Sunday, September 28, 2008

tv on the radio in the bush

have i mentioned TV On The Radio's new album "Dear Science"? It's freakin' amazing. Itunes has a bonus track edition that was released early so I forked over the $12.99 (USD) and it was sooo worth it. granted i can't really keep up with this kind of stuff right now but it's one of the best albums i've heard. it is so finely crafted and i've been listening to it nonstop (on my ipod -- thank God for technology!) out here in the middle of nowhere, senegal. the other night i felt myself feeling crushed by village life so i turned in early, shut the door to my hut and had a crazy, sweaty dance party to it by myself in my candlelit hut. it was totally cathartic and after i danced to all 16 tracks and was dripping in sweat i went outside into my yard to cool down and basked under the great sky and stars as a the wind brought in clouds and impending rain.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

crazy cat lady talks about her cat again

around 4PM i headed out to the valley to check up on my garden that i've neglected for over two weeks now. as i headed out, i saw jamm rekk bumming around at the entrance of the compound. i said "HI" to her and she meowed back. then she started to follow me.

i went past fallou dia's compound (the last compound at the edge of the village) and into the bush and she continued to follow me, meowing all along. of course, i talked back to her and asked if she was coming. she meowed back and looked at me with earnest eyes. so i kept going. every few steps she would stop and sniff around and meow at me until i stopped. i kept expecting her to give up and go home but every time i did, she would suddenly burst into a leaping bound towards me, full speed and her tail all puffed up. then she would stop (a few times she ran straight into me), look at me expectantly and meow. we did this all the way to the valley -- me walking, her stopping and then galloping over the high weeds to catch up with me. the sand was hot and a few times she had a rest in the shade. since i wanted to see if she would actually follow me all the way there, i stopped and waited for her. i don't think she's ever been this far out into the bush before because at times she seemed hesitant and unsure of her surroundings.

when we got to the bissap field she either got tired or scared because she laid down and didn't want to get up. since we were almost at the field and i didn't want to leave her in a place that is known to have snakes, i picked her up and carried her for a bit until she started to squirm and decided to walk again. i was pretty pumped that she follow me like that. i mean, she's followed me around the compound and to the robinet and the other side of the village -- but never like this, with the faithfulness and companionship of say, a dog. moreover, she talked to me the entire time! meowing and chirping and looking at me communicatively. it was pretty amazing -- this high level of interaction.

anyway, got to the field and it was a mess. weeds everywhere and a whole bunch of stuff dead. whoops. in a sense i had to restart a lot of my work but i didn't mind because the solitude was nice and because i was alone, could work at my own pace and comfort. there were starlings, kites and hornbills everywhere and it was really nice -- me, the birds singing, and my faithful cat.

she was pretty pooped out and hot and immediately went to lie in the bushes for shade and rest. every now and then she came to see what i was up to, meowing and sniffing the weeds and chewing on some grass. the she would go catch and eat some grasshoppers and find another place to rest. she got up and followed me every time i got up to go to a different part of the field.

eventually she seemed to be getting a little bored and impatient and started to get in my way -- rubbing against my legs and hands while i tried to reseed. i think she was trying to tell me she wanted to go home. she kept this up for a while, purring like mad, and marking my garden bed with her little paw prints.

when it was time to go home she seemed to know and immediately got up and trotted out ahead of me while i shut the gate and took a last look at the bush just as the sun started to set. she raced me home this time. instead of trailing after me and catching up, she tore off into the bush, plowing through the high grasses and millet stalks and hiding in them until i showed up and then jumping out and racing ahead again. she was having a blast and i laughed at her crazy sideways bounding and frizzed up tail with her ears flat against her head. she was happy though and i could hear her purring as she waited for me in anticipation.

when we got back to the village she slowed down and seemed really tired. everybody saw us and asked me where i had gone. when i told them the valley they then asked if Jammo (the nickname they've given her) had gone with me there. when i said "yes," they were amazed that she followed me and accompanied me all the way there and back. they all laughed at how tired out she was and even when i was back at my hut showering, i could still hear them discussing how she had followed me all the way out there.

not to get all crazy cat lady or anything, but it was pretty amazing that a cat would do this. considering that life in the village can get pretty lonesome, i'm not afraid to admit that she's probably one of my closest friends and i am going to miss her like mad when i go back to america for good. what a little cutie!

