Human Rescue Plan

Fight World Hunger

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Morocco to Tunisia

Hi! Just a (very) brief update. Am now in Tunisia, have been for a couple of days, and will be for another week before heading onto Turkey. After that...? No idea, but I think my parents are despairing of me ever coming home... ;)

Met up with Liz in Casa just fine, we then headed south to...

Marrakech - everything that you expect from Morocco's most tourist town. It honestly felt a little Disney, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the Dar el-Fna or the 17th century hammam. DID, however, keep me from getting too close to the live cobras and monkeys on the square...

Essaouira - LOVELY town, shitty men. Seriously. I actually elbowed one idiot in the sternum because he got too close to me to whisper 'sweet nothings' in my ear. Jerk. Of course, his friends thought it was the most hysterical thing they'd ever seen. Hmf. City was very pretty, on the ocean, with really good seafood. Walked on the beach and took pictures of this neat stranded boat.

Casa - hung out with some friends of Liz' friend.... Moroccan men are...? Don't think I could stay there that long but the flattery was appreciated...

Rabat - wandered around the old parts of the city, couple of nice museums, including one housing all the stuff they'd pulled out of Volubilis in the north. My favorite was the neolithic carving of a human surrounded by waves and circles, but the Roman goodies were also fun.

Then on to Tunisia at disgustingly early in the morning. So far:

Carthage - OMFG. You can walk in/on Carthage. It's huge. And the Romans certainly knew their real estate - the portions of the site are plop in the middle of the area now used to house ambassadorial residences (yes, yes, I think the timing was the other way around... :P) Seriously, though, beautiful sites on the water and then on the hill. We spent an entire day just poking around. Good stuff

Dougga/Bulla Regia - just got back from a couple of days wandering ruins over in the northwest of the country. Beautiful but cold. Dougga was definitely the more imposing of the two, perched on a hill with the capitol and huge amphitheater still standing, but Bulla Regia had some neat murals and a few larger structures of its own still standing.

And now it's freezing and my fingers are icicles and Liz and I are off to brave the cold (and jerky men who think that western women must == prostitutes, I blame the western media...) to find some food.

Ma'sallama (sp??)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Marhaba to Morocco

So, let's do a brief catch up:

Peace Corps decided that, in light of growing security concerns, to boot my stage out of the country a bit early. Screwed with everyone's plans but we dealt with it, and so now I'm out into my COS trip, starting in Morocco. At the moment I'm all on my lonesome but Liz'll meet up with me in a few days and we'll continue on through Morocco then Tunisia, then Turkey.

So, Morocco so far: AMAZING. I love it here. I could totally live in Chefchaouen or Meknes. But I digress

Day 1: get into Casa, immediately hop the train for Tanger (not a mistake, that's how they spell it here...) Get into my hotel - Hotel Mamora. Simple, but clean and nice. Wandered around the mostly-closed medina (it was Eid al-Adha, feast of the sacrifice), got some dinner on the Grand Socco, and crashed

Day 2: Morning again on the grand socco drinking hot tea and snacking on the ubiquitous fruit. Hopped a bus to Chefchaouen just as the rain came in. Pulled in to Chefchaouen in late afternoon, still raining, but huddled in the hotel's common room and drank tea with a couple of nice Dutch women. The hotel was Hotel Mauritania, right next to Hotel Suika (which has easier-to-follow signs). It's a great little place with bright tile and nice staff (and one super cute desk guy, but I digres...) Then I braved the rain to head to a hammam. Fantastic! I don't know that i've ever been so comfortably warm and clean in my life, for all that I provided grand amusement to the women also using the hammam. Having spent 2 years in Niger, I'm used to the 'look at the strange anasara behavior' so it was fun.

Day 3: Wandered more around Chefchaouen, alternately hanging out with the Dutch girls and poking around on my own. It's a beautiful town - painted blue and white. Kind of like I think greece must look like with the whitewash, but blue. Everything blue. Poked around my first kasbah and had my first shopkeeper give me mint tea. A good day.

