Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A summary

Hi all,


I compiled a quick resume of some of my first 6 months in Senegal, which is usually the time with the steepest learning curve.
Some of the themes I have already discussed earlier, but I hope this narrative will prove both informative about West African realities, and can shed some light on the 1st hand experience of life in rural Senegal.
I don't know what it's worth but here it is. This is Martin's take on the Peace Corps in Senegal.

Also, I'll be talking a lot more about mercury, arsenic, mining and pollution later on since this topic is what I'm dedicating my Master's degree on.


Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

--Winston Churchill

As a first impression, Senegal does not have much to boast for. Stepping out of the airplane in Dakar, one will smell the pungent stench of diesel exhaust, see and inevitably step, stumble on the ubiquitous debris on the ground: loose cobble, broken asphalt, gravel, sand, dust, dirt, soot, grime, slime, mire, muck and gunk that constitute the décor of this modern, rapidly growing city of the third world. As for what the chemical make of this superlative anointment may be, no one knows, nor does anybody really want to know; but the input material tends to be easily recognizable as plastic bags, plastic water bottles, plastic wrappers, paper wrappers, newspapers, diapers, tin cans, banana peels, mango peels and anything else one might expect to see in a tropical garbage bin. Now all this gets flattened, cut and chewed up by city traffic so that it’s just ripe for when the rains come and the sewage system (or lack thereof) overflows and floods entire neighbourhoods with black water, and binds the whole in a matrix of biohazard. Meet cholera, dysentery and typhoid.

As a second impression, Senegal has even less to offer. Walking through town one will be completely overwhelmed with aggressive (Wolof) taxi drivers calling you “mon ami,” grabbing on to your hand and/or luggage without your consent and demanding exorbitant fares. The cars will inevitably be a failing 30 year old French Peugeot beyond hope of repair, or rather, beyond hope of anybody caring to try and repair them. Then there is always the spectacularly disordered and frightful traffic that has become proverbial of third world cities. But what is really unique to Senegal are the swarms of kids coming around you at every intersections, holding on to an empty red tomato paste tin can, or an empty plastic yellow margarine bowl. These are talibe, students of a koranic school, performing their daily obligation of begging for food, money and sugar to give back to their marabout (teacher). Meet childhood slavery.
For parents, the daara (koranic school system) is a free alternative to the governmental French school system, the latter though technically free, still infers a cost through textbooks and modest entry fees. Therefore poor, or conservative, parents will send their kids to a marabout; and in return kids owe absolute obedience to him. This means that they don’t go back home to see their parents, ever. They sleep, eat, live in ruined compounds too abhorrent even for stray dogs. They’ll spend one half of the day reciting surats (koranic verses) and various ancestral magic spells in a language they don’t understand, nor ever learn. The other half they spend drifting around town, singing prayers and begging for some food to survive, and money to avoid a severe thrashing by the marabout.
One such daara burned down one night in the outskirts of Dakar while I was a volunteer. The marabout had locked the doors of the compound from the outside, as is customary. A dozen kids died, others severely burnt. The event was thought as no more than an unfortunate accident.
This koranic school system is ubiquitous in Senegal. It is considered perfectly acceptable. Parents send their kids all the way from far Guinea to powerful marabouts and famous daaras, with the idea that religious education is a good thing. What is there to say to a society that commends such a system of abuse? This reality is one of the main reasons I hold such evermore disagreeable feelings towards Senegal. There is a level of woe that has no justification, and a level of complacency that cannot be excused. I would see kids as young as 5 years old wearing nothing but torn rags, shoeless, filthy as can be, often hurt, always malnourished, begging for a few handfuls of rice for survival. These are daily sights in urban Senegal, part of the routine, just like traffic, or the prayer calls of minarets. If I have ever seen wretchedness, I have seen it in the empty stare of a wandering talibe, reciting koranic verses, hoping they will feed him.


