Humm, Someone Made Me Think

•12/23/2010 • 3 Comments

Ok one of my friends sends me 10 questions a letter she gets from a book. I am posting this because other than a few random projects I have been helping on I really have nothing new to post here. I have been in country for over a year now, and not much surprises me anymore. I have realized I may have been here too long, and I still have a year to go. Example: I am laying in bed and it is 3 in the morning. I am awakened to the sound of a mouse or rat rustling through a pile of papers on the floor on the other side of my hut. Most people would just roll over and go back to sleep and hope the trap gets him. Well I went straight up Gambian on his little furry butt. I grabbed my machete off the wall where it hangs with the rest of my tools, and I go to hacking at him like my life depended on it. I did not manage to kill him, just wounded him and my floor. My floor now sports some nice divots from where I did miss with the machete. Ah well the trap got him later that night. I was ok with that.

Ok back to the questions.

1)Do you squeeze the toothpaste tube or roll it? What is the advantage of your method?

101) Are yo a hugger or a non-hugger? Why?

201) What is your favorite ice cream brand and flavor?

301) What is one of your greatest achievements?

401) If you could be invisible for a day what would you do?

501) What does “success” mean to you?

601) What is one regret you live with?

701) What was the last time you cried? Why?

801) Why do you think there are so many different religions in the world?

901) When and how often do you pray? What motivates you to pray?

Answers

1a) I squeeze the tube, and I have no idea why. I am not sure there is an advantage, just the way I have always done it.

101a) I am a hugger, again no idea why.

201a) Seriously- I mean come on I have not had ice cream in over a year and I am suppose to remember brands and flavors. Ok when I left I was a fan of Bryers ( I think this is how you spell it, the one in the black box) French vanilla, but at this point I would take just about any kind of ice cream

301a) Living it right now. I mean come on how cool is this. I get paid to live in a foreign country and just be here. See story above for an example.

401a) Well I think I would want to be invisible on Super Bowl Sunday. Then I would go stand on the side lines and watch, the most watch sporting event, live.

501a) Humm, Well success to me is the process in which character is developed and refined. Let me explain. (These questions are getting harder) Now in life you might get what you want and you might not, but regardless of the outcome. If you learn, grow, and develop skills and talents than that job was successful. So will Peace Corps help me to get the job of my dreams, maybe or maybe not. Will I change the way all Gambians live, probably not. Who knows, but if I learn and grow as a person while I am here than my time here was successful.

601a) I am not sure I have any regrets. I have things I wish I had not done. I have made choice that were foolish and not helpful in any way shape or form, but I don’t regret them. Some of those foolish choices give me insights into people and their motives, so why would I regret something that actually serves me in life. At the time I regretted making those choices, but I would not know what I do today without those choices.

701a) About a year ago. Ask me in person and I will tell you.

801a) Well at the risk of offending a bunch of people. Here goes. If you wonder where I stand read the top banner. The reason for the different religions, IN MY OPINION, is because people as a whole have been trying to find a way to justify our life without god. So basically from the fall till today we have been at war with a loving god. While he wages war with love and forgiveness. We are not so kind. We have raised images, stories, and other “truths”. To justify our life and try to give ourselves purpose and worth. Sorry if this offends, just my opinion.

901a) Well here is a weakness of mine. I do not pray very often. Maybe once or twice a week. I am usually motivated by troubles or problems in my life or others. Which is never what prayer was meant for, and while I realize this I keep trying to use prayer as a repair man call.

So that is the end of the first 10. I have 10 more that I will post some time. I figure this might generate some comments and I might have to explain somethings before we continue. So feel free to answer these questions yourself and

I am back

•09/22/2010 • 1 Comment

Well sorry I have not posted anything for a while.  No real reason for not posting anything, other than just being lazy.  I wish I had some new great story, but nothing too great to tell.  Let me see, I have an infestation of  mosquitoes. Now this is not some silly little infestation.  I manage to kill more than 50 a night when I forget to apply bug spray, and when I remember to apply bug spray I only get 20 kills.