Day 4: Sadly must eventually leave Chefchaouen, this time for Fez. This trip sucks. It's 4 hours by bus through the mountains, and requires me to take 3 drammamine. I get to my hotel, Pension Talaa, which is clean but very institutional. I get a cell on the roof that would be great if it were summer, but unfortunately it's winter. The blankets are thick, though, so I figure no problem. Then I hit the medina. Problem. It's beautiful. Everything you think of when you think of a 1001 nights medina. Carvings. Mosaics. Neat little alleyways filled with shops selling everything. Unfortunately it's also home to 1001 rude men. I'd gotten used to the attention elsewhere, apparently Moroccan men like curvy, large-bottomed women. A whistle or two, no problem. No, these jerks follow you. And continually harass you. They don't stop. 'Hey sweetie...' etc. Infuriating. I finally rounded on one guy and told him he had no shame. Ah, Hausa. For all that Fes was lovely I couldn't enjoy it because I felt I had to duck and cover to get away from the @$$holes. So, the next day (yesterday morning) I packed up and headed to Meknes. I haven't looked back.

Day 5: Having escaped Fes I immediately collapsed in my room in Hotel Maroc. A great hotel. Very warm. Clean. And, at 90Dh per night, a steal for a double bed single. I slept until 1pm under nice warm covers, then braved the city. SO much nicer than Fes. I wandered around the main square, Place el-Hadim, had a sandwich while staring at the big gates (Bab el-Mansour (Question - if Bab is gate than was the Tower of Babel somehow a gate to Heaven that was being closed??)) then succeeded at getting myself lost in the medina while attempting to follow the guide's planned walk. In this medina, mind, I was only called after a couple of times and NO ONE hassled me, let alone followed me. In fact, when I did give up, after seeing the tomb of a saint on the outskirts whose followers are apparently immune to snake bites, and asked someone directions, he went out of his way to show me back to the main square, free of charge. Nice guy. Snagged tea in a cafe overlooking the square then dove into the covered market where I was unable to resist more olives and sweet pastries (yah yah...). Back to my room and out like a light

Day 6: (today) Began the rainy morning early with my fingers crossed hopping shared taxis to Moulay Idriss. From there I hiked the 5km or so down to Volubilis, a set of beautiful Roman ruins. Apparently it used to be the capital of their Mauritanian province. Wandered for several hours as the sun came out over the hills, taking lots of pretty desktop-worthy pictures, then began the hike back up. Somehow it was easier going downhill... BUT! A nice couple picked me up about halfway and dropped me at the base of Moulay Idriss' hill, saving me a good couple of k, then Omar, this random guy who'd walked the last few hundred meters down to Volubulis with me, miraculously appeared in a car with his friends, and carried my lazy self up the steep part in comfy asian compact style. Thence to the main square, where I intend to return and have an overpriced tajine, and then back to Meknes. A good day, even if it can't decide whether it's going to rain again or not.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Scarlett Syndrome

… I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think
about that tomorrow…

So, it's mid-October, two months until I'm out of Niger for good. Time for a lot of navel-gazing, head-scratching demanding of answers, or at least half-truths, from the universe. A brief synopsis:

Murals: essentially at an end. With the installation of the newest pump (finally) it's possible that the pump walls will be up and dry before I leave, enabling one more on not giving your infant the (dirty) water – mother's milk only until they've passed 6 months.

Water: The newest pump was finally installed on Monday, then promptly locked up until Friday, when there'll be a fĂȘte to officially open the pump. Of course, even had I stayed out until Friday I would have missed it, as I have to catch the morning bush taxi. A shame, but I'd rather they not associate the pump with anyone other than World Vision, lest they think that the next volunteer (if there is one, see below) is in charge of repairing the pump, rather than the committee that they've installed to pay for it (anasara does mean 'rich foreigner' after all…) They've also fixed (again) the older pump. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they're all still working by the time I get back. Allah shi yarda.

