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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Snappy Answers to Senegal Questions

I submitted a couple articles to the volunteer-only newsletter here at Peace Corps Senegal.  Now the newsletter has been published, so I'm going to share them here as well.  Enjoy.

Snappy answers to Senegal Questions

The first time a stranger begged you to take her baby, you were probably rendered speechless.  Soon, however, you perfected your stock answer, fine-tuning it to elicit the most laughs, tears, or nods of understanding (depending on the kind of volunteer you are.)  I asked a selection of Senegal PCVs for their go-to responses to the questions we all get asked.  Perhaps as you read you will A) get inspired to inject some variety into your repertoire or B) merely be amused.  Either way, I could either write this article or continue to daydream about ice cream cake while eating 4-day old Tabaski meat, so hopefully you get something out of it.  Cheers!

“You will marry me and take me to America.”

  • Steph: “Sure!  Then you’ll cook for me, clean for me, pound my corn…”
  • Morgan: “Why would I do that?”
  • Tim: “For some reason, guys normally ask me that, so I say ‘I am also a man’ and they get embarrassed.”
  • Taylor: “I say I already have a husband, then when they ask where he is, I say I lost him in Dakar when I got here, and he only speaks Wolof and I speak Pulaar, so I’m not sure when we’ll find each other again.”
  • Alicia: “No, I want a man who’s woken up and you have not woken up yet.”
  • Barb: “YES!  I am very happy!  I prayed to Allah for a husband and now he has given me you!  I am very happy!  We will have the wedding tomorrow! I am very happy!”
  • Jim: “No, you’re so beautiful, I’m ugly as shit, it’s not possible.”
  • Liz S: “If you give me 100 cows, I agree.”
  • Madelyn: “’OK, but you have to fit in my sack.  I will cut off your arms and legs so you fit, then you can buy new arms and legs in America, they are cheap there.’  Then I say ‘prosthetic’ in a French accent, sometimes they seem to know what I’m talking about.”

“Will you take my baby to America?”
  • Eric: “I don’t interact with babies or with people with babies. I actively avoid those people.”
  • Patrick: “I hold up a black plastic market bag and say ‘Yep, put it in here.’”
  • Madelyn: “I just say ‘yes.’  Then I pick up the kid and start to walk away while the kid kicks and cries.  If the kid’s not right next to me, I ask the mother to toss it to me.”
  • Tom: “Yes.  But Peace Corps will have to pay for the pass, so you’ll have to ask them first.”
  • Ben: “Your baby is too ugly for America.”
  • Morgan: “I don’t have a house, money, or job in the USA, and you’re a better mother than I would be.”
  • Tim:  “I’m going to raise it as a Christian, is that OK with you?”
  • Barb: “’I’m not going home for a long time, your baby will be too big by then, I can’t carry it, my bag is too small.  Make me a new, smaller baby, I will take the new baby with me.’”
  • Liz H: “I already have many tokaras!  The implication is that I have obligations with a lot of babies already.”

Why aren’t you married?
  • Laura: “Because in America, girls don’t get married at 15.  They go to school and have jobs.”
  • Tom: “’I have not found a wife yet.’  Which always leads to ‘but there are plenty of women!’ and I have to remind them that I want someone who has gone to university and is smart.”
  • Liz: “I’m not ready yet, I haven’t found a man with a good ‘ticket’ yet.”
  • Patrick: “Because women are crazy.”
  • Madelyn: “I’m scared of having a child – does it hurt?”
  • Alex N: “I just say I don’t have any business with a wife.”
  • Jim: “Because I’m still a child, I don’t want to sit in one place yet, I want to travel the world and be a kalibante.
  • Melissa: “Because I am a child.  I am only two years old.  I am just very tall.”
  • Kathleen: “I don’t want or need a husband, I like my money, I like my house.”

  • Jess C: “If I’m in Kolda, I ignore it, but in village I go into a feisty Mandinka lecture. ‘I don’t call you black person’!”
  • Patrick: “’CHILD!’  If it’s an adult, I still yell ‘child’, then explain that only children say ‘toubab’, they must be a child.”
  • Tom: “Usually if I see them staring I’ll greet them before they yell at me.”
  • Liz S: “I yell TOUBAB back at them, or tell them ‘that’s not pretty’.”
  • Barb: “If it’s a kid, I say nothing and just seethe internally.  If it’s an adult, I’ll say ‘my name is Kadiatou.’”
  • Eric: “If it’s a kid under eight, I smile and wave.  If it’s an adult, I ignore them.  If it’s a kid in the impressionable age in between, I will confront them.  I’m big enough that they’re pretty scared of me.”
  • Taylor: “I don’t say anything, I just chase them on my bike.”
  • Tim:  “’Black Ears’ – then I’ll ask an adult why the kid does that.”

