Tuesday, July 27, 2010

C'est pas juste

David, Adam, Tom, I am so sorry. Be strong guys. See you soon.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tweet tweet

More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!

I never liked twitter much but now I have a few people who I read there tweets from time to time so then i got my own. I know, too much technology, but twitter isn't that bad. I get to read what his shaqness has to say. Right?

If you wanna follow me on the tweets I'm ben_zucker

But really working at this office job in Dakar when there is so much to do and see in the outside world around me has been really good for shaping my goals. This is not the life I want to lead (I think) Tweet less, Kiss More is not a bad mantra. I wanna do real things, not advocate for their policies. I want to actually plant the fields, not write papers on nutritional security for migrants in West Africa.

One more tidbit about the Gambia, I am not much of a bird watcher fanatic, but I saw a ton of beautiful birds there that were tweeting at all times. Including a fat annoying rooster that would hoot and holler with no connection to sunrise, what the eff?

last friday i went to this guy named Fara for him to make me a bunch of saweet leather supplies. he is a real artist and his shop is awesome. like a week or so ago i went to Sandaga (the huge market in downtown Dakar) and went to a leather shop where they sell all different colors and styles and qualities of leather. i got some pretty good brown stuff and Fara said it was good quality and since he is a leather artist I feel like I chose well. I ended up buying a whole cow.

sorry about the lack of pictures but when i get back stateside ill make an album. i feel the end is near! im nervous/excited to go back to the land where everyone speaks my language

last weekend i went to the island of goree and had an amazing time with 7 of my closest friends here. beach time, exploring, un petit fete, la weekend tres bien passe. we stayed at this place called Auberge Firek, i really recommend anyone who is looking for a good time to stay there, its chill, nice, and especially fun when you have good company.

ok, off i go back into AMLD work land, one last week to finish up my projects. take care now

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Home Stretch

Major power outages have delayed this post, only a week and change left! (I am afraid to actually make the countdown, I love me some Africa)

The America countdown has begun. 15 days left and I will enjoy every one of them. I hope that I will be able to make it back here one day and there are tons of things that I will miss but Senegal has opened my eyes and my brain and thats all I can ask.

Last week I went to the Gambia. It was a great trip. The journey was long. I took a sept plas (station wagon car with 7 passengers and a driver) to the border and took cabs and a ferry till i got to some random spot on the side of the road. I arrived and stayed with this girl Maggi and this guy Jeff, they are peace corps volunteers and let me crash at their house in the city of Fajara (in Kombo, near Banjul). We went out, I explore town a little, pretty low key first night. I ended up getting seme delicious fresh honey from Jeff. Then i went to the village with a girl i had met in Dakar at a concert named Jessi. She was so amazing and we had an incredible time hanging out together. I honestly learned more about how to be a good person chilling with Jessi in her village for 3 days than i have in a long time. We played in a river and went to some meetings and i saw the school and the health clinic and the water pump situations and a beehive and tons of other places it was nice and green and relaxing to be sans electricity. Sidenote: Dakar in july has had really terrible electricity. Out for hours on end all week at work.

Back to the gambia. Staying with us in Jessi's village of Sibanor was this girl named Danielle. She is pretty great too and is an excellent cook. She, along with Jessi's homestay mom, gave me a cooking lesson. Sidenote: i am in the process of making a Senegalese/Gambian recipe book, stay tuned.
It was Danielles birthday on friday so we went back into town, i went shopping all day (gambia is like 1/3 the price of senegal), went to the beach, and then i made fried chicken wings for danielle's birthday. That night i stayed at this girl jasmine's house with Jessi and Jasmine and i went out to the club, Lebanese men bought me many drinks. je ne sais pas.
Went to an island the last day, and hiked for a few hours with all of my gear (mistake) and then took a septplas home. Gambia is more low-key, and different from Senegal in some ways (british vs french, small country vs w/e Senegal is etc.) but people and life is pretty similar all in all.

Now that its my last few weeks in Africa I am both freaking out that i didnt do everything cool and i am thinking of how awesome america is. i miss baseball and family and friends but i love the little things about here so much. the public transportation and delicious fish are up there on the things i will miss most. i hang out with Jenna a ton these days. Shes extra smart and wonderful in many ways.

The health project looked like it was going to revive itself magically (i had a good meeting) but now i think AMLD has bigger plans for the project and does not want me to try to make it happen really fast. Which is too bad, i was getting pumped for a few days. But its OK. I dont know.

I got a great postcard from Kate. Shes awesome. I also got an amazing package from Cammy, who knows how much I appreciate the art. And of course momma and poppa have sent me some awesome packages filled with american supplies. Thank you all so much.