My first order of business after all the ceremonial welcomes in village was setting up a tree nursery. We had been taught how to build a school vegetable garden and were expected to work on such a project. The ubiquitous presence of roaming animals in Senegal, especially goats, makes any gardening effort hopeless without a fence. However, fences are very hard to come by in rural Senegal. The best long term option is certainly to plant a live fence, made of thick thorny species, forming a living wall around a protected area. So I went along, planting dozens of thorny bushes in a tree nursery. I then transplanted them in the village elementary school perimeter at the start of rainy season. But it turns out, small trees are quite tasty to goats, and in order to start a live fence one first needs to protect the saplings for the first 2 or 3 years—hence one first needs a fence. Ironic, isn’t it? In the end I set up a makeshift woodstick fence that helped somewhat in protecting all the trees I’d out-planted. So everything was put in place for when school was to start again (after the rains, in the Fall) we could have some gardening lessons. Then came September and the teachers weren’t back from their holidays yet (teachers invariably are not originally from the village they work in). Nor did they show up in October, November, or December. It turned out the teachers weren’t being paid nationwide, so they all went on strike. But because teachers went on strike the education ministry withheld salaries even more. Here was irony again. This entire situation was new to me, though I was told it happened cyclically. Therefore, school that year only started in mid-January. Schedules were rushed and few students or teachers had the time or desire to do much gardening. So much for that project that year! Here was my first lesson in the effects of severe corruption.

One small work project I got involved with was helping out with two summer camps. This had me going to various villages of Pulaar-land to help teach math, French, lead challenge courses and teach teenagers such life skills as how to use a condom. This was really cool as it involved kids from really poor and remote regions, for whom this was the single greatest experience of their lives, so they were extremely enthusiastic about everything. In a general sense, I have found Senegalese kids to be some of the most fun there is to be had in that country. All this also involved reuniting with other PCVs from all over that I would seldom get to see otherwise. I remember these events as the time during which I enjoyed Senegal—and myself—the most. The only downside for me was that I had conjunctivitis for a few weeks, which is a thoroughly annoying virus to catch. Thankfully this was to be one of only three I would ever catch in Senegal. I was lucky.

The major project I had started on was pump repair trainings. The main issue for Kondokhou villagers was the difficulty of access to drinking water. The only viable water sources were two hand pumps a kilometre outside the village. They were overstressed in their use and when they broke down, no one knew how to repair them, save for a government team in the regional capital who extorted outrageous fees, crippling for a village. I realized that the pumps were of very simple design, meant to be easily fixed with simple tools. So I found documents on how to repair these pumps, taught myself, went to Dakar—700km away—to buy the tools (there’s no proper hardware store anywhere else in the country!), formed a village repair team and taught them how to fix the pumps. It worked well, that is until the pump repair team started asking for money for spare parts and modest salary. Usually, emergency pump repair money was taken out of the Sodefitex account (a village bank account created from the fair trade label on local cotton production—essentially a tax on village cotton farmers). Cotton farmers however refused to have to bear alone the cost of a universal necessity. So we tried to levy money from compound to compound, based on a per-person quota. The answer we often had was “I don’t have the money right now, come back tomorrow.” This, mind you, is viable excuse in most of West Africa, where common peace and harmony may not be broken over money matters. We thought of asking for small coins for every person taking water per day, but there is a very serious lack of small change in Senegal, and coins are always hard to come by, making small transactions very difficult. That and such a system would require someone sitting at the pumps all day, doing that job. No one was willing to assume such a chore. A subscription system would similarly involve an employee, with some accounting skills that too few have in village (most never get passed grade 5 education). On top of all that, there were big trust issues as precedents of village account money disappearing existed, and any one taking on such a job risked being accused of misappropriation. We were in a bind indeed!
What such a situation breeds can be best exemplified when a government program came to drill a new borehole in the village 4 months into my service, and built a brand new expensive hand pump. Great news! The two other pumps had a constant 20 to 30 minute wait lineup, so this would greatly relieve the situation. However the village chief decided that the new pump was to stay locked until the village had solved the pump repair money situation. By the time I left village, two years later, the brand new pump was still locked! It had been used once for two weeks, then locked up again. Here was my first lesson in the effects of severe societal dysfunctionality.

