Monday, March 30, 2009

Christopher made dinner

Christopher called late this afternoon and was wondering if he could make dinner for all of us. There was no way I was going to say no. I get so burned out trying to figure out what I'm going to make for dinner every night.

Christopher made us flauta's from scratch.
We all helped in rolling out the flour tortillas.
Christopher and Nathan were tossing them to each other.
And the end result. They were so good. I will let him make dinner anytime he wants!!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Timothy and Jess' farewell dinner

Timothy and Jess are moving back to California tomorrow. Tuesday night we had a dinner for them.
Emily had to go early because she had dance. She can't miss any classes since her big recital is coming soon but that's another blog. But she did get to eat and see everyone before she left.
The guys did get some guitar hero in. Any excuse to play guitar hero.
And all of them did a little sword fighting till I started chasing Timothy.
And here are the two "expecting" couples. Timothy and Jess are due the beginning of August with a boy. Christopher and Lesa are due the middle of May with a boy too. We are going to miss Timothy, Jess and the baby so much but wish them success in all they do!!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Our trip to St. George.

Russ and Cristy invited us, Klint's family and Darrell and Dyann down for the weekend. It was awesome timing because all of us needed a break and to have some fun. Where can you have more fun than at Russ and Cristy's? Russ made an incredible breakfast both mornings. I think the highlight was when he ate a bite of an egg!!

The girls slept in the tent. Emily and Kiera were inseparable. They had a blast together. Saturday we all headed to Zions and spent the day there.

Most of the way up Steve couldn't get his NEW camera to focus right so he was trying to fix it. We have lots of pictures of him working on his camera. But he did get it working right when we just about got to the end of the trail.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Last day in Senegal

I've been in transit now for over 30 hours and still have few more to go. So let me start at the beginning of the end. Babasoma and I have just left Thri├Ęs for Dakar to catch my plane back to the sStates. We've had meetings all day. Baba (as everyone calls him) is dressed in the long silky robes typical of African Muslim business men. He is the leading man in the efforts to do the tsetse fly trapping and data collection for the project. We chat a little. His English is about like my German—good for simple conversations but it's difficult to move much beyond the basics. But neither of us seems to feel uncomfortable with the long silences that follow short bursts of conversation. Suddenly, we notice that the cars going the other way are backing up for miles. I asked him why and he told me that it was the Prophet Mohammed's birthday tomorrow and there was a famous celebration in one of the towns to the east. It's getting sort of hot so we role up the windows to turn on the air conditioner (Senegal is on the west coast of Africa and the portions along the coast seem almost Hawaii like in the weather. A little hotter but not bad). If this had been a movie ominous violins would have queued. Or more appropriately the sound of African drums would grow louder and closer signaling an unknown threat. Then the traffic jam hit us. We ground to a halt. We crawled along like this for miles literally doing a mile in an hour. Then it got worse. It stopped. We were sitting there idling in the heat for a half an hour. My plane left in 9 hours. At this rate we would not make it. I started trying to resigning myself to spending the night in Dakar. It would move sometimes but only a few hundred feet and then stop again. Then the electrical system went out. He lost all the gages, our electric widows quit working, but the car was still running. Now I'm not expert on car mechanics but I had a deep intuitive sense that this was not a good thing. I don't know how I knew this, but I have always been one of those who have felt that the car just needs its electrical system. Call me odd that way. Now you must understand something also about driving in Africa. There are few rules in practice. There seems to be a rule that there are two directions but other than that people are squeezing in front of you, cutting you off, it's a like a stock car race except not nice. And the fumes are unbelievable. Most cars are 10 years old and spewing visible blue smoke, old buses stuffed with people rattle by with people hanging onto the back. People are walking on the side of the road and motorcycles are whizzing through the cracks left by the vehicles, not like the in the US taking the space between the cars, but creeping forward into a crack that they create because cars inches from each other are forced apart to avoid hitting the motorcycle, sometimes doing a 90-degree turn in front of you in the space between you and car ahead of you to get over to a wider crack. About every five minutes you have to avoid an accident that you would have come home from in the US and say, “I was almost in a wreck today!” It's stressful driving that demands full attention. You pass accidents all the time. I saw three cars the whole time in Senegal that did not have dents and all those were being given police escorts. Back in Thies, Jermey my French host (who I'll introduce a little later) kept saying, “I've never been in a wreck, but it's just a matter of time.” In short, the heat, the traffic jam, the constant battle for position in the lanes was wearing even for a passenger.

