Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I am a Published Crafting Authority

Just in time for the holidays...well, Dr. Farmer has actually been advising me for several months now, but Cassandra graciously bothered to write up instructions, and the editors of "What's Paining You?" agreed to put them in print. So many people to be thankful for.

In case you were wondering: sometimes I set the Wheel of Paul Farmer to a real, moving, direct-from-"Mountains Beyond Mountains" tubthumper; more often, though, he recommends something like "Let's consult the JPS," or "Don't let the [expletive deleted]s get you down." Not a direct quote, but within the realm of possibility.

And now, to the instructions!

Good Hutkeeping
With Little Mari Hutmaker

Sometimes you just need a little advice. But out there in the wilderness network isn’t always available. For days like that you need ‘The Wheel of Paul Farmer’. This month’s project was submitted by your very own Blair Cochran (Thanks Blair!!) Read farther to find out how to make your very own ‘Spinning Advice Wheel.’

What you’ll need:
Colors/colored pencils/markers
Picture of someone you find inspirational (an Inspirational Person Picture)
Thumbtack or paperclip
Scrap paper
Bowl/plate for tracing a circle
Heavy cardboard (such as from a box)
Medium strength cardboard (like from a notebook cover)
Good quotes

What to do:

Step 1: Crop your inspirational person picture (IPP) to the size you would like.

Step 2: Cut the heavy cardboard to the same size as your IPP. Then glue the picture to the cardboard.

Step 3: Now, get your bowl or plate. Trace a circle on the plain paper; you’ll need three all together. The largest should be on the blank piece of paper. The bigger the circle, the more quotes you’ll have later. The other two circles should be consecutively smaller—but just a bit! Use the medium strength cardboard for the second circle and the heavy cardboard for the third.

Step 4: Now, color the biggest circle (unless you’re lucky enough to cut it out of construction paper like Blair).

Step 5: Arrange the circle next to the head of your IPP and trace where you would like the speech bubble to be. Then carefully cut it out with your scissors. Tip: If you have cut any quotes out from magazines, your speech bubble should be just large enough to fit the largest quote. Otherwise, make it just large enough for you to write a decent-sized legible quote.

Step 6: Center the three circles one on top of the other. Then find the center of the top circle and poke the thumbtack through to mark the second circle. Next, remove the thumbtack and enlarge the hole in the second circle so that when you spin your wheel it can spin freely. Then replace the tack (or paperclip) centering the circles on top of one another. Tip: The tack should be firmly in place, but not so much that the wheel won’t spin.

Step 7: Using the glue and/ or tape, affix the spin wheel to your picture. Tip: I attached mine by taping thoroughly one heavy cardboard to the other. But make sure nothing is obstructing your second wheel!

Step 8: Write in the quotes. Using your pen, write one quote after another turning the wheel slightly after each. You should move the second wheel just enough that the previous quote leaves the bubble in order to have the maximum number or quotes possible.

Step 9: Once your wheel is full you’ll secure the top circle so it doesn’t spin with the middle one. I did this by loosely attaching clear tape from the front of circle one to the back of circle three at both the top and bottom, leaving room on the side to spin the second circle.

Step 10: Test your wheel! Almost finished now. Give your wheel a spin to make sure nothing is keeping it from spinning freely. If so, do some investigation and clear the block.

Step 11: Nail it on your wall and voila! No more ‘No-network-no-advice’ days!

If you have your own fabulous Hutmaker idea for a coming issue, please feel free to send it along. I can be reached at: Galleh Manda, Day 4. Thanks again for reading. And Happy Spinning!

Yours truly,

Monday, September 15, 2008

Shamefaced re-entry onto the interweb

Blogger informs me that my last post was at the end of April, and that it’s now…September. Hm.
So, what’s been happening in the intervening months? Well, I’ve been helping the new education group with training and otherwise enjoying my new “job” (quotes because there’s glory and perks, but money is not one of them…although my transport does get refunded for official travel, which is pretty sweet) as Peace Corps Volunteer Leader for the ed sector. I taught English for 5 weeks at the face-to-face teacher certification extension program that I’ve worked at before, and had a super time. My hair’s grown out from Hillary Clinton-meets-Heather Locklear-meets-Village of the Damned to...slightly less so. I’ve celebrated one year in country (!), one year until it’s time to go (!), and the new group’s swearing in as real official volunteers (I cried). I painted my back yard (pix to come). And I’ve even written a couple of entries.
I’m having a good time, but I miss you, home people. Keep in touch, and I’ll try to do better too.

Cooking with Blair and Liza

September 1, 2008

One of the highlights of having Liza on the island for Face to Face is that we make dinner together almost every night. Liza is a pretty ideal dinner collaborator: catholic in her appreciation of all vegetables except bitter tomatoes, which we both know are gross; willing to indulge my own aversion to cooked cabbage; enthusiastic about onions, garlic, salt and Jumbo; happy to chop and wash up; and not too picky about a little dirt that might have gotten on the food from its time in the fields (or on my floor). After almost 5 weeks, we’ve gotten our nightly meals more or less down to a science. Want to know the X easy steps to cooking a Blair & Liza special? Of course you do.

1. Send whoever’s not teaching to the market. Buy some combination of tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, onions, eggplant, squash, and sweet potatoes. Make sure the tomatoes end up on the bottom of the bag.
2. Wait til evening.
3. Unpack the grocery bag. Be surprised yet again that the tomatoes have started preparing themselves.
4. Chop an onion.
5. Fry the onion.
6. Chop the garlic.
7. Decide you should really put in 2-3 more cloves. Chop those too.
8. Add the garlic to the onion.
9. Add whatever the other person has been chopping while you’ve been taking care of the onion and garlic. Fry some more. Add salt.
10. Add water.
11. Squeeze something (tomato paste, moutard, peanut butter, exciting stir-fry sauce from home or Kombo) from a bag into the pot.
12. Add lentils, beans, or soy bits.
13. Wander out into the backyard. Toss vegetable ends and washing water over the fence. Pick some moringa.
14. Add moringa to the pot. Figure that the stems are probably good for you. Add salt.
15. If you are cooking beans, wonder when they will be done.
16. Wait for the beans. Talk about work, what we should cook tomorrow, and what tv-on-dvd we should watch tonight.
17. Taste a bit. Wonder when the beans will be done. Add salt.
18. Repeat steps 16-17 until you’re too hungry to worry about the degree of tenderness of your legumes. Decide it’s done.
19. Put the pot on the floor. Fan and stir until you’re too hungry to care if it burns your tongue a little.
20. Eat. Wonder how you will finish the pot between just 2 people. Add salt. Fan.
21. Get down to the last 5-8 bites. Bully each other into finishing, or dig around for your Tupperware. Stow Tupperware in the jibida, where you will bump against it as you scoop water out the next day, causing you to wonder what thing you don’t want to deal with has entered your jibida.
22. Do the dishes.
23. TV time!

What’s a 10 Day?

August 24, 2008

When volunteers get together, conversation tends to revolve around a few topics. These include: food, esp. food you have recently been unable to avoid eating, and random American items you have received in the mail/discovered at the Lebanese grocery store/inherited from another volunteer; work, esp. random delays and hard-to-read situations at work; and the home environment, esp. attacks thereon.

So, the minutes from a typical PCV meeting might read something like this:
1. Recent encounters with unknown parts of an animal
a. Description of the food bowl arrangement and the parts
b. Speculation on which parts of which animal these might be
c. Acknowledgement that, all said and done, it’s protein; that our family sacrificed to give it to us; and that we are ungrateful burger-eaters
d. Resumed dwelling on parts’ grittiness/sliminess/chewiness
e. Fearful looking forward to Tobaski
2. Which is grosser, palm oil or gristle?
a. Palm oil’s smell
b. The way palm oil makes other things smell
c. Discomfort experienced in getting both options down
d. Anecdote about other volunteer who is reported to enjoy one, the other, or both
3. Where to find taco seasoning
4. This Thing with This Guy at Work
a. The project You wanted to do
b. This guy at work (choose from options below:)
1. Amazing, hardworking, kind to animals
2. Sweet guy
3. Nice enough, but a little vague
4. Gives you the creeps for reasons you can’t pinpoint
5. Raving jerkface
c. The confusing conversation you had with (b) about (a)
d. Sighing over cultural communication styles, gender roles, perceptions of time, and the number of damn proverbs you’re expected to know in the course of (c)
d. A technological problem (can involve any of a-d, as well as at least 2 of the following: a part that is missing and only replaceable in Banjul, with the blessing of the appropriate permanent secretary; a part that has been violently misused, possibly by yourself; a part that it is no longer possible to pretend is not utterly busted; instructions in German, Swedish, or Spanish; erratic power; power that gooses you every time you touch something connected to an outlet; people with technical know-how and authorization who are not there.)
e. The project that maybe you are working on doing, you think
5. The hole in my back fence/front door/roof/floor
6. Ants
a. The way they can put holes on your floor
b. The ones that bite vs. the ones that just go after your sugar
c. How scary it is that the ones who just go after your sugar can chew through 2 ziploc bags to get there
d. The private area that recently got bitten by one of the ones that bite
e. Plans for extermination