Another smaller project was thrust upon me early on in my service. Villagers approached me a few weeks after arriving in village hoping I might be able to solve the latest village drama. World Vision had recently arrived asking for the community contribution for the health hut they had just built in the village. Of course, the village health account was completely empty. Everybody openly suspected the village health worker to have stolen the money. So they asked me, the toubab (white person), see if I couldn’t “find” money that would cover their needs. I did my investigation, came to realize there hasn’t been money in that account for at least 5 years. There there was no paper trail (again, the health relay has 5th grade education and never learned bookkeeping) and no one even remembered the last time there ever was money in the box at all! Mind you, no one ever thought it anything much out of the common way, and no inquiry was ever proposed until World Vision came asking for their due, when everybody’s backs were against the wall. We held a big village meeting. I told everybody that while I couldn’t make accusations, it was obvious the system currently in place was broken. They agreed to form a committee with a supervisor who would oversee everything, leave a paper trail and report to the village chief on the money status. The system was fairly functional—and most importantly profitable by the time I left village. I was eventually entrusted with the village contribution to World Vision (then again, they couldn’t trust anybody with money within the village), and I bought drugs and supplies for the hut. However, the rooftop of the health hut fell apart during the rainy season (there are always high winds associated with rainstorms)—coincidently, the peak of malaria season, rendering the hut unusable when most needed. The Catholic Relief Services had promised they would fix it but we never saw that happen. Here was my first experience with severe incompetence.

These stories point to some of the major themes that permeate a Senegalese reality that tourists won’t see. First you have systemic societal dysfunction, and a level of complacency about it that is crippling. The system is broken and no one thinks of doing anything about it. A lot of that has to do with the lack of basic education, even literacy, of locals, explaining the lack of efforts such as simple bookkeeping. Second is the cultural approach with money matters which breeds distrust, and discourages common accounts. People are poor, money is money, and accounts (i.e. cash hidden in a sock, under the bed) get mixed depending on daily needs and never get refilled. A lack of understanding of entity ownership and binding obligations explain that corrupt actions are seldom thought of as such and are always excused. Third there are the obvious problems of remoteness and poverty. Stuff is expensive, it’s far and there’s no real way to access it. Roads are terrible, transportation is god awful and people can’t really pay for it all anyways, making it very hard if not impossible for a person to invest in a farm, a house or a business. Lastly is the persistent failure of government infrastructure and aid organizations to provide services appropriate to needs. Systemic corruption mixed with various levels of incompetence goes a long way in explaining this fact. All of this adds up to creating a very real sense of lethargy about anything development-related. Sooner or later a Peace Corps Volunteer realizes that despite one’s best efforts, mediocrity and disappointment is the very best one might hope for. The worst, of course, being a project’s utter failure, and aggravating the local feeling of dependence on foreign aid.

By the sixth month of my service I had lived enough to understand these realities and what they would entail for the rest of my life in Senegal. With such a learned perspective, prospects started to feel remarkably bleak. I had already started and implemented interesting projects. I had done all I could to set them up in a sustainable manner, that they could last past my service. Yet, as soon as I disengaged and let the villagers use their new learned tools for themselves, dysfunctionality still prevailed. And to my dismay, it was never the “hard,” technical skills that let down, but village politics and money matters. I learned to make peace with that by reminding myself that a Senegalese problem will always have a Senegalese solution. 

