Thursday, December 29, 2005

My Year in 51 Movements

And 32ish places. A quick review of all the places I’ve been in order starting 1st Jan 2005 until where I will be 1st Jan 2006. I started making this list at the Youth Fair I was observing yesterday while waiting for the dances to start and in between speaking my bad Bengali with the youth in charge. It was really fun to think back to all the people and places I’ve seen in the last year.

“It’s not where you are but who your with that really matters . . . It’s not where you are but what you think that really matters.”* Happy New Year!!!

  1. Capetown, SA
  2. Lesotho
  3. South Africa (New Castle->Emelo)
  4. Swaziland
  5. Jo’Burg, SA
  6. Accra, Ghana
  7. Busua
  8. Cape Coast
  9. Accra
  10. Kokum Rain Forest
  11. Accra
  12. Akosombo
  13. Lake Volta
  14. Kumase
  15. Accra
  16. Ouagadougou, Burkina Fasso
  17. Bankast, Mali
  18. Dogon Villages
  19. Sevari
  20. Djenne
  21. Sevari
  22. Timbuktu
  23. Sahara Desert
  24. Sevari
  25. Bamako
  26. Kaye
  27. Dakar, Senegal
  28. Cincinnati OH, USA
  29. Cleveland OH
  30. Cincinnati
  31. Columbus OH
  32. Cincinnati
  33. Kernersville NC
  34. Columbia SC
  35. Kernersville NC
  36. Cincinnati
  37. Columbus
  38. Cincinnati
  39. Columbus
  40. Cincinnati
  41. Columbus
  42. Cincinnati
  43. Red River Gorge KY
  44. Cincinnati
  45. Whitefish MT
  46. Cincinnati
  47. Atlanta GA
  48. Cincinnati
  49. New Delhi, India
  50. Poilan West Bengal, India
  51. Kolkata

    *Quote is from Dave Mathews Band “Best of What’s Around”

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The 28th and Field Visits

On the 28th of each month everyone from CINI-ARC get together at the Golpark, Kolkata office to update each of the projects.

In real terms this means that all of the Project Assistants and main field workers up to the ARC director gather to sit on the roof veranda of the office to get updates drink tea and listen to what has happened. Since this is also one of the few times everyone is in office everyone is calling everyone else for a meeting. I was supposed to meet with 3 different project heads yesterday (of course only one of those occurred and it became a 4 ½ hour meeting). It’s kinda fun having everyone here, but also pretty frustrating as the office is packed to the hilt and everyone is talking or calling someone else.

So I’m moving out of the literature review and reading up on project documents. Which is what I’ve been doing more or less since I found my project was going to be evaluation, review, and documentation. Reading up on Youth Friendly Reproductive Health Services (you couldn’t imagine how much lit is on this) and project proposals, reports and baseline surveys (again since I’m reviewing 3 projects this is a lot of paper and e-docs).

But now I get to do the fun part (which I had forgotten) there was one. Which is field visits. I’ve only done one mini/tester Focus Group Discussion, but I’ve been visiting Youth Fairs, which are going on now. There is a Reproductive Health Camp that I will see next week and visiting Drop in Centers and youth meetings. The fun part is being in the field where stuff is actually going on, hanging out with the youth and getting their perspective on things. (Which is the crux of my job anyway).

The down side is getting there. I generally have to take 2-4 auto-rickshaws and a bus to get to any of the field areas. Which just gets exhausting.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

What Holiday

So here it is, "Boxing Day" and I'm sitting at my office nook, drinking tea and writing up field notes from my visits last week.


Though there are a lot of festivals and holidays that we get off you never get a chunk of days off unless you take them. E.G. For Diwali (festival of lights in Nov/Dec), we had Tuesday and Friday off. Not Thursday and Friday, so we could have a 4 day weekend. Not Friday and Monday so we had two 4 day weeks. Nope Tuesday and Friday, and what can you do when you have a Tuesday off? At this point I'm strongly considering taking Friday and next Monday as personal days so I can have a breather.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Five Year Christmas Retrospetive*

* This was inspired by the Arcaro's email. I'm glad thigs are looking white and great in Dilan.