Bissap is purple. Sugar is sweet. Senegalese livin is awesome. This trip has been a treat.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ca va bien

Well well well! I havnt posted in a long time for a number of reasons but I will not get into them here. New blog style, no pictures because my computor officially died like 2 days ago.

I have moved into the new place which is awesome and i chill with my roommates luc, cody and matt. we just took in two hilarious new roommates guillome and bertrand. They are french and are brothers and bring the funk. Bertrand is a great guitarist and guillome is a gentleman and a scholar (and works for tostan).

Today my NGO put on a training (basically) on gender in the security sector (RSS, Inclusive security) with another NGO DCAF. There were like 25ish legislators from the senegalese senate and national assembly. to be honest i hate capacity building. it has lost all meaning. the conference was entirely in french and wolof so i understood only like 1/4 of what went on. it was at the old club med and we had a delicious lunch. people snapped at me to hand them packets and the microphone and stuff and i was majorly offended. but its ok because i have a beard now, wore a suit, and knew i have chilled more in my 21 years of life than any of those politicians ever have. im just kidding but seriously hopefully when i am a senator i will be nicer to foreign interns.

the makeup of the people at work has changed. adia and bety (secretary and finance lady) have left and now we have Jenna (urber smart new intern who makes me look bad from amerrica) and Ouley (from amerrica/senegal, shes senegalese and speaks like a billion languages including japanese). they were fun to hang with all day but we basically had to be quiet and listen to these politicians go on and on as they built this capacity building out of words.

oh yeah, i went scuba diving for the first time last weekend, it was awesome. i went down to this shipwreck and saw tons of awesome fish. everyone must try this.

ok, on to the future plans
i plan to try to commit myself to learning how to surf with my last month here. first lesson is tomorrow. wish me luck. ill try to do 10 lessons.
this weekend i am celebrating the independence of les etas unis like the rest of america. 4 of july baby, should be fun. we are having a party at Akon's house on Ngor island. Akon, you know, Konvikt? should be great we have fireworks and such (thank you peace corps) then, on the 4th, i will travel to the gambia for my long vacation. i am staying with this really nice and welcoming peace corps volunteer named jessi. i think i am going to stay in her village and then maybe travel around to the sites she says are cool. i dont really know. i am winging it sort of. if it is not fun i will come back to Dakar but i am sure it will be an amazing time. gambia is not too far (like 5 hours by car) and is a whole different experience (so im told). i am ready to explore a little outside of dakar, i think, and no better way to do it than to leave the country and MIGRATE.

how im feeling:
as the title of the post says "ca va bien" after 4 months in Senegal i have kind of hit a little bit of a rhythm and am very happy here. i bought a grill like a week ago and have been grilling a ton since then which is great. in the new house i cook a lot which is good for my mental well being. i made bagles again, also good for the sanity. i am excited for my adventure to the gambia, ready to learn how to surf, nervous that i am leaving africa and may never get to come back, ready to continue my existence here but i also miss the comforts and people of home as any normal person would. i miss the fam and the squad both at tulane and in the 301. I miss camp and the freaks from switzerland. I miss minnesota but most of all, i am glad to be here and ready to roll for the last 20% of my journey to senegal.

this was kind of rambling and long but i know some peoples must read this because i can see the hits keep coming. i will be back online after i return from the gambia, hopefully with stories and recipes and tons of other good stuff to share.

btw, about my computer, i spilled water on it my first week here, and now it finally fried. maybe it will work again back in america but for the forseeable future i will be skype and photo-less. sorry yall. peace OUT and i will post again when i get home. lataaa

Thursday, June 10, 2010

World Cup Maddnesssss

The coupe du monde is upon us. I heard that people down south are pretty excited about this global event being put on in an African nation. Unfortunately, its a 9-hour flight so I cant make it. But I can watch the games on TV/the internet. Go Cote d'Ivoire! Francophone West Africa's best shot at the title. I hope they beat Brazil.
I live with vegetarians at my new place and now cook awesome vegetarian food all the time. The other day, we made a ton of vegan bagels, first bagels abroad, verrrry tasty.
I hate front loading french washing machines. I can't understand the directions, they take forever to wash your clothes, then they spin dry for like 30 minutes and never actually get dry. I didn't know this but the United States is the only country where dryer machines are the norm. In Senegal people usually do their stuff by hand in big plastic tubs with powdered soap but now I'm living the life of luxury.