Will you help me get a toubab wife?

  • Tim:  “American girls will only break your heart.”
  • Kadi: “If no one wants to marry you here a toubab definitely won’t want you.”
  • Taylor: “I can’t give you a wife – in America, you choose who you’ll marry.”
  • Jim:  “Senegalese women are so beautiful, why don’t you want one? Are you racist?”
  • Alicia: “No, that’s too much work.  She won’t want to marry you if she’s never seen you, and I don’t have the time.”
  • Laurie: “I tell them to go to America, there are a lot of toubabs there.  Then they’re like, that’s why I want a toubab, idiot.”
  • Steph: “You won’t find one who likes you, and she won’t agree to have a co-wife.”
  • Brian: “Sure, my sister’s not married.  If you go to America and give my dad a bunch of cola nuts I’m sure he’ll accept.”
  • Kathleen: “’Bon chance!’  Then I laugh at them.  I mostly laugh at people.”

Do you want a black husband/wife?
  • Barb: “I don’t care if he’s black, white, blue, red, or yellow, but I want someone whose English is very clean and who respects my culture.”
  • Liz S. “I like all people, skin doesn’t matter.”
  • Kadi: “A man is a man, if he has a penis and he functions.”
  • Steph: “No, my mom said I can’t.”
  • Tim: “I used to say, ‘Yes, bring me one’ but then once they actually did, so now I say I’m waiting until I get to the USA.”
  • Taylor: “If I’m with younger women, I say ‘yes, I hear a black man never tires.’  If I don’t have that audience, I say, ‘only if he can cook a really good maafe haako.’”
  • Eric: “I’ve got no go-to for this one, it’s always awkward.”

Your last name is not good.

  • Jess C: “We don’t really do the joking cousins thing here, but if they really know Mandinka, I’ll say that Mane and Sane are very good, they’re the ruling class.”
  • Tom: “What’s your last name? Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
  • Eric: “I need to hear their last name to see where they’re coming from.  But if I don’t know, I just tell them the Diops are the best and they’re jealous.  If I find out I’m talking to an Ndieye, I will attack them verbally.”
  • Morgan: “Well what’s your last name?  Are you a Kande?  You must leave, you will steal all my things.  Where is ______? You stole it!”
  • Kadi: “It’s not even my real last name!”
  • Ben: “Slowly slowly we are trying to make it good.  Where can I get all the rice?”
  • Jim: “Fuck you, Baldes are the kings of the Fuladu, that’s the truth.”
  • Melissa: “’You eat beans.  Your name is not good.  I can’t talk to you.’  Then I theatrically walk away.”
  • Liz S: “Barrys are slaves to no one but Allah.”

Give me ___________!:
  • Alicia: “Is that how you greet?”
  • Patrick: “If it’s a kid, I’ll say ‘offer me your parents’ or ‘where’s your money,’ then when they say they don’t have money the despair in their eyes makes me chuckle.”
  • Jim: “’You didn’t greet me and now you’re asking me for stuff? Were you born in the forest?’  Or, if they did greet me first, I say, ‘I’ll give it to you when the donkey grows horns.’”
  • Madelyn: “’Yes, let’s trade, I’ll give you my bike if you give me your horse.’  Once a man said he wanted my shirt and I pretended to start taking it off, he got real uncomfortable and told me to wait til I do laundry.”
  • Eric: “Let me buy you one that’s better, a new one, and I’ll give it to you later.”
  • Kadi: “Give me money, you don’t give out your stuff without money.  Things don’t come free in this life.”
  • Melissa: “It’s not mine! I’m a toubab! I don’t live here, I borrowed it, I don’t have a house.”
  • Ben: “’I will sell it to you.’  Then I make up an exorbitant price.”

Thanks to the contributors:

Steph, AgFo 2013 – Kolda, Pulaar
Morgan, Health 2014 – Kolda, Pulaar
Tim, CED 2013 – Thies, Wolof
Taylor, U-Ag 2014 – Ourossogui, Pulaar
Alicia, CED 2014 – Kolda, Pulaar
Jim, U-Ag 2013 – Kolda, Pulaar
Eric, CED 2014 – Dakar, Wolof
Patrick, CED 2014 – Fatick, Wolof
Madelyn, CED 2014 – Louga, Wolof
Tom, AgFo 2013 – Kolda, Pulaar
Ben, U-Ag 2014 – Dakar, Wolof
Liz H, Health 2014, Matam, Pulaar
Laura, Health 2014 – Tamba, Mandinka
Jessica, Health 2014 – Kolda, Mandinka
Kadidiatou, Health 2014 – Kedougou, Jaxanke
Liz S, CED 2014 – Kolda, Pulaar
Alex, CED 2014 – Ourossogui, Pulaar
Laurie, Health 2014, Kedougou, Pulaar
Brian, SusAg 2015, Tamba, Jaxonke
Kathleen, Susag 2014, Tamba, Wolof

Math Time with Liz and Barb

I submitted a couple articles to the volunteer-only newsletter here at Peace Corps Senegal.  Now the newsletter has been published, so I'm going to share them here as well.  Enjoy.