Such a conclusion may sound bleak indeed. The simple truth is that it's a tough world out there. But more than diseases, dysfunction, and all the pains that come with living in West Africa, the real challenge of this all is in learning how to make peace with these hard facts. Yet, therein lies the redeeming value of the experience. To learn how to create for oneself a measure of fulfillment and happiness in such a difficult environment is to learn to deal with any and all things that are thrown at you, no matter what, and to squeeze all the worth out of it. I believe that such a lesson is perhaps one of the most valuable and meaningful the Peace Corps can offer their volunteers, and returned volunteers.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Hi all,

So I'm really back, working in the Rockies for the summer. I wasn't sure what to do with this blog but I figure I might talk about a few things relating to West Africa, development and all. Turns out after living in a remote African village for two years there are certain things one does not forget. So I've given it a new look and hope this will still prove interesting, especially since it seems my involvements with Africa and mining are not quite over. More on that later.

On international aid and its state of affairs

Here is a link to an excellent article on an excellent website:

It highlights much of the reality of aid work in West Africa. It talks about Mali but I recognize an awful lot of this in Senegal.

I would have liked to talk about this sooner but the subject is way, way, way complicated and one wonders where to even start. Without getting into details, aid work at best serves like a hydration IV to a sick person. It helps keep peoples from being too miserable but in no way contributes to the self-sustaining improvement of the society as a whole.
We build schools, dig wells, give medicine and give rice in droughts. All of this helps prevent malaria deaths, water-borne illnesses and famines. It does nothing to help in the economic development of a country. So the real question is: what do we really want to achieve with aid work? If we simply want to avoid another 1998 Sudan famine, then we're doing ok. If we want to raise entire countries out of poverty, we are failing miserably.

This begets the question: how does a poor country become rich? That is a question to which no one know the answer. But from my experience here are four points which can go a very long ways:

  • Improve education

UNICEF has built every single school in the area in which I lived. They even installed solar panels with lights in some. That's great but useless when the schoolteachers are constantly on strike because their paychecks don't come through and when the system teaches students to regurgitate stuff in French they don't understand, write or read.
Critical and creative thinking are concepts that do not exist in rural Senegal, which is in large part responsible for the fact that people are unable to help themselves, even for efforts that are entirely within their means and reach. This leads to the perception that only outside help can improve their lot and exacerbates the all too pervasive dependency on foreign aid.
Quality education, emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving skills will absolutely help people maximize their resources from the bottom-up, at the grassroots, local level.
  • Decrease corruption
An ambitious goal. If such a feat were easy there wouldn't be corruption. How does one change a mindset? Especially when the culture condones corruption, wasteful and inefficient use of resources. There is no easy solution but I cannot help at think that, again, improved education can go a long ways. A large part of the problem in West Africa is that the very concept of the modern state as a public entity hardly exists.
The idea of an impersonal State that controls public goods and services in a transparent way under a written rule of law is hardly compatible with the ancestral traditions of the land. An authority figure, or anybody of relevant means, is expected to uphold a certain standing and decorum that lead to some of the abject stereotypical disparity of wealth Africa is infamous for. This authority is also expected to redistribute this wealth in his close social, religious and familial circles, maintaining political relationships more reminiscent of the Godfather movies than tat of a modern State. In other words, public resources are perceived as personal property by the authority figure, and thus dispensed.
In the absence of an effective court system that can enforce a code of law (which is--on paper--surprisingly modern in Senegal), impunity remains the only rule.
  • Level economic plane
For all the internal problems of Senegal, the people are part of a game that they play at a disadvantage. Despite globalization's premise, the world is not flat.
The country's biggest know how and production is agriculture, and this is an area in which your average farmer cannot compete on the international markets. This for one reason: subsidies. All first world countries provide massive subsidies to their farmers, which lowers the price of developed, mechanized farm products far below anything a Senegalese farmer can possibly compete with. Therefore the chances of developing any viable income (cash crop) for farmers is extremely low.
A wonderful example of the twisted state of international farming affairs is very well illustrated in this npr podcast:
  • Develop business, not aid
Again, current aid work is little more than an IV given to a sick society, a band-aid patch. Not the solution. If we want Senegal to become rich, promote its sustainable economic growth, not its dependence on handouts.