...and i think she's pregnant...?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

one year in

on september 13, i celebrated my one year anniversary in senegal. a year ago i entered this country practically crawling on my hands and knees after puking out my brains on the airplane for nearly 4 hours. i still recall the feeling of all that illness and terror and arriving into the country around 4AM, dragging myself onto the bus that awaited us, and passing out for a few dark hours. i woke up feeling much better and peered out the window and saw senegal for the first time.

the red sand was damp with a recent rain and i saw my first baobab trees. i saw donkeys and skinny horses and people walking along the streets in beautiful fabrics and colors. i strained my eyes in hopes of seeing a monkey (not for another few months). we passed through little villages bisected by the main road and i saw the streetside huts, with their sagging straw roofs and collapsing saket fences. i held my breath as i gazed out into the world that i would soon be a part of.

so one year later and i was up north -- practically in mauritania -- hanging out with a few other volunteers for a ramadan break. (note: it is so freakin' unnecessarily hot in the north!!!! and i thought it was hot here...) i was with 3 other fellow stage members and we toasted our one year over somewhat cold gazelle beers.

i guess i am supposed to be somewhat reflective now that i am a year into my time being here. i'm not yet a year into my service -- that anniversary happens in november -- but it is still a big deal that i've been here for quite some time now and the new group of trainees arrived a week or so ago. we are definitely not the baby volunteers anymore. we are now officially considered "anciennes" and the new kids look to us for answers. i found myself dispensing advise to a few of them (from the recent march '08 group) even though i felt totally unqualified to be doing so.

anyway, how do i feel a year later? i feel old and tired and seasoned and ready for my next work season. i feel ready for a vacation in america in a few months. i feel like i miss home a lot and i feel like i understand myself better. i feel like maybe i can finally speak some wolof and tell you a little bit about trees.

i had a hell of a year -- it was way harder than i ever expected and i got my ass kicked a few times. i got sick more times than i can count, frustrated than more times i could imagine, cried enough tears to fill up the atlantic. early on, i got really hurt by another volunteer with false hopes of a relationship with him (something i never really mentioned and something i didn't really look for when entering my service) which wound up really affecting my first few months here. when i finally separated myself from that and refocused on my job as a volunteer in the village, i struggled with language and gender roles and my job as an agroforestry volunteer. i knew little -- if anything -- about trees. i felt like i was unadjusted, slow, stupid, lagging behind other volunteers, and failing in my job. as the first volunteer at my site, i often had no idea what i was doing and of course, my village had little idea what to do with me. things between me and my counterpart sucked -- he made my life miserable. i very nearly gave up and went home.

but, my family and friends back at home rooted for me and prayed for me and wrote me letters and sent me packages and believed in me. my family was amazing and called me (and continue to) every sunday with words of love and encouragement and advice. my friends within the peace corps community stood by my side and gave me good advice and told me when i was being too hard on myself (and when i wasn't). my trainers and supervisors at peace corps were attentive and helpful. most importantly, people were praying for me and you know, i think God listened. i plodded on -- perhaps a mixture of pride, stubbornness, and true desire to accomplish something with the peace corps -- and things gradually changed. these days i continue to struggle a bit with the language but it's not all so terrible. my relationship with my counterpart has improved greatly -- we might even be friends? -- but not by any means through anything i did. because this past year was one full of failures and mess up and flukes and mistakes, i have a terribly clear idea of how i want to conduct my next work season. i finally feel adjusted, when i get back into the village i often sigh a sigh of relief and feel that warm feeling of being back at home. there's not so much "village guilt" these days. i have made some of the greatest friends i will ever have and was surprised by the pleasant emergence of a new relationship in my life with a volunteer who has been my friend from the start. i am beginning to understand my role as a female volunteer in a male dominated society. i have ideas for dry season secondary projects. i am excited for this next year.