Math Time with Liz and Barb

We know what you’re thinking. “I need to study for an intimidating standardized test, but how can I be motivated when nothing in that realm relates to my life as a Peace Corps Senegal volunteer?”  Never fear!  We’re here to combine real-life Senegal with GRE style math.  Our logo is a trash kitten (see above) because when life gives you trash kittens the best course of action is complete repression of that via copious math.  Grab a pencil, ignore those braying donkeys, and enjoy! 

**answers on the bottom of the page****

1. Mara has one more than half as many staph infections as Kendra, and Mara has 1/3 as many staph infections as Steve.  If Kendra has four infections, how much staph do they have all together?

2.  Your local sandwich lady offers café touba and kenkiliba, tapalapa and machine bread, beans, peas, and onion sauce.  Each sandwich can come with mayonnaise if desired.  How many different sandwich and drink combos are there?

3.  There are enough cold gazelles in the Ourossogui cooler for each of the 12 PCVs at the regional house to have two, but two PCVs are busy writing grants and two are really into Game of Thrones and don’t want to be distracted.  How many gazelles can each of the remaining volunteers drink?

4.  An alhum charged you 350 CFA to get to your regional capital and it should have been 300.  The apranti on your 7place charged 600 for baggage and it should have been 500.  The tailor charged 2400 for a shirt and it should have been 2000.  Whose “toubab tax” is the most reasonable?

5.  Your host family spends half your 20mil diponse on new tabaski complets for the kids, then one-fourth the remaining amount on cola nuts and attaya, then half of what’s let on a new chicken.  How much money is left over for food?

6.  A new volunteer read Outliers and decided to “Malcolm Gladwell” her sex life.  Since the arts of seduction and conquest are not VRF reportable, she devotes only three hours a day to this activity.  At this rate, how many Peace Corps services will it take her to accumulate the 10,000 hours needed to be an expert lovemaker?  Assume each service is 27 months long and she has 24 months left in her first service.

7.  If your work partner helps you build a tippy tap, it takes an hour and a half.  If you build one by yourself, it takes two hours.  Assuming both of you work at a constant rate, what percent of the job does your work partner do?

8.   You’re COSing and looking back on travel times from your service.  From your road town, it took 45 minutes to get to the closest town with internet, which you did once a week.  It took 2 hours to reach your regional capital, which you did three times every two months.  Four times a year, you went to Dakar, which took 12 hours.  You went to Kedougou twice, which took 16 hours each time.  It took the same amount of time on the road to return to site after your trips. How many days were spent on Senegal’s roads during your 24 months as a sworn-in volunteer?  Assume the listed travel is the only time you were out of site.


1. Sixteen.  Kendra has 4, Mara has 3, Steve has 9.  Steve must be in Kedougou.

2. 24 combinations

3.  Each of the eight remaining volunteers can have three gazelles.  Or they could not be dicks and save the drinks for their friends.

4.  The added price on the alhum is the lowest, at 17%.

5.  3750 CFA.  (20,000/2 = 10,000; 10,000 – 2500 = 7500; 7500 – 3750 = 3750).

6.  She will need to complete 4 Peace Corps services, plus a little extra.  Taking 365 days a year divided by 12 months, you get an average of 30.416 days per month.  30.416 days x 3 hours every day equals 91.25 hours a month.  10,000 hours divided by 91.25 hours a month = 109.6 months.  Subtract the 24 months in her first service, and 85.6 months remain.  Divide that by 27 and get 3.16. After her initial service she will need 3.16 more.  But since our intrepid wannabe Casanova is not a quitter, maybe she’ll finish that 5th service as well.  Godspeed.

7. 25%.  If you can build a complete tippy tap by yourself in two hours, you must be able to build ½ a tippy tap in half that time (one hour), which means that in an hour and a half you could finish ¾ of a tippy tap.  Your work partner must have done the remaining ¼ of the work if you finished the whole thing in an hour and a half.