Christmas 2000- Cincinnati, Ohio USA Emory Junior
This was my first Christmas at home without my any of my siblings (Mychelle was on-call, Marya was in Jamaica, Donny and Jamehl were with her parents. Christmas Eve was a Sunday and mom was running around church. Dad was sick. I managed to escape for a few hours to Marya’s house since I had to feed Chaka (her dog). Christmas Day had a really bad start as Mom was still stressed from church and Dad was still a bit sick. That morning, to date, is my most traumatizing Christmas morning (I’m sure I’ll discuss it in therapy one day). Later on we went to Auntie Millie’s house and things got a bit better hanging out with the rest of my family.

Christmas 2001- Kernersville, North Carolina USA Emory Senior
It’s my nephew’s first Christmas and my entire family (save Marya) are gathered for it. We spend a fun Christmas Eve shopping for random things and I find out that when you get married you get someone else’s parents (and your spouse gets yours). We spend Christmas day opening up and playing with all of Daniel’s new gifts while he sits in his bouncy chair and looks on (in mild amusement I think) at our goings on. We listen to the awesome Christmas CD I made and gave to Donny and Jamehl, since we’ve all managed to lose our copy of “Charlie Brown’s Christmas.” (My gifts were really good that year) I never paid attention to Boxing Day in the States.

Christmas 2002- Ovamboland (Omegee/Ongwadieva), Namibia PCTrainee
After the Omegee/Ompundja crews failed to get approved by PC Namibia Admin to have a holiday breakfast at a nice hotel, we ended up having a Christmas Barbecue (we hadn’t started saying braii yet) at Kelly’s host family’s place (i.e. The Pink Palace). We all sleep on the floor, save Nate and Pat who wanted to be with their host families. We toast Christmas morning with screwdrivers and calls start coming in from family on Kelly’s cell phone. Peace Corps picks us up, except Pat who ends up walking almost the whole way into town (a ½ hour drive). We spend the rest of Christmas at the RDC (read PC training base) getting calls from family and eating good old American food. A virus that was going around our village catches up to me and I spend Boxing Day in bed at the RDC.

Christmas 2003- Ovamboland (Ondangwa/Ongwadieva), Namibia PCV
Christmas Eve was spent with Mia and the family of her friend Carol. Most of the day was spent with her kids, nieces and nephews putting up Christmas decorations and watching Videos on MTV (They had cable). Later on Carol’s brothers showed up one of whom Mia was dating and the other I got to know. We actually ended up heading to a nightclub and dancing a bit. Christmas Day we headed to a braii (barbecue) at a relative’s house. Boxing Day I headed to Lauren’s house to chill, hangout, and discuss our Christmases over the leftover Sangria from her fiesta Christmas.

Christmas 2004- Capetown, South Africa In Transit-PCV
Spent Christmas Eve walking around Capetown harbors and popular areas with Kate, Naima and Chris (random group 22 kid, who kept popping up during the first part of our COS trip. After a random night on our couch in Swabenheim, thanks Kate, and a full week together in Capetown we came to realize he was actually okay). We saw really cool traveling bands, groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and drank a fish bowl. Kate was silly and scared other tourist. Christmas Day Kate, Chris and I headed to the beach and felt underdressed (Kate with reason). Played in the freezing cold Atlantic Ocean and watched the mist roll in. We came home for dinner and random activities (read talking, watching bad TV Movies) with Naima. Boxing Day, we had fun exploring an empty Capetown, (which was still kinda scary as we were still bush kids at that point).

Christmas 2005- Kolkata, WB India AIF Fellow
Throwing Kolkata first “Non-Denominational Celebration of Goodwill” on Christmas Eve. Christmas day I’ll be at St. Paul’s for Mass (in a sari). Boxing Day I’ll be working, taking observations at a Youth Fair in the field regions of rural southern West Bengal.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


It’s Christmas time again though you can’t tell from my surroundings. Through my past few Christmases away I’ve realized there are some things I really miss (other than family and friends of course)