These conversations also tend to have similar structures, eg:
1. anecdote
2. response anecdote
3. generalization about the host culture
4. observation on how odd we’ve become in x months of service.
Another popular trope is rating things from 1-10. I myself have rated travel days, roadside sandwiches, compl├Ętes, skin conditions, thunderstorms, experiences on malaria medication, markets, tacky purses available in said markets, and bowel movements on this scale.
We were talking about an overall mood rating the other day, with some people saying a 5 was just fine and others saying you should be at least at a 6 or 7 most days. The 5s responded that that was all well and good, but sometimes you just missed things from home and that wasn’t going to go away, though a good bean sandwich could help lessen the ache, and that moreover, it was ok to have that ache in the background. Anyway.
Conversation then turned to what a “10” day here would be like. I had trouble coming up with something I could fit into a day (can I work on a book with Lala and take a long walk around the rice fields and make pancakes and canned-meat bacon for breakfast, salad for lunch, and curry for dinner with a volunteer buddy, possibly with a beer afterwards and have a thunderstorm and enjoy the presence of little kids without feeling hassled and go to the beach and read a whole New Yorker…and arrange for it to be 75°F?) especially given my usual distance from the beach and the usual temperature upcountry.
Also, the activities (and the food) are important in a great day, but sometimes I find that they’re not entirely connected with how I feel. A 10 day, I think, is one where I’d just feel good all day. Not to say that hanging out with people and making curry wouldn’t be big contributing factors to feeling good. But there’s always other stuff going on in my head and body and immediate neighborhood that makes me feel buoyant one second, exhausted and cranky the next. I’ve had 10 half-hours, 10 mornings, 10 evenings…but a whole 24 hours? (I’m happy to report the same experience with the other end of the scale; with the possible exception of last year’s Day of Dysentery, I’ve never had 24 hours of straight 0 or 1 here.)
In any case, I got up to an 8 or a 9 last Saturday, thanks to some confluence of people, activities, adequate sleep and overall good health. So what did I do? Taught classes, marked some papers, opened the library—and had customers!—for a couple of hours, made mosquito repellant cream with one of the other tutors, made chili and watched Ugly Betty with Liza. And, it rained. So what made it so good? I guess plenty of stuff to do, work that I felt good about and felt appreciated for doing, good people to do it with, food, weather, and some time to relax and watch commercial-free tv.
Well, duh.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Region 5 celebrates its independence

Check out part of the long march past the regional governor. I wonder who the Gambian military band is homesick for.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Wetting the Bed

I’m in Kombo now, as I usually am when typing these things: down for a workshop, a school visit, and the new health group’s swearing-in…and in the meantime, enjoying the variety of dairy products (cheese, yogurt and ice cream, all in one day!) and the weather. Here, there is a breeze for most of the day, and it even gets cold at night. The island is a different story. “Mind-fryingly hot” is one way to put it. Another barometer: I think the flamingo is melting. (Happy belated St. Patty's, by the way.)

I can’t really tell you what I do between the hours of 2 and 6 every day, because the linguistic and cognitive parts of my brain are pretty much shut down then, maybe so the lizard part can make sure I’m sweating enough. There’s not much you can really do when it’s a hundred-and-I-don’t-even-want-to-know degrees out (and in), but I’ve come up with a few small ways of dealing with the upcountry oven:
1. Shade. After some searching, I’ve found a tree that regularly has girls sitting underneath it – a minor triumph in the land of women in the kitchen (or at the pump, the market or the rice fields), dudes in the shade. The hair-braiding teenagers aren’t my favorite company, and they don’t have the tiny radios and enormous draughts boards usually found under the men’s trees, but at least there’s a breeze. Sometimes. And visiting other volunteers at their sites has reminded me that it’s good to be out in the neighborhood.
That said, sometimes you just have to be inside and away from other people. In which case, it’s good to try the following:
2. Upon entering, immediately strip down to no more than a wrap skirt and bra.
3. Take a bucket bath.
4. Powder.
5. Take another one.
6. Powder some more.
7. Lie on the floor and moan.
8. If all else fails, wrap whatever it is you want to keep cool in a wet cloth. This works pretty well on my water bottle, water filter, and head covering. So when I woke up in the middle of the night, sweaty, miserable, and unable to move outside (guest on the new bamboo bed), what did I do? Well, dunk my top sheet in a bucket and get underneath it, obviously. I expected to have dreams about the Titanic or something, but no. Slept like an amphibious baby. If I can find or construct a towel big enough to cover my house, and then hire a team of small boys to throw buckets of water on it at regular intervals throughout the day, I think I’ll be good to go.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

As promised

Look at that, I'm leading a workshop!

