Happy Halloween!

I hope you have enjoyed the video. I have two different activities and you can do one of them, or both!

-option A: write the words you haven´t understood from the video with the translation and explain what a      Jack o´lantern is.
-option  B: send to my e-mail a photo of yourself in your halloween costume (your face must be shown), I´ll publish it on the blog!

Happy Halloween!!!!!!

the decline of child mortality

Djida, my littlest host sister, should probably be dead.  the fact that she is not is a demonstration of why the child mortality rate in Africa is declining.  Djida is probably about 4.  she is usually this precocious combination of peppy and serious.  she’s started carrying little basins on her head like her mom.  when I cleaned out my house a while back, I tossed out this half pagne that was collecting dust.  Djida took it and wraps herself up in it like her older sisters.  The only french she knows its “merci” which she gravely says every time I give her something.  

Djida gets seriously sick every 4-5 months or so, like most people around me.  They get malaria and spend several days laying around.  With Djida though, its sometimes different.  I don’t know if its her immune system or a perfect storm of malnutrition and malaria, but she gets really sick.  This happened earlier this week.  High fever, no appetite, lethargic. Djida didn’t have the energy to brush flies away.  last night I’m pretty sure I could see every bone in her torso.  being able to count every rib above a distended belly messes with my mind.  

Petite took her to the local clinic a couple days ago, and they said to take her to the hospital in kouka for tests.  He came back with a sack of vials and medicines.  From what I see, Djida has malaria, intestinal parasites, and anemia, and some other stuff that I couldn’t figure out.  I looked at her health booklet.  Petite paid over 5 mille for just her medicines alone, not counting the examination and test fees.  They have to take her to the clinic every day for like a week for a shot.  But she was out and about this morning, so I think she’s getting better.  I was really worried about her for a couple of days. 

Last year Djida got so sick that they had to take her down to Sokode for a blood transfusion. Just that alone cost something like 20 mille.  Petite is a fairly well to do farmer and he manages his household finances well enough that he has enough money to pay for his childrens’ medical bills.  Thanks to the Catholics, there is a good rural clinic in Nampoch.  One can get decent (i.e. life-saving) medical treatment in Kouka, plus the medicines to treat the most common problems.  Cheaply.  I hear of enough children dying in Nampoch to know that not everyone has the money or the wherewithal to take their kids to the doctor.  5 mille ($10) is a decent amount of money to a farmer, let alone 20 mille.  The cost of a pizza could mean life or death for a child here.  

Peanut season is over.  This makes me sad.  

Rainy season is almost over, much to the joy of my farmer friends.  They’ve had too much rain here this year.  Peanut, bean, and corn yields are down because of it.  Now, since it is starting to flower, any heavy rain will damage cotton yields as well.  

I find myself reading Russian authors in bunches.  I just re-read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand interspersed with Emma Goldman’s Anarchism and other essays.  Super pumped about that election now.  Sadly, my status as a (technically) US government employee means that I cant really talk about how pumped I am.  

I suppose I can go this far though.  It is kind of tiring reading stuff from the US about the current election with regards to the reaction against the “Washington establishment.”  Many people in the US seem to vote for candidates simply based on the fact that these candidates are not career politicians, or are somehow removed from Washington. These voters vote for amateurs, not professional politicians.  Um, really?  In what other profession, except college sports, would you want an amateur over a professional?  Amateur plumber—your house floods. Amateur electrician—it burns down. Amateur carpenter—it falls down.  Etc.  Look at the “debt crisis” of last year to see what amateur politicians do.  Professionals do their jobs well. They keep things running.  Policy change with a gargantuan, entrenched bureaucracy is a different story.  But professional politicians, in my life time at least, have made sure that I, when I’m in the States anyway, enjoy roughly the same quality of life as I always have.  The price of this quality of life, and even its morality, is, of course, another discussion.  But “those people” in Washington keep the lights on.  Regardless of the party.  This probably says something about the two party system, but thats another discussion too.


Even for the Spanish, cutting a good slice of air-cured ham, one of their popular traditional delicacies, can be a risky business.

