girls across the river with me. Sounds easy right?  Now, you need to imagine the contrast in cultures. Spain very comfortable with their bodies, sexual, playful etc.... not Ramadan. Ramadan is abstinence from all sinful things and fasting. Yup, it was a process but like a good volunteer and facilitator of cross cultural exchange I just let it go.

The car was prearranged since I had taken it to get into Kedougou and all I had to do was some grocery shopping and get the girls there by 4p.m. Easy I thought not realizing how hot it would be in the middle of the day and the fact that my perception of far is a lot different than Westerners now. But we managed and walked arriving to the boat crossing at just before 3p.m. Another sigh of relief as we crept by the stares of people who we shocked, surprised, and pleased with the two white grisl who just showed up in short shorts and tank tops (cultural reference: showing your knees is considered sexy in Senegal...during Ramadan a little offensive).

Fatigue had set in and I wanted them to understand the chaos that is crossing the river by boat so, we watched the first boat arrive.  Here is the fun part. Line are non existent and a lot of people are looking to cross with their baggage and sometime motorcycle. The boat. A 12ft aluminum venture boat powered by 4 men and their paddles.The boat is filled with what I will call SHIT (it consists of anything from a motorcyclem bicycles, buckets, chickens, goats and other items being sold or bought from the market) and of course people. The boat, when full, drops in the water probably 2 inches leaving maybe a half inch of space in between the top of the boat and water level. A bit terrifying for the girls.
More terrifying is getting on and off the boat. Imagine the lines, anxiety, and chaos that happens at shopping malls during Christmas. People in general just don't give a crap anything beside getting what they want... No one is happy. Now take away the store, replace the plastic bags with bicycles loaded with rice or chickens, solid floor becomes mud, river water, and thorns, and the goal is to get everything you want on the boat. Sounds fun?

The boat arriving meant either sneaking on, which I did with no baggage in the morning, or bullying your way in. I didn't have much o a chance with the Spainsh girls and their baggage. I had to plead with men as they litterally shoved people into the water and mud to get on and off the boat. It what ridiculous as they caught their last glimpse of the Western girls and tightened their grips on their baggage. The Spanish girls and I had no chance and the boat left with out us.

Soon, it came back and this time a plan by the Senegalese was hashed out. Only bikes and luggage would go on the next one. This way more people could go when the boat got back.  It was a good joke and not even April. This time we had to get on as my phone conversation with the car waiting for us was desperation. They wanted to leave I needed them to stay. The boat was again a scene out of Gladiator and I had one option: pull the useless white person card.

I called out to the people in charge, plead my case, and got them to wait for us. However, this just meant more Senegalese got their chance to pile on as we made our way down the bank of the river. Even getting on the boat that was only waiting for us people blocked our entrance on to the boat, refusing to move. I may or may not have shoved an old man out of the way. In the end, we got on then, we got stuck on a submerged fence. 10 minutes passed before we dislodged ourselves a safely made it across the river.

The girls now were wet, still in short shorts, not my wives (common question here) and a bit frantic. We were the last on and last off as the boat was so packed that 5 or 6 people had no where to sit. We ran up the river bank to where the car should be. Yes, the car left us. Quickly I called hoping, they hadn't gone to far. "Hello. Where are you? I am here. I need to take the car"
- "We left. How many are you?" - Car man
- "It's me and two others."
- "Who are you? Three isn't enough."
- "I'm Mamadou. Screw that. Get back here."
Call dies due to lack of reso forcing us to scramble back across the river on the boat we just got off. More stares, more questions. Back on the side we had just left from we find more people want to go across the river but no one can get a hold of the car. "No they aren't my wives. No, I won't offer you one. Here is the number for the car. Call me if they say they'll come back," I tell one younger man moving back to his village after spending some time in the Dakar area.

And so, the short shorts and tank tops and I went home. Then, at dark I receive a phone call....
- "Where the hell are you?" - car man
- "I'm in Kedougou. You left us, remember." - Me
- "We came back. Where are you? Come here quick. Lets go!"
- " Absolutely not. You said, 'wait till tomorrow. Three isn't enough.' So, we're staying here tonight until tomorrow."
- "You've wasted our gas. You owe us. We come back for you and now, you aren't going."
- "Whatever. Your fault, your gas. Have you forgotten hospitality?" - CLICK.