this is not to say that i've stopped struggling and that there aren't days that i hate it all and just want to go home to america and a time when things were easy but they are definitely picking up and i'm pretty sure that i can finish my service and make an impact in my village and senegal. i'm happy to be here. i'm glad to be here. i want to be here. this is a great change and after a year of struggling, i'm glad that i got the experience because as trite as it is, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and there's a whole lot of shit that nearly killed me but didn't and i'm still here.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


ramadan/fasting has been an interesting experience.
a day of fasting usually goes something like this:

i usually wake up a little later these days -- almost at 8 since there's no breakfast to be eaten or water to pull (i'm not even going through one bennoir of water since i drink -- and pee -- so little). i'm supposed to eat "breakfast" at 5AMish, but this hasn't happened. i've woken up for it but haven't been offered breakfast or anything so i've just given up on the idea of that happening and enjoy the extra hour of sleep. i putz around the hut and if i haven't been convinced to go out to the field and work (which i cave into more often than i ought to), i sit around and read a book or color in my coloring book. sometimes i go into my yard and attempt to weed but usually just wind up staring at my trees and plants. a two hour nap at some point in the day helps the hours go by. i never thought i would complain about this, but my villagers work TOO hard -- even when fasting they are out working at least until noon and some people all day (including talla, my counterpart). so much for the rumors that ramadan is about naps and lying around.

by 5PM (and usually after a nap) i am really freakin' thirsty and have to keep away from my water filter. i battle temptations to cheat. bread and beignet (fried dough) sellers start to come around -- this is the only time of the year my village has bread come to every day, it is usually a luxury/novelty item -- and it is hard to buy food and then put it away for the next two and a half hours. around 6:30 i shower to kill time and count down the minutes to fast breaking. they crawl by.

the sun starts its descent around 7 and we all sit in the compound and wait and talk about how much we want to drink water. we anxiously wait for the call to prayer that comes around some time between 7:15 and 7:30PM. as soon as the sunset call to prayer begins, we break fast with bread and cafe touba (spiced coffee). then we have jolly jus (a sugary drink packet), beignets, and lots and lots of water. dinner -- which is really lunch -- happens around 8 to 8:30PM and i am surprisingly not very hungry. the food actually usually makes me feel ill and i have to hold back from throwing up.

what IS amazing though is to drink. i drink water until i feel as if it is going to come out of my ears. water is never as delicious as it is after it has been denied for an entire day in hot hot senegal. around 10PM, they serve dinner but by then i just want to go to bed so i typically decline. i pay for all the water drinking throughout the night as i have to wake up a million and six times to go pee. it's worth it.

on a religious level, i'm not entirely sure as to what fasting achieves. i haven't received any epiphanies from God and even if i did, i'd sooner call it a hallucination from the lightheadedness caused by no food/water and standing up too quickly.

i suppose that fasting teaches me will power. there's water and food readily available but i have to resist the temptation of taking it. there are several camps of thought within the volunteer community: 1) some don't feel the need to fast, 2) some fast but drink water, 3) others fast food and water, and 4) a few even go through the religious aspects of ramadan (praying) as well. i guess i fall into the third camp because (though i'm not really sure why, considering that i'm not doing this for religious reasons) i would feel guilty partaking in fast breaking if i cheated. bread and coffee and all the other little treats that come with fast breaking is costly and our meals are a slightly nicer than usual (i suppose because we deny ourselves food all day, it may as well be extra "good), so i feel that if i cheated in fasting, i would be costing my family unnecessary money. i guess it's slightly silly because much of the money used for fast breaking is my contribution but the principle gets to me. my friend says it's not principle but pride. maybe he's right.

however, on an experiential level, this is an important lesson. they say that part of the ramadan experience is for followers to relate to the hungry of the world and if that is the case, then hunger makes a lot more sense to me now. i've never before lived off of one meal a day. i never even really thought about it being a possibility in my life before. but now that i am fasting, i see how quickly i become tired, irritable, and lethargic (another reason why i don't see how this can help me spiritually). food is no longer an epicurean pursuit. it is now just energy, sustenance, elements of nature that keep me from taking a nap and not waking up again.

fasting certainly isn't as hard as i thought it would be. i'm not very hungry, it's just the weakness, drain, and THIRST that gets to me. i want to do little else than just lie in bed all day but even though i am fasting, there are trees to look after, fields to tend to, and beans to pick. i reflect on stories of hunger and exodus -- what is the what, a long way gone, moses and the israelites, the trail of tears -- and i see an entirely new element to the struggle. we forget -- or rather, we JUST DON'T KNOW -- how hunger affects the body, weakens the spirit. we say we're "starving" at moments when we're really hungry -- maybe we missed breakfast or lunch -- but are we really?

