Wednesday, October 29, 2008

still in dakar...

i was supposed to get my stitches out today.

i've been here in dakar -- land of plenty and luxury -- for way too long. it's super nice and there's a large part of me that wants to stay because the digs are nice, the company better, and frankly, now that tree season is over, there isn't much to do in the village right now other than pick peanuts and that gets old fast.

so i headed out to the dentist this morning and he took a look at me, snipped out two stitches and then told me that i need to stay here until saturday. everything's alright in mouthtown but i guess my gums aren't totally healed yet (as i can still taste blood every now and then, blegh). it wouldn't be so bad if i wasn't so overwhelmed by this feeling of anxiety and guilt for having been away from the village for as long as i have.

my hut is threatening to collapse and my cat is pregnant and i kind of want to be in the village in the event that the hut actually collapses or that my cat actually has kittens and instead i am stuck here in dakar having fun, sleeping in air conditioning, taking hot showers, watching tv, reading up-to-date magazines, and eating good food. and just in case people think i am doing nothing but having fun, it's not true -- the ice cream place was closed today AND i've been working very hard on creating a new logo for SeneGAD and editing SeneGAD's new edition of a cookbook.

then there is the whole election-on-tuesday thing and there are a bunch of election viewing parties going on in a few major venues and i don't know if i can stand getting updates about the election via text message out in the bush and therefore, am very tempted to attend. and then jc's parents are coming to visit and have invited me to a few nights in palmarin (a popular beach town) with them and then i'm flying out to the states for thanksgiving so in the next few weeks i feel as though i might only have a few days in the village.

the guilt is killing me!!!

on the plus side, i wandered around marche kermel today and found great cuts of beef AND spinach and made chinese beef noodle stew (niu ro mien) and it was really freakin' delicious.

oooh and i get to hand out halloween candy to expat kids on friday night (remember how awesome it was when halloween fell on a friday night?!). the embassy (or rather, a representative of it) stopped by my homestay today and dropped off a gigantic bag of candy. i'm pretty sure that there's more candy in the bag than kids who will be stopping by...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

no more wisdom

i'm currently sitting in the very nice house a very nice expat in dakar, gingerly spooning mashed potatoes into my mouth and wincing at the fact that my cheeks look like the saggy jowls of john mccain. the nice thing about all of this is that i just woke up 30 minutes ago and its the first time i've slept in in ages and the house is air conditioned and there are hot showers. the negative thing about all of this is that yesterday i got two (i was only born with two) wisdom teeth removed and call me a wuss, but it was slightly traumatizing.

i've been trying to get my teeth removed for about 5 months now, but the teeth sprouted at the worst possible time -- the middle of the rainy season. so i bit the bullet and procrastinated the surgery because undergoing this procedure would require me to leave site for a stretch of time and it didn't seem like a good time to do that. by august my teeth didn't hurt as much anymore and i thought maybe i could even wait another year until i got home to get the teeth removed. but then sometime two weeks ago the throbbing pain of teeth pushing their way to the surface remained and i decided that since i was going to dakar for some time to perform my mid-service medical exams, i would go and get these teeth taken out once and for all.

i arrived in dakar monday afternoon and it was quite pleasant -- i got to see a bunch of people i haven't seen in a while and consumed sam adams beer (!!), grilled chicken salad, ice cream, hummus, tabouleh. basically lots of good food and good friends. and then there were the perks of staying at this expat's house. he's incredibly generous and the house is so nice and it is amazing to take a hot shower and step out into cool, air conditioned air and not sweat immediatly afterwards, and then pad over to bed where it is nice and cold and the mattress is perfectly firm and not cavernous or lumpy (or made of cheap foam). i was happy to be in dakar.

but then yesterday morning came around and i was on my way to get a panoramic done so that dr. savage -- the head peace corps doctor of west africa-- could decide whether i would get one or two teeth removed. i suppose one could say that dr. savage has a reputation for being no-nonsense. he's got a lot of shit to take care of so i suppose he doesn't really appreciate petty business that drags him down. because of this, i was kind of nervous that the panoramic would show up and pronounce that my teeth were absolutely fine and that i was just making up the pain in my head and he had just wasted his time and money on my neurotic make-believes. but no, the panoramic revealed that yes, the teeth were to be removed.