8.  You spent 23.16 days, or 23 days and four hours, on the road.  Daaaaaaaaaaamn!  For the nearest internet town, 45 minutes is ¾ of an hour, times 104 weeks for 2 years of service x 2 for the return trip = 156 hours.  For the regional capital, 4 hours round trip x 1.5 trips per month x 24 months = 144 hours.  For Dakar, 12 hours x 8 trips in 2 years x 2 for the return trip =192 hours.  For Kedougou, 16 x 2 x 2 for the return trip = 64 hours, for a total of 556 hours.  Divide that by 24 hours to get 23.16 days.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Being a perfect volunteer

As a rule, I do everything to the best of my ability.  It’s always been that way.  Test coming up in school?  I study.  Running a race?  I train.  Joining the Peace Corps?  All over it.  Bring it on. A+.  

Unfortunately, there is no playbook for being a PCV.  Everyone has to figure out their service on their own, depending on the unique conditions at their site.  It’s taken me the better half of the past two years to figure out what my job here in Teyel really is – that is, what administration wants me to do, what my village wants me to do, and what other volunteers want me to do.  Here it is: 

ADMIN wants me to have a Volunteer Reporting Form full of indicators and objectives, clearly sorted on standardized forms.  They want volunteers to hold formal trainings regularly and to fastidiously take attendance.  They want every interaction the volunteer has with their community to be spent educating and facilitating behavior change – and of course, all of it must be recorded, saved, compiled, organized, and submitted in a timely matter.  I love doing this kind of work – it makes me feel valuable and important.

VILLAGE literally wants me to sit, drink tea, and speak Pulaar with them all day. This is not to build relationships with which to do further work: this is the work.  I am supposed to learn deep Pulaar vocabulary and proverbs until I can listen and speak fluently.  When I return home to America, I’m supposed to teach all of my family and friends Pulaar, too.  Then we will all come to Senegal, sit, drink tea, and speak Pulaar all day.  I love doing this kind of work – it makes me feel appreciated, integrated, at home, and welcome.

VOLUNTEERS want other volunteers to never miss a party, trip, or informal get-together.  They should always be available to meet up for breakfast or lunch if work brings them near each other. They should visit other volunteers frequently and be visited at their own sites as well.  They should always answer the phone for each other to talk through whatever crises might be happening.  These volunteer:volunteer connections are valuable and should not be trivialized.  I love my host sisters, but they’re not going to be bridesmaids at my wedding.  I love my host dad, but an illiterate Pulaar millet farmer doesn’t make the best job reference once I return to the 'real world'.  My favorite boutique owner can’t meet up with me at a Minneapolis bar 10 years from now and reminisce over the good times in Peace Corps.  Like moringa trees in Sehel soil, PCV friendships need to be fertilized and nurtured or they won’t survive.  I love doing this kind of work – it makes me feel happy (lame vocabulary word, but true.)

Here’s a handy visual of those three different opinions of what Kadiatou Sabaly’s job is:

For a long time, I struggled to find the perfect position in this triangle, to be the perfect volunteer. My worker-bee brain knew that if I just kept trying, I would eventually find the place where everyone would be pleased with me.

Then I learned.

Eventually, we all learn.

We can’t win.

No matter how much we throw ourselves, heart and soul, into one vertex of the triangle, how perfectly we do one of our jobs, the other 2/3 of the triangle is dissatisfied.

If we try to keep a neutral position in the middle, everyone’s dissatisfied.

Soon after we realize this, something interesting happens.

We stop giving a shit.

This is freeing.

This is where I'm at right now. So, here's what Kadiatou Sabaly has been up to for the past month or so, and whether it satisfies her "job requirements" or not.

CHEMOPREVENTION:  I went to a bunch of surrounding villages with my community health worker or the health worker from the next village over, depending on who I felt like spending the day with.  We gave every kid from 3 months - 10 years old a small yellow pill that a) made them projectile vomit and b) cleared all the malaria parasites out of their blood.  My role was either to help fill out paperwork or to pretend not to understand when parents used me as a motivator to get their terrified children to swallow their pills (The toubaco will kidnap you if you don’t swallow!)   

HEALTH HUT MURALS:  I only have one mural left in my health hut mural project (the road to the final health hut was underwater for a while, then my partner-in-crime and I had trouble coordinating schedules).  Since we had planned to finish the project by late September and it's now November 20, we’re doing just fine on Senegal time.  The five completed murals took a lot of time to finish.  They had to be discussed, sketched, and painted, then the community health workers at the health huts had to lead a causerie for 25 people explaining the mural (with food partially subsidized by Peace Corps).  I don't have any pictures of the completed murals, since my camera's dead, but take my word for it that they're lovely.  