One Spanish medical foundation claimed last week that 57,000 domestic accidents involving ham knives – which have blades over a foot long – take place annually.
But maybe not for long: as Christmas approaches (when the largest percentage of the 4.5 million ham legs purchased every year in Spain are sold), Juan Carlos Gomez, the Spanish National Champion of Hamcutting, has been touring Spain giving master classes in how best to tackle a jamon serrano.
Mr Gomez most recently showed up in Malaga, revealing to the winners of a competition organised by Navidul, one of the country's biggest Serrano producers, secrets of the trade such as whether to hang the leg with the hoof pointing up or down when cutting and which part of the ham to cut first.
For those unable to attend his classes, Mr Gomez, has even written a bluffer's guide (rather more cruelly called a "guide for the clumsy" in Spanish) to ham, as part of a popular series of self- education books covering everything from childbirth to wine tasting to, somewhat less predictably, neurolinguistics.
Apart from eager and rookie cutters having an injury-free ham-eating experience, the ultimate aim of his classes and book is to carve out the perfect slice of serrano.
This apparently is 3cm to 5cm long – "not so big that we have to fold it over or so small that it doesn't taste of anything," Gomez told the newspaper Ideal.
In: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/postcard-from-malaga-8224140.html

We are not surprised about it, are we? I´m sure we know someone who has had this accident while trying to produce a wonderful dish of this delicious food, but I want you to write 200 words about any other accident you have had or another member of your family, or, why not? a friend. Remember this is a narrative and you will have to use past tenses and connectors of sequence.Go on!


off roading in senegal


rural senegal

the "magician"

harvest time

the burial of the oldest man in Dankpen

northern Togo

pump parts!

So, red spots update.  creeping eruption.  i.e. worms crawling through my skin.  again.  but, I got drugs that killed them.  I feel like god.

Pump project update! I forgot about this in my last post, but about 6 weeks ago or so I received all the funding for my half of the project.  I used this money as a down payment on our combined pump parts.  D’s half of the project just got funded today.  this is very happy.

Do you know what 10 grand (USD) looks like in francs CFA?  A brick about the size of my head.  Kader and I went to Kara to take the money out of my account and deposit in the account of our pump parts supplier.  I was a multi- millionaire, Togo style, for about 35 minutes.  I could have bought a nice moto, a house, a car, some wives, etc.  At once.  

Kader arranged for the pump parts to be shipped up the next weekend.  It was exciting to see the piles of piping and pistons in Kader and Daré’s houses.  Now that we have all the funding, we’ll program our installation dates for each village.  

Richard called me Monday morning.  He sounded terrible.  He said that he was in a moto accident the night before and was calling me from the hospital.  It happened Sunday night.  he was coming back from a call when a drunk guy on another moto, without a headlight, or brakes, swerved into him.  He woke up in the hospital.  He should have been dead.  I went to see him on Tuesday and he looked terrible.  He said he was peeing and coughing blood, had a concussion, and a bad cut on his arm.  I went to visit him again yesterday and he was a lot better.  Still peeing blood, but he looked human again.  Luckily people saw the accident, so the other guy should have to pay for everything.  Hopefully. Its been a rough year for Richard.

D’s visit the other week coincided with a “magician’s” visit in Nampoch.  He did a performance on marche night.  It was held in the Nampoch bar owner’s compound.  they hooked up a generator and strung lights over the place.  the “magician” had two warm up and three main acts.  the first one was pretending to swallow a razor blade.  in the second, he cut off pieces of his tongue.  which was actually a tomato slice.  the performance was halted while they calmed down the home owner who was upset because the “magician” spilled “blood” in his house.  the third act was the “magician” laying on the ground while a couple volunteers pounded fufu on his chest.  the fourth was him laying on the ground while another volunteer drove a moto over his chest, across boards.  the 5th act was him laying on the ground with a big rock on his chest while a volunteer beat it into pieces with a hammer.  some people, especially the younger guys, thought this performance was great.  D and I enjoyed it for the “I wonder what crazy “magic” stunt he’s going to try next” factor. it drizzled the whole time. that didn’t really help my mood.  but it was good that D was there.  otherwise i would have been wet and wishing she was there the whole time too. 