Women's' Groups: The one unqualified success story of my village. The women, led by Sa'a and Sa'am, continue to be the forces of kokari in the village. They so rock. The next fantastic thing that the Sarkin Hatsi women are doing is taking advantage of the impending food crisis (see below) to make some money. They're paying back all their loans and using the fund money to buy millet, which is now around 350F per tiya, or 75¢ per 2 kilos, which is high for this soon after the harvest. However, it's expected to get much higher – while I don't normally approve of capitalizing on suffering, in the end I suppose this is for a good cause. Which brings us to…

The Food Crisis: this year is not a good year for harvest. At all. Rain was patchy when it bothered to fall at all; there were periods of three weeks or more when no rain fell in my village while the crops were growing. Then, when it did fall, it was highly variable – we'd sit and watch the rainfall around us, the hole in the donut. Recent stats given to us volunteers in our newsletter were approximately thus: out of 10,000 villages surveyed, 2,000 didn't have sufficient harvests to feed their villagers, meaning that over 2 million people in a country of a bit over 10 million won't have enough food to feed themselves, leaving them to rely on the government or outside aid. Well, the government of Niger isn't an entity I'd ever want to rely on for my continued nutrition, and the external community isn't that much better. WFP is closing food sites, and Millennium Development Goal funds are way behind pledges, gee thanks global recession. Doesn't help, either, that shitty weather in the rice basket in Asia, where food aid likes to come from, has helped screw over their yields as well. All hail global climate change. To misquote my dad: Niger's pretty well pooched. My village has reverted to the most feared of approaches – ask the anasara. I left my village two days early because I was worried that the next person to ask when I would bring them the buhus of rice/beans/millet – not even asking if
I would, but when I would - would be the recipient of one of my patented temper tantrums, and I wasn't sure if it would go to angry tirades or, worse, tearful sobbing. I have to admit to myself that even if I were to pull all my money out of my account in America, and use it all to buy my
village millet, it still wouldn't address the problem: they'd still be dependant on external sources, they wouldn't be any better prepared for the next year, it'd be mis-distributed because that's just the way village politics goes, and it wouldn't address one of the underlying problems – the
farming system. So, rather than cry at the next person who couldn't figure out why the rich white foreigner couldn't/wouldn't just magic away their problems, I left. Which brings me to the next issue:

Replacement: So, when my group came in, there were 34 of us. The group replacing us only has 18 people… You guys do the math. Barkatou's village isn't being replaced, and she also opened her village. Others I'm pretty sure aren't as well. Me, I've been lobbying to be replaced with a health volunteer (22 of those…), as that's what my village needs rather than another agriculture volunteer – all that the village wants with an agriculture volunteer is free seed; a health volunteer could actually improve the situation. But I've been lobbying forever and we still don't
know – the newbies come in on the 22nd, tomorrow as I'm writing this, and I don't even know if I'll know by the time I leave.

The Solution: The Go-Til-the-Money-Runs-Out World Tour (other names will be considered). One of my stage mates and I are headed to Morocco, then Tunisia, and then I'm on to Turkey, then, if there's still money, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Slovenia, (I have to work the precise path out), all the way to Dublin, where I've heard that there are cheap flights back to the
States. It's irresponsible, given that I have no job lined up, and limited funds. But, Peace Corps will give us cash in lieu of our plane ticket home, plus a bit of our readjustment allowance when we leave, and anywhere has to have a cheaper flight out than Niamey. So, setting aside a chunk for a new laptop, I've got a bit to wander on, and besides, you're only (semi)-young once, right? Time to adventure. Get while the getting's good, etc. I've always wanted to see North Africa and the remains of the Ottoman Empire and this seems the time to do it. Morocco I hope we'll be able to hit the highlights – Marrakesh, Tangier, Rabat, and maybe Meknes or Fez, time determining. In Tunisia I want to visit Carthage and Bulla Regia, then trail down the coast to Matmata, where they have a hotel in the old Star Wars set of the Lars' family homestead, then back through sand and neat architecture. Those each should take a week and a half or so. Then Lonely Planet has a three week itinerary going from Istanbul down the coast to Cappadocia,
stopping at all kinds of lovely places, including ancient Troy. From there…? Mostly I'm looking forward to the scents of the souqs and the beautiful architecture of what I was thinking of when I was told I was coming to muslim Africa two years ago. Also, the hammams, Turkish bathhouses. I'm almost afraid to think how much aggregate filth will be scrubbed off of me after two years in the bush.

After that? No idea. Looking at going back to school for another masters, or going to work. I really want to focus on improving farming systems and food security. No one crop or technology will fix the mess, or prepare us for the mess to come. Solutions must be adaptive; we can't just monoculture the globe. It won't work. But that's for another ramble.

In any case, if anyone knows of any good places to stay/eat/be on my trip, drop me a line on here or Facebook, I'll appreciate any assistance.