LATRINEAPALOOZA:  Fellow PCV LK and I decided to go ahead with Demba’s ambitious latrine project that five months ago I wasn’t sure whether I should do or not.  LK and I spent 4 days biking to each of the proposed 82 latrine sites in 11 different villages and asking the jomma galles awkward, intrusive questions about their toilets.  Some already had latrines, some didn’t – some were polite and friendly, some weren’t – and some villages were so far enough away that LK and I said “screw it” and ate yogurt in the woods instead.  We narrowed the recipients list down to 30 households, in six villages, and the grant to pay for both the latrines and for a series of sanitation trainings in the communities has been approved. 

SITE VISITS:  I hosted three overnight guests in the past month. 

What’s their deal:
University student from Michigan spending a semester in Dakar. His program sent him and all the other American students to rural visits for four days so they can understand this diverse country better.
PCV doing an ambitious photo project (http://theseneweverydays.blogspot.sn/)
PCV just passing through to see if my village is as great as I say it is.  (It is.)
What’d we do:
The best day, we followed my two favorite 12-year-old boys around. 
·   Looked for baboons
·   Tried to catch minnows bare-handed
·   Went to the herd to milk cows. Drank the milk so we didn’t have to share.
·   Grilled corn at their secret hang-out place in the woods
·   Played soccer
She took literally hundreds of photos and I tried to not look gross.  Look at her website when the photos are posted to see if my endeavors were successful.
Hung out and talked.  Did a pen pal project at my middle school.  Watched the first half of Thor with my family.  Dazzled everyone with her incredible Pulaar and general congeniality.

We had a party to welcome the new volunteers into Kolda, then another party to send the old volunteers away, then another party because it was Halloween and why not.

SO, what does all of this add up to?  A happy Kadiatou Sabaly, being the best Kadiatou she can be, making the most of this strange job she's in...and also, apparently, talking about herself in the 3rd person.

I only worry that because I've been focusing so hard on being Kadiatou, I've forgotten how to be Barbara, and when I return home in only five months (!), no longer able to hide inside the skin of my alter ego, I'm going to struggle to reclaim Barbara's place in the world.  Please be patient with me if this proves to be the case.

Until next time!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Le correspondance

At 9:55 am Monday morning, I was starting to get antsy that Mr. B was not going to be on time for our 10:00 meeting.  I had been waiting at the school since 9:30; this was a precaution, in case he got done teaching early and wanted to go home instead of waiting for me.  Alicia, a fellow PCV who was visiting my site, asked me if I was sure he had come to school at all that day.  "Of course he did," I started to answer before I remembered where I was.
 "Hey Cherif!" I yelled at a passing neighbor boy.  "Ho Mr. B arno ekkol hannde?"  
"Aa'aa, mbo araani." Cherif answered chirpily.  He hadn't come. I cursed and got out my phone.  Called Mr. B. twice.  No answer.

Two days before, I'd gone to Mr. B's house to remind him -- again --that I was interested in doing a pen pal project with his 5eme students, and that I wanted to start it immediately. This was the most recent of a half dozen meetings.  Though Mr. B had exulted the program as "good" and "important", he had dissuaded me from starting the previous week, as some students still hadn't returned to school from rainy season vacation.  Now that enough students had returned, we had a new hurdle to jump:
"The students will need at least two weeks to write their letters."
Mr. B explained why, shaking his head solemnly.  "They are very lazy here.  In the village, students refuse to do their lessons. This is not Dakar."  

Frustrated,  I'd tried to explain that I couldn't wait two more weeks.  The American cohort had written their letters over a month previously, and since they were only studying French first semester, the opportunity for Senegalese kids to respond before Thanksgiving and winter break was closing rapidly.  I asked whether he wanted me to cancel the program, and he said no.  The program was good, it was important, he wanted to do it, but starting in December would be better.

I kept wheedling him down.  Finally, Mr. B. conceded that if I chose only the top 30 students to participate in the project, and I made it very clear that the project was important, and I went to the school every morning to nag the students to write, I might -- might! -- be able to get some letters written by the time I went to Tamba on Thursday (though he personally doubted it.)

Back at the school on Monday, Alicia and I took turns calling Mr. B, trying to determine whether he was dodging all calls or just mine.  At that moment, the principal of the school walked by.

"Kadiatou!  You woke up!  Evil did not wake up!" the principal said.  (Believe it or not, this is the normal Pulaar morning greeting.)  "Peace only," I answered.  The principal was a decent guy.  I decided to see if he could help me out.  "I came here today to meet with Mr. B.  We were going to do a project with 5eme students.  But he did not come."

"Oh!  That is bad.  I will gather the 5eme.  Just go in that room.  Sit.  Wait."  The principal turned and strutted across the school grounds, yelling at the teens that were milling around. 

