Tuesday, October 30, 2007

(30 Oct 2007) The Invasion Of Earwigs, Barbarita Gets A Boyfriend & The Radio Show

Happy Halloween! As always it is hard to believe I have been here as long as I have, but 7 months down and 19 more to go.  Things as usual are up and down but overall well.  I am glad to report that we have not had any more ETs (Early Termination) from our March 07 stage, so we just might break the trend of losing someone each month.
Climate-wise the rainy season is basically over.  The ‘cold season’ is supposed to follow the rains but when I put my thermometer out in the sun the other day it said 133 degrees F.  Granted it was in direct sunlight in the afternoon, but when my neighbor put her thermometer outside a little before 10am it said 120 degrees F.
While it is supposed to cool down soon, this interim hot period has brought along some things.  Recently my hut became infested with earwigs.  They must have been laying dormant in the wood supports for who knows how long, but the heat brought them out.  Though they have since tapered off dramatically I was squishing hundreds every night for a few weeks.  Logically, this means that their numbers were in the thousands to begin with.  Nowadays I find and squish around 50 or so each night before I go to bed.  They also developed a nasty habit of crawling into the top of my water filter and dying there (thankfully they didn’t make it into the bottom half where the water filters into), but I think they’ll stop hanging out there now that there aren’t as many of them.
Along with the earwigs another species has decided to make my hut home.  The frog community of Keur Ndongo love all the little nooks and crannies under my bed, behind my trunks, and by my tables.  I wouldn’t mind so much except that they pooh all over my floor & I’m sick of stepping on frog dumps every morning and having to sweep them up several times a day.  Just as my mom in the states said, they do eat the earwigs, but not fast enough or enough of them for me to welcome them in.  As it is I usually sweep them out a few times a week.  A few days ago I had to have swept out at least 30 frogs.  I thought that many of you might think this estimate an exaggeration so I took a few pictures.  I don’t know when they’ll make it online but I assure you that there exists proof of the plague of frogs in my room.
Snakes.  When I came to Senegal everyone said all the snakes were in Kedougou.  They were wrong.  Alhumdilili they have not gotten in my hut and there don’t seem to be very many, but I’ve now seen 2 live snakes in/near my village.  The first was in my backyard; I walked outside and saw it slithering out through my fence and into the fields.  The second was as I was riding back to my village from another nearby.  Both times the snake was moving away from me and the trail into the bush.  I didn’t get a good look at either but they were both a tan/brown, thin and no more than 2 or 3 feet long.  My uncle said he saw a snake in his compound a few weeks ago that was more than 2 meters long.  Hopefully neither Bowie nor I will meet that one.
On a happier animal note my all-black hen, Barbarita, now has a boyfriend.  After eating some of her delicious eggs my family convinced me to buy a rooster and wait for chicks.  So my brother found an all-white rooster and I named it Gringo.  Barbarita & Gringo seem very happy eating bits of corn and small bugs together. I’ll try to post some pics of them soon.
Since the Health Program of PC Senegal doesn’t really have any clearly defined objectives or methods to achieve its goal of helping the Senegalese improve their health, I’ve decided to let me family teach me how to cook.  My sister Pendal is always telling me to come into her kitchen hut and watch so I’ve started doing so and trying to pay attention in the process.  I’ve also started doing a little cooking myself.  There is a woman in my village who planted tomatoes (yes, she’s one of the ones who approached me wanting to start a garden) and she’s been selling them each week at the lumo in Koutia Ba.  I’ve started buying tomatoes from her here in the village (Alhumdilili for fresh vegetables!) and have been making a sauce out of them, onions, garlic, and some spices sent from home.  I’ve also been buying fresh baked bread for my family to dip in it (Alhumdilili for having a bread maker in the village).  It’s not much, but it’s the closest I can get to pizza in the village.  There’s no cheese out this way (and no way to make it keep), but the tomato sauce with bread is pretty good and my family really likes it.