Plus, I was dying of thirst. Forgetting your water in Africa is foolish and often deadly.

I'd had a water bottle but I took it out to put some things in my suitcase at Jermey's house and left it on the table. Now I was in trouble. Baba had some water he brought from the restaurant we had lunch at, and he would have gladly shared but I was sure they were fake water bottles (they screw a unbroken seal back on the top with water filled from the hose from minimally treated water), but it was getting the to the point where I was ready to risk amebic and bacterial diarrhea to take a drink. I kept thinking of all those 50 year olds who die every year in Moab because they don't know they are dehydrated. I was. I could tell. I was starting to see spots. Through the stopped traffic people walk by selling things. Mostly phone cards (don't ask me why). Suddenly a woman appeared selling tangerines—the first I'd seen. I waved her over and I asked Baba to ask how much they were. She said 1000 ($2) an outrageous price. The expectation was I would haggle a bit, but no, I pushed a 2000 bill into her hand, while she made change I was ripping opening the bag. I told Baba to take some he was grateful too. But before he could peal is first I had downed four. I've spent $2 a lot in my life, but this was the best I've ever spent. They were juicy and cool. It made me optimistic that we would yet make it out this. The traffic started just as I was peeling my 6th tangerine.

But it did not last. We crawled along. At one point a policeman directed us to side road that ran parallel to the main road, we made quick time for about 300 yards, but then there was a line equally as long trying to get back on the main road. Baba tried to sneak past it by driving between the main road and the side road so that we ended up at the bottom of a V of the main road cars and the side road. Both ere packed with stopped cars. It looked bad. He tried to get back on the main road but the gutter was too high. He looked like he might try it for my sake to get me to the airport. But I said, it was too high. “Oui. It's too high.” He seemed relieved. But we were still stuck in the bottom of the V except our only access was on the side road, which no one on the main road was letting in until a trucker came by who would let another trucker in and several cars would sneak in too. I looked at the guy who would block us, if he stayed on the guy's tail currently blocking us. I gave him my deepest doe-eyed look and motioned to the space in front of him. He grimaced and looked like he was doing something against his better judgement and nodded, but I was novel enough to let in. Eventually, we made it back on the main road without losing too much time. We crawled along like this for a long time. Finally, as traffic jams do, it broke without good reason. We ran at about 25 miles an hour all the way to the outskirts of Dakar. But suddenly Baba was slowing. Why? I did not know. We slow to 15 mph, 10 mph, now we are crawling. Again my mechanic intuition kicked in and I knew that this was not going to go well. We coasted for a bit and then ground to a halt. The car died and there was no electricity. We pushed the car off the road. And he called his mechanic and one of the people that worked for him in the project. We got back in the car and laughed hysterically. Then were silent for about 10 minutes. Then laughed again at our predicament.

What's funny though if you had told me that we were going to break down on the edges of Dakar. I would have stressed endlessly and thought that things could hardly have been worse. To break down in Dakar? That would be horrible. But all in all I was never really worried once it happened. People were coming. If worse came to worse Baba could put me in a taxi and instruct the driver where to take me to the airport. I've mentioned what a bad traveller I am before, but there I was in a broken down car, sitting chatting and laughing with Baba, watching the sun set through the hazy pollution of Dakar and finding it all quite beautiful and relaxing.

