Thursday, May 1, 2014


full of fear that our strength was lost 
we started from rebirth 
our feet dirty, skin brown, hearts uneven 
we were challenged, broken down 
stripped bare 

left standing, the only ones, we thought 
we heard silence 
cried out, the drums answered 
training our hearts to the rhythm 
of Africa

we waited, searching, listening 
facing the universe, our ears awoke 
to witness the whispering of the world 
calling our strength awake 

reborn, our feet dirty, skin brown 
hearts beating in union with the drums 
our eyes tame, our cries of joy 
our ears full of the universes truth, 
whispering hope

Moments of pause

It gives me strength, almost unbelievable strength, to know that you are there. I covert your eyes, your ears, the collapsible space between us. How blessed we are to have each other? I am alive, and you are alive so we must fill the air with our words...All the while I will know you are there. How can I pretend that you do not exist? It would be almost impossible as you pretending that I do not exist. 
- What is the What?  David Eggars

The tears, when they come to come men, are worse than beatings. They're wounded worse by sobbing, men like that, than they are by boots and batons. Tears begin in the heart, but some of us deny the heart so often and for so long, that when it speaks we hear not one but a hundred sorrows in the heartbreak. We know that crying is a good and natural thing. We know that crying isn't a weakness, but a kind of strength. Still, the weeping rips us root by tangled root from the earth, and we crash like fallen trees when we cry.
- Shantarum Gregory David Roberts

To my mind, development is about giving hope to ordinary people that their children will live in a society that has caught up with the rest of the world. Take that hope away and the smart people will use their energies not to develop their society but to escape from it.
-Bottom Billion Paul Collier 

Love in Black and White

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The last of the day's

As of this morning, I have 17 more days till my COS car arrives. By that I mean, a Peace Corps car comes to my village in the very early morning, puts all of my dusty, dirty, well used and half disintegrated items into the car, I have a probably predicted very tearful goodbye with my moms, my siblings, my dad and a few well loved folks from village. I then am supposed to get into the car and drive away. I do not know if I will have the chance to return later in life, if it's at all possible, I don't know when it will happen, if the smaller kids will remember me, what their lives will look like then, what my life will look like at that point, what the village will be like (probably unchanged), if the garden will still be standing or used or if they will have continued any of the projects that I have worked alongside them to begin. But I do know that change here, at least, comes very very slowly. 

I really don't have even 17 more days in village, I have 12. I have paperwork to complete before I can get on a plane. I am heading to Justin's village this weekend so say my goodbye's to the Cham clan. And then back to TF. 

Everyone in village knows i'm leaving. I have had several requests to pack people into my luggage, which I thought was funny because we have that joke in the developed world too!! I bunch of people have straight up asked me to bring them to America, well lets be honest, that has happened every day for the last 764 days since my feet first touched the African soil. Nymandi has come into my room several times now, and laid beside me, asking me questions about what I'm going to do in America, where I am going to live, what or when I will have work, what programs (parties) will be happening upon my return, and where Omar will be. She always asks about Ndey, Aimee, my american parents, and Omar's big sister. Its like her last acts of comfort. She talks about hating me leaving, how lonely she will be, and well ....we have our moments of small talk and our moments of pure love. She is a mom after all. 

It's an odd feeling, to know that you are leaving and to not have left yet. The only thing I can compare it to at the moment is attending my own funeral. I will never truly experience that, but this is about as close as I would say it feels. It's depressing and somewhat frustrating. I'm a celebrator and although I am far from celebrating my leaving, this daily funeral feeling is getting me down.

Whatever the leaving day looks like, or the next two weeks of funeral like environment, or the coming years. I am proud, we have done work, we are a family, and the village has raised me. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014


My adorable 'bati' site mate, Shawn!, showed up and took a bunch of photos of the Garden. It is EXPLODING! The women are hard on the work, its a beautiful sight to see all the green in a land that right now is so brown.  They are working on spacing primarily, they like to plant things very close together thinking that more produce will grow, but that is not correct. They have planted lettuce, eggplant, carrot, onion, hot pepper, sweet pepper, tomatoes, okra, bitter tomatoes, and a bunch of random seeds that they get from local NGOs. The random seeds are surprises that appear in the garden, them calling me over to always ask what it is, so far I've seen things like Swiss chard and beets. They are confused by red lettuce, thinking that it was a weed, but were delighted that it tastes the same as green lettuce.  We have planted 16 citrus trees ranging from pomegranate to orange. I am in the process of having them plant moringa intensive beds, which is a bed of trees planted 10 cm apart, and then cut off at a meter high so they produce leaves like bushes. Moringa is a miracle food here, being very high in all nutrients and easy to grow. 

The garden is a little slice of heaven, but not without its problems. We have had problems with the well digger, but after hiring another one, I think we have solve that problem. The women are angry and jealous when some women grow food better than they can, but that's not a problem I am here to solve. We had a problem of people stealing each other's food, we now lock the garden in the middle of the day and overnight. Although this culture is very hospitable and always willing to give to guests, they are more stringent with one another and would rather give someone food than just have them take it. At this time of the year, things are becoming a bit more difficult with food availability and everyone's crop yields are running low. So the garden is an essential part to their food security and income generation. The women and children have been walking around to surrounding towns and selling some of their produce like tomatoes and okra. Making a few dalasi here and there to buy more rice, the staple food. There is also a new lumo (a weekly market) about 1k away, when the lumo is more established it will be a great place for the women to sell their produce, a larger market for a larger demand. Were so lucky!!

Explaining differences in lettuce

Using groundnut shells as soil protection, it helps the soil retain moisture and prevents weeds. 

All that green...

Carrying water, keeping the vegetables alive, women hard at work.

Shawn! also "Mariama Sowe" we've adopted her into Fatty Kunda.
She road her bike the entire length of the country!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Go to them...

Peace Corps Service, explained


As you have all read by now, Justin is the sweetest, kindest, and most gentle man. He is my greatest source of strength, breathing life and power into my heart, and thus into my work. He is honest, the garden is incredible, the women are all working so hard. The well has been mostly dry, only gaining ground and progress when we hired a second well digger (the first being simply a bad man). Carrying water all day on their heads is hard work. The women wake up at 5am, water till the well goes dry, wait for the taps to turn on with solar power, store water in pans in the shade, then water again from 4pm to 8pm. I help my family in the evening, and I am exhausted, my body is pushed to its limits, barely having enough energy to make dinner before crawling into my hay bed, literally 'hitting the hay.'  Progress is slowly, slowly coming. I am happy to leave behind a place where the families have a little more food, opportunity for income generation, and also just the simple hope for the future being brighter than the present. 

                             "How can you face the silence of the universe with only hope?" 

- this is a favorite quote of mine from a RADIOLAB podcast, something else that gets me through the days. I engraved the quote into the cement on my floor.  I can't yet answer where hope comes from, but we all have to find the strength to find, capture and hold that hope.