Author Archives: Paul

More on Talibe and Daaras

In the NYT Africa section (global edition). They speak the truth.


About a week ago a group of Talibe came into our host family’s house. One of them couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4 years old–he could barely walk, much less communicate what he wanted. Either embarrassed or rather literally incapable of verbal communication, he teetered over to us with his outstretched, upturned palm, before our host family, recoiling in anger, demanded to know where his mother was. The kid, who could have been in diapers, shyly turned and tried to escape, but not before my host brother could chase after him and have him lead him to his parents’ house. The weird thing is, I didn’t think much of the whole experience until I read this article, prevalent as this kind of thing can be here.


Important announcements

Just started a new sanitation project, you can check it out here, as well as take a gander at other projects in Senegal.

Any help on the project would be appreciated, but to be honest I’m not 100% sure on how one might go about doing that. Paypal’s aesthetic continues to thwart my understanding of its mechanics, but if anyone wants to take a whack at it . . .

Also: College football starts today. Go Bears!

The starving season

We’re over a week into Ramadan now, which means every day around sundown I begin to teeter from side to side, eliciting concern in Maddy and laughter in our host family.  Maddy and I are both fasting, and though we’re not going as far as some—the old ladies that spit every few steps as to not swallow any saliva, for instance—we are abstaining from eating or drinking from sun up to sun down.  At first this involved getting up at around five to gorge ourselves and then go back to sleep, but as the days wear on I find myself too tired to join Maddy as she groggily shuffles to the kitchen every morning for breakfast.


It’s been our intent to do a shoe distribution for Talibe, but we had been waiting on the shoes to arrive on the “next car from Dakar”—a more or less mythical event, often discussed but seldom seen—until a few days ago.  Lauren, our ancienne, had asked for the shoes to be sent over, but they didn’t arrive until after she had COS’d.   Of course, we were more than happy to help out: we gave out shoes to 15 children this week with the help of my counterpart and lifeline, Mme Ly, and are thinking about ways to organize more distributions in the future.  Anyone who’s interested in donating some old shoes let us know; once we have the specifics, who to send them to in the US, etc, we’ll put up an additional blog entry.  There are about 4 Daras (schools for talibe) in our quartier alone (of the 6 here in Podor), and the school pictured has around 60 kids.  Suffice it to say, if we want to ensure that every foot in Podor gets covered, we have a lot of work to do.  Pictures of the distribution can be checked out to the right.

This morning I went to the post office and picked up a pair of wonderful care-packages.  That puts travel time at about a month for your package, Joanna, and just under that for yours, Janine.  Thank you both; we’ll be eagerly consuming their contents during our “break the fast/ write our quarterly reports party,” sometime next week.

Much love,


MORE PARASITES! or, Two Fish out of Water

Last night I dreamt that our entire stage rafted down the Senegal River, stopping halfway along our trip to snack on follere and fried chicken.  It was the first dream I’ve had in Senegal about Senegal, and it was delicious.

We’ve only been at site for two and a half weeks, but already Kuumba and I are getting a good impression of the problems we’ll be addressing for the next year or so.  As I think Maddy already mentioned, Schisto is a big problem here, given Podor’s nestled position in a small quirk of the Senegal River.  I think the Medecin Chef told us that 90% of children enrolled in ecoles primaries here have the disease, and in a town where money for water can be scarce and the temperature hovers around 40-45 degrees C this time of year, it’s not hard to see why.  Tomorrow we’re biking to Jambo to see Evan, where Insha’Allah we will do some first-hand research on how the disease is acquired (read: swim across the river to the island to look at/ hopefully play with monkeys).

In the afternoon we’re going to the health center to talk to my counterpart about one of the causeries we’d like to do before IST.  While we’re still developing our plan of attack with Schisto, Lauren left us all the right tools to do a nutrition causerie for women with malnourished children, and we’d like to attempt at least one during the hospital’s weekly baby weighing sessions.  The other causerie we want to tackle before IST (if, for no other reason, just for the practice) is a 2 for 1 session where we talk about preventing Malaria, then go on to show the women of our quartier how to make neem lotion, an effective and cheap mosquito repellent.

The months after install are an awkward time.  We want to get going doing the things we were training to do for the last 9 weeks, but if we don’t pace ourselves and spend time getting to know our community, its culture, and our assigned language we risk getting burned-out.  At the same time, anywhere you go in the world there’s a certain subtext to a community, one that can take months to begin to comprehend.  As someone who visibly doesn’t belong to that community, it could even take years.  Right now we’re balancing the urge to get tangible work done with trying to unravel this thread—the stuff that you don’t get by stopping into someone’s house and talking to them for a few hours, even if you go every day for a month.

Hope all’s well in the ‘States