Then after all that. I waited for 7 hours for my flight to Dakar (I was going to Baba's house, but in light of the uncertainties of his car situation we thought it best just to deposit me where I needed to be). And was that ever strange! To leave Dakar they wanted me to produce an itinerary and document where I had been the whole time (like I knew. I was driving round with Jeremy though the country side) so I said the Hotel in Dakar not knowing what they were looking for. Then he finally said, yes but what have you been doing. So I pulled out a trump card and showed them my mission papers from the UN and he finally gave up trying to get me to tell him what I had been up to the whole time. It was very nerve rattling. Then they made me prove how I had entered to country, luckily I had printed my computer itinerary out and showed them. He then said, So I see you paid for it with a credit card. He then went over to his supervisor and showed him and they talked in French for a full two minutes, pointing at things in my itinerary in very suspicious ways, “He appears to have paid with a credit card.” Who knows what this was about. He held up my passport picture to my face and looked at it for another two or three minutes continuing the grilling, “When did you enter the country?” My heck man, it's stamped on page 12 of the passport, look it up.” I felt like saying but instead politely answered all his questions. Then they opened my baggage and gave it a very through search (but not finding my vile of tsetse flies, ha ha, got one over on them! (and I was a little worried about that)). And here is the weird thing. They did this to every passenger! Every one of the bags on my flight were throughly searched. They opened my toilette bag, and the backpack I had stuffed in there. They didn't open the part that had my flies and knife though (ha ha ha). This was all very worrisome. I don't know why but it made me feel like a smuggler. When they asked those, “Have you had these bags in your control since you packed them they said it with such seriousness and menace that I really thought hard about when someone could have stuffed something in there with out looking. When he asked if anything had been given me to carry back I though of the vile of tsetse flies that Jeremy had given me (were they really stored in alcohol? Or was that liquid cocaine?). But I got through. But totally scary. The second scariest of the trip.

Then Then a 9 hour flight, then a 3 hour layover so I could get through immigration and customs, the the flight was delayed an hour, and now I'm on the plane. I can't imagine being anymore tired. I manged to grab about two hours of sleep but it must not have been restful.

More soon! With more pictures!

Tsetse fly fun

I went to the Senegal to study tsetse fly. Africa is hard travel. Mostly because I'm scared to death of tropical diseases. It is also disconcerting to be in place that you do not speak the language, don't know the customs, and don't know how to be. But the chance of encountering new experiences is just too alluring. I can't seem to resist going to places that seem exotic. And even though I'm usually scared, I go anyway. So lacking any sense of how to begin I'll start with a series of questions and answers.

Why Senegal?

Well, it was the closest African Country and I hate long plane rides.

How did you get money to go?

I starting singing in bars for tips and soon had enough to go.

What did you accomplish there?

Well, I was able to see some great sights so I can give it a hardy, “Mission Accomplished.”

Will you go back?

I've started singing again to get money to go back.

Actually, I met the director of the tsetse fly efforts in Senegal while I was in Vienna. A wonderful person named Jeremy, from France. He is currently trying to set up a trapping system to prepare to eliminate the fly in areas of Senegal where it is found in small patches of green where there is enough surface water that certain plants can grow and that the flies need to survive and lay their pupae (tsetse flies are weird for insects in that they give live birth of a pupae rather than laying eggs and only have about 5-9 offspring, more like a mammal than an insect). So Jeremy and I thought that I would be able to assist in helping set up the trapping system and that I could benefit in seeing the ecology of the fly for my computer models and we talked the UN in sending me out there to take a look. And now I'm hooked.