The next day after some raised voices we got on the car and to my village. The rest of the trip was a breeze and all you could do is laugh at the past events.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Future

My time back in village has been one of mixed feelings, rather very emotional. Maybe it’s the malaria medications (joking Pops) but it’s seems to me that I have been way more in my head these days. The reason….I’ve finally decided that I will leave Senegal after my contract is over. What does leaving entail? Holy stink, it’s worse than when I had to pack up and sell all of my stuff, get my wisdom teeth pulled, and move back to Hawaii all in 3 weeks. True story ask my mom. Yet, at the same time the feelings I feel are mainly liberating because I believe I will be a better person in any society. Therefore, I am not afraid like I was about coming to Africa but rather nervous I will get lost in all the different possibilities that the world has to offer. There is farming, volunteering, teaching English, going to grad school, just pain working and then where to live, how long to stay, where to visit, how does rent work again? Utilities? What the hell are honeycombs? So much to think about but for me it isn’t so much frightening as just a little overwhelming because I want to give each opportunity a chance when in reality I probably can’t and therefore, have to make a decision. Who knew deciding what you liked or what you wanted to do or even eat are truly difficult decisions. So, as I try to control my excitement, I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve and I am not even planning on leaving for another 2 or 3 months, I need to finish up some projects that are in the works and do some things I’ve been saying I am going to do for a long time. As many of you know the Reading Room is being built. In fact, it has walls, a roof, and some cement. Hopefully, this Sunday the inside walls will get some concrete and I will be able to begin painting and decorating in order to liberate my mind from the constant thoughts of the outside world. I’m crossing my fingers because Ramadan also started today (Saturday) meaning people won’t be working as much. Another post will have to come once the Reading Room is done but for now I need to share a heart-warming moment for me. I’ve taken to writing down words and thoughts that I like or mean something as of recent. They serve as little reminders to do “good,” breath, relax, and understand that there are things much larger than not sharing my oatmeal and powdered milk with whatever cute little filthy child steps through my door. It came from a younger man who has a one year old boy a beautiful wife and as of recently has become the bread winner for his entire family due to his father’s death. Anyway, we began speaking about the weather and farming over some traditional Senegalese tea. It was typical banter. Then, the conversation turned a little serious and he asked me, “When do you go home?” Honestly, I answered in a few months and he asked, “Why?” Shit. Why am I going home? I answered as best I could, “There are more possibilities for increasing my education there, my family is there, my culture is there, and I want to see the world so that I can better understand people, farming, and our ways of life.” Usually I get the “oh! America is soooo great. Take me with you,” response but Hamadi simply gave me a Pulaar proverb. He said, “Ada memini Aduna e ada findini Aduna.” I couldn’t agree more. His words mean, “You are made to touch the world and you awaken the world.” That moment pretty much brought my Peace Corps experience full circle. I came here to learn, live, and begin to understand a new way of life and then, I came to take those new thoughts mixed with my original thoughts and share them with the people I meet along the way. I’ve never told Hamadi this so I guess I must have done something right with the past two years I’ve spent with him.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Blog June 29, 2012