Until next time…

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Well, life’s been interesting recently. Mom just left a couple of weeks ago. It was a good visit. The loop was a great trip, if a bit too short. The good news is that, the way Peace Corps works, it may be to my advantage to leave from Accra rather than from Niamey when I head home, so I may get a chance to go back through the Loop a bit. I’ve set up a website,, to help people get information on the places to go, or not, on the trip. Please, put any useful information there. I’ll get back to the trip in a second…

Having mom in my village was certainly neat; the villagers loved it and she got a first hand look at the insanity that is daily living here. She wore a complet and everything. It was awesome. We taught local women to bake bread and painted a mural on handwashing. Mostly, though, it was good to finally have someone from outside peace corps get a first hand look at what we’re dealing with, from the overall shittiness of the soil to the problems the culture throws in the way of development. Not that there weren’t good points, there were. We had a great time at the market, eating corn tuwo and sitting with the fabric lady. We also walked around and saw how well the millet was (or, at the time, wasn’t….) doing. Mom got to see how the trees were doing and eat delicious moringa crepes. It was a good time. Now that she’s left, however, it’s been incredibly frustrating. She had brought little gifts of soap for a few key women in my village, and tea for the men. Even while she was there the men were giving the tea away to people I didn’t want them to (but, hey, it was their tea to give away, right?) but then, after she left, I keep getting asked by men and women where their tea or soap is. I’ve made a big thing about not giving out gifts in my village for the past year and a half, and now I’m worried that all that’s been spoiled. Not mom’s fault – it makes sense to bring things to people that you’re going to meet and live with for a bit, host gifts etc. But the culture here is such that giving anything is a lesson in the benefits of becoming Scrooge. Plus, that she could come here has reopened the whole ‘take me to America’ can of worms. As in ‘hey, you’ll pay for me to go to America when you leave, right?’ And it’s not just as a joke, they really get annoyed when I say no. Finally, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m incredibly blunt – ‘No, I will not take you to America. Not only is it too expensive (I can’t even pay for the ticket, the government pays for mine) but once we get there you have no skills that will be useful. No, you can’t farm like you do here. No, you can’t herd like you do here. No, you can’t open a shago (small general goods store). We farm with tractors. We have feedlots. We have grocery stores bigger than the village (literally. You could fit a hamlet inside CostCo, easy). You would end up washing dishes or doing crappy manual labor somewhere. This would not be the American dream you see on TV. No, I will not take you to America’ Shikenan.

N.B. Take everything I say with several grains of salt. It’s probably not as depressing as I find it. I’m 3 months from COS and focused more on the next stage of my life than trying to wage Sisyphean battles against hunger, poverty, illiteracy, disease… Being here in Niger has taught me a LOT, albeit not what I had thought it would. I feel much more grounded in knowing what the problems are, and what the problems with the majority of the world’s solutions are. Knowing the actual solutions… um… not so much. It’s going to have to be a ground-up change adapted locally to individual situations and I just don’t know that any external force is going to be able to affect that. There are good programs out there, SIM’s agroforestry model among them, but even that model wouldn’t be adapted to a few hundred kilometers south. On the plus side, now that I know what the problems are, I’m even more motivated to try to solve them, pretty much guaranteeing that I’ll be involved in ag for years to come; yay for my education not entirely going to waste J

So, the future… hmmm… I’m of several minds on the matter:
1) Go to work in mainstream development
2) Go back to school for something along the lines of sustainable farming systems
3) Go off the beaten track and WWOOF and get into sustainable ag that way
4) Some otherwise nebulous future

Everything has its pros and cons…

In any case, I promised a bit more on the trip, so here you go

Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso): AMAZING!!! It’s a beautiful city with ice cream and cleaner streets, and my first taste of FanIce, which is so amazingly delicious I can’t describe it here. Think semifrozen cake batter, but better. We stayed at a lovely B&B – Karite Bleu – recommended to us by local PCVs while we waited for our visas to get processed and wandered around the artisanal centers.

Kumasi (Ghana): Not my favorite but a necessary stop to get a break after the horrendous drive from Ouaga. Met nice people who helped us out later on.

