Month: May 2013

Meet the Jigeeen Nu Farlu!

Here are some photos of an artisinal women’s group in Kebemer who specialize in handbags, pouches, and stuffed animals made from colorful African fabrics. Apart from being sweet and hard-working, they are my friends (and source of my daily tapalapa breakfast). Check them out!


My Blog Post on the U.S.A.

One-third of my job, goal-wise at least, is Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.The thing is, I’m not sure I had any grasp on what being an American meant to me. There’s nothing like living outside your country as an adult, I guess, to lend a little perspective. So here’s the perspective I’m starting to harbor.

Holy fucking shit, I love the U.S. I love it like I never thought I would. I love it not in spite of, but all the more for the millions of Americans who I disagree with, whose views I find revolting, whose consuming habits I hate and whose lifestyles I’ll never adapt — honestly! It’s the weirdest thing, and it doesn’t make any sense that things I hate would factor in to make me love something more. Regardless, there it is –the fight, the passion, the struggle — the American spirit, to me. And most of all the true diversity – not just diversity of race, religion, sexuality, or a million other identity traits – but the diversity of ideas! The way you can strike up a conversation with anyone on the street, a coffee shop, a bar, a waiting room, and chances are you could find something you two see eye-to-sternum on.

At site, I’m just isolated enough to not know about things when they happen, but connected enough to obsess over them online once I find out. When I was states-side, I’d follow the news pretty regularly but pretty passively, to gather information. Now, I’m invested. When I was still in training, I watched polls and stressed and missed sleep for the election. But since I’ve permanently installed, we’ve had many national tragedies. My more well-connected Senegalese friends started mentioning things they had seen on the news. My vocabulary doesn’t include violent terms (Senegal is unbelievably safe), but I could recognize Connecticut or Boston and that look on their faces. So then I’d rush to find a computer with mounting panic.

For whatever reason (I’ve got some theories), I’ve become very emotional about the news. I mean, with these horrible events, who couldn’t, right? The answer to that would be me, pre-September 2012. Not so much now; now slowly crying with 5 different news tabs open seems pretty normal. My inner worrywart threatens and pleads with the Union in turn, “Don’t you dare go to shit without me!” And in reminder, “I come back fall of 2014, please hold on ‘til then.”

This morning I finished Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs. In it, Jacobs talks about outsourcing worry. He agrees with a girl to a worry swap, in essence: her worrying for him about his book deadline and he for her college application process, and all worrying by extension of the subjects. Brilliant, right? So, I thought through the list of wackiest and most trustworthy people I know to swap with me, but who could handle worrying about the whole future of the U.S.? There’s just too much to think about. So instead, I’m going to attempt to diffuse my worry into your hands, my dear blog readership (assuming you’re still out there). So go on, take your pick of topic. Give Oklahoma some special attention, please. And I’ll try to get some sleep tonight.

I just returned home from a “work” week in Kedougou where I swam in the Gambian river (and later a pool!), ate the best avocados of my life, saw a lot of monkeys, and stressed out over a Peace Corps conspiracy plan involving 3 kinds of fish for the duration of my 104.3 fever. A wind funnel carried away my friend’s bug hut, and IT. WAS. HOT. All in all, a pretty wild place, that Kedougou.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt