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 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.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On y va!

Here we go!

Last night at my neighborhood rugby bar run by some dude from the South of France they played a bunch of music videos which is awesome because that was the first TV I have seen since I've been here. I saw Lady Gaga and Beyoncé's "Telephone"
Have you seen this craziness? Gaga is wild.

Youssou N'Dour: public health advocate, Senegalese, amazing African music. What else could you ask for in a film? Nothing: I Bring What I Love

Today human rights watch came out with a report exposing the system of exploitation and abuse in Senegal where thousands of boys, between the ages of 4 and 12, called talibés are forced by their Quranic teachers, called marabouts, to beg in the streets seven days a week.
These tiny beggers set up shop between my office and my house so I pass them often. Vraiment, they are everywhere. When I pass them they repeat "cent franc" (100 cfa, 25 cents) until I give them money or they give up. Sometimes I give, sometimes I don't. When I don't they usually follow me for about a minute, their clothes caked in dirt, their thin arms stretched out, skin scarred, and usually they are not wearing shoes on the dangerous sandy streets of Dakar. Sometimes they look so young, like babies. At that age I was a soft, naive, Woodlin Elementary School student. A completely different life. More than anything else I have seen or experienced in Senegal, the daily lives of the talibés remind me how lucky I really am. Please read the press release here.

Life continues here, nothing too major. I can't go to frisbee tonight which is lame because I have to go and get all these questionnaires done. C'est la vie. Alright, gotta go. D'accord, jusqu'à la prochaine fois.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bienvenue mes amis!

My blog has begun.

Hopefully I keep this up.

My name is Benjamin Porter Zucker and I am living in Dakar, Senegal. I am currently working at the Alliance for Migration, Leadership and Development (AMLD), a global migration NGO, that aims to work within Africa and with the international community to implement initiatives which could bring tremendous change on the way migration, leadership, and development are linked and how their synergies can foster and boost African countries development framework.

I am running a migration health program here connecting the migrants living in Dakar to the health actors and services available. I do teachings and presentations about topics ranging from the symptoms and causes of global epidemics (HIV, TB, Malaria) to climate change. If you want to learn more, just ask!

InchAllah this blog will be:
1/3 travel blog 1/3 haiku, music, funny internet stuffs 1/3 public health information if you think of anything cool you want on the blog or just want to holler e-mail it to me at and ill read it fo sho

Tiny insect buzz
Whispering epidemic
Oh noooo, malaria!

Waaw, Dakar by night!
Stay alert, feel the dark night
Brush the sandy roads

Atlantic waves crash
Onto this developing
Land of teranga

Watch, look, and listen
Learn Africa from the people
I'm the migrant here

Pics so far:

Alright, thats all for now.
I'll leave you with this because I am in Africa
and Akon est un vrai Sénégalais