I went up to koulfekou a couple days ago with N’tifoni, Jacques, and Nicco to do a follow up for our gender equality formation.  Koulfekou is in this narrow strip of Dankpen between the Kara and Oti (one of the Volta branches if you are in Ghana).  its really pretty up there.  we continued on to a fishing village on the Oti itself.  Koulfekou is Tchossi, which isnt related to Konkumba.   This little fishing village, and its neighbors in Ghana are Ewé.  The people I was with know a little Tchossi, they definitely don’t know any Ewé.  There was one guy in the village who spoke French cause none of the children go to school apparently, so we talked to him.  it was interesting because my friends were 40k from their hometown and could only communicate with fellow Togolese in French. the fish there was amazing though, and I usually don’t like freshwater fish here. 

On the way back I made N’tifoni stop his moto and climbed up this little hill that overlooked probably 70k of Togo.  it was amazing.

New record for world's oldest man Jiroemon Kimura

Do you remember that selectividad text "The world´s oldest woman"? I do, in fact I have worked it  with 1º Bachillerato this year. The curious thing is that I was looking for some news to write here and I found this video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7-eUmY0sSg , I would like you to watch the video and answer this question with 200words:

"Would you like to live so long? Write advantages and disadvantages.

3 chief funeral for the oldest man in Dankpen

Im currently in Bina.  To see why, read further. 

 D’s house is in the shadow, literally, of the mountain peaks.  Storms coming up from the southeast pop over and wash grey curtains of rain down the northern slopes. 

I was walking down to look for soja (deep fried tofu?) this afternoon when a storm like that passed over in front of me.  it was a little storm, more like one of those rain clouds that followed Eeyore around in Winnie the Pooh shows than anything else.  As I walked, the sun was shining at my back but I could see it raining just down the mountain from me.  The downpour on distant tin roofs sounded like the roar of a water fall in the near distance.  

I have 5 big bites on my abdomen of undeterminable origin.  They’ve itched for like 3 days.  A couple of them have felt so bad that they have started weeping.  I do not feel for them.  

D and I left my house last Saturday morning about 800.  She to return to Bina, me to go to Kara to work on some stuff.  Petit called me about 1700—“I just called to tell you that N’tido had her baby. It’s a boy.”  I told D about it and she was like “what, she couldn’t have had it the day before?” 

I went in to see the baby when I got home.  he was laying on a pile of pagne, sleeping. which I guess is what new born babies tend to do.  I got sort of teary eyed and proud of N’tido.  I asked her what its name was and she was like “I don’t know, pick something.” 
So, the other day, after a couple calabashes and much deliberation, I told her that its name was Alexandre, but the shortened version was Alix.  She was like “hmm, c’est bon”  . . . then she went in a drug out an old calendar to see what I was talking about.  Togolese often name their children after the day they were born.  With the advent of christianity, or at least western names, a lot of Togolese have taken to naming their children after the saint of the day they were born.  there are calendars everywhere that list the saint’s name with the date. I had to point out to N’tido that my name doesn’t correspond to the saint for my birthday.  plus, who wants to see a baby named Bruno?  she might have listened to me.  

This new baby has brought out some interesting traditions that I, heretofore, havent seen yet.  Most of them revolve around this old lady who lives next door.  I think she is like a midwife.  she came over one evening and disappeared in the shower with N’tido, to check up on things I assume.  Then she’s come over for the past week to wash the baby.  I asked N’tido why she doesn’t wash the baby herself and she was like “how am I supposed to know how to do that?” 

There is a tree in Togo called a Neem tree. At some point in west Africa’s misty colonial past, neem trees made their way over from India.  They are somewhat analogous in size and shape to a maple tree, although their leaves are much smaller. I love Neem trees. They grow quickly—in India there are societies dedicated to removing their status as “weed” trees—and they give great shade.  Another one of Neem’s redeeming characteristics is that its leaves, and stems/seeds/etc, contain a chemical compound that insects find noxious.  It smells vaguely like onions to me, but oh well.  products with Neem extract in them can be used as insect repellent.  This is good in an area with endemic malaria.  

Last week D and I whipped up a batch of Neem lotion—juice from the leaves, soap, and oil—for people in Nampoch.  The lotion works as a mosquito repellent as long as the chemical holds up.  We had a decent crowd, although I think some people were more interested in the soap grater I’d made out of a sardine can.  The lotion turned out well, so the other day, in Bikotiba, Saye’s village, we did a Neem lotion sensiblization.  D and Saye did all the talking because the sensiblization was their idea.  I just did stuff like grate soap and fan the charcoal burner so we could boil the leaves.  Our audience was mainly women; they got a big kick out of me “making the sauce.” But it went pretty well.  Powers, the new EAFS Volunteer out in Bitchabe, was in town shadowing Saye so he helped out a bit too.  