  • Christmas songs- From radio stations to advent songs in church to carolers I really miss hearing all of the favorites. On top of that my “Ultimate Shegog Christmas CD” I made as a gift to my family my last Christmas at home is with a fair amount of my stuff in Baltimore (Thank you for bring it back in the country Ashley).
  • Christmas Decorations- Lit houses, Christmas trees, tinsel, holly, mistletoe. Yes it is cheesy, but I haven’t seen these things in 4 years now.
  • The Christmas Spirit- By this I don’t mean the crazy buying mood people go into or as Tom Lehr said “the Commercial Sprit.” I like the fact that people at Christmas in general or in specific begin to think of others instead of themselves. That some will take time and try to find the perfect gift for someone else
  • Christmas TV specials-Though I did buy the VCD of White Christmas, it’s not quite the same as turning on the TV in time to catch “Charlie Brown’s Christmas,” “How the Grinch stole Christmas” (the original not Jim Carrey) or “Frosty the Snowman.” But this may just be nostalgia at this point. TiVo takes all of the careful planning out of it, and many of the new Christmas specials have become just ridiculous.
  • Christmas HOLIDAY- Because Christmas and New Years fall on the weekend we don’t get any more days off. So Dec 23rd and Dec 26th I’ll be in the field doing some field observation of the Youth Fairs going on. I could go to my Kathak lessons on Christmas eve and Day too, but there are some things I won’t do if I have a choice
So that’s it for Christ-misses, more on my actual plans later

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Exactly one year ago today (give or take a time difference) I officially completed my Peace Corps Service. So I figured I’d give a little retrospective of things I miss.

  • Fat Cakes- Doughnuts really don’t come close
  • Rest Camp Shenanigans- With the pond and geese nearby (and Wingo) you never knew what was going to happen
  • Hanging out with the teachers in my staff room and having random discussions on politics, men and women, culture, making bad jokes, and how badly our learners write- Working at an NGO no one ever wants to appear the close minded or right wing one (even if they are in comparison). My staff room had a great mix of culture Damara Nama, Subere, Ovambo (of course) and me. Here it’s pretty much Bengali, other Urban/Western-ish Indian or me. The best cultural discussion I had recently was with one Bengali guy and brilliant Cameroonian friend of mine named Crawford. He was trying to argue that I could be mistaken for Bengali (with my hair back) because I’m brown, wear kurtas, and bangles. He also tried to argue he was as African as I was. Crawford was having none of it.
  • Oshikandela and Banana bread from Pick and Pay- An unbeatable combination.
  • Dancing with Sisi- Learning rhythms, trying to keep up with the Omeleshe girls, catching up for the week and starting our 10Am class at 11:30, learning history behind the beats, the music, Sisi, there’s too much to miss.
  • Nando’s and Channel O- Bollywood videos are fun, but it’s always better with chips and Ashley and Lauren as my critiquing partners. You’d never know what old school or random African video Channel O would come up with.
  • Nando Nali Toke- The full name of my dog, meaning “Even too late” It’s the name of a school text book and referred to the way she would randomly wander home after I went to town on the weekend. I miss her eating food (especially popcorn) I dropped. Sharing fat cakes. Sleeping at my feet underneath my desk in the staff room or in the corner while I taught. I recently called school and found out that she still goes to school every morning and hangs out with the teachers.
  • My learners- Yes they were pains in the neck most of the time, but they were fun too.
  • Walking to school and watching the sunrise and fetching water during sunset- There is amazing peace in the bush, which you don’t find in Kolkata with over a million other people and a train station right next to your house.
  • Kate’s house and family- It was my second home and my main family.

Things I don’t miss

  • Having to lug all of my groceries into my village- Convenient Stores and village markets are a marvelous thing.
  • Living over an hour away from anything- Though it is less peaceful I do like the fact that I only have to leave my house to find a tarred road and walk a little way to find a taxi
  • Annoying Taxi drivers- Okay Kolkata has them too, but they are fewer and farther between. They also have meters so it is easier to argue. Auto-rickshaw drivers on the other hand . . .
  • Peace Corps Namibia Admin. - How often did they make problems more difficult than they needed to be? Though I did like the medical they provided.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ballet's Photo Negitive

In my ever continuing process of learning the dances from the country in which I am, I have started Kathak Classical Indian dance lessons. My first class was last Saturday, and I am one of two beginners (the other being a 5-yr-old). So I started out with her juniors class and watched through the advanced class. Other than having the typical mild distress at being the tallest and oldest beginner there, (as well as the one with no clue) it was a pretty good class.
  • Kathak, like ballet is done up-right, with both hands in front. But in Kathak your hands are chest height.
  • Both have a turn out of the feet. Kathak has only a natural V, nothing like the 180 degrees of Ballet
  • Both have spins. Kathak has spins on the heel while Ballet spins on the toe
  • Kathak is based on rhythm and foot work (step/stamping in a beat)