Cape Coast (Ghana): We got there right after Obama did, and it was packed with Obama goodies. Obamamania may have subsided in the States, but it certainly is still going full force there. We actually stayed here twice – coming and going from Green Turtle. Both times we stayed in the Mighty Victory. A great hotel, but they need to nuke their neighbors – an EXTREMELY loud church that had a wake going on one of the nights we were there. I was NOT happy. The city itself was a little empty – probably packed in slightly warmer times. We had a great tour of the castle and then indulged in Guinesses at the nearby restaurant watching the waves break on the beach. Later on we tried a bit more ‘native’ food – Chic Heb’s – run by Henrietta, an incredibly effusive warm woman with really good chicken. She even drove us back to the hotel when the area started looking too sketchy after dark. Near CC is Kakum National Park. They have a canopy walk. I chickened out after the second bridge (out of 7); even repeating the Bene Gesserit Mantra Against Fear (yes, I did. I really am that sad) couldn’t get me out on the third one. I had thought they’d be more… Wide? That the nets would be higher? Somehow I’d thought they’d feel sturdier. But, I’m a coward. At least I got two, right? The views were lovely and then we went on a neat nature walk with a guide telling us the native uses/myths about the various trees. Fun fun.

Green Turtle (Ghana): Situated on one of the worst roads I’ve ever been on, GT is paradise. Jesus loves cocktails. Had a great time vegetating with mom on the beach, drinking more STAR than I should have, and meeting a bunch of nice people. Mostly, though, it was just good to have some 100% down time with mom to shoot the breeze.

Accra (Ghana): we went back through Cape Coast and then headed further east to Accra, which was an ok city. The Christian mission type guesthouses were all full (and really unfriendly!!) and we ended up staying in what looked like a totally scary hotel but turned out to be really nice – Beverly Hills something. Plus we ate at the Orangerie – AMAZING! I had smoked salmon pasta. So delicious and western and clean and… It was a good stop.

Kpalime (Togo): After one night in Accra it was up to Ho in a crammed taxi, then from Ho to Kpalime in an incredibly sketchy taxi on an awful road eclipsed only by the one that’s on the way to Green Turtle. It was torture. But then we ended up at Chez Fanny, which is this beautiful hotel/restaurant in Kpalime run by a French/Togolaise couple. The food was to die for. Shrimp flambĂ©ed in whisky. Avocados everywhere. Local coffee (the owner was kind enough to sell me some…) From Kpalime we went on a nature hike and the guide drew a butterfly on my arm with local plant dyes (don’t worry, it washed off). The area is known for its butterflies and even though we went after peak season it was still lovely. Lots of cocoa and banana plantations and lovely GREEN everything. And avocados. Cheap. Bigger than my head for a quarter. Mom mocked me for hauling them around but they were soooo worth it. Yum. Kpalime also has a lovely artisanal center; I got a beautiful batik of a woman pouring water off her head. Yes, you can get batiks in Niamey, but nowhere near this quality and detail.

Lome (Togo): In Kpalime we decided to make a run for Niamey so that we could squeeze a full week in my village. Lome was interesting for a night, we stayed in a good hotel and walked on the beach (scary undertow!) and slept and ate fondue. Yum. Plus knowing Hausa helped me get a bus that was leaving later… not that that turned out to be much of a great bonus

The Bus: So, we picked this bus as it was supposed to be faster, skipping Cotonou and all. It was ~36 hours of hell. The road was awful, they tried to turn the music on to the threshold of pain. I’m not ashamed to admit that I used tears to get the music shut off. I’d already put up with that nonsense on the bus from Niamey to Ouaga, and that at least was a nice bus. This was a shitty bus. I wasn’t about to tolerate headache inducing music on a shitty bus. Nope. Then it stopped for 6 hours at Parakou, and they really couldn’t figure out why we didn’t want to get off the bus and sleep in the heavily lit, extremely noisy concrete floored sleeping area when the bus at least had cushions of some sort. And it was nice and quiet and dark… Africa… Then there was some sort of insane line of transport cars lined up for miles at the Benin-Niger border. Our driver and his helper got us navigated through that, but then wanted to make up time by leaving the Americans at the border to get the visas sorted and have us take a motorcycle to catch up. A universe of no. Tears again. Embarrassing but effective. They rushed us through and we were back on our (long) way, with pauses for prayer of course. Then, once we got to Niamey and were on our way to the hotel (Terminus. It’s lovely.) our stupid taxi driver tried to make us wait while he went and had a conversation with his friend, after I’d already explained how tired we were… ‘You Americans lack patience’. Yes, but that’s why our country works – we don’t put up with this nonsense. **sigh**

We stayed at the Terminus a couple of nights to get sorted and settled and rested, then it was onto the bus again out to Maradi and a week in the village.