i wasn't sure if i was to be relieved or not because of course, since the first day 5 months ago that my teeth made signs of wanting out, i have been hearing everybody's personal horror story of their wisdom teeth removal. i also remembered the time when my sister got hers out and got terribly ill and vomited a concotion of pink slim fast and blood a dozen times and i was compassionatly horrified. moreover, there's been one scary peace corps story of wisdom teeth removal that has quickly circulated among the volunteer social circle and of course every time somebody heard that i was getting my teeth removed, they would be sure to ask me if i had heard the story. i knew that all of this was in jest or teasing but it secretly made my heart anxious and i was freaked out. my family was also freaked out and my dad had simultaneous horror images of what the surgery would be like. overall, i suppose my ignorance and spoiled american mind thought that oral surgery in a developing nation would be a big terrible bloodfest and i was scared. real real scared.

so after the panoramic we made our way to the oral surgeon's office which was a nice hospital green and had a lovely fish tank that i amused myself with. was surgery time. i left chris (who had come with me for moral support) in the waiting room and dr. savage led me into the chamber of doom. it was very nice and clean and well lit. organized, non-threatening, i was clearly in good hands. moreover, dr. savage was going to be sitting next to me throughout the surgery, participating even, so there wasn't anything to worry about. dr. savage, the oral surgeon -- who i have still to learn the name of -- and his dental assistants all spoke french. i spoke french a long long time ago but have forgotten it all and especially now that i speak wolof most of the time, i can't really do anything but speak wolof (albeit crappily) -- so i didn't really have a very solid idea of what was going on around me. its a little daunting to be performed on in a different language...

it was decided that both teeth would be removed because both sides of the gums were inflammed. it also turned out that i wouldn't be administered a general anesthesia aka i would be awake for all of this. of course they would numb my mouth to the point of not feeling the pain, but i would be fully aware of everything going on. i had known that this was probably the case but had given myself the false hope that they would maybe give me the option or courtesy of unconsciousness. the only other time i ever had oral surgery i was knocked out for that and i was under the assumption that all oral surgeries did this. (turns out that this is no longer a practice.) anyway, the doctor/dentist was a very hyper man and was all ready to go and was bouncing all around the room getting set up. there were lots of people in the room -- the doctor/dentist, dr. savage, two dental assistants, and a dentist-in-training. and me, of course, quivering in my dental chair, covered in two (blood-stained) sheets and a shower cap, sweating profusely.

i'm not a big fan of dentists. i take good care of my teeth and go to the dentist every 6 months but something about opening my mouth -- a very vulnerable place of the human body -- to a stranger with pokey tools has always been a bit disconcerting and this was that fear amplified by ten. the dentist started to poke around my mouth and all of a sudden i was injected with a needle on the inside of my cheek and a searing pain. it was totally unexpected -- i didn't even know we were starting! the pain was immense. this, coupled with the shock, was a bit much and for some reason -- maybe it was just the culmination of fears or all the freaky sounds or the idea that i'd be awake for this or the mefloquine-induced anxiety or whatever -- i started to cry!!! and i couldn't stop. my left cheek was numbing up and i felt like it was swollen to the size of a baseball and i just couldn't crying and soon i was sobbing. it was pretty ridiculous and it pretty much freaked out everybody in the room. it was like they'd never seen a person cry before. it was also slightly embarassing. dr. savage -- who was incredibly calm and supportive throughout all of this -- changed his mind about things and told me that we would just take one tooth out and when the other one started to hurt i could come back and get it removed. i adamently insisted that no, i would calm down soon, and that there was no way i could do this a second time. go big or go home, right? the dentist felt incredibly bad and tried to make jokes in poor english about how my "pretty make up was no more" -- it wasn't just no more, it was streaming everywhere -- and i weakly smiled and mustered up the strength to go on. i haven't felt that kind of fear in a really long time, in fact, i can't even remember the last time i was so terrified.