Friday, September 5, 2008



this article from april 2008 describes the condition of talibe, boy beggers, that are a constant part of my life here in senegal. there are no talibe in my village but any time i step outside of my village i am encountered by small boys in rags with tomato paste cans asking me for money. you have to be a cold stone bitch to not have your heart torn to pieces when this happens, but it is virtually impossible to help them all. moreover, i am torn with the conviction that when i give them money, i am only furthering this awful industry. usually i try to buy bread or fruit to give to the boys, but certainly there needs to be long term solutions.

there is a little talibe i know named sidi. he is a bright little boy with big eyes and a nice smile and he helps take care of all the other boys -- especially the ones that don't speak Wolof -- in the Kaffrine garage. the most heartbreaking moment at the garage was when the car was about to leave and he came up to me and asked me quietly if i would take him with me, if i could take him away from there. of course i couldn't. i haven't seen him in a very long time but i think about him often and wish so badly i could do something for him. but what??

one also must remember that not all instances of talibe-marabout relationships are bad. my friend lives in a site with a marabout (who also happens to be her "dad) who has about 15 to 20 talibe living with him. these boys are quite happy and have never been asked or forced to beg. they help their marabout with work in the fields and are well fed and taken care of. they are treated like members of the family and are not forced to stay. i am told that if their families need help in the fields, they are free to leave and come back. i've met them and heard plenty of anecdotes about their silly antics in the field and at home.

Some Islamic schools produce beggars
Billion-dollar industry springs from religious system based on servitude

By Rukmini Callimachi
The Associated Press
updated 5:55 p.m. ET April 20, 2008

This story, part of a yearlong investigation, is the first in an occasional series on trafficking and exploitation of children in West and Central Africa. Related stories will move in the coming months.

DAKAR, Senegal - On the day he decided to run away, 9-year-old Coli awoke on a filthy mat.

Like a pup, he lay curled against the cold, pressed between dozens of other children sleeping head-to-toe on the concrete floor. His T-shirt was damp with the dew that seeped through the thin walls. The older boys had yanked away the square of cloth he used to protect himself from the draft. He shivered.

It was still dark as he set out for the mouth of a freeway with the other boys, a tribe of 7-, 8- and 9-year-old beggars.

Coli padded barefoot between the stopped cars, his head reaching only halfway up the windows. His scrawny body disappeared under a ragged T-shirt that grazed his knees. He held up an empty tomato paste can as his begging bowl.

There are 1.2 million Colis in the world today, children trafficked to work for the benefit of others. Those who lure them into servitude make $15 billion annually, according to the International Labor Organization.

It’s big business in Senegal. In the capital of Dakar alone, at least 7,600 child beggars work the streets, according to a study released in February by the ILO, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Bank. The children collect an average of 300 African francs a day, just 72 cents, reaping their keepers $2 million a year.

Most of the boys — 90 percent, the study found — are sent out to beg under the cover of Islam, placing the problem at the complicated intersection of greed and tradition. For among the cruelest facts of Coli’s life is that he was not stolen from his family. He was brought to Dakar with their blessing to learn Islam’s holy book.

In the name of religion, Coli spent two hours a day memorizing verses from the Quran and over nine hours begging to pad the pockets of the man he called his teacher.

It was getting dark. Coli had less than half the 72 cents he was told to bring back. He was afraid. He knew what happened to children who failed to meet their daily quotas.

They were stripped and doused in cold water. The older boys picked them up like hammocks by their ankles and wrists. Then the teacher whipped them with an electrical cord until the cord ate their skin.

Coli’s head hurt with hunger. He could already feel the slice of the wire on his back.

He slipped away, losing himself in a tide of honking cars. He had 20 cents in his tomato can.

Children seen as entry to paradise
Three years ago, a man wearing a skullcap came to Coli’s village in the neighboring country of Guinea-Bissau and asked for him.

Coli’s parents immediately addressed the man as “Serigne,” a term of respect for Muslim leaders on Africa’s western coast. Many poor villagers believe that giving a Muslim holy man a child to educate will gain an entire family entrance to paradise.

Since the 11th century, families have sent their sons to study at the Quranic schools that flourished on Africa’s western seaboard with the rise of Islam. It is forbidden to charge for an Islamic education, so the students, known as talibe, studied for free with their marabouts, or spiritual teachers. In return, the children worked in the marabout’s fields.