Tanzania and PDC
My month of June was spent studying Permaculture Design in a place just below the equator but that never got above 80 degrees while I was there.
                Tanzania is home to the great mountain Kilimanjaro, the Maasai people group, great home grown coffee and, most popular, the Serengeti.  White people are in abundance in the more touristy places of Tanzania (i.e. Arusha and Moshi) meaning the local people then thrive on “catching fish” or approaching people on the street to ask if they need a safari, want to climb Kilimanjaro or if they’d be interested in seeing a meditation garden (puff puff pass). However, despite all the local people looking to reel in a big group the atmosphere of Tanzania is still filled with hospitality and a more than willing desire to help with whatever one may need help with.  If you could care less about hospitality or people then, the diverse scenery and breath taking landscapes are more than enough to visit or volunteer in Tanzania.  All in all, Tanzania is a great escape to clear your mind and enjoy the simplicities of life.
                My travel to Tanzania wasn’t really for any of the above mentioned items but instead for something called Permaculture Design.
                Permaculture is a compound word and sort of misrepresented. The term was created in the 60s by a man named Bill Mollison from the words Permanent and Agriculture. The idea Mr. Mollison had was to create food systems that are resilient and mimicked the way the natural environment provides for the human world, animal world and itself. His idea caught on and has been followed and researched for the past 50 years and is now be implementing all over the world in aid projects, at Universities, and most interesting for me is in the cities most of you reading this are now living in. Maybe the best thing about Permaculture is that its’s ethics and principles are based on simple things everyone can agree with: People Care, Earth Care, and Fair Share.
                 I won’t bore you with the details of the course or about the ethics and principles of permaculture but instead give you an idea of how it has solidified in my mind what I want to pursue in my life, planning/design.
                Before I left for the Peace Corps I had some small internships with organizations dealing in the planning of cities. During these internships I realized how little people actually know about their place as a whole. I mean complete whole from zoning, to land use history, and all the way to the migratory species and their seasons. Planning and Permaculture make these things necessities to know and understand. The internships I held forced me to look into a place’s history and really begin to see how that area’s policies became what they are today. Unfortunately, policies and words are the way traditional planning systems have been shaping the cities we know today.  Vision however, is how most people receive and begin to comprehend 90% of the information given to them (Don’t quote me if I remember I will look it up on the internet or maybe you should just try to do your normal routine with your eyes closed).
                Permaculture and some progressive designing codes are now moving towards a more visual representation of their proposed urban or regional plans. Personally I am all for it because the plans that will be produced are the best of policy and imagery. One who doesn’t want to read or get bogged down in policy can still have a great understanding of the codes guidelines just by looking at the proposed design where as the people who love policy can still have their regulation but now with a proposed idea of what the city should look like if said policy works. Permaculture design looks to combine classical knowledge (i.e. the science, facts, data that America is soo dependent on) with the romantic knowledge (i.e. arts, music, imagery the “cool” kids or hipsters usually have a grasp on) to produce a product that satisfies all the senses. That’s what I want to do. I want to satisfy all the senses and work with a system that is taking into account all of the surrounding outputs, inputs while still being productive. My only glitch is how I go about accomplishing this goal in the near future. Do I stay in Senegal for a third year? or Do I go off into the world, travel, work and volunteer for interesting people while living in the "real world"? I can't get past this question but need to make a decision by the end of the month for my sanity's sake. Wish me luck and stay tuned.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

An Amazing Feeling

Today before taking my weekly ride into Kedougou to do the radio show and other random things an amazing occurrence happened. I really should have taken a picture but I was just too damn excited and it was getting dark.

What I saw wasn't an animal or an amazing feat of strength/balance like the women who stack things on their heads. It was much simpler. It was people, the people of my village, all gathered in one place to learn how to read and write their local language from one of their own. They were studying, together, and supporting each other. My idea isn't crazy it can happen.

Most of the people there were women as the women's group's successful garden inspired a NGO to bring materials for them to study reading and writing. However, their children also has to come since mom went meaning they also get an education and all from a local guy who lives in the village and went through a previous NGO's training. Maybe the event was more beautiful because it was Aid work actually working and in a sustainable way.

I had to share this because as you, my followers, know I am building a Reading Room. This class now, which takes place under a make shift shade structure will move to the Reading Room once it is complete. I can't think of a better way to break the room in. People are actually excited about reading and following through. Man! I really hope this keeps up.

Wish me luck.

Friday, April 20, 2012

When you’ve only got one things to utilize why wouldn’t you utilize it? Over the past year and a half I have been attempting to “help” people by sharing ideas, demonstrating techniques, and adapting to a foreign culture. I have had some successes in setting up gardens, becoming proficient in a language and sparking interest in ideas that could improve people’s day to day lives. However, my most profound finding is that no matter how hard you plan, no matter how many times something gets discussed, and no matter how much someone says they want something that thing will never happen unless they take the initiative and do it themselves. I believe it was Ghandi that said something along the lines of, a great leader’s work is plentiful and hard for his people but when the work is all done it is the leader’s people who claim the work to be their own. I could find the actual quote online but the internet is slow and well I need to prove to myself that my reading comprehension is at the least still there. As many of you know, I have begun to build a “reading room” for my village to have the necessary materials to continue their education after the school year has ended or gone on break. I solicited moneys from you guys and drew up an agreement for my village that once the allotted monetary amount was met the village would commence building. My project timeline for the construction of this 4x4 meter room was a month start to finish. I thought the biggest hang up in the construct process would be my lack of resources in bringing out cement and other materials for completion of the room. To say it bluntly I am probably the hardest worker pushing to complete the room now. The project has been funded for over a month now and the village has only gotten the foundation done. The hang ups range from them having to do other work, worries of someone moving in after I leave and just plain laziness. I’ve become a broken record in asking, “Do you guys actually want this? Why aren’t you just doing it? All you have is your energy! Use it to make something you can eat, sell or develop!” The words only get a smile as they give me some extra because they think the extra food will cheer me up. However, with a bit of patience and the will to continue things usually work out in Senegal. Only having labor to give is sort of a double edge sword in which it truly is your choice on when and how you are going to complete something. For now, I share the beginnings of the Togue Reading Room before the foundation was built.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Funeral for a Friend