My personal challenges

  • Making the high pitch slapping noise when I step. I swear our feet are made out of different material. I don't know how they do it. Even when I put most of my weight on the ball of my foot all I can manage is a weak sounding pat. Meanwhile 7 year olds are making the perfect sound without effort.
  • Not moving my hips. . . come one I have big ones.
  • Spinning on my heel. You try getting someone trained to spin on their toes to shift weight and re-balance on the heal. I usually get two good spins before I completely loose balance and almost fall.
  • Not bringing my other foot into posse when I spin. Apparently I turn out too much, Most everything should be done to the front or directly side (At least Sherri Latham would be proud)

On the up side my teacher Divosri, is amazed that I can actually pick up the rhythms and foot work. But I have spent my last two years dancing in Africa. If I couldn't pick up rhythms Sisi would disown me.

For more "offical info" Check out

Or for just General Indian Classical Dance info

As for my adventures they will be continued

Dad and Jordan

I just really like this picture of my Nephew Jordan and Dad. It's one of the few pictures where they are both smiling

Monday, December 12, 2005

Where there is No Toilet Paper

One thing you may or may not know about many “developing” countries is that they do not generally use toilet paper. Usually you will find a pitcher (or plastic teapot for those of you who have been in West Africa) and a bucket of water. The idea is to pour the water over your behind and use your left hand to swipe any remnants. There is a reason why you eat with your right hands.
While I was traveling around Mali and Senegal though a minor annoyance, it wasn’t that big of a deal. They are hot dry countries and I was usually wearing a skirt, which facilitated drying. But most Indian clothing is in multiple layers. Saris are wrapped around you, and Salwar suits are generally knee or shin length tops with drawstring trousers underneath and a duputa (shawl) around your neck. Such clothing will absorb and keep the wetness on your body, and it is cold in Kolkata during December. There are few things as uncomfortable as a cold wet bum

One Less Stand Up

Most of you know I am a big fan of stand up comedy. From Ellen DeGeneres and Carlos Mancia to Bill Cosby and Redd Foxx, I love a good stand-up. One of what I consider the big three of original Black Stand-up just dies this past Saturday.

Richard Pryor died at the age of 65 from a heart attack. He was awarded Kennedy Center Honors for Comedy in 1998 and a friars club roast in 1991. His partner in comedy Gene Wilder (seven years his senior) is still alive and acting. I guess there is something to be said for cleaner living.

(Incedentally Andy and I were talking about him recently and actually thought he had already died. . . hope we didn't kill him)

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Maybe I’ve read to many books by male authors (Eric Segall and Chetan Bhagat) lately or too much standup comedy (I only have Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Bill Cosby and Robin Williams with me). But it seems to me that guys are constantly complaining that they have the worst of dating, because they have to propose or ask someone out. While the girls just sit idly by and dole out judgments saying yes or no.

What is their deal?! They act like females are getting proposals every two seconds. In spite of what they may think or Chris Rock may proclaim this is a fallacy (as I’m sure Naima will agree with me). I’ve been set up before and approached by the sketchy guys on the street but, in all of my 25 years only once (maybe twice) have not made the first move. The times when I didn’t it was mutual, and took a long time to coordinate. (And I’m not sure that time really counted as it was in a Mali Peace Corps house and Peace Corps situations make everything a bit odd) Guys should not complain if they don’t actually take action. If anyone has room to complain it should be us, we not horribly unattractive nice girls who are still stuck watching movies by ourselves on Friday and Saturday nights or hanging out in coffee shops reading books on weekend afternoons.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Memoriam Levi Dobbins

It is truly beyond words to try and explain the indomitable loving wise spirit that we are honoring today. If grandmother Thomas was the matriarch of the family I always considered Uncle Levi the Patriarch. Though he held this lofty position he was never inaccessible or dictorial. He would give suggestions, if sought, and sometimes if not sought. However the thing I will miss most is his presence. Uncle Levi was always there. Always there, sitting on the third or fourth pew from the front on the left hand side. I didn’t see him in the forefront unless he was called there, and he was often called. Uncle Levi didn’t take the head of the table; it was given to him. But brought to the front or sitting quietly to the side, he was there, a constant source of love and support. Over all it is his peaceful presence I will miss.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Working Overtime

Office hours are generally from 9:30am-5: 30pm, but people often stay much later. It is an NGO so people may come in a bit late, but tend to stay even later. Yesterday, I had trekked through a baseline survey on one of the projects I'm reviewing.

