Michael Goldman
BP 157
Velingara, Senegal, West Africa

Friday, June 22, 2012


So, there I was just leaving my house to go buy some cheap mangos down the street.  the sandy ground was still moist from yesterdays rains.  I look up as I close my front gate and find before me a young boy  herding a young ram along.  The ram followed after the boy as he made clicking noises.  Then the ram saw me.  I am no friend of sheep or goats, because they have eaten most of everything that I have planted in this country.  I stared at that ram as he passed by, and then the ram stopped moving forward. He dug his feet in and turned his body towards me.  I knew what was going to happen.  the ram suddenly sprang at me like a jack in the box and rammed me in the thigh.  I grabbed him by the horns and said some very inappropriate things to it.  The boy came and apologized for his rams aggressive behavior.  Then I ate a mango.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Something Different

So, First I would like to apologize for the lack of writing.  Things here are not as exciting as they were in the beginning.  Events in the past that were strange are now normal to me, and I pay no attention to them now, and I have had no more troubles at the bank.  My days have gotten routine where I wake up early with the sun and water my nematode infested garden, trying to get back home before it hits 100 degrees.  I stay at home during the hottest parts of the day hiding from the ever glaring sun; reading, studying for the GRE, checking e-mails and taking lunch.  Sometimes I snack on mangos all day long.  when it cools down in the evening I water my sad excuse for a garden then go out to a restaurant for dinner (usually at the greasy spaghetti place or the meat sandwich place)  then I head home to watch a movie on my laptop, or listen to Pam complain about whatever it is that bothered her that day.

Yesterday was a little different.  It started out the same; nematodes in the garden, 120 degree heat.  but lunchtime was different.  As a suburbite of Cleveland, I do not know the ways of a barnyard.  once my mother took me to Hale Farm, and I was terrified of a cow mooing at me as i tried to milk it (I was 2 y/o).  Anyways...I walked into my friends house where I usually have lunch.  In the corner was their goat licking some wet sand.  I thought to myself "hmm thats a strange behavior for a goat", and so continued to observe the strange goat.  After a minute of starring at it one of the girls told me to stop looking at the goat, she sad it was bad to stare at it.  It seemed very peculiar for her to say such a thing, after all its only a goat.  Then they told me that it was pregnant, and thats when I understood.  It was in labour.  the goat was walking all over the compound with its baby juice leaking out of its backside, and then licking it all up.  I couldn't believe it!  then it got really gross cause placenta or something was sticking out of its baby making parts. And this goat would just not sit down.  There was baby juice all over the place, right where we all eat too (in Senegal everyone eats from a single bowl on the ground).  Eventually the goat gives birth to twins in the back of the compound, but sadly the baby goats didn't make it through the night.

So, the other part of yesterday that was so "pas normale" (not normal) was that there was a sandstorm!  not a very big sandstorm, but big enough to write about.  So all day there had been these ominous clouds in the distance.  I figured it would rain that night but didnt really pay much attention to it because its rainy season, and it should rain.  by evening I was sitting at home watching Sweeny Todd on the laptop and all of a sudden a huge burst of wind tore through my house.  my curtains were flying like crazy, papers and flashcards all up in the air.  I look outside and it was as if I were back in Beijing with all of the air pollution.  I grabbed my scarf and wrapped up my head as I ran out to bring in my bike and anything else I had left outside.  the wind was so strong, I could barely close my windows, and the sand getting kicked up stung my eyes.  eventually I closed up the windows and doors, made some mac n cheese and continued the movie.  Unfortunately it never rained.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Changin It Up!

So, This is my first blog post in quite some time!  Since changing meds, things have become much more clear to me, and I have been feeling more motivated about doing stuff here.  I have also found myself going out into the community more.  The Demo garden in town is almost ready for digging in, all im waiting for is the well to get finished.  In December some guys dug out the well, but after a few weeks it dried up.  I am just waiting on them to come back and finish the job, which should happen on Saturday.  My radio shows are getting great reviews.  Lundi Science is a real hit, maybe one day ill take over for Science Friday!