I now sit in a legendary hammock waiting for two exchange students from america to arrive and, if God agrees, to take a small vacation to my site. We call this cultural exchange. This time has allowed me to throughly reflect on past event that took place and is reoccuring every hour if not minute through out the world. Some say it's too much and others too little. What ever you think that fact is death is a necessity of life.

For some unknown spiritual, scientific, or galatical reason there have been a lot of deaths over the past 3 days. The first of which I would like to talk about because it happened to a man who I know a little bit but mostly because I got to attend his funeral. Maybe the only ceremony/meeting Senegalese people go to and don't expect to be fed. Fortunately there is a religious offering for the deceased a few days later and everyone who came to the funeral is invitted to eat until they can't eat no more.

I'd like to be a bit more serious though because the funeral I attended was rushed but perfect. Senegal doesn't have a morgue or 700 different chemicals to pump into a body in order to delay its natural decomposing processes. Instead, Senegal with the aid of cell phones must call the area, family, friends to come quick and help dig a grave.

Truth, I got to watch how they dug the grave. It's a square room with a shelf roughly 20cm from the top that will be sealed with wood once the body is palced in the newly dug dirt. The cemetery, if you will, is down by the river and riddled with old mounds of dirt where bodies still or used to lie. Now, trees and shrugs grow over the graves allowing animals and humans to walk or graze on them as they please. Trust me, my viewing point for the ceremony was on top of an old grave.

Anyway, the digging is done by the river in a freshly cleared space. There are no machines. Only the tools one uses to live and farm the land with are welcome. I never would have guessed a pick, garden hoe, shovel, and machete could create such precision when diggin a hole. Everyone took responsibility for the constrution of the room. No one was allowed to get too tired and no one refrianed from making a contribution. The digging process was really beautiful as it was the perfect example of how all people are the same. Death comes along and we are able to put our emotional energy to a cause (I'm saying digging a hole is better than retaliating against whoever you felt was responsible).

Even those who didn't dig brought a fresh batch of leaves, instead of flowers, (there are three different types used for funerals) to be put on top of the body and sealed in with it. When the body arrived with it's caravan of chanting religious leaders, family, friends, and spectators (no women) it was dressed in all white cloth and quickly lowered in to it's new resting place. Leaves were then used to fill the rest of the hole and closed in once the hole was full. More leaves were added ontop of the pieces of wood used to close the new room and finally the dirt was added and we prayed. They gave a short and sweet prayer filled with please for God to accept his sould in to heaven.

The ceremony ended with everyone greeting eachother and telling eachother to be patient. I didn't notice it at first but no one had greeted anyone upon arrival. All arrvived and went stright to work. The final clod of dirt provided the closure they needed. The body, leaves, wood, and dirt now belonged to the earth and his soul was God's.

The men quickly left for the mosque to give one final prayer all together for the sould of the newly deceased once the room was completely closed. We, the men, then went to greet the women and ask them to be patient and after that it was over. The man's wife will mourn for 40 days. She won't leave the fence, she won't cook, wash, or lieave the house at night. Women and families then flock to stay with her and aid her during mourning. After that she will be cared and care for the family of the deceased.

In my personal opinion (sorry), I thought the procession was perfect. Everything came full circle even though the room was a rectangle. He came from the earth's nutrients and went back to the earth's nutrients by being buried by the people who daily use and need the earth's nutrients to survive.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mali, Segou, Dogon.

I recently embarked on a Eastern bound journey toward the land known as Mali. The time was right, as elections in Senegal were around the corner, and the company was ever better. Really, these two ingredients made for a glorious journey.

Marcy, Brian, Toby, Jen, Meghan, and I embarked on our journey the afternoon I received confirmation that my reading room project had been fully funded (thanks to you for donating). Leaving was the most difficult part of the journey but we did and watched the lovely sun set as we crossed into Mali. From here the travel to Bamako was easy as Mali seems to have transportation figured out.

