Just “See ya later.”

Swear-In Ceremony – April 25, 2009

As more than half of my training group (stage) will have left country by the end of the month, this post is in honor of them. “Lame Stage” my face, these people are among my most favorite in country. As tough as it is to delete their names from my phone, I lessen my sorrows with the knowledge that I will run in to all of them again some day. (Oh awww.)

Close of Service Conference – February 24, 2011


Yes, those are two bite marks in honeycomb fresh from the hive.

Delicious. Jealous?

As it is now hot season and my fear of dehydration has me consuming 6 liters of water a day, I’ve noticed the water level in my cannery running low much quicker than usual. Duh, I know, but wouldn’t be so duh if I wasn’t making up for the gulping by pulling an extra bucket for my water filter.  Ahh, there it is – my filter! I decided to investigate why it was going so slow.

Below is a photo of the ceramic candles that sit inside the filter.  The water must pass through them to get to bottom “Drink me!” section.  The candle on the right is one I wiped down with a rag.  The candle on the left is how both looked when I first took them out of the filter.

You can scratch that layer of gook right off with your fingernail EWW!


Gross sauce.  I mean, I’m still going to drink unfiltered water when traveling around, but this is pretty decent motivation to keep filtering it in site.

Hello lovely friends and family and random internet wanders who’ve happened upon my blog,

The crew crossing the bridge into Kolda meme

As of this past Tuesday, the increasingly epic Kolda Donkey Rally trotted into Kolda, ending a six-day journey of over 100 kilometers, 12 causeries, 1 kilo of Moringa seeds, 17 volunteers, and of course 4 donkeys.  To be frank, we realized on about day two that maybe the idea of riding donkeys for six days across Kolda was in fact not the best idea (logistically, comfort-wise, realistically for full-gown 24-year-olds riding donkeys in 121 degree heat) that we’ve ever had… regardless, the purpose of parading PCVs on donkeys across Kolda to bring attention to the alarming burden of malnutrition in Kolda was achieved.

I joined the rally-spectacle on the 12th, after the crew had been on the already been on the road for three days.  One look at everyone Saturday afternoon made it clear that exhaustion and dehydration were common companions throughout the rally, but the crew mustered up the enthusiasm and powered through that evening’s causerie in wonderful form.   Though of course some were better than others, we can honestly report that every one of the causeries (“health talks”) we led about malnutrition and how the leaves of the Moringa tree are one of the best tools for fighting vitamin deficiency went very well.  The leader of our brigade, Geoff, brought along his counterpart, Moustafa, who did most of the talking during our causeries.  Moustafa was was an absolute champion when it came to corralling villages we were visiting to attend our health talks via his megaphone and bucket-load of enthusiasm.  Combine three megaphones, four donkeys, and an average of nine volunteers at each causerie and you have enough of a circus to attract a small crowd in every village, be it simply out of curiosity as to what the hell we were doing or not.  The point is that a lot of people were reached all over Kolda as we made it rain Moringa seeds. Check and check.

1 of the 12 moringa causeries

As I’ve alluded, after slow days in the sun combined with scanty meals and continuously running on empty, it’s not surprising that before long we were explaining in Pulaar (well, everyone else was, I agreed along in Mandinka) to Moustafa what “slap happy” means as every late afternoon and evening turned into a delirious giggle-fest.  One evening, Moustafa contemplated Geoff and Curtiss’s definition of slap-happy as he glanced at Wilma, Cara, Mike and myself rolling around some mats, belly-laughing at our latest “ass” joke (you’d think after six days with the donkeys they would have gotten old, but they never did).  Moustafa slapped his hands together, nodded his head and looked seriously and Geoff and Curtiss: “Yes. Slap-hap-py. That is definitely what is happening,” he said as he picked up his mega-phone and said his new favorite English phrase we taught him over the course of the ride… “Oh my donkey!”  Enter fits of hilarity to all in the immediate area.

On a similar note, I want to end this post about the rally with a big THANK YOU to everyone who donated to the Gardens of Moringa Fund.  Over $1,600 was raised since we posted the Donkey Rally informational video on YouTube… which is amazing!  After covering the costs of the donkey rally, we have enough money in the fund to finance eleven small projects.  To refresh everyone on the ideas behind the Gardens of Moringa Fund: money will be used from the fund to support small-scale projects that pertain to Moringa; project costs must not exceed $150 and must include an intensive Moringa leaf bed and a causerie on the health benefits of the leaves.   In an organization where there often seems to be no medium between large-scale grants and volunteer-funded initiatives (difficult when we aren’t paid as much as stipend to get by each month), the Gardens of Moringa Fund will enable a lot of great projects to happen on the grassroots level the country over.  So again, thank you!  And remember that any time your change-purse gets a tad too heavy, you can donate to the country fund and designate the money to go to the Gardens of Moringa fund.  Hooray!