Let me see, oh I have decided that my yard needed to be tilled up. I was mowing it with a machete, but my host family and village was constantly giving me crap about my yard.  So I finally broke down last week and started turning my yard.  It was not finished when I left today, but i am more than half way done.  Now my yard while not huge it is decent size.  I would say square footage wise it is about the size of a basketball court.  So right now it is half turned and the rest I cheated and mowed right quick with my machete.  I will finish when I get back.

I have also been managing to read a hand full of book.  I would highly “All Things Great and Small” by James Herriot.  It is hilarious.  I love Sigfried, and I know some of those guys.  Maybe it is just the mechanic in me and having to deal with truck drivers, I have had some of the same experiences as James in dealing with people and I can so relate.  So yea go read it.  It should be silly cheap.  I don’t know when it was written  but picking it up at a second hand shop should be no problem.

Ok so I don’t have a lot more to say, so it is your turn ask questions PLEASE!!

Later,

Matt

EEEP!

•07/24/2010 • 2 Comments

You ever had one of those days where you swear animals can sense what is happening and what you are trying to do to them.  Well a few days ago I noticed that we had adopted several mice involuntarily at our transit house.  Now I am not saying I mind mice I just get really annoyed when they ruin my Cup of Noodles, or bag of chocolate candy.  So one day a bunch of us here went out to eat, and the restaurant we were eating at under charged us.  Now we told them they were wrong, but since they could not find the error they let us just keep the money.  Usually this is not a problem, but since we all paid what we owed.  We were faced with the dilemma of what to do with the extra money.  We decided to buy mouse traps for the house, and this is where my problem began.

I was the fool that volunteered to go buy and set the traps, mostly because I was tired of losing food to the mice and thought i have no problem going and buying traps since I am going to the store anyway.  So yea, with our 150 Delasi I went and bought a couple of mouse traps.  Now these were not the Gambian traps that don’t work these were genuine USA mouse killing traps .  Yep that is right sporting a bit of US pride even here.  Needless to say after buying these traps I set them and let the mouse killing being.  It was going pretty well for the first couple of days.  I had manged to get 3 kills and had not even baited the traps yet, so I was feeling like a mouse killin fool. Maybe I should just stop at fool, but I will let you be the judge.

Then they decided it was time for revenge.  You know a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye.  Their attempt was valiant, but ill thought out.  They waited till I was blissfully typing away on my computer one night surfing the internet for who knows what.  Probably Facebook stalking somebody I don’t remember.  That is when the madness ensued.  I felt this scratchy sensation on my back, was not sure what it was, my first thought was that my shirt had bunched up and I had found a zipper on a pillow.  Not so lucky.  I still remember the feeling of his claws as they raked my fingers, that were trying to pull my shirt down.

Now I don’t know how many of you can relate to this, but having a mouse trying to crawl into your shorts with you still in them is not exactly the most pleasant feeling.  The feeling of raking across my fingers was not what I was expecting, but I handled it like a good and proper adult male. I jumped to my feet like as if somebody had shouted free ice cream from the kitchen.  This may be something that only Peace Corps Volunteers do, but yea.  Now when jumping to your feet in this manner you will attract attention, but as soon as you start throwing couch cushions across the room and mumbling obscenities under your breath everybody takes notice.

Once I finally laid eyes on the little vermin, I was face with a dilemma how do I kill this little pants sharer.  Like any good PCV, I improvised.  I reach down and grabbed my chaco sandal and begin to beat him and the couch into a pulp.  Finally after about 20 seconds I finally calm down, mostly because I was winded, and partly because there lay the little twerp dead  and motionless.  Haha. (Evil Laugh) So moral of the story, don’t mess with the tubab.

What I have been up to.

•07/24/2010 • 1 Comment

Well I have been getting some mail suggesting (rather forcefully) that I need to update my blog.  So here is the boring story that is my life.  Since my last post I have been in Kombo a lot.  We had a boat cruise on the 3rd of July for the 4th.  It was the only day we could get the boat and crew for the weekend.  Then I decided it would be a good idea to get food poisoning.  Note to self bad idea.  You would think I would learn after the first 4 times but no.  Had to try it again.  So I had to stay a couple of days, in Kombo not only to get better, but also had to wait for the med unit to open.  Thank God and some smart chemist for coming up with a drug called Cipro.  So now I am all fixed up and down at the office talking with my Program Manager.

