March 29, 2009


Random things I love about living here:

-Sleeping under the stars every night

-Being able to pick my nose anywhere, openly

-Projectile spitting toothpaste wherever I want in my backyard

-Throwing trash wherever I want in my backyard (or for that matter, anywhere in the country--but I still have trouble doing that)

-How easy it is to pee or poo in my latrine during my bucket baths

-Eating with my hands and generally keeping a pretty low level of cleanliness

-How being a toubab (white person) basically allows me to do anything I want and get rides from most private vehicles--in some ways we are given similar rights to the men

-Getting a delicious meat or bean sandwich from a street cart

Things I am proud of:

-Being able to speak Mandinka pretty well and greet in all three local languages: Mandinka, Wolof and Pulaar

-Killing bugs in the pages of my book while reading at night by smashing the book shut, usually I kill anywhere from 5-20 each night, depending on how tired I am

-Sweating profusely all day and night and feeling totally fine about it

-Coming up with witty responses when people ask me to buy them stuff--such as the woman who told me to buy her son shoes and I pointed to attaya (the tea that they drink all the time and spend all their money on!) and I said how much is that, and she said 25 D (which is the same price as shoes), so I said, don't buy attaya tomorrow and buy your son some shoes

-Slightly overcoming my fear of bees and wasps

-Being able to fall asleep without listening to music

-Cementing my floor, by myself!!

-Never killing spiders and in fact feeling safer when they are around

-Killing a scorpion

Foods I now eat (and love!) that I used to hate (or never though I could eat):

-Green sauces


-Coos (which is millet, used as birdseed in America)

-Canned tuna, well, tuna period

- Chef Boyardee, even if it’s unheated

-Kraft parmesan cheese

-Protein bar and jerky flavors I previously refused to eat

-Fish with bones in it (they’re too hard to pick out, so I just eat the bones)

-Breakfast porridges

-Powdered milk

Random rules, cultural norms:

-ALWAYS GREET, even your family, even your closest friend

-Always eat or offer things with your right hand, and use your left hand to touch anything dirty (ie. Nose picking, cleaning snot from babies, bathroom usage)

-Men (even soldiers and police officers) walk around holding hands and it’s normal

-Never step on a mat with shoes

-Wash your face in the morning before leaving your house

-Don’t make eye-contact with older men (very difficult, because I feel so rude)

-Don’t show your knees, unless you are working in the garden or in the privacy of your own compound

-Hitting children is ok, and often totally excusable (I came very close to hitting several children yesterday)

Things I don’t like: (Didn’t even think to include this, I guess that shows how much happier I’ve been lately- YAY!)

-When I am sitting with a group of men, and another man comes and shakes everyone’s hand but mine, and just in general the way women constantly work and men constantly sit around

-How lazy everyone at the in the pediatric ward is, and the fact that right before I left they were blasting both the radio and the television because the current just came on

-That I almost just spelled pediatric, paediatric, because that’s how they spell it here

-How terrible my grammar has become, and the fact that I have actually gotten dumber

-Listening to the same 3 songs OVER AND OVER, that Gambians always play on their tape players

-How hot it is

-Having to greet all the time, sometimes I just need to get somewhere quickly, so when I bike to the hospital I take this out of the way path to get to the road so I can avoid going through the village

-Priorities: people would rather spend money on attaya, sugar, fake hair, or new clothes before spending it on soap or nutritious food

Please send me:

-Kashi Go Lean cereal--not crunch (I know you all think crunch is soooo much better, but I disagree

-Any other “healthy” cereal

-Beef jerky

-Canned/packaged chicken and tuna

-Parmesan cheese

-Canned pasta (think Chef Boyardee-type stuff)

-Bars (zone, kashi, luna- just no fruit flavors)

-Bug spray (not to kill them, but to keep bugs off my skin, like OFF)

As for answers to everyone’s comments:

Shwi: I already do rock it!

Mrs. Sprague: People sell and harvest peanuts and rice. Some own shops, some work as tailors, others make goods—like bamboo beds or baskets. Most of the women also have gardens, so many sell their vegetables. (Ps. I’m almost done with Ender’s Game, it’s great!)

Mich: Yes, they have twix here, but only in the capital.

Rief: The scariest thing that happened is definitely all my run-ins with the kankoran or maybe the scorpion in my backyard. Or actually, maybe when this one girl in the ped ward was really sick and kept spitting up tons of blood and everything was super chaotic and I was cleaning her face and it was really scary.

Sarah: The people here have amazingly soft skin, especially my host sister and the new baby.

Brooke: No

Anna: I duno if there’s one thing I could think of changing. I guess I would make education was more of a priority to the people here.

**ALSO, I just finished reading, Three Cups of Tea, it’s really amazing. It’s nothing like my situation here, but still a really great book.

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