I was never too much of a USA soccer fan, but being abroad when they are playing makes me kind of nationalist. It was fun watching our fellow North American brethren beating up on the colonial french dudes yesterday, Mexico rules!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Poulet Yassa

Very straightforward amazingly dank dinner. Here is the recepie for 2 (or 1 if your hungry, or 3 if you're tiny)
poulet- chicken, you can get breasts or the whole bird, but for this recipe, 2 breasts or 1/2 small chicken cut into 2 pieces should work
4 onions
9 cloves garlic
lettuce, tomatoes, carrots
pimont (basically any spicy sauce will do, use with caution)
bullion cube (i use the brand Maggi, the more MSG the better)
olive oil
running water

Step one, cut your onions and garlic
Step 2, add olive oil to the pan and heat
3 add onions and fry for a bittle
4 put 4 cubes crushed garlic, pepper, and pimont in a cup of water, pour the cup with all that stuff in it into the pan and mix
5. add mustard (like a spoonful), vinegar (like 1/4 cup), and bullion cube
6. keep adding water and letting it boil away until the onions look like this
7. add chicken that you have already cooked to the yassa sauce

you can cook the chicken however you want, I like to marinade (do whatever you like) and grill it but the official senegalese way is to pan fry it with pimont, pepper, and garlic

Can be served 2 ways, 1. on rice, boom, finished
2. in the middle of a salad, with french fries all mixed in (my fave), and bread

Mama Fatou taught it to me and it is always good and not too hard to make. Bon appetite!

Senegalese factoids
When i buy the vinaigre, i buy it by the 25 CFA in a little baggie, its silly and kind of looks like a sandwich bag full of pee
With the bread version, eating with your hands (right hand only!) is a must, with the rice version you can use a spoon if you are toubab
I'd try to use real french moutard because american mustard sucks
Drink it with pineapple soda if you really want to be vrai (legit) senegalese
And eat it on the floor
And have everyone eat out of the same dish
Bonne chance, bonne ap

Monday, June 7, 2010


Since I have no ca
r, no moped (too dangerous), and sometimes you just can't take the bus I end up taking taxis more than I ever had before coming here. They are pretty janky but they make the city very safe because the maximum you pay to go anywhere in Dakar is 2000 CFA ($4). Even though they give me security, they are annoying as hell sometimes.

First, the fare. There is a mandatory argument at the beginning of every cab ride where you discuss where you are going and what the price is. Prices raise by: distance to be traveled, number of people, number of stops, presence of baggage, looking like a foreigner, telling them to go a certain route, being near a place where rich people go (airport, concert venue, beach etc.), or just about anything you can imagine. At some point you just cut your losses and pay a little extra or you tell the cab to move on and you wait for the next one. There are strategies for paying less, like: speaking a little Wolof, being a cute girl, having a Senegalese person argue the fare for you, lying about where you are going, etc. I get why they jack up the prices but they shouldn't get all mad all the time, yeesh.

Overall, I'm glad for the taximen. They are always good for french conversation and Wolof practice. Sometimes I have really great chats with them and we end up just parking and talking about politics, Dakar, sports or whatever. Other times they are mean and just trying to get another dollar out of me. So its a balance. Sunset ride home.
Anyway, glad to be in the new house. Pics coming.
Jamma Jamma (peace)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mouton All Day Long

I'm 3 months into my Senegal experience. I am discovering new things every day. Yesterday I moved to a new neighborhood called Yoff. A large house with chill people, pretty excited.

I haven't given a public healthy post in a lil while. So check it.
The BP Gulf oil spill is an environmental catastrophe, but what impact will it happen on peoples lives? The fishing industries and people who depend on the Gulf for their livelihoods will surly suffer but how will the spill affect the public's health? Every time there are winds from the southeast to the shore people are getting sick. People are complaining of "severe headaches, nausea, respiratory problems, burning eyes and sore throats." The long term health effects will be neurological disorders and cancer. Louisiana really can't catch a break, can it?

I went to Keur Massar again two weekends ago and had another awesome time. We chilled, danced, played some scrabble, and ate a ton of mouton (lamb). I got there and we immediately bought this lamb. I decided not to name him since I knew I was going to be eating him in a days time. They have these zones in Dakar where there are all of these livestock just chilling out. You can buy a whole lamb for like 30,000 CFA (like $60).
Check out this cooking device. That pot (filled with the entire lamb) is right on some hot charcoal and got cooked all day.
Then it got turned into this:
It fed like 50 people. So good. I don't know if I've described how Senegalese meals go. People sit around, usually on the floor or a stool, a big metal bowl or plate like one of these. Then you rip the meat or fish up and scoop the food in like a little ball of tastiness. People either use their hands (right hand only! left hand is for your butt) or a big ol spoon. I love eating in a group like this. Everyone hunkers down over this huge platter of tastiness cooked by the ladies together and encourages each other to eat more. "Mange Benjamin!" "J'ai bien mangé!" "Mange encore!" (eat Ben! I ate! Eat again!)
People are so nice. I really like it here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Leanna and Rachel