Shortly after my conversation with my PM, but while still in the office I get asked to help with training the new group.  They wondered if I could do Gardening and Food Security.  Now this would not have been a big deal, if they had not asked me to do it on Friday at 4:30 as everybody is walking out the door.  So yea now here is my situation, I have to do training on Monday at 1:00pm and while gardening is not a big deal, I know just about nothing about food security in The Gambia.  But hey I will have 5 hours on Monday to learn about it, type a lesson plan, and prepare all the necessary materials.  Yea no prob, but hey it is The Gambia.

I am not sure what happened, but for some reason I did not have any transportation so my lessons got postponed till Tuesday.  Yes, dodged a bullet there.  So yea, next day everything is prepared and we are ready to go at about 2:00.  So I do my lessons for all the new groups over the next couple of days, and then I finally get the green light to go back to site.  Yeaaa, I had not been home in over 2 weeks and I had grown tired of Kombo.  Finally a few days of R&R.  Granted I have to come back in 3 days to get training on how to be a good peer coach.  Part of me being a member of Volunteer Support Network.

So on my way back to site, I had not even made it all the way home yet. I get a text from a site mate saying that the village where we are doing a garden developement project is ready to meet again.  Well crap there goes my R&R.  It is a 2hr bike ride to her site and then another hour to the village.  So yea that happened over the next 2 days.  So I get back to my village and spend a day chilling there, and the next morning I am on the road again heading back to Kombo.

Right now all of my training is finished and I will be headed out in a couple of days.  I am thrilled to be going home, but I fear what will come up next.  Oh well, nice part about all of this is I am keeping busy.  So, I will get to hopefully chill in village for a couple of weeks, but then I have to come back for Reconnect.  Basically all of us that swore in back in Jan, get to come down to Kombo and talk about what we have been up to for the last 8 months.

Has it really been that long, man, it just does not seem possible.  I  feel like It was just last week I was walking off of a plane with a head full of big ideas.  While those things seem to be gone now, I am excited to see exactly what I will be able to get done and where the rest of my service will take me.  So here is hoping.

Later

About 6 months

•06/18/2010 • Leave a Comment

Well what can I say I have been at site for nearly 6 months. A lot has happened and a lot is just about to start changing. For the last 5 months it has been mind numbingly hot. I mean wow. No rain, no clouds, no break. Oh it would cool off at night. It would get down to about 100. To cope with the unruly heat I have basically moved outside. My bed is under this beautiful Yellow Cassia tree, only problem came when a swarm of birds decided they liked the tree too. It is raining poo. Now mosquito nets are wonderful things, but they were never designed to catch wet bird poop. This was an inconvenient wake up call the first day. Shortly there after the top of my mosquito net was covered with cloth to separate me from the bird excrement.

Now though I have a new problem with sleeping outside. That silly thing called rain. I have survived my first Dry season. Now I have a whole new load of problems to deal with. One is I am sleeping indoors most nights, because when storms blow in. They blow in in a hurry and they dump a lot of water in a real short time. Another problem is my hut is not completely watertight. It is close and really the worst of it just harmlessly runs down the inside of my walls. I am still waiting for the humidity to raise up high enough to where the walls of my hut turn in to huge microscopic colonies. That is right, my walls will soon come to life, covered in a fine layer of mold. Hurray.

Oh this is also a fun development. My skin is finally starting to break down. It has developed Heat Rash, also known as Prickly Heat. No treatment and not a whole lot of fun. Not only does it itch, it also can feel like my entire body is covered in little tiny blisters. So yea this just sucks. Nothing to be too concerned about just a good old fashioned annoyance.

Ok bad stuff discussed. Lets see new developments, it is raining. This is an awesome development. Plants are starting to grow, in ground that I could have sworn was nothing more than an over grown child’s sand box. Birds and other bugs have decided to come back. It is just a fun time.

As far as work goes there has been some, I have been helping to organize a library at a near by school. I cannot believe how many books they have there. I have 8 shelves and some change of childrens books. 2 full shelves of more adult fiction. 3 shelves of teaching aids. 4 shelves of reference and non-fiction material. It is just crazy how many books they have, and also depressing, knowing that most of these books will never be read.

