Saturday, July 23, 2011


I concede that I am a hippy.  Vegetarian (well, vegetarian on vacation), organic, earthy, open air farmer’s market, loud indie folk music from a politically vocal but barely running car, naked toes in the musky soil, sleeping in tents and barely bathing in highway rest areas, environmental science major- hippy.  Save the earth! t-shirts with third hand thrift store jeans, knee high woolen socks and Birkenstocks; I am there!  But I have a confession to make.  I love glitter.  It doesn’t quite fit the picture; I have yet to find a sequined organic linen skirt, or all natural sparkle eye shadow.  I have quenched my thirst for the glitz with annual doses of bedazzled bathing suites and layers of waterproof makeup.  I have never disclosed the fact that behind my earth toned fa├žade there lay a plastic paradise of all things shiny just waiting to be taken out on the occasional weekend.  But now she has found her home!  There is so much glam here Senegal that on a holiday a drag queen might have trouble getting noticed.  Jewelry is big, loud, and shiny.  Shoes are high and bright.  Makeup is obnoxious and clothes can make you dizzy.  Subtlety is not a word that applies to Senegalese dress and while the more sensible part of me is slightly ill from the gaudiness, another part of me is absolutely thrilled!  I am now the proud owner of an entirely sequined shirt.  It is golden and I love it.


It’s hard for me to imagine but I remember that there was a time when I would have trouble falling back asleep after finding a bug in my bed.  I cannot really fathom why I would be so shaken up by one tiny creature, maybe it was my lack of familiarity.  Even with my chemically treated mosquito net (ever watch a fly slowly slip into insanity as it inhales the toxic fumes, from your bed?  It’s a somewhat bittersweet experience) I am happy to wake up and discover only one dead bug in the folds of my sheet.  With the commencement of the rains bugs have made a comeback from their relatively limited  showing during the hot season.  I had almost forgotten how much I hated flies and mosquito bites; now I remember.
Having been raised in a society where even a drunk yes means no, I feel very much violated by flies.  I yell and swear and swat at them but their advances are relentless.  They touch me in places I do not feel comfortable being touched: my lips, my eyes, my nose, my ears.  The other day I had a grasshopper crawl up my pants to my inner thigh.  I tell them I’m tired, I really just wanted to nap, but their tiny feet awkwardly tickle me as they caress my legs.  And cuts too.  Any type of wound is treated like a desert oasis during a drought.  They all brazenly crowd around my scratched raw mosquito bites, doing I’m not exactly sure what; but I don’t like it.  I once had the great idea to use this weakness of flies to my advantage.  I would wait until a cut of mine was covered in flies, then I would swat, and with their lust for blood or whatever they take from me, they would react too slowly and I would have killed many flies with one slap.  If you’ve ever mistakenly bumped an open wound of yours against some hard object you’ll probably have trouble fathoming why I would think this was a good plan.  I only tried once.  My hatred of flies runs deep, but not deep enough to ignore the pain of slapping your own open wound.  The worst part was watching the flies, who had all escaped, return to my newly throbbing cut not a full minute later.
I was confused about where all the bugs had gone during the hot season. Not that I complained or went looking for them but their relative absences was conspicuous.  Now I know where they were, or at least all the earwigs.  I had been sleeping outside during the hot season because it was absolutely too hot to sleep inside, so my mosquito net was set up out there.  The first night it rained enough where I was forced to relocate under a roof I was too tired and grouchy from being woken up in the middle of the night to be bothered to move my mosquito net with me.  But then laying in the dark trying to fall back asleep I kept feeling itchy.  I know mephalquin can have strange side effects, but I hadn’t experienced this before.  I felt like bugs were crawling all over me.  It finally got so bad that I had to turn on my flashlight, and that’s when I found out that there were bugs crawling all over me.  Earwigs.  I killed all the ones I saw and tired to go back to sleep.  A little later I felt like I had more bugs crawling on me.  I killed those as well.  And then again.  I couldn’t figure out where these bugs were coming from.  Eventually I just gave up and fell asleep.  It took me a few days but I finally realized they were dropping down from my ceiling.  It’s a nice straw area for them to live, except of course when it rains and becomes soggy, then they drop in to say hello.  It’s much less of a problem now that it’s been raining for a few weeks and most have left their apparently seasonal home.
The newly vacated residence did not stay empty for long.  Now at night I can hear something (originally I assumed they were termites but now I just don’t know, and they never show themselves) eating my beams at night.  Every morning I have a pile of tiny wood shavings on my floor and at night I listen to their chewing and hope the wood is thick so that I have some time before the roof collapses.  My host father said I could fumigate my room with a mixture of mosquito spray and engine oil.  The bugs will apparently all die and fall from the ceiling, but I’m hesitant to expose my body to more poisons considering the aforementioned mosquito net and mephalquin.
Really there are just bugs everywhere now.  There are these neat red fuzzy ones that remind me of grandmas in velour jumpsuits.  There are neon green spiders that look like space probes, and red millipedes that look like stitches over a raw wound.  There are so many bugs that reading or writing at night has become a huge nuisance.  They are all attracted to any light and fly into your eyes until you give up.  We cannot even eat with a flashlight on anymore.  It’s better to keep it off and hope nothing’s swimming in our sauce rather than turn it on to see bugs land in the spotlighted food.  I tell myself there are probably healthy macronutrients in the bugs I eat, but the buzzing from inside my douche quickly reminds me of the other, not quite as healthy, hosts the bugs might be carrying with them into my food.  Ah well, such is life.

Anna Visited

This post is actually not going to come from Maria because she would like the opinion of her guest, me, her sister, to be heard. I arrived in this country exactly a week ago, although it feels like a lot longer than that. I cannot even really describe most of what I have experienced because it is all so unbelievably different from home. There is a difference between reading about African villages without running water and electricity and actually experiencing the lifestyle. I had a lot of trouble adjusting for the first few days, but I started to adjust soon after. As a follow up to Maria's last post, we worked on the solar fruit dryer. Dad was smart enough to realize that screws would solve the problem with the slipping nails, so I brought some with me. It's hard to imagine that they do not have tools as simple as a screw here! Screws are certainly not as modern as cell phones, yet they all seem to have phones. The fruit dryer was almost at completion when we realized that the hinge was not going to work, but at least the only task remaining is to attach the door.

And then the power went out.  The only thing reliable about Tamba’s power is that it will reliably cut out every day.  So I guess you’ll never know how the rest of Anna’s trip was, unless you ask her that is.  I will continue to update you about the solar fruit drier.  Caveat, they do have screws here, I have seen them, but not in a store.  As she said, we finished everything except for the door since we had the incorrect type of hinge.  When I returned from our vacation from South Africa I bought a hinge that would work much better. But then I returned home and once again my relationship with the fruit drier was tested.  All the clear plastic we had attached to the metal slide was ripped from the supports by the wind in my absence.  Now I have to find more clear plastic and attach both that and the door.  TBC.