Another thing that has caught on quickly is crocheting.  I’d been teaching some random people in my village (adults, kids, girls, boys) how to knit.  Another volunteer found out and gave me a box of yarn and some crochet hooks that had been sent to her.  Though I knit I don’t know how to crochet, so I thought I’d teach myself.  When I brought out some yarn, a hook and my how-to book my mom saw it and said she knew how to use it.  I swear within 30 minutes of just handing her the stuff she had sleeves and the top part of a shirt for a small child done.  I was so impressed I gave her more yarn and she has since made 3 cute kids tops.  Additionally, she has taught at least my 10 year old brother and 13 year old sister to crochet.  My brother has already made a beanie-type cap and my sister made a small change purse.  My mom said she learned from an older sister and is willing to teach other women in the village.  I want to have her teach the women’s group, but I want everyone to be able to start with a hook and some yarn (right now there are 5 or 6 hooks but 30 or so women in the group).  They have a cheap kind of yarn available here (a small ball is around 200 cfa) at the lumo, but I’m yet to see any crochet hooks or knitting needles around.  If anyone has any yarn, kitting needles or crochet hooks lying around feel free to send them my way…
I’m not sure what the knitting and crocheting will lead to here yet.  If it was really cold they could make themselves blankets, scarves and sweaters, but I’m not sure how practical that is in Sub-Saharan Africa.  They really like to wear beanies (I don’t understand why when it’s so hot, but all them men wear them) so they might be able to sell those locally.  Otherwise, I’m keeping my eyes open for any potential markets with tourists, volunteers or anyone else.  Regardless I think they enjoy learning and using a new skill.
In other village news, my uncle is starting a garden.  He’s paying my two older brothers to work on it and right now they’re building the fence.  I don’t know what all he’ll plant, but I’m hoping it will help inspire other people in the village to do their own.  My brother Viex says that once they’re done with the fence there he wants to build a fence around the watermelon we planted near our compound.  So far the tall fields of corn and millet surrounding it have acted as a natural barrier, but now that everything is being harvested they’ll need to put an actual fence up.  My brother is yet to talk to his dad about going to work at the garden in Kounghel.  When I asked him why he said he was afraid his dad will want him to stay and work in the village, but maybe if I talk up what a great opportunity it is to the chief Viex will have a better chance.
Koutia Ba (7km from me) is just opening a college (the equivalent of our junior high).  I met the assistant director on my way back from Koupentoum the other day.  He speaks pretty good English and seems like a good fellow to work with so we exchanged numbers.  I found out from one of the boys in my village who will attend the college (he’s 19 years old by the way) that they teach French, English, Spanish and Arabic.  It’s interesting that in the states we take French or Spanish while here in the middle of West Africa with no power and barely running water (Koutia Ba has a faucet) students are taught 4 languages beyond their native tongue.  I’m not sure what I’ll do with the college yet, but I imagine at the very least I can help with the English class.
Travel wise I just got back from another waterfall excursion in Kedougou.  Another PCV had their birthday so we biked out to see a couple falls.  We didn’t end up seeing anything the first day because we kept getting lost, but we did bike through a forest fire, cross a rickety stick bridge and my friend became severely dehydrated.  The next day we fared better and biked to the ‘trail head’.  After that we bushwhacked, hiked, climbed up/over/through rocks and waded our way to some beautiful falls in Guinea .  There wasn’t any official border crossing, but if you look on a map the falls we were at are located in Guinea .  The pics aren’t yet up on the Picasa site, but hopefully you can see the falls, the rocks, the stick bridge and a dead monkey from the trip soon.
Last but not least Erin, Sara and I did a radio show in Koupentoum the other night.  We were invited on by a local teacher to introduce ourselves, talk about our villages and Peace Corps.  The show was only a half hour long but we did the entire show in Wolof (Pulaar for Erin ) and did pretty darn well.  I’m going to try to attach the mp3 file to this email so hopefully you’ll be able to hear it.  The next day on our way to Tamba at least 3 people came up to us said they’d heard us on the radio and really liked the show.  Soon we hope to have a regular spot every couple of weeks and I’ll be sure to keep you posted. 
That’s all for now.  Don’t forget to update your records with the contact info in the email right before this one.
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