So I decided to help some people learn to read. Unfortunately, I decided to help my brother’s wives learn how to read their local language. Now there are a few problems with this, one I am teaching them Mandinka. Mandinka- A tribal language, spoken by about 1,000,000 people, very few written forms available, and no books around. Oh well it is what they wanted and I don’t see the harm in them being able to read their own language.

Also at the village level I have been helping my host brother do home construction. Yep thats right flew half way around the world to mix concrete and lay bricks. It is good though. I enjoy being outside working and just this year alone we have built and roofed 3 rooms. A room 3 meter by 3 meter square. Topped a pit latrine. Cement plastered his entire house, and porch. The plaster keeps the rains from eating away at the bricks, because the bricks are composed of sand and that is it, just SAND.

Other work, I am helping develop a garden and orchard plan at a neighboring village. Their plans are huge and I don’t know if we will even be able to get the project started, but me and another volunteer are going to try. First step is getting the village to do some homework, basic things like cost of materials, who gets how many plots, how many well, where are all the materials coming from. So we will see what they can get done. I am excited about this project, but I fear the commitment level of the Gambians is not going to be enough to see this project through to the end. But we trying.

Also I am still gardening. I have successfully grown pumpkins, moringa (yes it is a tree), watermelon, okra, and kering kerin (like sorrel). It is tough to grow stuff here and the local women do it so much better, but I am trying to show them that they can grow things out of season and it will be more profitable for the to do so. What happens is everybody likes to plant the same things and the same time and then everybody’s stuff hits the market at exactly the same time and the value just takes a dive. So if you can grow it out of season, there is serious money to be made.

Also a big part of my job (not sure how I feel about this) is networking. I get people with resources together with people that will use them responsibly not exactly what I planned to be doing with most of my time, but it is what it is.

Finally I will be starting to plant some crops here before too long. I am hoping my family will let me attempt to grow some high land rice. It grows in places that peanuts and coos grow, but unlike regular rice it only takes as much water as peanuts or coos. Looks kinda like grass most of the time. So we will see.

My closing thoughts are I enjoy my work and I love my family. I am curious to see what will happen over the course of the next 6 months. I want to put my knowledge to use, but here everything I seem to know does not matter. Just life here is a lot of work and anything on top of that is just gravy. I pray that I will slowly begin to do more development work in the surrounding villages and I hope to continue to be active in my local community. We will see what happens. So until next time

Later,

Matt

Even More Books

•06/18/2010 • 4 Comments

“The Five People You Meet In Heaven” Author: I forgot (go figure) 5of 5 (A must read)

This book is truly awesome. It sort of reminds me of “The Shack”. At the risk or ruining a good book I will say no more about the actual plot of the book. It is just one of those that I truly recommend. I was finished with the book in a little under 24hrs, so it is a quick read. I would say it would be an easy weekend, but regardless of that little fact at the end of the book I took a step back and looked at my own life. Finally what a friend had been telling me for years started to sink in. Long ways to go on that though.

“The Entire Chronicle of Narnia Series” Author: C.S. Lewis 4 of 5

I had never read this series until now so be nice as you judge me. I was impressed with some books and let down with others. Favorite book was “Dawn Treader” and my least favorite was “The Last Battle”. I have my reasons for liking and disliking all the books, but for some reason the way “Dawn Treader” ends. Well that just seems quite peaceful and yet so spiritual all at the same time. What a way to lose my favorite character though. Rechiep (spelled it wrong, but I have no better guess) the mouse. Not sure why I love this guy, but he is just plain gutsy and at the same time patient and wise. So he was my favorite.

“Catch 22” Author: Joseph Heller 5 of 5

Great book. I will give it to you all that this book is crazy hard to follow, and until you get about ½ way through it, it does not get much better. If you persevere though, I fully guarantee that you will be laughing out loud where ever you happen to be reading it. Even to the annoyance of the people sitting next to you on a couch. It will be ok though, they will have a different book and be doing the same thing. Unless this is only normal in The Gambia. So don’t be intimidated by it size, or the fact that you are lost. I found for me to attack this book I had to pretend that I was new on the base and Yosario was giving me the guided tour. It is a story as told by one man to another. It is great, and by the end of it you will be thinking of your own catch 22′s.