I have taken, roughly, 756 tablets of doxycycline since I have been in Togo

the other day I went to the funeral for the oldest man in Dankpen.  I didn’t know this at the time, I just knew that he was an important, old (these are roughly synonymous terms) guy in my family.  And in a lot of others I found when I got to the funeral.  It was in this little village out in the sticks in the Nampoch canton.  Important people, when they die in my area, rate the presence of a chef du canton. This guy rated 3.  I’d never seen so many well-dressed people so far out in the bush. N’tifoni told me that the guy was like 100 when he died, which means he was probably in his 80s.  He had an ornate coffin and an actual concrete tomb.  A lot of the dancers brought their traditional Konkumba gear—bows and arrows—and village hunters brought their shotguns. They started shooting them off into the trees under which people, like me, were sitting.  Kodjo flipped out and said he saw a woman get killed once from a shotgun that misfired like that.  Other funeral highlights included a guy wearing a Saddam Hussein shirt and kids who’d obviously never seen a white person before.

Groups of dancers from a certain cartier, or village, wait on the outskirts of the dance circle.  When there is a break between songs in the big dance circle, the group enters and dances around it to their own drums.  A group from my cartier got together and did that, so I joined them.  First time ever. 
I like Togolese funerals a lot.  They are nothing like funerals in the US.  A fact that I explain to at least one person per funeral.  The big counter-rhythmic drumbeats get in your blood.  Dust curling from dancing feet spirals into the air like laughing spirits.  the songs the dancers sing have this haunting refrain that echoes long after the dance is over.  I never feel as in, or as a part of, Africa as when Im at a funeral.  

Going to the latrine at night is a dicey proposition.  I’m good for at least one cockroach sitting on my latrine looking scandalized.  Even Albert, the albino gecko that lives around my toilet seat, doesn’t faze them.  So, the other night, when Tadji followed me out to the latrine, I kicked the cockroach on the ground for him.  Then laughed my butt off as he chased it around the compound.       

update. i woke up this morning and the red bites on my torso are changing location.  sometimes i want to scream.

Fan Shee Hoo

Fan Shee Hoo was an unvalidated Chinese-Canadian claimant to extreme longevity, with a claimed birthdate of 18 December 1895. In earlier reports, she was said to have been born on 14 December; the later of the two dates appeared on her public obituary.
Born in a rural village in Guangdong Province, China, Hoo moved to Jamaica with her family in the late 1950s, developing a liking for Jamaican fruitcake during her residence there. She helped tend a grocery store in Jamaica, Welcome Supermarket, with her husband, Hoo Shue, despite never learning English; she instead communicated in Hakka, a Han-Chinese dialect.
Reported to be an excellent cook, Hoo would often cook roasted chicken, fried rice, and Chinese-Jamaican dishes, including yam and pork, for her family. She had two children with her husband; her daughter eventually gave birth to eight children.
In the 1970s, Hoo moved to Thornhill, Ontario, Canada, with her children, her husband having predeceased her by several years then. In 1994, she moved into a nursing home in Scarborough, Ontario, as one of its first residents.
She was described as "quiet and reserved, but smiled a lot". She was also said to have indulged herself with fried chicken and caramel popcorn, reportedly never having a poor appetite or losing any weight while at the nursing home.
Confined to a wheelchair in her last few years owing to a hip injury, Hoo was eventually bedridden in her last few years, a condition described by her family as a "far cry" from her earlier years, during which she was described as strong and independent.
Hoo's last appearance in the media before her death was on 13 December 2006, when she was congratulated in light of her claimed 111th birthday. She eventually died on 5 January 2011, at the alleged age of 115 years, 18 days; her claimed age, if correct, would have made her the oldest living person when she died. However, even if her claim was accurate, there is a possibility of her having been 114 at the time of her death, owing to the East Asian method of age counting where babies' ages are considered to start at 1 instead of 0. At the time of the death, the world's oldest sufficiently validated supercentenarian was recognised as Eunice Sanborn of Texas, USA (20 July 1896 – 31 January 2011). However, this rank then is now retroactively held by Maria Gomes Valentim of Brazil (9 July 1896 – 21 June 2011), whose age was validated four months after Hoo's death.