Saturday, August 14, 2010

Year-in Post

In 1 year I have:
Written 23 blog posts
Gotten on antibiotics 3 times
Visited the US once
Eaten more Biskrem than I can count
Gotten two new names and families
Planted an awful lot of trees
Learned a new language (and pretty much lost my French)
Helped build the hut in which I now live
Gotten more marriage proposals than I've eaten Biskrem
Applied for and gotten a grant to get two-ish wells dug in village
Fallen in love with a giant mahogany tree
Learned to say "I told you so" in Pulaar (Wanna mi halani maa?)
Been to Dakar 8 times, although that's pretty nitpicky. It's really more like 3.

Could've been more communicative, but in spite of the lapse since my last post, I've been pretty chatty so far, yes?

The wells are done. Have I already said that? It's a big deal. The seed-extension corn has sprouted, the beans are doing fine, my garden has produced radishes and lots of buggy curcurbits. I squish the beetles and their babies, and hope that reincarnation doesn't exist, because if so, I'm definitely going to be a beetle in my next twenty lives and get squished over and over...

Before I left my village for the VAC meeting (Volunteer Advisory Committee) in Dakar (to which I ended up not going, woops), I harvested a ton of moringa (M. oleifera) leaves from two intensive beds in my garden. I've been trying to talk up intensive beds (good for fast leaf-production, and the leaves of the Moringa trees are incredibly nutritious http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moringa_oleifera ) for about 2 months now, so it was a bit of a surprise to hear about five women ask me "Where can I get leaves that easily? How did you do that?" But, I guess this is what I was hoping for with this garden of mine--do weird things and hope that people seeing the weird things pay off and then imitate them.

Triumph?

Lately, it's begun to seem even more complicated--I know the three official Peace Corps goals, and I can remember a lot of the Peace Corps / Senegal Agriculture goals and objectives. But I'm not convinced that if I fulfill them I should feel as if I've accomplished something. It's not apathy, exactly, and it's not that I don't care about my job (or my effect), but everything seems too complicated to nail down into "This is a good thing I've done". Because even if it seems good, it's not necessarily permanent, and the degree to which I've done it is pretty debatable. Of course, for now, it's nice. But I'm having a really hard time feeling that warm fuzzy "I'm helping to save the world" feeling I thought I'd get from having successful projects. Oh well--maybe it's still to come.

We have a house meeting at which we'll be talking about the sexism issue, and a bunch of other stuff. I'm not looking forward to it, because I have this terrible expectation (probably unreasonable. I hope so) that I'm about to get scapegoated.

My mom bought tickets to come visit me later this fall, so that's pretty exciting.

A couple weeks ago, my friend Susan, a PCV from midcountry, came to visit me, and we went to Ingli, which is this really beautiful waterfall. Turns out, it's technically a few hundred meters into Guinea, too. We rode out the dirt road heading toward Salemata, then hung a left and a quick right and spent a few hours following convoluted dirt pathways until...Susan got a flat tire. I stayed behind with her to fix it, and Sheila and Katie went on ahead, telling us they were going to leave flags at each fork they took (it was getting dark, and we wanted to get camp set up before that, so it made sense). After Susan fixed her bike, about 100m later its gears gave up the ghost, so we started walking. Got to a fork in the road...and there were no flags.

A long and frustrating time later, during which we tried to figure out how to go get Katie and Sheila from wherever they'd gone (we'd met Frank on the road and he'd told us which fork to take, although he hadn't seen them), we made it to the falls to find Katie and Sheila swimming.

Eventually we had a good time making s'mores (Thank you Lauren! For the amazing package!) and crawled into bed...to get drenched from 2:30am onward by a massive rainstorm. It rains a lot in Guinea. Katie and Sheila left the next morning; Susan and I stayed another night. Had a nice calm day, in which we ended up eating a lot of spam-knockoff sandwiches, since all the wood was too wet to make a fire. Went to bed after finishing the cold s'mores materials (mmm, no, really)...and the next day we headed out early, since the rain that began at 4am wasn't letting up much.

On the way there, we'd had to carry our bikes through a waist-deep river/creek, then carry our gear across over a very rickety "Africa Bridge" This bridge was basically 8 2-ply steel cables (a thin pencil in diameter): four had finger-thickness sticks woven and laced through them and made up the bridge deck, and four worked as handrails, that were tied to each other and the decking every two meters or so. On the way back, the water was much too high (and the current too strong) to ford with bikes...so we took them across the scary bridge.

Scary's the word for it, too. I don't like water, as most of you probably know, and I also don't like wiggling things above the water that might cause me to fall into it, so after Susan had gotten her bike across and I edged out onto the span, my legs were pretty shivery. Inch the bike forward, inch the feet forward, take a breath, continue. This worked fine until a stick snapped under my left foot, letting it poke through the bottom of the bridge in a sort of cartoonish way. The stick made a theatrically understated 'plob' as it hit the water. And of course, because I'd moved my weight to my right foot (and the bike was on my right side), the back wheel of my unladen bike slid off the other side and was caught by my panicky grabbing lurch and the seat's getting tangled in the handrail wires.

I eventually made it across, and Susan and I eventually made it back to Kedougou. We spent the night and the next morning there, and then went up to my site. It was a really great visit, and it was a lot of fun to get to know her--she's a great person to go camping with. I don't know of anyone else with whom a camping trip where neither of us got any sleep because we were massively rained and cold spam was the sole menu attraction would've been filled with hysterical laughter.

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