It was basically a demographic look at 10 villages:

· The ages young people get married (15-17 for girls and 21-22 for boys)

· The relationship between the husband and wife (Varies, if they don't have a room of their own the communication tends to be pretty low, but most couples will talk about family matters in the evening even if the husband makes decisions on his own)

· The relationship between the wife and her in-laws (The less intrusive, the better the relationship seems to be)

· What contraceptive methods they know of and may be using (About 1/2 were using some contraceptive, and most of those were using Oral Contraceptives. Many were aware of condoms, but not their use in preventing STIs and most men didn't want to use them)

Anyway there was some work I felt like I needed to finish so I was busy reading documents and formulating the survey questions to use in the field and suddenly the office guy shows up with tea and a plate of samosas. Sometimes it does pay to work overtime.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Walking Thoughts

So I was walking home last Friday, listening to my shuffle and watching people watch me. I started wondering what about me would cause people with a clef lip or an eye patch (that others would usually stare at) to stare at me. Am I really that much to look at? My siblings did always say I was pretty funny looking. (Good thing we all look so much alike)

Then I thought maybe it wasn't how I look really, but how I walked. At a backpackers in Namibia (The Chameleon) a British guy once asked me "What is the name of the way Black Women walk that takes the mickey out of other women?" I was surprised when he remembered that it was called "Switching." The way Black women walk has international fame. I thought about all of the amazing Black women in history and in my family. It had to be the pride and strength of our walked that amazed others.

At this point in my walk the song switched to "Lights Camera Action" by Mr. Cheeks, which encouraged me to put more pep in my step.

Listening to the rhythms I started reciting "Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou
"Pretty women wonder where my secret lies . . .
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally. . ."

I realized that very few Black women have been to Kolkata (I've met only one other, and heard of another). How much history I carry with me all the time.

By this time I was feeling a bit warm. I decided to try and take off my sweater without taking off my book-bag (a technique I perfected while in Namibia). While trying to negotiate this I ended up nearly flashing half of the cars and people on the bridge I was crossing.

At which point I figured that was really the reason people watched me. Because I do silly things like try to take off my sweater without taking off my book-bag first. And I should probably spend more time trying to live up to my examples than just reminiscing about them. "Please Bring Honor to Us All" from the Disney movie "Mulan" started to run through my head.
"Ancestors, Hear my plea,
Help me not to make a fool of me,
And not upset my family tree,
Keep my father standing tall . . ."

But by this point "Light's Camera Action" on my ipod had switched to "Gimme" by Jill Scott. With a smile, a nod, I grooved my way home. Because sometimes at the end of a long week you need to groove home.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Cute Little People

I have the cutest Nephews ever!!!!!

Jordan Louis


Daniel Thomas

Current Happy Songs

in no particular order

Closer to Fine- Indigo Girls

Best of What's Around- Dave Matthews Band

My Favorite Things- Outkast and Nora Jones

Never Let You Down- Kanye West

Though, right now I'm listening to Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations :)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

To the Doctor

After having a cough for entirely too long and many urging from others, I decided to see a doctor. I was leery since I had heard that most Indian Doctors have little to no bedside manner and generally don't inform you of what you actually have. I prepared myself for the miserable wait and a generally unpleasant experience.

Chandeyree (one of my co-workers) suggested her doctor only a short walk from work. She gave me the directions and seemed surprised when I kept asking when was the best time to go or about his fees. After work yesterday she assured me I would find the place and could go at anytime. When I arrived I was surprised to find a small waiting room with only two other people.
The waiting room had a few posters up and swinging saloon doors that allowed you to see directly into the doctors office.

I was shocked about the informality of it all. After fine minutes I went in and (as trained my by father) gave him a run-down of my symptoms, their duration, and what I had done to address them. Without smiling (in the least) he asked a few questions, took my pulse and blood pressure, listened to me breathe, looked in my throat and wrote out a prescription and told me to come back in five days. Only when I asked did he let me know what the medication was.

The whole visit took about 25 mins, and cost 70 Rs (that's the price of 3Kg of apples, 1/2 the price of a shirt bought off the street, or about $1.50). The small cocktail of medication I'm on (1 cough suppressant, 1 antibiotic, 1 decongestant [and], and a nutrient supplement) cost more than 4 times the amount of the doctor visit.

All in all not a bad visit, it could have been much worse, but all the drugs make me sleepy.