The droughts of the late 1970s and ’80s forced many schools to move to cities, where their income began to revolve around begging. Today, children continue to flock to the cities, as food and work in villages run short.

Not all Quranic boarding schools force their students to beg. But for the most part, what was once an esteemed form of education has degenerated into child trafficking. Nowadays, Quranic instructors net as many children as they can to increase their daily take.

“If you do the math, you’ll find that these people are earning more than a government functionary,” said Souleymane Bachir Diagne, an Islamic scholar at Columbia University. “It’s why the phenomenon is so hard to eradicate.”

Middle men trawl for children as far afield as the dunes of Mauritania and the grass-covered huts of Mali. It’s become a booming, regional trade that ensnares children as young as 2, who don’t know the name of their village or how to return home.

One of the largest clusters of Quranic schools lies in the poor, sand-enveloped neighborhoods on either side of the freeway leading into Dakar.

This is where Coli’s marabout squats in a half-finished house whose floor stirs with flies. Amadu Buwaro sleeps on a mattress covered in white linens. The 30 children in his care sleep in another room with dirty blankets on the floor. It smells rotten and wet, like a soaked rag.

Buwaro is a thin man in his 30s who wears a pressed olive robe and digital watch. The children wear T-shirts black with filth. He expects them to beg to pay the rent, because there are no fields here to till.

But their earnings far exceed his rent of $50. If the boys meet their quotas, they bring in around $650 a month in a nation where the average person earns $150.

Buwaro expects the children to suffer to learn the Quran, just as he did at the hands of his teacher.

So when Coli failed to return, Buwaro was furious. He flipped open his flashy silver cell phone and called another marabout who kept a blue planner with names of runaway boys. The list stretched down the page. He added Coli’s name.

His tomato can tucked under one arm, Coli jumped on the back of a bus, holding on to the swinging rear door. He was hundreds of miles from the village where he grew up speaking Peuhl, a language not commonly heard in Dakar.

He could not ask the Senegalese for help. So he got directions in Peuhl from other child beggars, who like him were trafficked here from the zone of green savannah just outside Senegal.

Coli made his way to a neighborhood where he had heard of a place that gave free food to children like him.

“Do you know where you come from?” asked the kind-faced woman at Empire des Enfants. The shelter’s capacity is 30 children, but it usually houses at least 50.

Coli knew the name of his mother, but not how to reach her. He knew the name of the region where he was born, but not his village. “My mother is black,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll recognize her.”

The shelter worker told Coli what to do if his marabout came. We will protect you, she said. If he tries to grab you, scream.

Days went by. Maybe weeks.

Then Coli’s marabout arrived.

In 2005, Senegal made it a crime punishable by five years in prison to force a child to beg. But the same law makes an exception for children begging for religious reasons. Few dare to cross marabouts for fear of supernatural retaliation.

Coli’s marabout entered the shelter flanked by a column of religious leaders in cascading robes that tumbled onto the ground. One of them stabbed his finger at the clouds and yelled out, “The sky will fall down on you if you don’t hand over our children.”

The shelter is used to such threats. But this time the marabouts had discovered the center’s legal paperwork was not complete. They threatened to close the shelter if it did not hand over 11 boys.

To save more than 40 others, the shelter handed over the 11. Coli was on the list.

Back at the school, they beat the 9-year-old until he thought he was going to faint. At night, they dragged him off the floor, doused him in water and beat him again.

Three days later, he ran away again. When he arrived at the shelter, he said: “I want to go home to my mom.”

Radio used to find parents
To find Coli’s mother, aid workers broadcast his name on the radio in Guinea-Bissau. The names of over a dozen children also from Guinea-Bissau played in a continuous loop, like sonic homing pigeons trying to find their target.

No response. Some boys worried their parents might be dead.

“I’m sure my mother is still alive,” Coli reasoned. “When I left her she was well, so why wouldn’t she be well now?” Underneath his bright eyes is another worry. Will she be angry that he disobeyed his teacher?

Over the past two years, the International Organization for Migration has returned over 600 child beggars to their homes. Several had been hit by cars. Some had scars on their backs. One 10-year-old was so hungry he ate out of the trash. Soon after he returned home, he vomited worms and died.

Almost all the boys had begged on behalf of Quranic instructors in Senegal.