“Integrity” Author: Dr. Henry Cloud Unfinished

Good book, not sure how to classify it yet. I have not finished reading it at the time of creating this post, but it is an amazing book and I wanted to encourage everyone to read it. It discusses how you as a complete person effect all of those around you in a work setting. This is not just from a numbers aspect either. It also works on the personal side of things. Again I have not finished this book yet so I can not give a complete review of it, but as of page 100 I would highly recommend it. If nothing else it will get you thinking about your own character.

Ant War

•04/25/2010 • 3 Comments

Report

 

Rank: PCV

 

Name: Yaayaa Dremmeh

 

Mission: Destroy ant colony in Jonkongo (Back yard, Bath Area, Toilet)

 

Remarks: With the scent of Bayonet still clinging to my nose, I crunch through yet one more m & m. What an interesting evening this has been. I had not planned on starting a war with the ants, but they drew first blood in a series of raids over the past couple of weeks. They were the ones in violation of the border treaties. They were the ones who refused all offers of peace talks. I have had to remove them twice from the water filtration plant (my peace corp issued water filter) set up in my house, and this latest surprise raid on my pit latrine was the final straw.

Let me set the scene. It is 12:30 at night I am tired and just want to go to the bathroom and then head to bed. I step out my back door and discover my yard now moves. It has become a sea full of life. Now to watch your yard move is a rather eerie experience. You know that there is something and a lot of something at that. Apparently in my short absence an entire ant colony decide to move into my pit latrine, or at least under the cement that covers my pit latrine. Not a huge advocate on war, I decided to try and reason with the ants and convince them to move on. When all peace and border talks broke down, there was only one thing left to do. Grab the can of, conveniently named, Bayonet and begin the massacre of thousands of ants.

Now having only one can of bug spray and a back yard full of ant meant I had to get the ants together and make them a more solid target, but how they refuse to listen when I spoke to them. Then I saw it, their main hive. All of the ants were either coming or going from right there. So it was then that I new my mission, I had to get in close to hole and wage my war there. As I carefully hop scotch my way through my back yard jumping over the seeming endless line of marching ants. My hopes begin to dwindle that I have enough spray to do the job. Finally arriving at my destination a mere meter from my enemy’s stronghold I dug in my heels and being the massacre.

As the mist from the first the runs of the yellow bomber begin to settle and alarm sounds. All of my back yard that was paying me no attention, suddenly returns to protect the hive and the queen. So I have no choice but to work and work fast. As fast as I can spot the targets the Yellow bomber comes in, carrying his fog of deadly payload and unleashes hell. Runs eight, nine, ten there is a steady fog emanating from my back yard and it is saturating my clothes and all the surrounding concrete. The casualties from this war as starting to add up. The bodies of my once healthy and active opponents now litter the ground like dew drops on a cool spring morning.

The bombing runs continue as the bodies begin to stack up around the entrance to the hive. I have now begun to focus my efforts on the hole which the enemy has secured as it stronghold. The only problem is that the bodies from my enemy’s are stacked up so high at the entrance that the spray can no longer penetrate down into the blackness. Then I see it the first of my collateral damage. A brown spider about the size of my fist bursts from the hole with such force and speed that I jump out completely out of my sandals. As I struggle to regain my composure as well as my sandals, I reach out and hit him with a direct shot. He squirms for a second and is then lifeless, but mean while my enemy’s seizing the chance. They had established and enacted an evacuation plan. Now usually I would let sleeping dogs lie, but that in my opinion would set a bad example for all of the other and tribes living in my area. I had to be firm in my decision even if it meant killing all of them. So I resume the bug bombing runs, and as the can nears exhaustion, so do I. I look to survey the scene and except for a few small patches of ants still squirming and clinging to life the ground is silent.

As the fog of the war slowly begins to settle, the carnage that has taken place is evident. The bodies of thousand of ants litter the area. Those ants still alive are doing search and rescue, but their efforts are on ground, that would qualify as nuclear fallout. For as they run across it searching for their friends who might still be alive they become infected with the Bayonet parasite and soon succumb to it sickness. Yes all is silent in my jonkongo.

 
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