A good trip.

So, life in the village now:

Gardening: our community garden is caput – people stole everything the second it got ripe so the owners stopped watering. I still have my little garden; it’s full of eggplant and, now that I dumped Miracle grow and other fertilizers on it, I think the tomatoes may start producing. I also am now up to 15 moringa trees. Yum.

Murals: The total’s up to three now – nutrition, conjunctivitis, and now hand-washing. I’m waiting for World Vision to finish the pump skirt so I can put another one on it on not feeding your infant dirty water – milk only until they’re 6 months. Yes, that means no hura, either, in case you were wondering…

Water: I’ve got some hope for the pumps ever getting fixed/installed. Last week WV came through and started cementing the area around the pump – a sure sign of progress.

The Women: the two women’s groups are going strong – they’re much better organized and motivated than the men. I taught the women’s leader of my village how to bake bread – she says she’ll give a demo later. I hope so. It’s an easy income generating activity.

The rest of it: well, it’s Ramadan, which means no food or drink from dawn until dusk, which in turn means that everyone is asleep and really cranky. I’m not doing it this year (I did one day and was dead sick) and so that’s an issue for the village. For all that this is supposed to be cultural ‘exchange’ they’re convinced that, having seen their wonderful religion/culture I’ll want to adopt it myself. Oh. Hell. No. So, I get this long conversation frequently on why I’m not a muslim and how there’s no way I’ll cover my head in America. I’ve explained that I have every intention of wearing shorts and tank tops and talking to boys and not living with my parents and driving a car and… they’re horrified. It’s great fun. I feel like I was too polite the first year and a half. Now I’m telling the truth and it’s very liberating. Here’s real American culture – I don’t have to listen to you just because you are male. In fact, it decreases the likelihood of me listening to you. Bwa ha ha ha. Having mom come, again, really helped – a married woman traveling by herself on her own money, and explaining that dad is not, in fact, the ‘mai gida’ (owner of the house) but that they share it jointly. A couple of my fellow volunteers are all ‘we should respect their culture and outlook’ – my response: ‘if we respect it too much we run the risk of this being it for them – there will be no progress here if nothing changes.’ Harsh. Cruel. True.

It helps, too, that I talked with an NGO worker whose NGO used to work in my village 10 years ago. They ran into the same problems I do and eventually quit working there – the villagers were only interested in using the NGO cars as transport into Maradi, not in the health work they were doing at the time. The NGO also works with trees and agro forestry - ten years later there are maybe 10 of the trees they planted still growing. I asked the villagers why they didn’t have the trees any more. ‘They died.’ And it didn’t occur to them to replant them without being paid to do so. And yet, Peace Corps felt this was a good village to post a volunteer in. **sigh** I gave the NGO worker my women’s leader’s number – she at least has the kokari to get things done. The men… even Issaka, my host dad… I’ve lost all hope for them. They’ve been ruined by the culture of NGO handouts. There’s no drive to improve the village themselves – the NGO/Government/Allah will fix it, or bring it, or do whatever it is needs to be done. There is no ownership concept because so much has been given to them in the past. Honestly, I think that most aid programs need to be pulled, with only programs that don’t give money, rely on villager motivation, and generally are sustainable, should be let back in. Yes, villages will suffer, but at some point, it is no longer the west’s water to support these people.

Again, I’ve been here probably too long and have become too jaded and negative. There are programs and people that work. My village just isn’t inclined to be one of them. The women have hope but until they’re fully free of male domination there won’t be enough freedom for them to progress. Right now my host mothers aren’t even allowed to go to the market – and these are full grown women who, in the west, would be in charge of all the marketing and running of the household. But, because of Islam and a culture of shame and patriarchy, they can’t do the simplest tasks without risking Issaka’s stern disapproval. It’s not a pretty picture. And yet there’s still smiling and laughter and good times to be had. Drinking tea or playing around. It’s not all bad. It’s just, now that I’m looking more to the future, it’s certainly far from good.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Kende Ne Waongo

