Saturday, June 26, 2010


I will be putting up new photos soon! Im in the middle of traveling, but thought I would give a quick conclusion to the mouse trap debacle.

The trap was all set up and ready to go for the night, but, a very strange thing happened. I was awoken around 5am by a large PLOP and the sound of scurrying. I turned on my headlamp and peered through the mosquito net to see something flopping around on the floor. My first thought was that I had a confused toad on my hands, but I then realized that it was the mouse. It fell off the ceiling and landed, literally, right next to the mouse trap. It was injured from the fall, and understandably freaking out, and I had no idea what to do. I got up and basically just stared at it in shock for a good 10 minutes while my brain struggled to function. I didn't want to touch it, and had absolutely nothing to pick it up with/put it in (i mean, come on, its not like im in America where things are available). I eventually dumped out my hamper and swept the mouse into it. I tried to throw it over the fence, but...missed. It landed in my compost pile, and I gave up. I sluggishly made my way back to bed, hoping that something would eat it while I slept so I wouldnt have to deal with it in the morning. It was gone the next day. Problem solved.

: )

I am so excited for this week! I am traveling to another part of the country for the 4th of July. Last year I climbed up a volcano in Hawaii with a bunch of Canadians for the 4th. We'll see what this year brings!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Things that go bump in the night...

Sometimes, when I am sitting around doing a whole lot of nothing (erm...i mean, working hard and saving the world) I come up with brilliant things to write here in the blog. However, once all of the magic ingredients have coalesced to make internet time possible, I am inevitably sitting somewhere cool, pleasant, possibly beachside, and with electricity. Add that to the fact that my bi-weekly beer is probably in one hand, causing me to slowly tap out one letter at a time due to my extreme reluctance to let go of it for even a second, and you have the perfect recipe for stream-of consciousness blog posts. My immersion in paradise generates a complete and utter indifference towards what seemed important one or two days ago : ) So, I uploaded pictures and will take this opportunity to tell you about my room mates. Just take it in confidence that I have lots of exciting projects and plans at site going full speed ahead.

So, as far as I can tell, my bug nerdiness began during summers in North Carolina which were defined by days spent staring at caddisfly larvae in mountain streams, catching june bugs by the dozen, and killing jarfulls of fireflies under the pretense of "making lanterns." As I mentioned earlier, though, my bug love is being put to the test here. However! Look who came flying into my hut the other night, causing me to bolt into the backyard yelping in fright. Eventually, I tiptoed my way back in to investigate. I poked and prodded the creature to asses the potential dangers, at which point I discovered...its a praying mantis!!! So, I picked it up and took photos:

Mantids eat obnoxious bugs like flies, mosquitoes, and beetles, so they are fine by me. Plus, they are fascinating creatures. I caught one a couple of weeks ago and named her Jaws, but she isn't an adult yet, so no idea what species she is. Here's a photo:

Now. I also have about 5 or 6 geckos living in the hut. In case you are picturing the cute little terrarium inhabiting creatures...that's not the case. Look at this monster:

He thinks he's hiding in this picture (?). Like mantids, Geckos also eat the obnoxious bugs, and are thus welcome in my humble abode. This fellow has also recently moved into my hut:

He, also, seems to think he is hiding in this picture (nobody ever said being cute=having brains). My attitude towards him was benevolent, up until about two days ago. Besides his affinity for eating my erasers, I didn't see the problem with having a mouse. That is, until I lay awake the other night pondering what I could do to get rid of the beetles who have recently taken to boring holes in the wooden beams holding up my roof (more geckos? more mantids? Insecticide?). I considered the finely balanced food web in this here hut. The beetles eat my hut, the Geckos eat the beetles. The mosquitoes eat me, the geckos eat the mosquitoes. I would like to get a cat for a pet, but then it would eat the geckos, and I need those for population control. But what about the mouse? Where does it fit in....really? Well! let me tell you...after some investigation I realized that the mouse is ALSO eating my hut!!! The thatch roofing. Apparently the all-eraser diet needs supplementing. My hut is under attack on two fronts, and I decided not to sit back and watch it crumble to the ground. I came up with a "roommate management plan." Here it is:

My very own mouse trap, baited with an eraser. The idea is simple, the evil hut-eating noise-making mouse walks up the ramp, steps onto the can to get the eraser, the can flips under the weight, and the mouse is dumped into a bucket of unfiltered well water. mwahaha. And then I can, inchallah, get a good night's sleep for once, while the hut eating shenanigans are put to a watery end. We'll see what happens. I would prefer a less violent method, but the thought of not only catching a live mouse, but then walking through the village with it and trying to explain what I'm doing just seems like too much of an ordeal.

In other, less morbid news, here are some family photos. There are two year old twins in my family who are super cute. They like to have me throw shirts over their heads so they can dance around like that. Again...being cute does not equal big brains. Also witnessed by my four year old brother who was, yesterday, dancing around with a plastic bag on his head and shoes on the wrong feet. I didn't take a picture of that. It seemed a bit...cruel. Im glad to report that he is perfectly fine, though.

OK! Have a good day.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Moving America to Senegal

Throughout the country, each region has a house for volunteers to come hang out, relax, and get work done. You can probably imagine what it looks like when a bunch of college aged individuals get together after being separated from any and all american culture for weeks on end. Yesterday I immersed myself in a toubab/internet bubble where I made good food, watched movies, and chilled out. This morning I left toubab land the moment I stepped out onto the roof for a morning cup of coffee. I was hit by the ever-present wall of heat, while looking out over the city of palm trees, tiled walls, and imposing Mosques. Oh right, I thought...I am in Africa. It's impossible to ignore being in Africa, obviously, between the sand and the heat, but sometimes it is easy to forget. I often feel like I just took all of the best parts of my life back home (except family of course) and threw them together in a fun new environment. I caught an awesome praying mantis and have been catching bugs for it to eat, gardening, planning exciting projects, speaking french, playing with kids, and at the end of this month will be lifeguarding for an all-girls leadership camp that a bunch of volunteers are putting on!

Even things that seemed so novel and effort-requiring back home just fall into place here. But in some very odd ways. For example, in Ann Arbor we made a huge effort to eat local and organic food, sticking close to home when it came to our caloric needs. I've been plowing my way through some food culture and industry books, and it struck me as funny that here we eat local and fresh by default. However, that doesn't mean a booming local economy or healthy meals for everyone. It really doesn't matter where you got that gorgeous in-season bitter tomato, if you're just going to toss it into a pot of boiling oil and leave it in there until it's no more identifiable as a bitter tomato than a carrot. Also, the only way to get anywhere here is by way of public transportation. It is available even in the smallest of villages, whether in the form of a charette or a bus (Alham). This country-wide public transport availability isn't the result of some radical green movement, though, it's just the way things are. The buses are followed by clouds of black smoke, and the cars are all bounce their way along the fine line between working, and becoming a scrap metal pile on the side of the road.

Anyways, just a quick overview, this is what the next couple of months look like:

June3-6: Wrestling tournament at a friend's site
June6-? Hang out at site, get work done, get ready for rainy season!
June23-26th: Lifeguard/first aid at camp
June 27-29th: Language training at another volunteer's site
June 29-July 4ish: Bike to Kedougou for 4th of July visits and tour of country.
July 4-10ish: Travel back through Kolda, visit people's sites, learn to keep bees.
July 19-30th: Back to the training center in Thies for IST.

Somewhere in there I am determined to get beekeeping training so I can get it all set up and maybe attract my own hive of happy little honeybees by the end of the rainy season. We'll see!