Malian transportation consists of bus systems rather than cars. These buses have set stations, prices, regular departure times, and sometimes even serve snacks. Now, you have a better understanding of why this trip was so glorious. This bus system allowed for us to wander around until our hearts were content then pack up go to the bus station and leave for our next destination. In fact our first night in Mali was spent sleeping in a bus at one of these stations. Well some of us slept others choose to experience the night life before getting on the 5 am bus.

We stayed in Bamako for a few nights and met a few amazing PCVs from Ghana and of course Mali. All of which were traveling to the Segou Music festival, the main reason we came. Bamako again seemed more organized than say Dakar. There were trash cans, public soccer fields with grass, vietnamese street vendors etc... However, it definitely was nt as developed. None the less I throughly enjoyed experiencing Bamako's rich culture and tastey street food delights before again getting on a bus for Segou.

We had incredible luck in getting the last 6 seats on the bus and in sitting next to the people we did. On the bus we found three wonderful individuals, 2 from Brazil and one from France. All traveling to the festival. On the 6 hour bus we shared stories, music, laughed, ate and were merry. Our bus got a flat an hour outside of Segou so, we just turned up my radio danced (tried) the Brazilian Samba before a local Toureg man graced us with his 3 string home made guitar. We were now 9 and had no place to sleep once in Segou. Most would panick, I danced.

The first night in Segou we splurged and stayed in a nice hotel but arguably the next few days were even better sharing a room with 12 beds and 9 people on a boat outside of the main stage. Using ou rboat as a jump off point we throughly enojyed the festival and it's numerous artists. I didn't feel as pushed or pressured to buy things at the festival eventhough that was obviously the main goal of almost every Malian there. Instead, I enjoyed the music, made the sellers tea before hearing their pitch, and jumped in the river.

The festival itself was riddled with incredible artist from Pape Diouf to Salif Keita and new up and commers Sauti Sol from Kenya. Music didn't start till late afternoon and ended at 2 am. Needless to say we were a bit worn out as we headed into or 4 day Dogon adventure and gues what we were now 10 as the Ghana volunteer we met in Bamako decided to join us.

Dogon is famous for being the area in which people fled the Fulfulde people and tried to live in peace instead of converting to Islam. Dogon is a very beautiful, rocky, and spiritual place. Led by our guide Hasani, a.k.a "Big Boss Man" (he is easily 6'4 and 250 but very agile), we explored the ins and outs of 8 different Dogon villages. We learned about the perfect number 7, 60 year mask festival, and dipped into a little bit of Dogon life. Our hike ended on a cliff watching the sunset, flying paper airplanes and wasing the aches away with some cold beer. Really recommened doing this if you plan on comming to Mali.

Unforunately, this cliff was the beginning of the end of our special group of 10. The next morning we left our 2 Brazilians on the cliff and set out for Hassani's house. At the house we split again leaving the Frenchman and Ghana volunteer to go there own way. We became again the original 6 on a long journey back to Senegal.

The whole journey home took a little over a day as we only waited for the next bus to leave. Back in Kedougou we remembered our friends and Mali with a slide show of all 600+ photos we took. Then the elections passed and everyone went home. Really it was that simple and that glorious. You should see for yourself.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


My Peace Corps service has had its fair share of diseases. Skin disease, viruses, infections, diarrhea but no vomiting. I have never really been sicker for more than a month and certainly cannot claim my self to be among the sickest volunteers in country. I have a few friends who belong to that group though. So, with out further distraction here are a list of some of the diseases I have attracted while being here in Senegal.