Mom and I are now in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso. It's AMAZING. So incredibly green. And friendly. And my phone works, so I'm happy. Volunteers are super helpful here and we've found some great places to stay. The ride here was a bit nuts - they played music videos at volumes well beyond the threshold of pain teh entire trip (starting before 6am) ]
Just a quick update
Hi all

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Maradi Bound

Greetings all
For those of you with my number I'm in Maradi for a while - feel free to call or email or... I should get it. Our valiant RR, Rakia, had to head home for a bit, so I'm sub-RRing. So far, so good, despite crazy politics, power outages, and just general Niger-ness. I'm using the time wisely - reading trashy novels, watching movies, and trying to sort out life after peace corps. I figure 6 months should be enough time to get something organized. As it is, I'm totally idea-less. Tempted to buck responsibility some more and try WWOOFing around the world - they have sites in Slovenia!! (I miss real soil)

So, just a heads up, more as it happens

Friday, June 26, 2009

Life on Planet Earth...

... because I haven't figured out how to get to Vulcan yet.

Yup, you guessed it. I've been spending time obsessing about Star Trek, primarily because I can't even watch the trailers out here - the connection's too slow. So, instead, I drive myself insane with J.J. Abrams' edit of WIRED, which is AMAZING. I love it. Plus, I get to try to explain puzzles to my villagers. I think they get it; they may just smile and nod and write it off as another example of Malika being a bit nuts. Still, gotta love hidden puzzles!

Life in the village continues...

IT'S PLANTING TIME!!! We planted once, and that was fun. I'm trying to promote an agroforestry approach, using acacias from SIM. Unfortunately, despite the fact that we're now well into rainy season, we haven't had enough rain and our first planting died. This is, obviously, not a good thing, as it's already hunger season, meaning food is scarce/expensive, and that replanted seed we can't eat. Also, the delayed planting means a delayed harvest. Not good.

MURALS: Well, finished two now, the anti-conjunctivitis one first and lately a nutrition mural (yes, I realize that step 1 is getting enough to eat, but I want them to start thinking that tuwo (millet/sorghum grain mush) isn't enough from a vitamin/mineral/protein standpoint. So I now have a care-bear baby on my wall.

THE PUMP: Well, there's been some progress on the organizational side - Barkatou and I went to a (horrendously boring repetitious) World Vision training on how a pump committee should be organized. I need to add the caveat that to us it was boring, for the villagers it was a good thing. Being raised as a Western person, you're inculcated with a sense of how business should be run - roles of committee members aren't things that take days to delineate, they just 'are'. **sigh** So, while each member of each committee from each village stood up and explained, almost verbatim, the duties of their particular role, we played dots after listening to it the first time 'round. Still, it's encouraging that they've gotten them organized. Of course, I still have a big blue plastic borehole and no pump...

GARDENING: I, too, have had to replant. I don't know what's going on, but suspect ants, caterpillars, and bunnies! (j/k. Zara will get it if she reads this, the rest of you go watch Buffy) are undermining my attempts to secure a pretty green garden. Drat them all. The moringas are doing very well, though. I regularly enjoy bush florentine crepes - just sautee the leaves with onions, garlic, and add some laughing cow. I also add bouillon to the crepe batter because I've lived here too long.

WOMEN'S GROUP: Well, now that Sa'a, my women's leader, is now the leader of a group of groups in different villages, she's rarely there, and possible thoughts of teaching bread baking and mango jamming but there's still hope to get it done before I leave. Also, they now say they want a new grinding machine; apparently the 2 we already have are not enough and they want to start making peanut butter and other goodies. Fair enough, and yay, really, but this is something that should have been brought up ages ago, so I could maybe get it done before I left, NOT during the beginning of rainy season when no one has money and no one can build anything because it's rainy and they're all out in the fields anyhow... Poor timing, but I'm working the numbers up for the next vol if they choose to do it. Or, who knows, if the job situation doesn't look any better by the time September rolls around, maybe I'll stay and do it. Could be fun :)

Hadjia House: The gutters are up, the water flows into the barrel, all is right with the world. Just in time for Ghanima to have her kittens (she looks like a balloon, any day now).

Life is good. We ARE Cylons. Star Trek needs to be on DVD now. That is all.