Leanna and Rachel
My ladies, my friends
Gone from Senegal, I know I'll see you again!
Vous me manquez comme woah
Lets keep up on gchat fo sho
I'm so glad I finally got you two together
The roof chez Mamadou will be there forever
Have fun in America, I'll see you soon
Je voudrais dire au revoir and for everything, thank you

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

St. Louis, Sénégal Jazz Festival

Jazz Fest! Woo hoo! Even though I sadly had to miss the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival I was able to get my down home late night dancing fill in St. Louis, Senegal at the jazz fest there. St. Louis (pronounced Sant loohee) is the old french colonial capital of Senegal and French West Africa. So its got a pretty unique vibe and architecture. For some reason it reminds of French/African Duluth, MN. Its in the north of the country near Mauritania and has two islands and lots of bridges, beaches, and a huge market. I stayed with this British guy named Tim who is working for the Belgium in Senegal. His apartment was right in the middle of the big market.
I hadn't ever really kicked it with Belgians before but I had a great time with Alexandra, Francois, Michelle, and Lucia (not Belgian). The language situation there was awesome, slipping between English, French, and Spanish like we were all refined Europeans.
We were supposed to stay with these chill dudes Dev and Marco in some Mauritanian tent but phone trouble got in the way, still we kicked it with them and saw some chill music.
Probably the coolest part of the weekend I do not have photographed. It was the 11-2am bar scene in St. Louis. Awesome African bands, with tons of drums really loud and all of the Senegalese favorites, everybody dancing (I'm getting better every time I go out to dance Senegalese style). Dancing Senegalese, for me, is a lot of imitation, courage, and laughs. I always have fun. This is at the festival itself which was sort of a let down, we only went one night.Life at AMLD is good, back in Ngor, the internet stinks at my house but there is enough for this one post. Funny story, so Leanna and Ben were at Ben's family's house in Keur Massar and they were eating, watching tv and they just told the fam that I was in St. Louis, and then 30 seconds later, there is the news story on the local RTS 1 channel about the festival and there was a clip of me. Basically now I am a celebrity. Just kidding. But seriously no one has ever called me and been like "you're on tv!" before, pretty sweet. Alright, PEACE yalls.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chilling and Bissap

I've been chillin au Senegal.
There are a couple of awesome Senegalese things in this picture. My brown bag on the ground (thanks Aunt Laurie), the mat on the ground that is the dining room floor eating zone, and the purple cloth (called tissue here) that Leanna ended up getting tailored into a dress.

Bissap: the national drink of Senegal
Its tasty, full of antioxidants and good for the brain. Drink it if you are tired, stressed, or thirsty. People sell this stuff everywhere and its also a common beverage at parties BYOBissap

two to three cups of dried hibiscus flowers
one to two cups of sugar
sprig of mint
one cup pineapple juice or orange juice

1. Rinse the dried flowers in cool water.
2. In a pot heat two liters of cold water. As soon as the water begins to boil, add the dried hibiscus leaves. Immediately remove from heat and let the flowers steep for ten minutes. Pour the water from the pot into a pitcher using a strainer to separate the flowers from the water. Stir in the Sugar. Add the other flavorings (if you want).
3. Add ice and chill completely
4. Serve anytime, and especially with ceebu jën or poulet yassa (ill hook yalls up with those recipes soon)

Now I'm working on the value of local foods in nutritional security and malnutrition for IDPs, irregular migrants, and refugees in West Africa. Check this out about the moringa tree. The peace corps and other agricultural development organizations are doing work on microgardening and school/community/health post gardens. I think its all fascinating.

We started working on this because of the growing food insecurities in West Africa, specifically the crisis in Niger.

FEBS moves forward. New plan: big health event in July. T-shirts should be ready to go by June. Meeting with the Medicin Chef and another guy in Yoff on tuesday. Monsieur Dieng is mailing our proposal to the national malaria (PNLP) and HIV (ANCS, CNLS) initiatives so that we can have a HIV and TB testing site and mosquito net giveaways at the event. You know how it do.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Work Work Work FETE Work WEEKEND

Sup y'all.
Bzurk here giving you a little rundown since Tuesday.

First, quick question for the blogosphere. How do these women carry so much stuff on their heads? The back baby I am beginning to understand, but its the head balancing that is beyond me.