So, when I’m playing guitar in town, it is usually at one of the fine drinking establishments here in Velingara.  I just like to play guitar (poorly), and have a beer. 

So, Today I decided to change things up a little.  Instead of drinking with the nuns, I decided to go out and see the hospital they keep telling me to go and see.  I packed up my guitar, found my clown nose and headed out.  It was a great bike ride only 3 km.  When I arrived there I realized that I had forgotten my music at home.  That didn’t really matter much, as I was very interested in touring the hospital and people were very happy to see a new smiling face.  I introduced myself to many children and their mothers trying to get a laugh out of as many people as I could.  At this point I need to point out that I am a city volunteer and so I don’t see much malnutrition, or undernourished children.  This was the first time in my service that I saw babies like the babies you see on the really sad Africa fund commercials.  When the nuns showed me some of the babies in a special room of the hospital she used the phrase “this is where we take the children that have no more body” There were only two babies there, but they looked like skeletons.  They had an IV attached to them and I can only assume that they were better today than they were yesterday.  It was a really weird moment for me.  The skin on those babies was just falling off of their bones.  There really was nothing there. I greeted everyone and told them to stay strong. 

So, Then the nuns showed me the rest of their amazing hospital Le Centre de Recuperation Education Nutritionelle (CREN).  48 beds, they admit children up to the age of 5, and they have solar panels a deep well pump, a water tower, a hotel, a conference room, wifi, and they have a huge agricultural space.  There were pigs, and goats, and sheep, guinea fowl, turkeys, ducks, chickens, bananas, mangos, Moringa, lemons, citronella, and they were only just starting it.  They told me that all the profits they rake in from selling the animals, and fruit, and renting out the hotel rooms and conference room go straight into the hospital.  They also use some of the animals and fruit to help feed the children that stay there.  They also provide healthy meals, which is not normal for an African hospital. Usually, someone in your family has to bring you food from home, or you wont get any food at all.  The prisons are also like that from what I hear.  Anyways it was an awesome experience.  I plan on going back on Monday with my guitar and music and clown nose to entertain all the little kids and their mothers.  Try to get their minds off of being at a hospital.  I might even bring candy and bubbles!!! The nuns also told me that they would buy me a beer afterwards.

So, I plan on writing some very basic songs for next week.  One of them is “I like to eat oranges” it goes to the tune of “if your happy and you know it”.  I need some ideas though, so if anyone is reading this and has an Idea I’d love to have it.

Go Cavs


Friday, December 2, 2011

The day I watched a documentary about africa in africa with africans.

So, some interesting things happened today.  The first of which was that my landlord came over and planted bananas in my compound.  He wouldn’t let me dig even after I told him that I am an agriculture volunteer and it is my job to dig.  I personally believe that he didn’t dig deep enough, or wide enough.  Although his digging skills were no match to mine, he did add manure, dry leaves, and green leaves to the hole before placing the banana suckers in it.

So, then later in the day I bought some notebooks for one of my friends cause he doesn’t have any money.  After I hand them to him he said “thank you very much my n****er”  I immediately turn to him and very sternly and assertively tell him that the “n” word is not a good word to use, and is extremely disrespectful.  I don’t think he understood.  This of course is not the first incident where I have been called the “N” word.  I tend to blame rap music.  It is all they listen to, and because the word is used so often they assume that it is an appropriate word to use in everyday language when talking with Americans.  It makes me very uncomfortable.  Even now I am not comfortable writing it even though it is merely to explain a story that happened to me.

So, then I got into this huge argument about malaria.  The guys I hang out with were convinced that they were not able to get malaria because “the only people that malaria are children under 5 and pregnant ladies”  It made me very upset to hear this, and to also hear that because they thought this way, they refused to use mosquito nets.  We made some phone calls to other volunteers that they trusted, and then we were able to ask a doctor and she explained it all to them.  I did a great malaria workshop without even trying.

