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January 29, 2012


It’s freezing in the North of Senegal! I’m writing from the inside of a huge University of Vermont hoodie and soaking up every glorious shiver of the all-too-brief cold season.  So my motivation for blogging is waning as homecoming nears but I figured the least I could do is post a link to a buddy’s blog (who isn’t quite so lazy)

The photos are from this past WAIST- West African Invitational Softball Tournament in Dakar-

And a link to what’s going on politically here (I could not be safer)



Bakel Eye Clinic!

December 17, 2011


Hey all,

Back from the eye clinic after a somewhat torturous 17 hour trip home yesterday.  The clinic itself was held in a town called Bakel, which isn’t too far from the Mauritania/Mali/Senegal crossroads.  Bakel is known as a backwater of sorts in the PC Senegal community mainly because the volunteers who get placed there are the most isolated in country, and about as far as you can get from Dakar and decent medical services.  The town itself however, is by all accounts an incredible place. The land out there is not really any more vegetated than in the rest of the North, but the hills make a world of difference.  It almost reminded me of Israel in places, or what I’ve seen in pictures of Morocco. Lots of rocky hillsides leading down to the green Senegal River. There is an old French fort perched up on one of the taller peaks looking out over the frontier with Mauritania, and on top you can see what appears to be a roaring trade of Senegalese people taking boats across the river and buying stashes of tea and sugar which are both cheaper in Mauritania.

So, as I mentioned in the previous post, Peace Corps Senegal teams up every year with an organization called Right to Sight, which both performs eye surgery in developing countries and teaches doctors on the ground how to perform the operations.  In order for the doctors to see as many patients as possible and dedicate their time to surgery and teaching, we were responsible for many of the other aspects of the clinic.

The way that it worked:  Spence and Jillian bravely faced crowds of hundreds of people and organized them into groups, those who had come in for Post Operation screening, those who were in line to get consultations to begin the process, and those who had no ticket, no appointment, but were nonetheless demanding eye surgery asap. Once someone’s name was called for their first consultation they were sent back to me. I did a vision test with them and picked the better candidates for surgery.  They were then sent to one of the doctors who would check their eyes further and determine whether they would receive the surgery. If they had glaucoma there was nothing we could do, and we were so inundated with potential patients that by the end of the week the only people getting surgery were those blind in both eyes.  Mostly what we were checking for is cataracts. The vast majority of the surgeries were cataract extraction and replacement. If the doctor determined that the patient was a good candidate, they would go over to Maddy who would use machines whose purpose was always a bit unclear to me, but very definitely involved having to poke the patient’s eye repeatedly with some sort of electronic stick. The process gets a little murky to me after that, and I’ve got considerable doubt that anyone is that interested in the step by step description, so we’ll move on.

My work mostly consisted of vision tests, dispensing glasses to those that needed them, doing post operation instructions for those who had received the surgery, and translating between the doctors and patients. This often created a very strange day of emotions. When translating for the doctors, it was mostly our job to give bad news. If someone had glaucoma for instance, or if their cataracts were inoperable, the doctors couldn’t simply explain that to anyone except for volunteers. It then became our job to communicate to people that the doctors couldn’t perform the surgery (which more often than not meant that they wouldn’t see again). As you might imagine, I’ve had more fun in my life, especially because no matter how good I am at Pulaar, I don’t think I can truly articulate something as sensitive as that.  At the other end of the spectrum was the profuse thanks we received over and over again as peoples bandages were pulled off and they were able to see, sometimes for the first time in many years.

Things were otherwise pretty chaotic, as per usual in a situation like this in Senegal. The police had to be called on multiple occasions to keep the crowds at bay, and at one point they were overwhelmed rifles and all. I know I’m not doing such a great job of explaining the clinic- pretty beat up at the moment from travel and all- I hope the photos make up for it a bit.

Also! I know 2 years ago around this time (after I got my invitation to Senegal to serve)  I was wildly searching blogs from PC Senegal volunteers, trying to find out as much as I could about life here. So if that happens to be you then welcome! We are psyched to have you all coming in- PC Senegal is an incredibly supportive and upbeat community.

Also also! Happy Holidays to everyone! I’ll be in village for Christmas, which will be a bizarre change from the normal Zelie-Spark-DePass celebration, I’ll miss you guys!



What’s Coming

December 6, 2011

I’m writing from an empty Ndioum house, a far cry from the Thanksgiving celebration that marked the last time I was here. I’m passing through on my way to Ourossogui and then out east to Bakel (right on the border with Mali) where Peace Corps volunteers are/will be working with a group called Right to Sight For a week a group of us will be translating between American surgeons and Senegalese patients, helping out in the operating room and pretty much whatever else needs doing (I refuse to touch anyone’s eyeball though, gross) . When I’m passing back through I promise photos and stories but for now I’m off to bed. Oh! If you’re interested check out Maddy’s account/ photos of our trip to Kedegou a few months ago

Back in a week-



November 5, 2011

Hey all,

I’ve had some time to relax and get some sleep since my last post. Ndioum has been a necessary stopover on my way back to site, as a place to recover from the last few weeks of travel. As you may have guessed travel in Senegal is not quite as simple as hopping a train or car and going. Cars are often held together with spare parts and sometimes need a bobsled style push from 10 or so people to get started. Roads are spotted with crater sized potholes. Goats get stacked on top of cars. Goats urinate on top of cars. That urine sometimes leaks into the car causing a small bit of chaos among passengers. And so on. So with that in mind, I’m going to try and recap the last few weeks here.