Ten minutes later, Alicia and I found ourselves at the front of a classroom staring back into the confused eyes of 75 Pulaar teenagers. True to his word, the principal had gathered the students, but then he'd retreated back to his office.  No doubt there were documents there that needed to be stamped.  It was clear that Alicia and I were on our own from this point out.

I started out in baby Pulaar.

"Hello.  I am Kadiatou Sabaly.  I am a Peace Corps volunteer.  I live here in Teyel.  I came today because people in America wrote letters.  I brought the letters.  You will read the letters.  Then you will write.  You have time now?"

A few students nodded.  My host sister Medo whispered something to her neighbor.

Alicia jumped in.  In effortlessly fluent French, she asked the students if they were done with class for the day or whether it was just a break.  When no one responded, she switched to equally effortless fluent Pulaar.  A few jaws dropped as kids looked from her to me.  Why isn't this our volunteer?  A tall kid named Amadou told her that they had a break from 10 to noon, and most days they used this time to go home and eat breakfast.

Alicia explained the correspondance program, then asked the million dollar question: "We have 30 letters.  Who wants to do the program?" 

I hoped we'd be able to get thirty students to agree.  I knew if I was in their shoes I'd be more concerned with breakfast than with some silly project.

Every hand went up.

Alicia and I made eye contact.  "They're probably just curious what the letters say," she reasoned.  "Right.  They're just curious," I agreed as we started to hand the letters out.  "They'll leave as soon as they finish reading."

Two or three students gathered around every letter.  They held the cheap inkjet printer sheets as though they were relics written on ancient parchment.  They read patiently and calmly, brows furrowed in concentration.  Eventually, the kids finished reading and looked up at us.  No one left.

"So, did you understand?" I asked in Pulaar.
"Yes." The students chanted in unison.

My Pulaar depleted, I turned to Alicia, who thankfully saved the day again.  "Oh really?" she teased.  She approached Musa, an outspoken 11 year old with a toothy smile, and grabbed his letter.  "Ma maman travaille dans une salle de sport. What's a 'salle de sport'?"

"A salle de sport," he answered confidently. Everyone laughed.  Alicia continued reading.

"C'est maintenent l'hiver ici. What's l'hiver?"  No one spoke for several long seconds.

Finally, the silence broke.  "Une saison," said a quiet girl's voice from the back.  "Yeah, it's a season!" Alicia said encouragingly.  "You, here, in Senegal, you have ceceele, ceedu, ndundu, and jownde.  In France and in America, they have printemps, été, automne, and hiver."

Trusting Alicia's lingual authority now, more hands tentatively rose.

"Musseed...What is 'Marina and the Diamonds'?"
"Musseed...Are all these letters from Kadiatou's children in America?"
"Musseed...What is synchronized swimming?"

Alicia and I did our best to explain everything, even resorting to slow motion parallel ballet dances in an attempt to pantomime "synchronized swimming."

I looked at my phone's clock.  We had already been at the school for over an hour, and I wanted to get the students started drafting their response letters as soon as possible.  I still doubted anyone would actually finish, but I wanted them to do as much as possible at school before they returned to the distractions of home.

"Who has time, right now, to sit and write until their letter is done?" I asked in Pulaar.  "We have 30 letters, so we need 30 responses.  If you do not have time, you can go home.  This is not forcé."

No one got up.

Instead, they carefully tore paper out of their notebooks and got down to business.  Pages slowly filled up around me.  I walked around and read over kids' shoulders.

"Ma mama vends le pain.  Je manges le pain. J'aime le pain."  My mother sells the bread.  I eat the bread.  I like the bread.
 "Mon père est mécanicien vélo"  My father is a bicycle mechanic.
"J'aime AKON. J'aime la musique de AKON. AKON est africain." I like Akon. I like the music of Akon. Akon is African. 

Many of the letters included bold lies, seemingly just because the student couldn't think of anything else to write. 
"It is also very cold and snowy here." 
"I also like to play lacrosse." 
"I also live in Minnesota. I like to watch netflix too." 

When Alicia or I called them on these lies, they would laugh and admit they were lying, but refuse to change it. It was baffling.  

One student took his perceived deep connection with Madeline* a little too seriously, though I didn't know it until I was proofreading them later: 
"My number is 77xxxxxxx. I want you to be my woman for going out. I will come to Forest Lake for my 2016 vacation. I like you like fish likes water. I play football well."