anyhow, after a few really deep breaths, i managed to get myself to stop crying and asked (as well as one can with one numb cheek) dr. savage to translate the most important things being discussed and if he would kindly keep me up to date on the steps towards the extraction. he readily agreed. we then proceeded and after an hour and a half of cutting and drilling and pulling and sewing, my two wisdom teeth were removed without a glitch. it was quite swift and easy. (as dr. savage put it -- "you've just delivered two healthy babies!" although i suspect that childbirth is probably a million times worse and therefore, not something i am too enthusiastic about...) there wasn't any pain although it was quite stressful and halfway through i began to feel the urge to pee so i was trying to tolerate it all and hold my pee in at the same time. there was no way that i was going to pee my pants in front of everybody, especially after i had broken into tears like some kind of crazy, neurotic pansy.

the swelling went down rather fast, but the pain is quite incredible. it is rather obvious that somebody has drilled away my teeth from my jaw but i think i am healing pretty quickly. although i haven't had the bowls of ice cream promised to me yet, chris made me mashed potatoes though i secretly envied his hamburger and my homestay host has generously offered me every soft food he has in his pantry and refrigerator (including raspberry sorbet!). the codeine makes me incredibly nauseous and i've thrown up a few times this morning so i've weaned myself off of that and am just surviving off of ibuprofen 800.

so that's it. i am two teeth less and the trial is finally over. i know that everybody and their mom gets their wisdom teeth removed and i was just a really big baby about all of this but it still felt like a good story to write home about and will make a lasting memory of my time here. its a shame because dakar is the epicenter of good food in senegal and i'm totally missing out -- nor can i drink -- but i won't complain anymore because i'm healing up pretty fast and things could have wound up so much worse. i wanted to ask to keep my teeth so i could make it into a gris-gris (kind of like a charm/talisman) and show it off to my village but i was too loopy and numb to properly ask so i truly am separated from those teeth forever. i wonder...what are they going to do with them??

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

vermin everywhere

it might be the 14th. or the 13th. i've lost track of the exact day. there's a tendency for that to happen in the village. chris has been here for the past few days in the village and today was a long and crazy day, which i found kind of amusing because i've just been complaining about how everything is predictable and the same.

after getting up and eating breakfast, we went down to the valley to visit my struggling garden. the squash and watermelon are doing fine but for some reason my eggplant, carrots, and chinese turnip refuse to sprout even though i've reseeded three times already. chris dug a compost pit for me, after our first failed attempt in which we enthusiastically dug where fatou's plot once was. once upon a time, i had given her carrot seeds and she planted them but then abandoned the plot and let it grow over with weeds because she thought they weren't sprouting. anyway, midway through our digging i discovered carrots growing there so we stopped, but not after destroying a good amount of seedlings. i made a lame attempt to save them but they'll probably died. i pulled water from the valley (and probably got schisto) and watered my beds. after we filled the compost pit with all the weeds from my Ramadan work, i decided to reseed once more with crossed fingers. we then harvested some tomatoes to bring home to aram and fatou and headed back to the compound.

we got back, took showers, and hung around. during my shower, chris spied a mouse and i was horrified and angry. last night i had spotted one and he brought jammo (the cat) into the room and she instantly killed it. i had hoped that that was the end of my mouse troubles as i hate those damn things and am absolutely disgusted at the idea of cohabiting with them. we decided that after lunch we would hunt around under the bed for the suspected hiding spot...and then promptly fell asleep for a nap.

lunch came and it was mediocre (and the same thing we've had for the past two days) and we were left pretty hungry. for some reason we fell asleep again afterwards but i was then awoken by aram asking me to do something for her. i followed her out of the hut but we were interrupted by a snake sighting in the kitchen hut! of course everybody freaked out and i ran to get my machete yelling at chris to wake up for a snake kill. aram stood by the hut with a big stick yelling "oh my god oh my god oh my god" and i went to go kill the snake but he was climbing up the wall (how do they do that with no legs?!) and aram stopped me because the walls are weak and they think the hut will collapse soon (makes sense as there are gigantic cracks in the walls). she knocked the snake down with the big stick and told me to run -- so i did (i'm not really sure why) and chris grabbed the machete and managed to chop off a bit of its tail. it came darting out of the hut (straight at me), all the women and children scattered, and he then hacked it in half and then crushed its head. nice. i gave him a high five and we amused ourselves with its twitching, dying body for a while and then went back to my hut.