Admittedly I had made it a pretty long time in country without having seen the vast majority of Senegal. Up until October I had never been out of my region in the north except to go to Dakar/ Thies for Peace Corps events. So after a year and a half of service, and having caught an enormous amount of crap from friends in other regions, I decided it was time to see the rest of this place and I’m glad I did.

The trip starts in the north. A bunch of friends and I travelled to Saint Louis (a New Orleans-like city on the coast of our region) to meet the new ambassador to Senegal. He and his wife were in our region checking out Peace Corps projects and ushering in the anti-malaria initiative that had just begun. They were incredibly friendly and were genuinely interested in our lives in village. For me, it was a bizarre experience in some ways because I realized how rare it is for me to talk to someone outside of the Peace Corps Senegal paradigm, and the extent to which I take for granted the shared experience of other volunteers. From Saint Louis we headed to Dakar for a SeneGAD meeting at the American Club. SeneGAD is the Gender and Development branch of Peace Corps Senegal that promotes ‘GAD’ activities, sponsors a scholarship for middle school aged girls and such. The American Club is a little slice of home that volunteers are allowed to use for free. There is a pool and veggie wraps abound.

From Dakar my friend Maddie and I took a 14 hour trip to Kedougou which is in the south eastern corner of Senegal right on the border with Guinea. I think I’ve mentioned here before about how dry and flat my region in Senegal is. Well Kedougou is just about as different as you can get and still be in the same country. Kedougou is mountainous, verdant and full of wildlife.  On the way down we were completely blown away by the scenery. I honestly did not know Senegal was capable of looking like that, it didn’t seem like it could possibly be the same country that I live in. We explored the “city” of Kedougou for a day and then took a 2 day bike trip to one of the region’s biggest attractions, the waterfalls. We biked maybe 35 kilometers to Dindefelo, through small villages, shoulder high grass and on red roads. Luckily the dialect of Pulaar that is spoken in Kedougou isn’t too far from what we speak in the north so language wasn’t a problem. Once we got to Dindefelo we ditched the bikes and hiked for about an hour to the falls.

After lunch we got back on the bikes and went a few k back to a small village called Segou where we would spend the night. An eco-tourism Peace Corps volunteer had recently been posted in Segou to complete an eco-lodge project there and so we crashed at his incredibly beautiful campement that looked out over hills and forest. The place was unbelievable. It ran on solar power and so had much of the accoutrements that you might find in a much more developed town, except that we were in the bush. The next day was a new hike and a new waterfall. We wound our way through grass that stretched over our heads and rivers that ran cold and almost stole my sandals. After an hour or so we found ourselves with mountains on both sides of us as we hiked up the river towards the falls. The waterfall was as expected, stunningly beautiful and it took a lot of will power to start the trip home that afternoon

We got back to Kedougou and the next morning made it up to Tambacounda another first. The day after we went to Kaolack and met up with a bunch of friends. The day after was my friends Mikael and Kourtney’s birthday, and found us liquor tasting at Warang- a family run establishment in the coastal town of Mbour. All of the liquor is based on local fruits and as you might imagine, delicious. We spent the rest of the day on the beach and had some of the best pizza you can find in Senegal that night.


From Mbour we were off to Thies for a 2 day sector summit for all of the health and environmental education volunteers in pc sen. After Thies I visited my old host family in Ngekokh and then headed back to Tambacounda for Halloweeen. Finally I wound up heading north and am happily back here to stay for a  while.

A guy from Glee, a Lebron James Tiger and a Nice Cream lady

The whole shabang in map form-




That’s all for now!

Love Ev

Future of Agriculture?

November 2, 2011

Hi all,

Just got back to Ndioum from a 3 week trip around the country. Much to tell but I wanted to share this article. Hopefully I’ll get another post up about the last few weeks in the near future.

As for the article, it’s a little light on substance so I’ll try and fill in. The Fouta (where I live) is one of the driest places in the country, BUT we have a huge river which facilitates a massive amount of irrigated agriculture. Land strapped countries in western Europe have taken notice of regions like this one- places that are not incredibly far from their markets, in relatively stable countries and with a whole lot of something they don’t have, arable land and more sunshine than anyone could ever hope for- and started to buy or lease massive amounts of land for various endeavors, mostly bioful projects. It turns out people don’t really appreciate this, especially when the product is being grown in a place that could be provideing sustenance for their family, and then promptly getting shipped out of the country.

I’m safe! Just thought you’d all be interested. Hope all is well and I’ll post about the trip asap.



Universal Net Coverage Part 1 Census

October 6, 2011

Hey all,

Slow internet required me to split these posts up but look below for photos. This past week saw a massive anti-malaria campaign kick off in our region. For more info on the universal net coverage campaign in Senegal check these out. my friend Mike Toso’s website that features the campaign this month


We started things off with a few trainings and then a census that took our team to all of the villages in our health poste’s district. I’m sleepy so signing off for now-

Love Ev

What I get up to

October 6, 2011