So here's the trip. I arrived in Dakar at about 5:00 am. Someone was suppose to pick me up, but I'd not met the person. When I got there the immigration police wanted to know where I was staying. I didn't know and tried to explain that someone would pick me up and they knew, but I didn't. He told me to go ask the person and come back. He kept my passport and I walked passed a guard into the baggage claim area and realized that if I went out to where the person waiting I could not get back in. It was Catch 22. But I'm nothing if not resourceful in getting through bureaucratic entanglements. So I had printed an email from Jermey with his business address on it, so I pulled it out and marched quickly back into the immigration area passed the guard who must have recognized me, showed it to the police guy holding my passport and said that's where I'm saying. It was obviously a business address and he looked at it and I stood there with my dumbest dumb foreigner look. He kept looking at it then at me like, “This isn't what I need, but it will take forever to get this guy to understand.” Finally, he stamped my passport and immigration form. If there is one thing I've learned. There are always rules in place to block you. But all anybody really wants is to be allowed to get past the rule. You just have to provide something close enough that the rule appears to be followed. I was in Senegal! (I should point out that that this was a tense start to entry).

I walked out of the airport really hoping someone would be there to pick me up. I was nervous about it because this warning was marked in bold in my Senegal Rough Guide to West Africa: The question of personal safety is one you can't afford to causal about, particularly when you first arrive. Decide quickly on an initial destination rather than wandering in hope. A few ganges of organized pickpockets operate with extraordinary dexterity and daring and, burdened with luggage, you're an easy and valuable trophy. So was really hoping someone was there to save me from the rabble out to get me. On my way out of the airport a man with a badge asked me if I need a taxi. I said no and he pointed out the door and said, “It's not safe out there.” Great. But the first person I saw was a man holding a sign that said, “Mr. Peck.” Yea! He grabbed my roller back and we went into a dark parking lot followed by about 10 people. He they were all trying to talk to me, but I kept talking to Abdul, who was a technician with the lab. Neither tJermay nor the guy I was going to meet in charge of trapping could not come because Jermey missed a plane from the Reunion Islands where he had been on a mission for the UN. Abudl put me in a really beat up pickup, that had about an inch of Dakar on the back seat where I put my bags. “Stay here.” He said, in hesitant English and then he walked away. Leaving me with the 10 guys who now started saying, “Give me 10 dollars.” The car was locked and my window as open only a crack and I kept saying, “I don't speak French.” I was getting nervous. About four of the guys tried to say in English that they wanted a tip, or money, or 10 dollars, and I answered everything they said (in perfectly good English) with, “I don't speak French.” I am the master of dumb Americanisms. Finally Abdul returned and he drove off all the guys. Nice start to my visit.

The hotel in Dakar was not bad. And Sunday I just sort of explored the area. I was very tired from the trip, but did not want to go to bed until bed time. I could not walk far without people trying to sell me things and I soon found that any sort of kind words or no thanks would be met with being followed for a couple of blocks why they explained they were my friends and others were out to get me. Soon I saw local westerners walking through the crowds and they would just brush of attempts to be talked to with a dismissive wave of their hand and a silent small head shake. I saw one poor woman who had stopped to admire something surrounded by about six people all putting their wares up for the woman. I caught on and intimidate the cool aloofness and it worked. It made me feel bad though because I don't like being mean. But you had to be! It was crazy.

The next day, in the Morning I went with some of the technicians and one of Jeremy's students to the field to look at tsetse sites that were actually within the city of Dakar.

We also visited the saddest zoo I've ever seen.

Tuesday, Jeremy, picked me up in a taxi.

In part three I'll give you further details soon.

Warning at crocodile pond near a hotel. 

Monitor Lizard

This was a boy herding goats near an area were were looking for tsetse flies. The tree had a kind of small fruit that I tried and was in taste like a crapple.

Some pretty birds.

Senegal had some beautiful scenery even though it was very dry.

These cattle were being driven in our tsetse area

This was looking from a house Jeremy owned on the Senegali coast. It was a place of as good of beaches as I've ever seen.

This is an ants nest. The ants hold the leaves together by putting their larvae who clamp down with their jaws and hold the leaves in place.

Hyena in sad zoo.

Here Carbaba, Jeremy and Jesu set up a tsetse trap.

More pictures from the sad zoo.

My by Jeremy's house on the beach.

Carababa, Jeremy and Jesu

A fisherman in a small estuary stream. 

Warthog near the restaurant where we hate the zebu cattle steaks.

These two are tsetse fly habitat.