Tuesday: the anniversary of Bob Marly's death. He was a pretty great guy. Huge parties all over town. I had work but I was going to check out the beach party at night and I walked down there with a friend of mine but it was wayyy too sketchy and we got kind of freaked out and left.
Wednesday: I had a terrible day at work which was made so much better by the fact that Thursday was a random Senegalese holiday. I went to a saweet concert put on by the US embassy (random) in honor of Peace, Tolerance, and Understanding. I like all of those things and the concert was free. It was in this huge stadium and thousands of people started out in the stands and then all of a sudden somebody said something and everyone rushed the field where the stage was. We basically did a one story jump and made a mad dash with a ton of Senegalese folk. Then the dancing began! ... and didnt stop. We left at 2. It was excellently fun dancing Senegalese style and acting a fool for hours on end. The big artists: Titi, Baaba Mall, Youssou Ndour.

They had partner Senegalese concerts in New York and DC also.

Its Friday now dude
I'm ready for the weekend
Lets go to the plage

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sénégal nekhna

FEBS continues but is not rolling like I had anticipated. I had good meetings with USAID and ANCS (national AIDS association in Senegal) but we have still not begun do really do it to it.
I think the program is going to have to scale back and be more realistic. Stay tuned for new strategy update that will be ready by next Monday.

My financing troubles are not the be and end all in this world. At the end of the day I am a student doing my best. The situation in Uganda is much more dire and I blame poor governance on of a history of colonialism and European imperialism... but that's just me. After so much success in fighting AIDS in Africa, its just not moving forward quickly enough (see a pattern?) watch the video, The Battle Against AIDS is Failing or read the article:
At Front Lines, AIDS War Is Falling Apart

Its hard to really visualize the AIDS epidemic when you aren't here maybe this helps:

This weekend was fun. Friday night was quiz night where we got a little silly and asked some questions. I won the first time and then I got to pose the questions the next time. Maryland Sports Trivia
Saturday was mega laid back and I did absolutely nothing all day and all night, glorious.
Sunday I kicked it with a new friend Lucia, her and I went to Ngor Island (paradise) and just asked this dude if we could help him paint his boat. He was glad for the help and then said we were part of his family. I love Senegal.

That's all for now. I still love mail. Here are some multilingual haiku, French and Wolof. translation in italics

La developpement
C'est trop compliqué , je crois
Faut travailler dur
Is too complicated, I believe
You must work hard

Sénégal nekhna
Q'est-ce que on peut faire?
Je voudrais aider
Senegal, its good
What can one do?
I would like to help

J'aime la vie ici
Oui, je viendrais encore
Trés tôt inchAllah
I love the life here
Yes, I will come again
Very soon G-d willing

Walk by the ocean
I can smell the States from here
I miss barbecue

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Migrantion, Music, Moussa mmmmm

Can you believe it has been one full week since you've gotten the news from Bzurk?
You can probably guess, its because I "does work" that I havnt been able to update
Also I have no Internets chez moi.

Give migrant domestic women Weekly Day Off by signing this petition!
They deserve it. Articles 23 and 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights say:
  • Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  • Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

FEBS continues! and its going pretty fast. I submitted my funding request to USAID yesterday (I walked it there and handed it to them, I felt like a beast). I have a few other leads on places to get funding but if you or your organization wants some corporate social marketing in Africa you should think about investing in Femmes Ensemble pour une Bonne Santé, we're not asking for much.

I have had a pretty chill week. I finished Life of Pi. Its a good book and a fast read. A son of a zoo keeper who has 3 religions has an adventure that is terrible and wonderful. The book makes you think. The beginning and the end are really terrific and the middle is like the struggle of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea I really recommend reading it if you haven't already (I know this isn't cutting edge stuff here).

I'm going to start Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse today.

I have started listening to African music and can listen to nothing else. As of now I'm listening to:
Amadou and Mariam
Les Freres Guisse
Putumayo Presents Africa Acoustic

Have I mentioned my boom box yet? It is my favorite thing in my apartment.

Heres a silly pic of my friend Moussa and I. I went to a wedding at his house on Sunday. Pretty fun, lots of Wolof. It was cool. Everyone was dressed all nice and the food/beverages were great. TONS of people. Our friend from the office Coumba got married in a crazy fast ceremony to Moussa's best friend. She's like my age and was a beautiful bride. Félicitations! Someone was snapping pics and the wedding, maybe Moussa will be able to get them to e-mail them to me... hahaha, or maybe not!