Giardia lamblia (synonymous with Giardia intestinalis, Lamblia intestinalis and Giardia duodenalis) is a flagellated protozoan parasite that colonizes and reproduces in the small intestine, causing giardiasis. Thanks wikipedia.
Giardia is a common intenstinal parasite volunteers recieve from coming in to contact with drinking water or food that has been contaminated with fecal matter. In my case, I think I got it from drinking unfiltered river water. And so the story goes.
I arrived in 2010 right at the beginning of the harvest season and therefore, had a lot to go see in a short amount of time. My father one day decided it was time for me to see the rice fields. We set off at around 10 am and began our walk to the fields (5km). I thought, “well if we are walking, my dads about 70, and we didn'tget an early start then, the rice fields musn't be that far. My father and I ended up resting for about an hour at the fields, ate lunch, rested again for an hour then decided we better get going during the hotest part of the day.
Not to brag but I am fairly fit and didn't have a problem with the way things we going I just wished I had brought more water. An hour and a half after leaving the normal fields, crosing two rivers, and greetig the Basari people (Animist) my father and I had arrived at the rice fields and I was out of water. Along the way we had cut down some palm frawns in which I later found out were used to create a perimeter around the field in order to deter birds from eating the ripe rice. Our work took us to sunset.
As we set off for home my father washed nd got a drink from the river. He took my bottle and filled it for me from the river. Thinking very little about diseases I drank the cool, crisp, clear water and it quenched my thirst. Later that night I thought about how I may have put myself in compromise but I didn't pay for it for another week.
Giardia started with a full day of non-stop diarrea in which I couldn't leave my hut because of the bowel movements and cramping my stomach. The next few days it got a bit better and I biked in to Kedougou for a meeting. During the meeting is when the sulfur farts and burps began. The cramping and bloating also incerased making me feel as if I had to constantly poop. When I could poop it was yellow, mucusy, and smelly. I knew I had giardia with these threee symptoms of sulfur burps, sulfur farts, and yellow mucusy poop.
The remedy began with calling med and explaining my situation. They immediately recognized my symptoms and put me on a 3 day medication that cleared me up good. Since my battle with giardia I haven't had any real intestinal problems. I know carry a small bottle of bleach around to purify my water. 2-3small drops in to the river water and it becomes potable water in 45-60 minutes time.

Dermatophytosis or ringworm is a clinical condition caused by fungal infection of the skin in humans, pets such as cats, and domesticated animals such as sheep and cattle. Thank you again wikipedia.
My first time with such a fungal infection came in my first month being in Senegal. It was the tail end of the rainy season which means that Thies and Dakar become mass sewers for all kinds of fun bacteria and fungai. I was in my trainging village when I noticed my foot and and were very itchy and had a raised line underneath my skin. I didn't think much of for the first few days hoping it would just go away. It didn't and by day 5 the worm looking bump had now double in size to about an inch long.
This now begame semi-concerning because I didn't know what it was, why it was growing and whether or not I should call med. I didn't want to start off by sounding like a cry baby my first month into country. After a brief consultation with my language teacher I called the doctor. She reassured me that it was minor and very common for volunteers to recieve these fungal infections during the wet season. She perscribed another medication to be taken over 3 days which took care of the problem immediately.
My next confrontation with fungal skin infections wasn't so minor but did come in the wet season again almost a year after my first. This time the fungus was on my crotch, peck, arm, and shoulder and again I didn't really think much of it. I did start my own treatment of fungal cream which is taught to us by Peace Corps. I didn't hawever think the bit on my crotch was fungal i thought it was a rash from biking.
The fungus spread like a bat out of hell. With in a week I had a softball diametere red ring aronud my private part and it hard spread to both arms and multiple spots on my stomach. At this current time I was at the beach having some quality relaxation time and didn't want to ruin it. I tried washing multiple times a day, giving them direct sunlight, baby powder, and cream to stop the spreading. They sort of worked but I needed something more as the wet season wasn't even close to over.
Timing couldn't have been better, if it can ever be good to get an infection, because I had scheduled mymidservice medical check up later that week. Continuing my own treatment I waited for my appointment to consult the doctor. I wish i could have recorded his reaction when I asked him to look at my crotch and he saw just how bad it was. He went, “whoa!” and gave a sort of dsigusted bitter beer face. Not taking more than 15 seconds to assess my new friend he immediately gave me a perscription to take over 6 weeks for the numerous infections on my body including the beginning of staph under my armpit. Thank goodness the meds worked again and I have been jock itch free ever since.
Those are really the only shocking illnesses I have had. Others included bad colds and high fevers which get coupled along with the vibrant dreams caused by my malaria pills. I know of numerous other people who contract much more serious diseases such as meningitis, ecoli, and malaria. I've been fortunate and the medical staff has been more the willing to deal with any problem I bring to them. Including self induced illness. The worst of which and last of my stories is my stitches.
Coming back into my hut I began changing clothes and watering plants inorder to get off wuickly nd play soccer. I was on my way out my front door to water a citrus tree when my left foot caught the corner of my sheet metal door. The metal had risen off the wood frame just enough to slice my foot a good 2 inches in length and down to the bone.
After cursing for a while I opened my medical kit and began cleaning and badaging the wound. My brother came in to call me for soccer. Showing him my bone he began to pray and I told him I had to call Peace Corps. Peace Corps tld me to get on the earliest car I could to Dakar and start taking antibiotics. I followed orders to a T and got my self to Dakar with in a day. Med staff were waiting for me and immediately took me for x-rays and to get stitched up. The whole things from initial cut to stitching took less than 24 hours. It was amazing.
Again I can't stress how lucky I am and how happy I have been with Peace Corps Med staff.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


