Thursday, June 27, 2013

Books, books, books!

It's been two months, I know.  I've been neglecting this blog while I went on vacation, played with babies, and oh yeah- finished my Peace Corps service.  There is so much to catch up on and most of it is very overwhelming, so I will procrastinate a little bit more.  Actually, I make no promises.  I don't know if I can put into words what the past three years have meant to me and how difficult it was to say goodbye.

Until then (or maybe never), enjoy seeing what books I've read =)

81)              The Hunger Games By Suzanne Collins
82)              Catching Fire By Suzanne Collins
83)              Mockingjay By Suzanne Collins
84)              Bossypants By Tina Fey
85)              Barrel Fever By David Sedaris
86)              Bone in the Throat By Anthony Bourdain
87)              Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the …. By Anthony Bourdain
88)              The Lovely Bones By Alice Sebold
89)              Gunn’s Golden Rules By Tim Gunn
90)              Little Earthquakes By Jennifer Weiner
91)              Anna Karenina By Leo Tolstoy
92)              Indian Fairy Tales
93)              The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again By J.R.R Tolkien
94)              A Million Little Pieces By James Frey
95)              A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal By Anthony Bourdain
96)              Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland By Lewis Carrol
97)              Runemarks By Joanne Harris
98)              I am America (and so can you) By Stephen Colbert
99)              Pygmy By Chuck Palahniuk
100)          The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
101)          Jane Eyre By Charlotte Bronte

102)          World without End By Ken Follett

Thanks for all your support over the last three years!  See you stateside!


Thursday, April 18, 2013


It’s Blog About Malaria Month (BAMM)!  April 25th is World Malaria day and to celebrate it, my friends over at the Stomping out Malaria initiative are sponsoring BAMM in order to show the world what volunteers all over Africa are doing to eradicate malaria! 

So, I’m here to do my part and tell you my story.  Malaria prevention was my first project in Senegal.  If you’re a loyal follower of my blog (or a new reader who has clicked back to 2010), you might remember the story of my first Senegalese meeting where we discussed Universal Coverage, or the time I fell in mud to deliver Malaria Education materials to health workers, or when I touched so many mosquito nets that I got nauseous.  In 2010, before the Stomp out Malaria initiative was created, I participated in the Universal distribution of insecticide treated nets in my area.  At that point, health volunteers were given basic training about malaria and projects that we could do in our villages.  We told villagers to sleep under their nets (even though at that point, a majority of people didn’t own nets), we taught them how to make neem lotion (which could ward off mosquitoes), and told them to go to the hospital for medicine.

Malaria education has come a long way since the beginning of my service.  In April 2011, the STOMP initiative was launched.  June 2011 was the very first boot camp, an intensive two week training where volunteers would learn all about malaria and become a part of the “Malaria Team”.  I was invited to share my experience with Universal Coverage at that first boot camp (which, looking at the presenters now, I feel extremely under qualified and wish I had the opportunity to learn from them).  Since that point, volunteers have been doing magnificent work in the realm of malaria prevention.  I wish I could say that I had a more active role in Malaria projects, but in the second year of my service, my focus shifted to nutrition.  I participated in Malaria trainings involving traveling theater troupes and taught children the importance of sleeping under a net, but in retrospect, I could have done a lot more.   

In my third year, I moved from my wonderful village to Velingara in order to work with a NGO on nutrition interventions.  I cherish the opportunity I’ve had to work within a NGO, but I missed the daily interactions with villagers (although I do love the air conditioning).  In September 2012, Sarah, a fellow volunteer, asked if I wanted to partner with her on a region wide mosquito net repair and care tour.  I jumped at the opportunity to be working in villages and to be interacting with people again.  Sarah was a rock star, taking the lead on village visits, seeing as I could only go out on weekends.  It turned out to be a beautiful partnership.  I would go to weekend events and during the week, when I had time, I would input data from the events and crunch the numbers.  At the end of our project, we visited a total of 20 villages, repaired/washed over 700 nets, and impacted over 1,850 people.  You can read the case study for more details. 

 Last week, I went on vacation to Sierra Leone and was able to see what their volunteers were doing to fight malaria.  Over 20 volunteers participated in a Malaria Bike Ride, where they went to villages and presented skits, asked questions, and sang songs in order to promote malaria awareness.  It was so fun to see volunteers in other countries working on similar projects, but utilizing their local languages and integrating aspects of their culture.  It is truly a continent wide fight!

This is only the second year of the Stomp initiative and there has been so much collaboration between volunteers within the same country and internationally.  So much has changed in my three years in Peace Corps with malaria prevention and I can’t wait to see what new innovations volunteers come up with to combat malaria.  Here’s hoping that we eradicate malaria within this generation.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Introducing: Wilma Seydi

This is Wilma Seydi...

It's real, her birth certificate says so!

These photos were taken at her baptism last week. I'm so honored and excited to have a baby named after me.  I hope that I can come back in 10 years and see her all grown up!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Another Wilma in Senegal!?

I love my name.  Actually, I love all three of them: Wilma, 竹宜, and Rouby.  The great thing about all of these is that they are all pretty unique; I don't often run into someone with the same name as me.  As a matter of fact, I have never met another Wilma or 竹宜.  So what's this about another Wilma in Senegal!?  I have successfully avoided meeting another Wilma for 25 years, but has the time come that this streak is broken?  Yes and No.  The newest addition to my Senegalese family has been named after me!  Wilma Rouby Seydi or maybe it's Rouby Wilma Seydi (I'm not sure, I will clarify when I go to village for the baptism) was born close to midnight on March 5, 2013.  Since she's named after me, I don't count it as meeting another Wilma necessarily.

In Pulaar tradition, a baby is given a name a week after he/she is born and it typically coincides with a baptism party.  However, my brother, the baby's father is in Dakar right now and won't be back til this Saturday, which means that the party will be next week.  The choosing of the baby's name is a complicated process, where families spend hours discussing (aka arguing) over who to name the baby after.  There are some guidelines such as the first male of the family will be named after so and so or if the child is born on a holy day, he/she will be named accordingly.  It's complicated and my head hurts just thinking about it.  In addition, it is an honor to have a child named after you and there are certain responsibilities.  I wasn't in village when all the discussion was going on, but the night Wilma Rouby was born, my brother mentioned that he wanted to name her after me.  And when I talked to my father the next day, he reiterated that point.

Many volunteers have had babies named after their Senegalese names, but a far smaller group has a child given their American names (I think it's because some names are really difficult to say).  It was my luck that the first round of children born in my family were all born just before I arrived in village and the next baby was a boy.  When I returned to village in November and discovered that there were three pregnant women in my family, I was ecstatic, not because of the fact that I might get a namesake (ok...maybe a little), but because I love babies! So now, three years after I arrived in Senegal, I have a tokora, a namesake!

My village and my family will always hold a special place in my heart and now a part of me (even if it's just my name) will remain in village.