Alls well that goes well here in Senegal. Big meeting today (hopefully) where we can get a bunch of logistics figured out about funding, designing and stuff like that. I will have the logo, t-shirt designs and more specifics of the FEBS strategy ready to go for blog postage soon. Peace out WORLD. and happy birthday David Zamostny, I miss you tons. Remember this game from June, 2001? I do.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Public Transpo and FEBS Continues

Femmes Ensemble pour une Bonne Sante continues! If you want to see our current a good update it is here (it pretty much explains accurately and succinctly what is exactly going on with the project as of now) and the budget is here too. Enjoy!

Madam Ndiaye, the president of AMLD, leaves today for a month in Geneva (I miss Switzerland) and we had our "major coordination meeting" for everything for the month of May. This meeting has been rescheduled like 4 times. Madam Ndiaye gave me some project advice and off she goes. What a nice lady.

Public transportation is a whole different scene here in Dakar and took some getting used to. There are all kinds of buses cars and taxis called jungenji (I don't know how it is spelled), car rapides, mini buses, clandos (real cheap beat up old cars that people get in and out of, I don't totally understand them), sept plas (kind of like a station wagon for 7 people) and taxi cher (expensive cab even though they are only like 2-4 dollars to go anywhere in Dakar). The buses are much less expensive than cabs 100 cfa (about $0.25) and are a great way to talk to people, get around, and learn how to go with the flow here in Senegal. Some times they will just pull over at a gas station for 5 minutes talk about some stuff I don't understand and then continue to go on. If you want the bus to stop you either tell the driver or the dude collecting money or you tap on the roof or interior walls of the bus with a ring or coin and they will usually stop. Its hard to describe but the buses are like a 10 passenger van you might see Stateside except with 30 people and the middle isle also has seats that fold up that people sit on. 5 to a row and 2-3 people sit shotgun. Some of them are painted really awesomely and the Senegalese are proud of these buses.
This weekend should be saweet. Meat and beer with people I met at the Seder tonight, beach chillin at Isle Ngor (paradise) tomorrow, kewl garule (some big party I think?) Saturday night, and a marriage on Sunday. Peace.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Les Femmes Ensamble pour une Bonne Sante

We have a project name and acronym! Woo hoo! If there is one thing I have learned about international development work you are nothing, NOTHING I tell you, unless you have a cool acronym. Logo, t-shirts, cups, and bowls coming soon.

FEBS is OK right? Women Together for Good Health
a project for migrant domestic women the world over!

Last night the urban migrant adult literacy group I work with, APADA, started a 4 day leadership training on using theatre and other methods to teach about health and development in Senegal. Pretty sweet right?

They started clapping and made me get up and dance in front of like 100 people. Pretty hilarious as I was wearing a Senegalese outfit and was the only toubab dude in the joint. Afterwards I went to Leanna and Ben's place and one of the girls (who danced with Leanna at the training) came over with Ben's brother randomly. We decided to snap a pic

I always have these expansive dreams of my little projects turning into international progressive movements that change the world.... let me walk you through this one.
So I have this program here in Yoff, Dakar. Repeatable, successful, tangible. I put the same program together in New Orleans when I'm at school. After that, I get friends and public health colleagues and Universities around the world to start putting this project together and in 3 years time we are a civil society organization bridging a health awareness gap for a marginalized and vulnerable group! Then we get invited to all the the conferences to present our project and to illustrate just how simple and easy it is to make a difference in peoples lives. haha.

In other less boring news the METS have won their last 6 games, 8 of their last 9 and are in first place of the NL East. Bay and Wright are finally hitting. Reyes is back in action, Ike Davis is a hoss, our catchers are making all the difference for the pitching staff, and Pelfry and Niese have become legitimate #2 and 3 starters (it only took them 3 years) behind Santana and the bullpen can pull the erratic Maine and Perez out of tough spots over this home stand despite having no regular setup man. Just like a week or so ago we were 4-8 and I was thinking "here we go again, another painful season" but low and behold I think the Mets showed the (people who care about baseball) world that they can win, I'm a simple man thats all I ask.

I think if you can dance like no one is looking, play cards, cook, and smile you can get along with just about anybody and overcome any language barrier.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Keur Massar, Kickin It Outside of Dakar is Where its At

This past weekend I had an excellent time kicking it with my friends Leanna and Ben at Ben's family's house in Keur Massar, a suburb of Dakar. It is a huge house (4 story apartment) with tons of family members all around (more than 15). You are never alone there. Its great. Friday night we went to a sick drum circle.

Saturday we went to Ben's mom stand at the market, which is the coolest food market ive been to. Its legit place to visit but not to take photos, then we went to the more touristy Lac Rose (pink lake) which is a salt harvesting lack that is a lot like the Dead Sea.