As students finished their letters (and over half did actually finish them), they dropped them off and went outside.  Everyone said thank you - a rarity in this culture.  I left the school at 12:15, my envelope bursting with letters. I was thinking about how easy the whole thing had been. Just outside the school, I passed Mr. B.  
"Forgive me, Kadiatou," he said in Pulaar after I greeted him. "I saw you called. I was not at school today. You will come next week."  
"No, it isn't nothing," I said. Double negatives are correct grammatically in Pulaar but I always feel vaguely naughty when I use them, like a lady Huckleberry Finn.  "I have the letters. Thanks for all your help."  
"You have the letters?" he asked incredulously. I pulled one out for him to look at. He read it slowly.
"I have the letters," I repeated. "The students wrote very well. They really studied today. They have good brains. Do you want to read them?" "No, c'est bon. I have to go teach now. Have a good afternoon." I did have a good afternoon. I grilled corn, drank tea, and read a chapter in a Tom Robbins book. Only time will tell whether my perseverance in getting these letters has a happy ending or not. Maybe Mr. B was trying to stop something bad from happening; maybe he was simply sort of lazy; maybe he thought it was clear he didn't want to do the program but I was just too dense to get it. C'est Senegal quoi. *name changed because I've seen too many SVU episodes.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

100 Books of Senegal

My good friend Liz has a recurring books of Senegal post on her blog. As I recently finished my 100th book in this country, I figured this was a good time to shamelessly copy her idea. Enjoy!

1. Aaron, Chester. Garlic is Life
a.  Read if you want to hear a garlic snob wax poetic about subtle bouquets of delicate flavors in different varieties of garlic
b. The 25 CFA boutique garlic is fine by me
c. Is there anyone named Chester who is not pretentious?

2. Adiga, Aravind. The White Tiger
a. An indian man goes crazy, kills his employer, and becomes an entrepreneur
b. The story is told through letters said crazy man writes to a stranger (the President, if I remember right.)
c. Not terrible, but not worth your time to read. There are many better books.

3. Albom, Mitch. The Five People You Meet in Heaven
a. My college roommate Sam read this and said it was good.  I've had it on my mental "to-read" list for the last six years.
b. It was good.
c. If there is a heaven, I hope to meet thousands of people there, not just five.

4. Alford, Henry. How to Live.
a. Alford asked old people for their accumulated life wisdom and advice, sorted it, and put it in a book that is entertaining and wise without being preachy or fatalistic.
b. I think I’m doing OK at life.
c. Grandma Michel is the best old person and if I end up half as amazing as her I’ll be delighted.

5. Ambrose, Stephen E. Undaunted Courage
a. Lewis and Clark travel across America
b. Indians save their asses many, many times
c. Sacagawea’s a badass bitch

6. Atwood, Margaret. The Blind Assassin.
a. Beautiful story beautifully told.
b. Probably my favorite Atwood book.
c. "Farewells can be shattering, but returns are surely worse. Solid flesh can never live up to the bright shadow cast by its absence. Time and distance blur the edges; then suddenly the beloved has arrived, and it's noon with its merciless light, and every spot and pore and wrinkle and bristle stands clear."
d. That quote perfectly sums up why it’s scary to return home after Peace Corps.
e. Five stars.

7. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice
a. I wish the main characters would just talk about their feelings like grown-ups
b. Cute, but I’m still not a card-carrying Austen fan.

8. Ba, Mariama. Scarlet Song
a. A cautionary tale of a failed forbidden romance between two Dakar university students, one French and one Senegalese
b. Made me aware of even more reasons I’m absolutely not interested in Senegalese men
c. Fast-paced and interesting, with very accurate descriptions of people and customs here.
d. Five stars.

9. Bishop, Holley. Robbing the Bees
a. A history of beekeeping and honey production
b. Not as good as I would expect, because usually well-researched science journalism is my jam.
c. Three stars.

10. Brown, Dan. The Da Vinci Code
a. I can sort of see what all the hype was about a few years ago when all the copies of this were flying off the supermarket shelves.
b. I don’t necessarily think we should blame the Catholic Church for keeping women down.
c. But hey, let’s let bygones be bygones and make women equal in all ways already. #leanin

11. Brown-Waite, Eve. First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria
a. A woman starts dating her Peace Corps recruiter, ET’s, then marries him and moves to Africa to be a housewife when he gets a job with a non-profit.
b. I thought it was cute, but the friends I recommended it to hated her.
c. I concede that perhaps there are stronger female role models out there.

12. Bryson, Bill. A Walk in the Woods
a. Bill Bryson decides to walk the entire Appalachian trail.
b. Spoiler alert he didn’t finish.
c. Still funny and well-written. I would love to have dinner with the Brysons, they seem delightful.