So, then we were watching tv.  It was some frenchy national geographic like thing on some tribe in Rwanda.  This was probably the most interesting part of my afternoon.  Watching an African tribe on a national geographic-like tv show with other Africans.  They could not believe what they were seeing.  Every few minutes the whole house would be filled with laughter.  It was interesting to see how different Africa could really be.  From one part of the continent to the other, things are drastically different.  They were aghast at the body cuttings being done, and the huge lip discs and enormous earrings.  Then they were all laughing whenever a naked man or woman was shown.  They were so interested by the other culture, and it really hit me that there is so much diversity on this continent.  This family was really freaking out at what was happening on the tv.  The best was when the Rwandan tribe was putting on paint and washing in a river.  Everyone was naked and washing each other.  Hilarity ensued at the house I was at.

In America we sometimes assume that all of Africa is in tribes that have war paint, masks, and ceremonial cutting.  I watched this television show with people that wanted to hear the newest Akon album and wear American clothing.  They were in utter shock at how other people in Africa behave.  In many ways Africa is more like America than we assume, of course then you have half clothed (or naked) men running around beating each other with sticks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Past Few Months

The day I got examined

So, I went up to Dakar to get my mid service medical examination.  The entire thing went surprisingly smooth.  I arrived in Dakar with my friends Rachel and Hildawg.  As we got off the highway the rain began to pour and I finally got to know Dakar during the rainy season.  It was really gross.  Sewage was everywhere, the animal and human poop that was in the streets was then all over the place.  Every step had to be careful.  You did not want to step in a puddle, or a stream of water.  I was unsuccessful and am now waiting for my feet to change color or some kind of worm to show itself. 

So, I eventually got examined.  I had them take a good look at my ears because I had been hearing weird crackly noises.  They said that they didn’t see anything abnormal, but that they were going to switch me to new malaria medicine from mefloquine to doxycycline (sp?). Yay!!!  Since having switched, I no longer hear noises, I have lots more energy, and lots more motivation.  Things are much clearer now that I have changed to doxy.

So, then I went to the dentist.  I have never had trouble with the dentist in America.  I almost enjoyed it.  Going to a dentist in a developing country is very different.  You quickly realize why dentist offices in America are the way they are.  There was no soothing smooth jazz playing, no fun toothy pictures on the wall, and all the magazines are French (not to mention the chairs are less than comfortable).  In America there is excellent Kenny G music playing, comfy chairs, and fun posters.  My dentists office is especially fun because he has a PacMan arcade game that can be played for free.  I like going to him, he is friendly and the dentist assistants are usually pretty cute.  This dentist here in Dakar was a very friendly man.  There were only three people in his office.  Him, his secretary, and me.  There was no assistant to clean my teeth before the dentist saw me, he just went right in.  everything was fine for the most part, he even spoke a little English.  The cool part was that as he was examining me,  there was no one handing him tools or helping.  It was completely a one man show.  So, then he gets to my two wisdom teeth that peace corps decided I did not need to have pulled before my service began.  He tells me that I have a cavity in each one…great. 

So, I leave the office and go straight to the Nice Cream ice cream shop.  I was very excited to eat some Barack Obama flavored ice cream.  Its like milk chocolate with nuts and crunchy stuff in it.  It is essentially like the best flavour ever.  Unfortunately for me, they were all out and I ended up getting some banana thing instead which was less than pleasing.

So, I had never gotten cavities filled before.  As you can imagine I was a little nervous about it, especially cause the dentist’s office isn’t very friendly.  I go in like normal I go sit in the chair and realize that it is just the dentist and I.  No assistants.  He shoots me up full of novocaine and goes to town on my teeth.  Twenty minutes later I have my first cavities filled.  So, I then went to Nice Cream and they had it.  Barack Obama flavor, and it was just absolutely wonderful.

The rest of my trip in Dakar was filled with pizza and icecream.  Lots of icecream.

So, then I went to Theis to assist in training.  I probably didn’t need to be there.  I essentially sat around and occasionally put in my two cents.  I got to meet all the new people though.