This dude works hard in the sun all day for like no money. It was so nice to get out of Dakar even for just the weekend but as my main man Mamadou put it, everyone here in the city wants to move out there and everyone there wants to move here. he's wise. we ate a ton of great food and danced and played card games called Marriage and Menteur.

When Ben's dad was teaching me Marriage he didn't really ever tell me all of the rules and I had to figure it out by losing like 10 times in a row. Then I won and he didn't feel like playing anymore and I never really learned how to play. Haha. Both games are fun. Everyone there was so hospitable to me it was great.

I also saw camels for the first time. Saweet.
The language situation there was awesome. To each other they spoke mostly Diola, the ethnic group from the Casamanse, the region in southern Senegal that has been a hotbed for conflict for decades. To other people not in the family they spoke Wolof, and to me they spoke French. I got to have sleepovers and listen to music under a mosquito net with various members of Ben's family on Friday and Saturday nights, a highlight, people here are nice.

It was EXTRA confusing that we were both named Ben. People would be like "Leanna are you married?" and she would say "Yes, to Ben" but she meant the other Ben who is Senegalese and in their family, not me. So I just ended up introducing myself as Benjah, my name with my boys at Tulane.

Here are the pictures from the weekend.

When we came back on Sunday I bought some Senegalese clothes. I thought I would like bargaining but I don't. I feel like I'm ripping them off or they are ripping me off or both. There is almost never a friendly outcome. Taxis I can handle but for clothes and other shopping stuff I prefer a fixed price.

All and all things are going well. The project is moving forward rapidly this week. Yossarian Clamence (aka Kimble) and I cooked I dank meat and veggies played cards last night, it was chill. Hopefully I should start my health meetings next Wednesday. Again, if ANYONE AT ALL wants to help with fund raising just let me know I can set you up. We don't need much and we are making a real impact.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Plea for Care Packages

Everyone likes real mail, right? And PACKAGES
if you think of anything Awesome or American (or both) then send it my way. Senegal isn't that far (something like 4000 miles from Washington DC, whatever, its not like you have to sail it over here) and I'd really appreciate it.

Benjamin Zucker
21, Route des Almadies
BP 7295 Dakar Sénégal

I promise you wont regret it AND if you send me something, even a post card, I will probs bring you cool stuff home and devote a blog post to art/poetry in your honor. Not a bad trade. Below is the Chargee de Programme here, Khar. Mah boss lady. I think she's pretty awesome.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chez Moi

Ici est mon appartemont. Its in a neighborhood called Ngor right next to the Shell Station and close to the airport on the north side of Dakar. Pretty legit location, 5 min from Plage Ngor (beach) and Isle Ngor (island) and from a supermarche that sells most stuff. I'm glad its not the extra toubab Casino humongous supermarket that makes me think I'm in some kind of weird Croatian/French melange. I walk to work.

It dont know the actual address. There are no street names in my part of town so I just dont know. Now I'm going to try to give you the photo tour:

Welcome to my lavish digs and the first thing you will see is the living/dining room/study/entertainment center! You can find me here. Listening to music (i brought my boombox, great move), making ataya, eating dinner, studying french, or taking a nap!
If you look a little bit close you will see my kitchen! Complete with mini fridge, sink, some plates, some cups, and 3 burners for all of my egg/stirfry/yassa cooking needs.

My apartment has TWO rooms... this is where all the magic happens? Complete with big bed, a chair, closet, mirror, and a wall with cool paint on it.
Map of africa, bed with striped sheets, what more could a man/boy want?i decided not to give you the bathroom pic.

Alls well in my world here though. I thought I lost my key but didn't. Pretty exciting. The mets have won a couple in a row which is good news. I also signed up for classes so for all you tulane public health fools I'm in: SPHU 301, 312, 401, Biostats 04, and SPHL 02. It sounds like a bummer schedule but I gotta get that paper.

Peaceout world. If you want to take a look round my neighborhood. I live riiiight there.

Agrandir le plan

Monday, April 19, 2010


American haze
Blinders, showing one culture
What ELSE is out there?

Wait in the shadows
Invisible, motionless
Smile and watch them dance

A bean sandwich seemed
Like a good idea at the time.
Def not for breakfast

The Senegalese in Dakar mainly speak the language Wolof. I really have got to work on my skills. One word I do know is teranga, basically meaning hospitality, but so much more. If you go to any Senegalese house for dinner they will have not only made enough food for their family and expected guests, but also for anyone who comes along. Teranga. If you are walking through the street looking lost, someone will walk you to wherever you are going. Teranga. After being here, you realize that hospitality can go over the top. But who wants to say no to a helping hand? One of the first things I noticed was the feeling of teranga you get everywhere in this city.