These points are the most striking inadequacies. They barely even begin to cover the subject. On the topic I highly recommend these resources:

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty. by A. V. Banerjee & E. Duflo. Public Affairs, 2011.
A remarkably accurate and highly readable book about the economic dynamics of poor people around the world, and how aid fits into it.

The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. by W. Easterly. Penguin, 2006.
A critical view and analysis of aid work on a more macro scale.

The Aid Trap: Hard Truths About Ending Poverty. by R.G. Hubbard & W. Duggan. Columbia Business School, 2009.
An alternative model to development.

Corruption and Development Aid: Confronting the Challenges. by G. Cremer. Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc., 2008.
Redefines corruption and its existence in aid.

Lastly, please do listen to Planet Money, an excellent npr podcast, covering countless aspects of the economy and development.
Subscribe to it on iTunes.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

There and Back Again

Hi all,

I know it's been forever since my last blog post. I've been up to lots.

  • I've completed my women gardening wire fence project

It's traditionally the women's role to take care of duties regarding vegetable gardening. Now the main problem regarding that is that women are already really busy taking care of children, cooking and all the house duties. Add to that the fact that they need to rebuild woodstick fences every year to protect their produce (roaming animals are a huge problem and stick fences don't survive a rainy season), and that needs to be in a place close to a water point; which happens to be at the pump, a kilometre outside the village.

So the women are busy at home, they need to walk a ways out and rebuild a fence every year. All in all, this leaves them very little time or energy to bother with the gardening.
So after long deliberations with the women groups, village authorities and Dakar officials, we were able to put together about 2.5 million FCFA, or roughly USD5,000. 15% came as community contribution, another 15% came from Mamadou Samoura, an elder who grew up in Kondokhou but did good at school and now lives very well in Dakar. The remaining 70% came from a food security grant from USAID.

With some villagers we set up the fence. So now the women have two large wire fences that allows them to focus on gardening, growing and providing vegetables to their family.

  • Completed a women's leadership training
Corollary to the wire fence there was a 2-day women's leadership training done in my village. Adji Thiaw, from Peace Corps led it, covering aspects of women's health, infant nutrition, women groups work and potential development, maximizing assets potential and groups organization. It was a big success as virtually all women in the village asked to attend, though there was only room for 35 (women traditionally are seldom put forward and empowered like that).

  • Travelled around the country during my last weeks
The clock was ticking in my service and I felt that I needed to see more of this country, since I'd only really seen Dakar and Kedougou.

I went to the Sine Saloum in Toubacouta, visiting the mangroves. This is really a beautiful and worthwhile place to visit.

I then went to Saint-Louis (du Senegal) for a talibe soccer tournament organized by the Peace Corps. That's a yearly event creared 2 years ago by the legendary Richard Ross to promote a better understanding of the plight of Talibes in Senegal. The soccer tournament brings attention from national media and the American embassy, making it a repeated success. Along with a tournament, Peace Corps Volunteers organize educational workshops teaching Talibes basic French, nutrition, etc.

For those of you who don't know who Talibes are, they are children of poor families who'se parents gave them away to a Daara, a religious school. They essentially find themselves orphaned in a community of 30 to 100 other such kids between the ages of 4 to 14. They learn to recite Koran verses they don't understand and are forced to beg for their food. Depending on the marabout (religious teacher), they might have to bring back a certain amount of money too, under threat of being beaten. They live in conditions that are extremely precarious that would be unacceptable even for a stray animal.

If you would like to learn more about Talibes and our events and work, here are some links:

I did benefit from this event as a break from the relentless heat of inland Senegal. I went and visited la Langue de Barbarie, a natural park on a sand spit with tons of migratory bids. However, the sand spit was cut off the mainland by a 15m dredge some 5 years ago to supposedly control the floodings in Saint-Louis. Because of that, sea currents are entering the lagoon and are completely eroding away the once spit-turned-shrinking-island. They predict this phenomenal bird habitat will have completely disappeared in the next 10 years!