So, then I got back to Velingara.  I met my new arch nemesis…The Bathroom.  I had some experience with this enemy in the frat house, and in my old apartment.  Here in Velingara all I want is for my shower to work.  I don’t really care about the sink or the toilet, as long as my shower works.  So I tell my landlord this and he gets his plumber to come over to try and fix my bathroom so that water wil flow into it, and into the shower so that I can wash myself.  Everytime the plumber came to my house he made things worst until finally there was just water leaking everywhere.  There was water permeating through the cement walls.  It was pretty bad.  So then the man who actually own the property (he lives in spain) came in for the holidays and checked out the house.  He was all like “this is no good” so the next day he came back with some guy from the water dept.  the next day him and a bunch of guys come and tear some pipes out, and install some new pipes.  I assume that everything is fixed.  But I was wrong.  The new pipes leaked too, and to this day they are not fixed, but I do have a shower.

So, then it was Tabaski.  Tabaski is the Holiday to remember that one time when Abraham went up to the mountain with Isaac to sacrifice him before the lord but instead killed a mountain sheep.  Because my host family moved to the village that is where I went.  As I get to the village and get off my bike my families dog runs at me and tackles me to the ground.  It was great.

So, work wise I have been doing stuff.  I made a new radio show called Lundi Science with my friend Curtis.  Its about science and stuff.  I feel really good about it.  I can’t wait to make more episodes.

I have started studying French, its going pretty well I’d say.

I have started being the town luthier fixing all the guitars in the city.  Business is good.  I do it for free though.

So, there is like this huge flock of turkeys that runs around my town.  I had always thought that it was very strange that a native American bird was running around the streets of Velingara.  That put me in charge of Turkeys for Thanksgiving.  So the other day Curtis and I went over to the turkey owners house to talk turkey.  This is one of the nicest homes I have been in, in Africa.  We look at the flock, and go inside to discuss prices.  He starts the prices at 10,000 cfa  for the female, and 15,000 cfa for the male.  I say ill give him 20,000cfa for both.  Then he tells me in English that he will give me the female for free.  I accept the offer. 

So, then we get into talking and he tells Curtis and I that his grandfather was a French jew.  That fact blew my mind.  A part jewish Senegalese.  He then shows me a huge menorah with a large star of david on it that his grandfather had brought from france.  Not only is this man jewish, but he told me that he was a Levi, just like me and my family.  We then continue talking and I agree to give his son Joseph Levi  Monte (Monte is like French for Berg) guitar lessons.

Since then the first lesson went well, and tomorrow I will be travelling with a pair of Turkeys (I named them Esther and Yitzak) down to Kolda for Thanksgiving.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Day I Made a Boat

So, because I don't have any good garden space at my new apartment I decided that it would be in everyones best interest if I made my house into a demonstration for container gardens.  I got a bunch of woodchips and manure, and I started filling up rice sacks, and plastic bottles and things around my house.  I planted potatos in the rice sacks and beans in plastic bottles that are hanging from my window.  They look like boats, so I am calling them bean boats.  I also found a pair of pants, so I sewed the legs shut and planted beans inside.  I also plated lettuce and tomatoes and chives and good stuff all over the place.

So, after things sprouted I invited a bunch of ladies over for a workshop on container gardens.  We looked at what I had done around the house and then I took them inside to a room that I made into a makeshift classroom (I put a national geographic poster on the wall)  I talked a bit about what was going on outside and how it is done.  Then we all went back outside and made a bunch of container gardens.  I passed out seeds so that everyone could have gardens at their homes.

So, after everyone leftCharlene came over and painted on my front gate the Star Wars Rebel Alliance symbol, and on my "garage" (the building that was supposed to be a kitchen but I keep my bike in it) the Batman Symbol cause I always wanted a batcave.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The New Place

So, I first want to apologize for not writing anything for a while. it's been a little busy here for me.  To begin I guess I have to talk about my arch enemy the bank.  As a jew, it seems strange that the bank is such an enemy to me, but thats just how it is.  So the other day the ATM ate my card.  there was no real reason for why it ate it, but it did.  so I had to sit in the bank for a few hours till they could give me my card back...sigh.

So, this was my second Ramadan in a Muslim majority country.  Ramadan really isn't that bad.  I wasnt able to go to many restaurants, but that was ok because my mom send me lots of fun american food to eat like Raman noodles, and cans of chili.  I ate oatmeal for breakfast with raw honey and bananas.  it was delicious.  my dinners were late because I would go to a families house for break-fast/dinner.  People kept asking me if I was fasting.  I told them no.  they were very confused, and told me that I need to fast because it is a senegalese holiday.  I told them that im not fasting because im not muslim, and that it is not my holiday.  they told me that it was a senegalese holiday, and that because I am here to be senegalese I should fast at that point I was just annoyed (keep in mind multiple people are asking me this and I had to go through this exact conversation daily).  I eventually changed my answer to yes I am fasting, but I start after lunch.  People seemed to recieve that answer much better and thought that it was silly and laughed.  They then would say something like oh that is very good that you are fasting.  During Korite (the end of Ramadan aka Eid in other places) I decided to hide in my house, because I did not want to go all around town in a very very hot, and annoying ceremonial boubou, and be the center of attention wherever I go.  I ate Raman and watched movies instead.

The day after Korite I hopped in a car and drove down to Kolda for my host families baby naming.  I figured it would be the last time I would probably see them all together and I didn't want to miss it.  So I rode my bike from Kolda into the bush played with some kids and ate some goat.  took pictures of the family, and left.

If you are confused as to why this may be the last time I will see my host family it is because My host father is a teacher, and he got a promotion.  because the government runs the education system, he was promoted to a bigger city.  I hadnt seen my host mother or sisters since march, because they went back to the village for a religious pilgrimage thing.  from april-august it was just my host dad and I, then for ramadan, he wanted to be in the village with his family.  I had been by myself for almost all of august, in a huge house in africa.  towards the end of July my host father tells me that he got a promotion and that I needed to move out by the beginning of september.  Most of my ramadan when I wasnt being annoyed with the demo garden, I was searching for houses that would meet peace corps security specifications.  I eventually found a nice 3 bedroom apt just around the corner.

So, now that you are caught up...I moved into a new apartment just around the corner that is much smaller than where I had been living before.  it has an exterior kitchen and an interior bathroom with western amenities (english toilette and shower)  and it only leaks in the front porch area (the old house leaked in every room except for my bedroom).  when I moved in the water wasn't turned on, but I was able to use the well for washing and cooking.  I plan on making the front yard (its all concrete so its not really a yard, but im not sure what else to call it) into a container garden demonstration area.  I have been getting manure and substrate like peanut shells and sand, and wood chips and have been planting things in containers everywhere.  I am very excited for this new place.

why am I so excited? I plan on building a grill and a distillery in my compound.  I plan on making some delicious steaks, and some hearty moonshine over the next year.  there is more than enough corn for whiskey, and potatoes for vodka.  I have the space, time, and money right now so why not?  I may never be able to make moonshine again I might as well try while Im still young.  I plan on first making mead and then moving to harder beverages.  No, the grill and distill will not be next to each other.

So, next to my water faucet (which is outside) is a small bit of un cemented soil.  I asked my landlord if I can make a small garden there and he said it would be fine.  I began to dig.  The first plot was great, the soil is kinda rocky but I can deal with that.  so then I begin on the second plot.  suddenly I hear a strange noise.  a hissing out of the bowels of the earth.  I don't look down right away.  I think to myself well this could be one of two things. 1. I struck oil and my landlord is rich and will hopefully give me a cut for finding it. 2. I hit the water line.  it was thought number two.  not only did I hit the water line, but it isnt even my water line.  It was the line going to my neighbors house.  they were not very pleased.  I had to call the landlord and explain.  he didn't seem to upset, and I offered to pay for the repair.

Thats all for now.