Last night my Earth Day presentation went well, je pense. I (sadly) ran out of power on my camera, I was trying to film it or take a bunch of pics so I'll just try to describe it for you. I went to the Ecole Publique in Yoff where the literacy group (APADA) meets from 1830-2030. We showed this video by OXFAM

I made a powerpoint and the teacher, Monsieur Dieng, presented it in Wolof. Pretty great. He is my main man in helping me actually do the project too. We had a brainstorming sesh last night and we are getting it all down on paper on Saturday. Here is the man, the myth, the ledgend, Monsieur Dieng.
If anyone want to help with fundraising stateside (or wherever you are) for t-shirts, bowls, dice, the van, or anything else we can use to try to get health information to the people please let me know! I will have all the materials ready, you just have to go out into your community and ask local businesses or individuals to help a marginalized population in Dakar learn the basics of malaria, HIV/AIDS, and what health services are in their community. Please e-mail me at benjamin.p.zucker@gmail.com if you want to get involved.

Dinner Chez Fatou, Mets 20 inning game, Questionnaire Central in Yoff

Saturday night I come home from a long day of questionnaire giving eat a huge Senegaelse meal in Mamadou and Fatou's apartment. Mamadou is my landlord, hilarious, speaks pretty great English and used to play professional soccer in the US for a few MLS teams. Here is his wikipedia. Fatou is an amazing woman and great cook. She teaches me how to make Senegalese cuisine and makes fun of my daily goings on. Here's our apartment building on the left.

Anyway, so I get back from this huge, amazing dinner at like 10 and I fall asleep. I wake up at like 2 AM and just start clicking through the internet and see that the New York Mets, mah fave team, are locked in a 14 inning battle with the St. Louis Cardinals (my Grandpa Kirk's favorite team). This looks like an awesome thing to watch, but being as I'm in Senegal its impossible, right? NO! In fact, I called the family at home on skype and they set up the camera so I was looking straight at the screen, marvelous. I got to watch the last 5 innings live on TV in what ended up being a great 20 inning game. Metsblog always has a good recap and here is the espn video.

The real major thing that happened this weekend was the excellent questionnaire giving that went down all Saturday afternoon into the evening in a community near mine in Yoff. I had (left to right) Fatou, Fatou, Monsieur Dieng, and Coumba to start. Coumba got married in the middle. I swear. I don't truly understand what happened but she got a call while she was doing questionnaires and then she left because she got engaged to be married. Felicitaciones Coumba!

After she left she was replaced by the wonderful Binta who works so hard and is just a great lady and an amazing friend.

We did 40 questionnaires each taking between 10 and 20 minutes. A huge accomplishment. M. Dieng knew the migrant households in the community and was such and pro. He walked us around and dropped us off one by one and people welcomed us in and answered our questions.

Even I got in on some of the action. (My French to Serer translator sitting next to me)
I will publish the statistics from the surveys once I have them finished but my observations of the day were: I love all of the action in the streets of Senegal. Kids, adults, everyone greets me with a smile. My team was incredible on Saturday. Everyone we dealt with was really nice, warm, and welcoming all day. No one said "get out!" or "never come back!" It was all smiles and good ol fashioned Senegalese teranga. We are all in this together, you know? These women may not know much or anything about the science we in the West take for granted, but they have a lot to teach us about how you treat people and what kindness and dignity really are. Here, they may not have much money, but people actually work together and help one another. Something that is rare in the US. True solidarity.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Migration, Health, Africa, and Aerobics

Hey y'all

First, one of the best videos I have seen in my whole life: The 1987 Crystal Light National Aerobic Championship

So yesterday was my first big day doing questionnaires for my project, it was amazing. In order to do my project correctly I have to know what these migrant ladies and gents who go to french literacy classes with this group called APADA already know. Which, in all honesty, is very little when it comes to health. I will know more about all that when these enquêtes are finished. My link to this group is this awesome dude named Ibrahima Dieng who runs the class and teaches all of these people from all over Senegal french. He's a boss.
They are written in Wolof, one of the most spoken African languages of Senegal. Far more people speak Wolof than French. We did about 16 of these and it was awesome how people started talking about the questions and asking each other what they thought about this health aspect or that. I don't know what it all means yet but for now I can say that last night was a cool experience and I can't wait for tomorrow afternoon where we are going to do 40 more. I am going to where they live and hopefully they fill these out. I have 6 Wolof speaking people who are going to help me with the whole thing. They are all smart, capabale, and will meet me in front of the Briche Dioree in Yoff at 16h. Pretty exciting. Here are a few photos from last night. OK. Off I go. A Lundi.