I also went to Kolda for Saint Patrick's day party. I don't have any pictures of that.

  • Continued the mercury project
We went on with our mercury program, finishing all the trainings and completing the second survey. Here is a link to a video made about our work:

The project still needs to go through 2 more surveys. But following phase is already being planned out and it's really satisfying that such a project is continuing past my time.

  • Left Senegal
The time had come. We had a goodbye party for our stage, I did all my paperwork in Dakar (which really feels like the Amazing Race some times). Now I'm back in France with friends and family, drinking wine and sailing as I can. It's gray and cold and raining a lot but it's France. Life isn't too hard here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cabo Verde

Hi all,

Just got back from an unforgettable sailing trip to Cabo Verde. We left on the 30th of December, so we spent New Year's at sea. There's far too many stories to relate to in this blog so i'll keep it brief and let the images speak for themselves.

The only thing i can say is that Cabo is a true paradise. Every island has its own unique character and is thoroughly unforgettable. i sure hope to go back one day.

Friday, November 16, 2012

In between

Hi all,

We're busy getting ready for the next round of surveys for our large scale project but in the meantime, here's what I've been up to, filling the gaps  in free time.

I've been horseback riding, bare back which is not at all comfortable. You got to use the ears to steer the horse!

My sheep that I owned got sick and died before Tabaski so that whole thing became quite a dud. Our family still ended up buying another sheep so I used the skin to make a welcome carpet in my hut. Here's some kids stretching it out to dry. Senegalese village tanning techniques are extremely rudimentary and do not make for good leather. My sheepskin is all hard like cardboard. Still a nice addition to my hut.

I've been helping out drill a few holes with USAID to check on water table and later install new hand pumps.

I painted a mural at my village school. Here's a map of Senegal. I also did an alphabet for the 1st grade classroom.

I'm preparing the coming of a journalist for IRIN about our work in the gold mines.

Ok seeyall later!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Been a while

So a number of things have happened since last blog post. Internet was lost at the regional house, we had 4th of July celebrations, but most importantly, we have finished the pilot part of our mercury remediation program at last. Though we were promised funding it took far too long it to be wired to us and we started 6 weeks behind schedule, at the expense of PCVs putting up front about $3,000 of their own money!

But we eventually were given our funds. We went along and did our risk-assessment survey, did the training of trainers, distributed retorts, etc. Definite anxieties took hold over the viability of our program since retorts are typically a hard sell to miners.

But we did have one thing going for us, highlighted by our survey results. That being that an overwhelming majority of miners understood that mercury was indeed harmful (a rather unusual level of awareness). So it turns out that after this pilot, we now have a long list of individuals that desire their own private retort! If anything, our peer-educators complained to not have enough of them because people were lining up to use them. An incredible response to a usually tough sell.

So we're moving ahead with the large-scale project. The enthusiasm by local authorities and communities for our project is thoroughly impressive and, to be honest, a bit overwhelming. The work potential is immense and will definitely outlive my stay. We are able to get a number of PCVs on board (counting 6 to this day), who can each help in their own way.

After promoting the widespread use of retorts and increasing Hg awareness and improved practices, the next big step is to get miners organized into legally recognized associations, and legalize their activities with tenure. This latter point might prove tricky b/c artisanals are often mining on Western companies' tenure. But these have more to gain by a peaceful settlement than not, so there is some goodwill  on their part, though they need more support by federal authorities. In any case, should we be able to organize and legalize artisanals, the ultimate goal is to go fair-trade "green" certified gold, sold straight on the intl' market. That's obviously a long shot from where we're at here, but the local interest is really encouraging.

Anyways, that's where we're at now. Things are going surprisingly well so far. We are going to have the visit of Kevin Telmer (my old geochem prof from UVIC) and the Artisanal Gold Council (AGC). We're doing a joint awareness campaign in November. It'll be fun to see my old prof again here in Africa after so many years!