“Cultural habits have been manipulated for the sake of exploitation,” said the IOM’s Laurent de Boeck, deputy regional representative for West and Central Africa.

Two months went by before a shelter worker pulled Coli aside. His parents were alive.

The 13 boys from Guinea-Bissau pile into a bus. Coli screams with glee as it takes off for the airport.

“Is this Guinea-Bissau?” one of them asks as they descend onto the cracked runway and enter the small airport of the nation’s capital. “Senegal looks better,” says another.

Though Senegal is among the world’s poorest nations, it’s visibly more developed than Guinea-Bissau, listed 160th out of 177 countries on the U.N.’s human development index. The capital they left had streets clogged with taxis and flashy 4-by-4s. The buildings were tall. The capital they returned to has squat, low buildings and crumbling colonial villas.

“I’m not sure I like it,” Coli confides.

As the bus leaves the capital, they pass villages of cone-shaped huts and fields where boys herd bulls. They sing songs, clapping their hands. As they pull into the shelter where their parents were told to expect them, the boys fall silent.

Timidly, they file off the bus. A few of the 12- and 13-year-olds recognize their families. They approach them respectfully, shaking hands.

Coli’s mother is not there.

Judge admonishes parents
A judge tells the parents they will be jailed if they send their children away to beg again. They have to sign a statement promising to protect their boys from traffickers. Most are illiterate, so they leave a thumbprint in blue ink next to their names.

“You sent your kids to hell,” the judge says. “You can’t say that because you are poor you’re going to allow your kids to be abused.”

His booming voice ricochets off the cracked walls of the building. The parents stare straight ahead.

But the conditions that made these families send their children to hell still persist.

Many of the villages do not have enough food. Few have schools. In one, the schoolhouse is a bamboo enclosure that doubles as an animal corral. “We haven’t had classes here in over a year,” an elderly man says as he ducks into the classroom and skirts a pile of bull manure.

The aid group pays for school fees and supplies. But the stipend cannot cover the economic worth of a child. Some of the children returned in previous months now work as bricklayers and goatherds. Others have already been sent back to the marabouts by their parents. The idea of child trafficking as a crime is so new in the region that no African language has a word for it, experts say.

With each passing day, more parents and relatives come, but not Coli’s.

On the third day, the shelter pays for another radio address.

By the fourth, half the 13 children are gone.

The others become increasingly agitated. Maybe the radio is broken, Coli muses. His wet eyes fill with the invisible color of worry.

Coli's mom arrives
Early on the fifth morning, a woman in a pressed peach robe walks up to the shelter.

Coli rushes outside. He stands a few feet away as tears topple down his cheeks. She covers her face with her veil and weeps.

The two sit side-by-side in plastic chairs. Coli’s mother looks at her feet. Her family is poor, she says, and she wanted Coli to get an education. It took her several days to reach the shelter because she didn’t have $2 for the bus fare.

For more than an hour, Coli cries. Tears run down either side of his cheeks, forming two watery garlands. They meet at his chin and plop down on his collar bone, pooling above his shirt.

She stands up and wipes his chin. They leave, crossing the dusty boulevard.

Her arm reaches around his shoulder and the long sleeve of her robe falls around the little boy. It hides him from the remaining children, who silently watch Coli go home.

EPILOGUE: Soon after Coli left, his marabout traveled to Guinea-Bissau. He angrily demanded to know why Coli had run away. Ashamed, Coli’s father promised to make up for the boy’s bad behavior. He is sending the marabout two more sons.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008


today begins ramadan -- 30 days of fasting (no food or water) between sunrise and sundown.

i'm not a muslim but i will be participating in the fasting when i am at the village. why? part of the reason is that my villagers kind of just assumed i would be fasting alongside them and secondly, it wasn't until a few months ago that people truly started treating me like an adult. children are exempt from fasting so i don't really want to take a few steps backwards and be treated like a kid again.

since i'll be fasting, i'm going to try to use this time to reflect/meditate/pray on certain things in my life -- lots of things regarding my future (aka post-Peace Corps life) and my work here.

so we'll see how things turn out. since i'm not religiously bound to fasting during ramadan, i figure that if after the first few days or so i am truly miserable i'll stop. wish me luck. this should be an interesting/enlightening experience.

in other news, my dad bought me a plane ticket home for thanksgiving! i'll be home
from november 22 to december 7. i'm so excited!