And blonde. And looking kind of funny. What did I tell you?
Lydia's blog,, has some more pix of the coiffures (mine and, of course, hers). You can also see what color it was at WAIST, before the chlorine in the American Club's pool got to it, at right...

Oh, and Patrick, bless him, has put up a bunch more pictures on flickr. I've updated the link at right so it should actually take you there to see them. More Manneh Kunda! More Face-to-Face! More pictures of buildings and monkeys! Who can resist?

Anyway, I've done a couple of these workshops now, making big books with lower elementary teachers, and they've gone pretty well. Here's the showing-off picture from the second one, at Sololo Basic Cycle School...

I want to start working more steadily at Sololo, and with the handful of other schools in my area that are reachable by bike, focusing on K-2 teachers with math and literacy. That's what the bullet point in my Action Plan says, anyway. Time to get out of the office more, right?
This past week, though, I've been down in Brikama to plan for spring Face-to-Face (mass teacher training in Janjanbureh over Easter break). I jumped ship to the maths department, and, well, we'll see how it goes. I was the only toubab and the only lady (my teammates' word, in case you think I'm putting on airs :) of the 8 of us, so there were some...differences in what we expect from the planning and from the classes. But I'm excited to teach time and statistics and all kinds of mildly humiliating counting songs (it's the accompanying dances that make them mildly humiliating!). And it looks like all kinds of good people will be coming to the island then - Rachel and Colleen to teach, Kristy for an afternoon of low-resource science experiment trial runs (woo hoo, chalk and soda cans!), Ade from Wings of the Dawn to see how his shipment of soccer balls and teachers' guides are being used, Philipa and her dad...oh, it looks like I really Will have to kill a cow, so many honored guests I'll have.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

and for my next blog...

It will be called, and will be filled with the things I really spend 80% of my waking time and brain power thinking about: food, clothes, hair, fixing up my house, and pedicure tips. In reverse order: it's good to save your laundry water in the big wash basin and use a scrub brush, pumice stone and the obviously-yet-mysteriously named Ghana Soap (it comes from Ghana, said the lady in the market, as if that explained everything) to try and tame those nasty puppies. I think the leftover Omo and grease probably helps too. And since I've already borrowed a stool from my family, and I'm sitting in the shade, and sometimes Reines d'Afrique (RFI's answer to The View) is still coming in over the's pretty much spa day in my ghetto backyard. (Complete with pink flamingo and out-of-season Xmas lights--thanks, Mom!)
Clothes: well, protracted back-and-forth with my tailor (!) about some pants that are at the same time far too large and far too small. 2 pairs, each too large and too small in different ways. It took about 2 weeks to sort it all out, and I ended up with one pair in a fabric different than the one I bought, with 4 perfect holes in the shin area. I figured that was ahead enough to warrant me quitting. No wonder I'm scared to get a complet made. But it's coming. Maybe with a mermaid skirt and some rosettes. I'm in Basse now (hence the interwebbing), and I'm gonna look for a nice wax print. Maybe with footballs on it.
Hair: Speaking of spa's my ghetto backyard/institut de beautay, with Miss Lydia overseeing my transformation into...a blonde! Pictures to come the next time online, but in the meantime be reassured that I'm already having more fun. And that I look kind of funny. On the agenda for today: Phase 2: Purple.
Fixing up my house--eh, I'm running out of time, but it includes a patio. I know, geez.
As for food: usually I'm obsessed with questions like, Is it okay to like mayonnaise, Jumbo msg cubes, and hardboiled eggs on bread This Much? Have I gone too far when, instead of playing Freeze to Death/Burn to Death (a no-brainer in any case, now that the hot season has rolled back in) or Marry/Option 2/Chuck with people, I try to decide which sandwich ingredient I would give up...and I can't? Because they are each integral to the sandwich! And yet at least 2 of them, taken individually, are quite disgusting! This is the stuff that usually keeps me occupied while I'm waiting for a gele or whatever.
But sometimes I get a little boozhier and go to the market to check out all the Fresh Local Vegetables, and how lovely they all look, and how wonderful they'll look in my still-in-process Educational Alphabet book, so...shoutout to Karina and, and here's what was on offer this week. (Don't eat the bitter tomatoes. They're yucky.)

Coming up, when I'm back online and have remembered my flash drive: Proof that I do work, too!
In the meantime, keep it shallow.