Ok see you guys later.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Tale of Two Countries

It is the best of times, it is the worst of time, it is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness, it is the epoch of belief, it is the epoch of incredulity, it is the season of Light, it is the season of Darkness, it is the spring of hope, it is the autumn of despair, we have everything before us, we have nothing before us, we are all going direct to Heaven, we are all going direct the other way - in short this period is so far like any period that only the most rambunctious ego will insist on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

There is a supervisor with a suit and a tie in Washington D.C., there is a supervisor with a suit and a tie in Dakar. In both cities it is clearer than crystal to the Lords of the Desk that, as has been generally settled for ever, the righteous production of numbers is the quintessence of felicity.
Such is the experience of the Peace Corps in Senegal. Spiritual revelations are conceded to Senegal, at this, one Amadou Diallo, in between enchanting and disenchanting SIM cards, had heralded the sublime appearance of Muammar Gaddafi enjoying his living exile in the lands of the Touaregs. And all other respected authorities on the supernatural build their respect - and their very personal fortunes - upon the daily efforts of their pupils, who learn more about begging and stealing three meals a day than about any book - holy or not.
The United States, not much less favoured on the whole as to matters spiritual, is rolling with exceeding smoothness down hill, making paper money and spending it. The repeated likes of Charles Manson preach Peace by murder, and so do a few pro-life Christians too. Armed authorities descends upon yet another frenzied sectarian ranch while mere messages in a few media come to the American people about the recent virtual dissolution of the 4th constitutional amendment: which, strange to relate, will prove more important to the Human race than any doubts consumed by bovine America about the birthplace of their president.

It is certain enough that, rooted in the fields of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbour, in 1961 there were seeds growing, already sown by one Sargeant, Gravitas, later to Shrive by way of the service to Peace, singular in history. It is certain enough that in the rough compounds of some tillers of the lateritic lands adjacent to development, there were crude huts, bespattered with rustic mire, snuffed by pigs, and roosted by poultry, which the Volunteer, Pride, has set apart to be the abode of his sacrifice. But the Sargent and the Volunteer, though they work unceasingly, work silently, and no one heeds them as they go about personal and international development with muffled tread: the rather for as much as to entertain any suspicion that they are active, would be boisterous and uncouth.

In Senegal there is scarcely any amount of gumption to justify much national boasting. Begging talibes are occasionally to be found giving money and sugar to one unlikely volunteer; one boat owner in the dark is volunteer in the light, and, freed in his character in his calling of "Captain," gallantly sails the Tropics as he is afforded; the single public boasting of the use of mercury in gold mines, and the associated work potential made for an impressive display of widespread interests, particularly regarding institutional liability; that magnificent entity, Mr. Ambassador of the United States invites for business lunch and does not provide for his guests; Gendarmes go into Casamance to search for contraband arms, and the rebel mob fires on the Gendarmes, and the Gendarmes fire on the rebel mob, and nobody thinks any of these occurrences much out of the common way. In the midst of them, roaming sheep eat acacia saplings, roaming goats eat corn sprouts, roaming donkeys eat mango sapling, roaming cows eat moringa saplings, roaming baboons eat millet sprouts, and all the people are at a wonder why nothing can grow in this country.

All these things, and a thousand like them come to pass as normalcy for such is the experience of the Peace Corps in Senegal. Environed by them, while the late Sargent and the Volunteer work unheeded, those of the suit and tie trod with stir enough, and carry their bureaucratic right with a divine hand. Thus is the experience of the Peace Corps in Senegal conducted with Greatness, and myriads of small creatures - the creatures of this chronicle among the rest - along the road that lay before it.

Disclaimer: This entry is sole responsibility of the present author and does not reflect in any way the thoughts or views of Charles Dickens. If this author took upon himself the sacrilege of plagiarism, and especially that of a particularly magnificent piece of literature, it is in the hopes of conveying in poetic terms an experience that cannot be conveyed. Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi.