"The body is the harp of the soul. It is yours to bring forth from it sweet music or confused sounds" Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spraying Mosquito Repellant in Open Wounds

Once again, serious and funny stuff for the day.

How do you save a continent? 

It is a growing thought of mine that leaving Africa to heal on its own is better than interfering with ignorance. That does not mean do not help, it is just that I experience many things here that tell me that just giving money to Africa does not help and may actually hurt!

One story as an example is that of my friend Kelsey and how she came upon a teacher spraying mosquito repellent into a child’s open wound; when asked why are you doing that, he replied, “It is in the medical kit I figured it would help.” A similar experience I had recently when visiting my family in village, Fatou my host sister had a tooth ache… which is understandable because most Gambians have a healthy addiction to sugar and know only about the tooth brush and nothing of floss. I have now started flossing all the time, because I can see many people have black lines of dying gums and teeth in the spots where a brush can’t reach. Anyhow, my host mother in an attempt to help pulls out the “medicine” (in wolof is the same word as fruit, translated literally as “child of the tree”) which consisted of assorted pills, some with labels other not. Amongst the heart burn pills and menthol drops meant as an inhalant, I realized that had I not been there, random pills some not even being edible would be consumed to fix a tooth ache. This is because people in the village are used to treating their illnesses with sticks that have been blessed from the local marabou (traditional healer). Our medicine is often treated in the same magical way, but no one has every really explained how it should be used. Here is an example of the discrepancy between intention and application in Africa. There are thousands of these examples from every Peace Corps volunteer speaking to this.

A pile of mittens from America being sold on the side of the road, on the bright side it seems clothes do stimulate the local economy.  Each pair there will go for maybe 10-20 dalasi or about 60 cents.On a 90+ degree day I do not know why anyone would want mittens though???
When we send money to Africa, the intention is good, but there is often no real direction to the money. The money is passed down from hand to hand, but no one take the time to figure out how to make an impact, and when it is received markets are built in the wrong place or it goes into the wrong pockets.  The key is education, "teaching a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime," is never more true than here.  Renewable technology, medicine, used clothes, all of it gets misused here, we need a way to teach and train people how to do it for themselves.  Furthermore it has created a culture of corruption and expectation.  They expect the white man has come here to hand out money or exploit them for money.  Never to teach them or be apart of their culture.  

Education is the key, education requires man power and cannot be fixed with books, money, clothes, or aid.  Figuring out how to educate Africa so that Africa can help it self is the only way for what we perceive of as poverty, hunger, and disease to disappear. We must be there to teach them or have dedicated people from Africa come here on our dime to learn it from us so they can go back and explain in the local language why it is not good to feed someone with a tooth ache vapor drops. 
My Work:
Currently, garbled skype calls to India have been the norm. I am constantly trying to pester cashew equipment supply companies in India to get back to us with their bids. Then trying to negotiate bids and set up reference checks. This is because IRD is setting up to buy a massive order of processing equipment which it hopes to give to 4 different villages in Gambia. I have been to each of these villages, danced, ate with the families, and sat under the tree brewing atia (a super strong green tea). I am undertaking things that I never thought I alone would undertake, and feel shocked that this NGO can actually use much of the help I can give. Hopefully, we will have ordered roughly $80,000 of equipment soon. I am just dreading doing the reference check which will further include me calling various African and Indian numbers over garbled skype lines.
Another captured geko from inside my house, shortly before his relocation.  This one looks much more life the GEICO Geko.

My Day to Day: My list of general day to day activities
• Read
• Do Yoga
• Meditate
• Go to the gym
• Play Frisbee at a British based research center with some British people and locals
• Go running on the beach
• Go to games night on Saturday and play board games with above mentioned brits
• Watch a traditional African band at the local theatre where many come to play
• Spend the night entertaining Peace Corps friends who are constantly coming into town to treat various amebas, bacteria, worms, or fungal problems they acquired in village.
• Hang out with random people I meet
• Have dinner with the house across from me (a nice Wolof family)
• Go to the market
• Of course work
• Visit friends up country to dig holes for trees
• Give counseling to friends on cashew trees
• Practice Wolof
This is currently my standard day to day life all of this mixed in.
Ferry of Doom
One of the many patrons waiting for the ferry. He subsided of trash and an apple core that I fed him.

There is no way to describe the Banjul to Barra Ferry. Chaos and purgatory come close, but waiting a combined 14 hours for a 3 day weekend trip going and coming is not fun. Our ferry adventure included: pushing a broken down van onto the ferry which we were stuck behind as cars attempted to and did cut us off, loud arguments with officials for not watching cars cutting us off, the asking for and passing of money, food, and even some cashew seeds to get into "VIP line" (the only one that moved) in order to get the vehicle I was riding in onto the ferry, large cattle which were borderline anorexic wandering through the lines of waiting cars, a man carrying an upside down adolescent hog tied goat in each hand onto the ferry, ferries pushing other broken ferries across the river, and 100 degree heat.
After eight hours of waiting, this is the ferry I finally made it on.
The only bright side was that a wonderful games weekend was had on the North Bank where I reunited with many friends I made during training. Frisbee, a mango eating contest, kayaking on the River Gambia, and settlers of catan were some of the wonderful games we played. I also bought 19kgs of cashew seeds in hopes to distribute them to all of my friends wanting to start cashew orchards in their village.

That is just a brief update, I have been putting off calling references in Tanzania and think that that is my next task for the day.
Me and some volunteers playing a game of spoons
Mango eating competition. How fast can you eat a plate of mangoes without your hands?


  1. Fantastic post dude! You're seriously making some great pictures. I think keen interest, respect, compassion and cultural emersion can be just as good if not better teachers for making storytelling pictures than formal photographic training. It's always wonderful to read your posts. Btw, what is that first picture of?!?


  2. Thank you so much for continuing to persevere and sharing your amazing experiences with us! I'm sorry it has taken me so long to reply! I've been thinking about you and meaning to reply every time I see a new email with your name on it. You should think about writing an article and/or submitting your photos to National Geographic or a smiliar publication. Your observations and experiences are something many people should read about - not just us lucky few! :-) Hugs from Colorado!