jammo was lounging inside with her very pregnant belly splayed out around her so we decided that it was time to start the mouse hunt. i had a thought that they were living inside of an old postal box that i had filled with old pepineer sacks. there was a bunch of other crap under the bed and a huge crack along the floor and wall that needed to be fixed so it was a good time to remove everything from under the bed anyway. jammo was immediately interested.

as we (and by we, i mean chris as i sat in the far corner with my legs up in a chair) moved the box, a mouse jumped out and ran for its life. jamm rekk, caught it and ate it whole. when chris opened the box, he saw at least one more mouse but instead of dumping it and all the sacks out, he thought it better to remove the sacks out one at a time with the machete. as he poked around, another mouse jumped out and jammo caught it. chris asked her, "isn't this game fun?" she licked her chops. this happened THREE more times with baby mice jumping out of the box and jammo catching them and chowing down. one even ran straight at chris -- almost up his shorts -- but he managed to jump up and kick it straight to jamm rekk for the assist. at the end, i thought i saw one more dart off but chris said it was a cricket so we congratulated a satiated jamm rekk and praised her hunting abilities. i kept wondering though where the mother mouse was, as all the ones the cat had caught were little ones. the one from last night was rather large, so maybe that was it.

i went on to the clean up the "rondal" (Wolof for "the space under a bed") and to fill in the large cracks with clay. ma'asou came in to help and sweep. at one point, chris went outside to do something and ma'asou was bustling around and i happened to look up at a pair of my pants hanging on a nail by my back door. i saw something black and slithery vanish into a fold and my heart froze -- another snake?

i went to the pants and started to shake them out hoping that it was just a cricket again or something harmless when something bit my middle finger! i yelped and a mouse appeared and ran up to the nail and sat there shivering as i screamed and pointed. ma'asou freaked out and was like, "WHAT? WHAT??! A FROG?!!?!" and i was so freaked out that i couldn't get the words out of my mouth and ran out of the hut while chris ran in. i was still yelling (i am a huge wuss when it comes to rodents) while ma'asou (who is like, 10 years old) took the broom and beat it to death. chris grabbed it by the tail and looked all over the compound for jammo but couldn't find her so he threw it out into the bush. i think it was the mother mouse and felt kind of bad that she had to watch the slaughter of her children before being pummeled to death herself but at the same time, i wasn't going to let 6 or 7 mice live under my bed like that. the bite didn't puncture the skin so i probably don't have rabies. but we'll find out...

i needed to leave the hut for a while after all that excitement so we went to help the kids shuck some corn. when i came back in, i went to my yard to go pee and there was a snake slithering along my fence!!! i yelled for chris -- who had the machete -- just as it slipped out of the yard so he jumped out my window to go after it. it escaped. as he was making his way back into the compound (since he had jumped out the window he had left the compound completely and had to walk around it to get back inside) i tried to go pee again and ANOTHER SNAKE RIGHT BY MY DOUCHE!! i yelled "oh my god oh my god oh my god" and since my machete was in his hands i could do nothing but yell for chris and watch the snake desperately try to find a hole in my fence to escape. it slipped away just as chris ran into my yard. what the hell?! it was pretty bizarre.

after that, things kind of settled down but we marveled at the day of 3 snakes and 6 mice. we then went with the kids to the swimming hole and we waded in with them. it was cute, the kids all looked like little frogs -- the water is pretty shallow so they sit until it reaches their chins and are just a bunch of little heads bobbing around the lillies. i tried to start a water fight but failed -- the kids just took it from me (why??) and i got bored so i went to play with dame who was at the bank. he looked the most like a fat little frog and i picked him up and pretended to toss him into the water and he giggled. he then sat down so i dragged him through the mud and he got excited or something and popped and this little brown turd (with corn in it) floated to the surface of the water and i started to yell and all the women started to yell and holler for him to get out of the water and go home. so we were evicted and he started to cry and didn't want to leave but all the women yelled at us to leave so ndey fatou (his big sister who is kind of designated baby sitter) had to whip him all the way home with a lilly reed yelling "go home! go home!" it was pretty amusing.

we got home, pulled water, and spent the rest of the night shelling peanuts with the kids until dinner. but now it seems like a big storm is coming in -- which is interesting because i thought rainy season was pretty much over. its nice but also shitty because i JUST reseeded and every time i reseed it rains in the evening and washes everything away. my garden will never grow!!!

tomorrow is the last day here for a while -- i then head out to dakar to do my midservice medical exam, help redesign the senegad website, and...GET MY WISDOM TEETH REMOVED! dunh dunh dunh. this will be an interesting experience....