Unfortunately, none of the video footage we shot during the rally is at all pertinent to the actual rally and more for the ralliers’ amusement, so I do not have another YouTube snippet for you all to see.  Instead, and as usual, below is a collage of photos from my time with the Donkey Rally.    Enjoy!

Charlene climbs a Moringa tree to gather seeds. Photo by Curtis McCoy


Kelly, Wilma, Cara, Charlene, Mike, & Mike breaking open Moringa seed pods. Photo by Curtis McCoy


The long road of the Kolda Donkey Rally


9am Breakfast after a 6am start


1 of the 12 moringa causeries, Nebedaye is a local name for Moringa. Photo by Curtis McCoy


Mike challenging some local kids to a wrestling match between causeries. Photo by Curtis McCoy


The local kids kicking Mike's butt. 13 against 1 will do that. Photo by Curtis McCoy


Heading into Wilma's village, our stop for the night.


Me testing my balance trying to get on my bike one morning. Three bikers carried all the baggage for the donkey crew. Photo by Cara Steger


Off bring and early each morning, bikers and donkey riders (walkers) steady on down the national highway in Kolda. Photo by Cara Steger


Mom and daughter listen to one of the causeries


Mike looks on as Kelly and Cara nap between causeries. Photo by Curtis McCoy


Another day ends as we roll into our host village for the night. Photo by Curtis McCoy


Me feeling the crazy-slap-happy we indulged in at the end of each day.


Wilma, me & Cara: the bike crew with our heaviest loads the last day of the rally! Photo by Jason Haack


Mike and Wilma (and Jason's dog) rejoicing at the Kolda-ho! sign (misleading though as Kolda meme was still an hour away). Photo by Curtis McCoy


Glory banner as we crossed the bridge into Kolda meme! Photo by Pam Pratt




The Kolda car heading up to Dakar! This is about 7 hours into the trip.









Did I mention that our team was Space Corps?  Think space suits, Star Wars characters,  Avitars, and squirt-guns.




We had some pretty stiff competition: Gambian zombies that began each game with the Thriller dance…



... a team from Dakar that donned wax fabric lederhosen...



... and a team from Kaolack made entirely of ballerinas (yes, this is me in my space suit)...



... but thankfully our stellar batting strategies intimidated the competition.

We even beat the team dressed like cows and cowboys.













Team Kolda Space Corps won TWO games! We made history!! (We never really win... any... games.)



Team Kolda/Space Corps after our first game day

Team Kolda/Space Corps after day two

I got to stay in a homestay with three of my closest friends in country: April, Steph and Jessie!


Evening activities included a talent show (here Vivienne and Chris imitate other PCVs' dance moves)

And a huge dance party where we rent out a club on the beach.

Coolest part - my friend Maya and I DJed the party! She's from Kolda as well, so our DJ name is DJ Ice Kolda... AMAZING, right?

I'm a DJ! Go DJ, that's my DJ

The people were pleased with the tunes



As happened last year...

... we were all dead by day 3.

But it was worth it! Until next year...


Life in village these past few months has revolved around the peanut harvest.  Peanuts have been the buzz of village conversation: How many peanuts have you harvested? Did we get them all from the fields? Have the been brought in from the fields before the goats and cows got to them?  Does Nacho still eat peanuts from the shell? How much is one kilo of peanuts selling in Diaobe (the biggest outdoor market in west Africa that is about 50k from my road town) these days?

One of my favorite parts of the peanut harvest is the part that takes place right outside of my hut door.  Everyone keeps their peanuts in tall, bamboo, cylinder-like structures that sit right outside of their huts (my brothers’ is outside my hut door).  Here the peanuts will stay until they are captured by rogue squirrels or until people have decided they are ready to roast, eat, shell, or sell them.

The process of getting the peanuts into these holders is amusing to me because the bags they use to transport the peanuts from the fields to the huts are huge, awkward, and heavy, and the holding structures are of course then very tall.  Everyone has their own methods of putting the peanuts in their place, but my favorite  (illustrated below) was how my three brothers decided to tackle the job amidst much yelling, fighting, and laughing.

First, drive the donkey cart so that the donkey’s nose enters Amanda’s hut door.

Then, topple the five or six huge bags of peanuts from the charette onto the ground.

Attempt to lift the bag high enough to pour the peanuts into the bamboo holding container. Literally using your head helps.

Hop up to check on how the process is going.

Bag number two! Make the smallest guy jump in the bamboo container to assist in the peanut-dumping process.


Shake the bag furiously to make sure that every last groundnut makes it out.

Bounce out of the peanut holidng bin just in time for lunch.

My feet on a typical day during the dry season. Dust, or a really good tan? We shall never know until it's bucket-bath time.


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