I'll try to keep this one short and sweet as I just dropped off my family at the Dakar airport and it's almost midnight. It was a beautiful two week holliday with the fam but, I think they'll agree, I need some rest.

So, here we go...... As you all know by now Africa is riddle with Aid, help, gifts, donations ,etc...etc..... Call it what you want. Senegal is no different in that 70% of the country's budget comes from foriegn aid. Yup thanks guys. Anyway, the story continues on a Saturday after I have finished one of my many radio shows. Ben, the volunteer living on top of the mountain Ilive next to, and I found out Mrs. Wade (President Wade's wife) was giving a speech on her relatively new campaign to eliminate HIV by some date. The goal is a bit ambitious but aren't all politicians.

While waiting for Mrs. Wade to arrive Ben and I got the bright idea to begin interviewing local agencies about what HIV is, how one gets it, how one can prevent it, and the contact information about the organizations trying to help spread the word about HIV. The day was goin well and Ben and I were on our way to collecting alot of good information to be broadcast on our next Peace Corps' radio emission.

Feeling happy with what we'd collected Ben and I assumed the positions and waited for Mrs. Wade. While waiting a small argument between a civilian and gendarme (Senegalese Police officer) broke out at the gate nearest us. The arguers were to far away for us to hear so we just shrugged it off and continued to wait. But the argument didn't stop and eventually some other people got involve, including one of the men we had interviewed.

I thought to myself, "that's strnage. Why would someone affiliated with a supporting organization be arguing with a police officer?" I let it go as the civilian was eventually let in and resumed his seat maybe two feet from Ben and I. Seconds later the police officer came back and leveled the civilian with one sift blow to the head. Fortunately it wasn't too lethal of a blow and the civilian quickly took defense. It was a good thing to because not only was the police officer he argued with beating him but two of his Army buddies ran in to get their few swift kicks in while he was on the ground. Ben and I wuickly backed away feeling absolutely useless as friends of the civilian and authorities began to brawl directly in front of us. It was incredible to see such violence break out with little to no ignition.

Maybe Ben and I should've taken a hint and left when this fight finally got resolved and the civilian was forced to leave the gathering while the police officer was permitted to stay and stand gaurd. The event carried on as if nothing happened. Until Mrs. Wade and her posse began showing up. People began pouring in and with it some were disallowed access to certain areas. One man didn't like this and began challenging authority. A small scuffle quickly began but resolved with nothing to brag about. Then, another man from the same crew began to challenge authority again. Mind you this is crew is supportive of Wade. This time the scuffle got a little out of hand adn roughly half the audience got involved. Fortunately, for Ben and I the choas swiftly moved to the streets and out of the fenced area we were standing in.

By this time Ben and I are a bit worried. Three fights at fairly close proximity and all being between the police and civilians. The events was beginning to drag on and we felt our safety was becoming increasingly at risk. We decided to leave as we had collected a lot of good material, we were hungry and there was cold chocolate milk near by. Our timing couldn't have been better. As we exited the gated area we passed a truck filled with police wearing riot gear and loading tear gas into their guns. Unbeknownst to us a small uprising had begun as we were leaving. We quickened our pace until we reached our friend Darrel's shop then, watched as things got a bit heated in the event we had just left.

Once things cooled down, Ben and I began our journey back to the Kedougou house. While walking to get our bikes I over heard some women talking about how disappointed they were with the event. They said it was broken by the war, that people weren't listening and the point was missed. They decided to leave because war cannot reside with peace and peace was what the event was supposed to be in. I couldn't agreee more and the actions of the police as well as the people opened my eyes to just how fast things, even simple ones like a talk about AIDs, can erupt into violence.

I'm not going to say this day's events are going to keep me from going to othe events but it has definitely prepared me for what can and may happen. In the end Ben and I put on a very informative radio show making me think that even with the fights that broke out at the event it still brought about more good than bad.