Sunday, October 5, 2008

a day in the life of a baby goat

6:32AM Wake up mother by plaintive cries of hunger. Feed voraciously.

7:11AM Mother still tied up. Wander off into compound. Nibble on unedibles and cause racket by knocking over drying bowls. Drink water from the laundry.

8:23AM Get shooed out of kitchen.

9:17AM Enter unknown hut.

9:23AM Exit unknown hut, after having eaten most of the nebadie leaves picked for tonight's leaf sauce.

10:43AM King of the hill with neighborhood goats!!!

11:54AM Wander back to mother. (Still tied up!) Feed voraciously.

12:00PM Mother untied and taken by the Pulaar! (Where does she go during the day?!) Run aimlessly through village crying for mother.

12:07PM King of the hill!!!

1:52PM Race through several compounds chasing the goat from next door. Butt heads a few times. Be sure to knock over anything possible -- small children included.

2:22PM Break into pepiniere. Eat lots of delicious baby trees.

4:04PM King of the hill!!!

5:07PM Oooh, peanut field! Munch on crunchy greens.

6:48PM Enter toubab's hut for a looksie. Run from thrown items, feigning terror and "accidentally" pooping on the way out.

7:00PM Mother should be back! Run around in desperate search and bleat piteously for the 15 minutes it takes her to amble home.

7:15PM Mother arrives! Feed voraciously.

7:18PM Get chased by children, tackled, and then dragged on 3 legs across compound to pen. Mother's there! Second helping.

8:24PM Sleep.

1:58AM Wake up and for no apparent reason -- mostly for the fun of it -- wail continuously as if all hell has broken loose with no concern of who or what may be sleeping. Keep up histrionics until sleepy again.

6:29AM Another glorious day in the village!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


so yesterday was korite, meaning the end of ramadan and the first day we could eat regularly. it was okay. i am officially part of the village and fully participated in preparations. they had me do a lot of cooking -- peeled all the potatoes and onions, diced them (without a cutting board or a sharp knife), and then helped hack up the share of (freshly slaughtered) beef we bought from the village. good thing i'm not squeamish (or a vegetarian) because it was a messy and bloody affair that not all would be able to handle. it was slippery, bloody, gristly, and i found myself elbow deep in bloody water cleaning off unidentifiable bits of meat of marrow, dirt, and bits of bone. in the end, the food wasn't even good, despite the eager wait. it was really salty and somehow both tough and mushy at the same time. i suppose the thing that i liked about ramadan was that it alleviated me from the pressures of eating three meals of food that i'm not really the biggest fan of. i can't wait for thanksgiving in america when the food will actually match (probably exceed) the anticipation.

i've been so bored lately and my mind's been wandering to ideas of vacations or the next place i'll live. life here has recently been so mind-numbingly monotonous -- both at site and out of site. i realized last ngiht that this newfound boredom is because everything's finally nromal t me now. the adventure in things is gone and there's little left to discvoer. life has become unvaried because teh wide-eyed thrill of living in a new country and culture as a PCV has just become, well, regular life.

as frustrating as it once was to be confused, in the dark, unsure, and new to everything, i miss the feeling of novelty and adventure and exhaustion from the overload of new experiences. when i wasn't surprised by a single thing during the day of korite, i realized that now, i can practically predict what's going to happen.

i know that i should appreciate the normalcy and adjustment i have reached but the problem with being a romantic is that the feelings of awe and inspiration that so quickly overwhelm the heart, just as rapidly sour and fade. we disdain those with little fervor and stale passion but our fickle hearts keep us from a staple state of content.

then again, it's probably just a stage and the adjustment pains of the work season being over and finding myself with no trees to work with or anything to do. time to get cracking on initiating secondary projects. or maybe i just need a vacation...