13. Bryson, Bill. I’m a Stranger Here Myself.
a. Essays on returning to America after 20 years away.
b. Some were good, some were OK.
c. America’s pretty great.
d. Okay, but not the best Bryson book you could read.
e. The best Bryson book you could read is A Short History of Nearly Everything.

14. Bunch, Roland. Two Ears of Corn
a. A guide to sustainable agriculture development work
b. Very, very relevant to my time here
c. A must-read for PCVs.

15. Cadbury, Deborah. The Dinosaur Hunters
a. Started promisingly, about early eccentric fossil hunters, but then became a boring law story about who owns what where when.

16. Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
a. Comic book writers in New York in the 1950s
b. Cute and well-done.
c. Only one female character, and the only interesting thing she did was get pregnant.

17. Colbert, Stephen. I am America and So Can You.
a. Silly fun.
b. Lots of pictures.
c. I don’t know if it qualifies as a book.
d. I need it to get to 100, it’s a book.

18. Coyne, John. Living on the Edge
a. A short story collection of Peace Corps writers.
b. I favored the stories from Africa, but could relate to all.
c. We Peace Corps writers are a fun bunch. I should probably write more about my crazy life here.

19. Desowitz, Robert. The Malaria Capers
a. This is oddly named. I would not call it "caper." It is mostly hard science about malaria.
b. Did you know that human malaria transmission was figured out by studying sparrow malaria?
c. Many species have a malaria specific to them.
d. Fascinating.
e. I read this whole damn thing while stuck at the Gambia river crossing for 12 hours when the ferry was broken.

20. Ebershoff, David. The 19th Wife
a. Morman polygamists.
b. Weird blend of vaguely accurate history, completely fabricated history, and completely fabricated present-day events.
c. Followed the lives of about ten characters and I only liked one of them. Jordan, ICYWW

21. Eggers, Dave. A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius
a. A boring work of overinflated drivel. Two stars.
b. Man’s parents die so he raises his brother. They eat pizza and verbally spar together like a bad movie.

22. Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkana
a. A Peace Corps memoir.
b. Bitch helped with a village birth before going back to IST
c. Bitch spoke fluent French, and so did all her coworkers, so there were no language barriers
d. Bitch had effortlessly successful projects and integrated seamlessly with her host family
e. This bitch is jealous of that bitch.

23. Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
a. A Hmong family and their American doctors disagree about the best course of treatment for a little girl with epilepsy.
b. Very well written, one of my favorite books ever. Handled with great cultural sensitivity.
c. Made me wonder what traditional Pulaar medicinal beliefs are and how I’m stomping all over them by promoting western beliefs instead.
d. Highly recommended for anyone working with a foreign culture.
e. Five stars.

24. Fiffer, Steve. Tyrannosaurus Sue
a. Mostly about legal battles over who owns Sue, the famous T Rex discovered in South Dakota.
b. The only legal battles I love are the dramatic 5 minute courtroom blowouts at the end of SVU episodes.
c. I do not recommend this book.

25. Flynn, Gillian. Gone Girl
a. Made me literally shout "holy shit!" at the twist in the middle.
b. Five stars.

26. Folett, Ken. Fall of Giants
a. Beware : it is a series, so nothing gets resolved at the end of the hefty 1000 pages.
b. Folett is very good at introducing then killing off or sending away characters, so there’s always a lot of action.
c. I don’t think I actually learned about World War One, which is why I decided to read this.

27. French, Tana. In the Woods
a. A detective duo solves the case of a murdered girl.
b. Loved the story, ambivalent towards the ending. I would read the rest of the series if I were to find them at regional houses but I would not seek them out.
c. Psychopaths are terrifying.
d. I think I once dated a psychopath.

28. Friedman, Thomas. Hot, Flat, and Crowded
a. Western lifestyles are killing everything.
b. The Pulaar village lifestyle, growing food and then eating it, is certainly more sustainable
c. But I wouldn’t want to be here forever.

29. Gately, Iain. Tobacco
a. Made me want to start smoking. Tobacco has such a rich, fascinating history.
b. Don’t worry, I won’t actually start smoking.

30. Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat, Pray, Love
a. I was on board with "Eat", then "Pray" was bad, and by the time I got to "Love" it was hard to keep reading because I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes
b. "Soft, buttery kisses that taste like soft, buttery potatoes."
c. Gag me with a spoon.
d. It is an unlikeable trait to prattle on about how much everyone that meets you likes you.
e. She bought a $40,000 house for a woman she’d only known three months.
f. That’s not kindness, that’s madness. I hope there are no development workers in Bali dealing with the gimme-gimme aftereffects of that.
g. She said she was at peace being single and that men only complicated her existence, then slept with one the next night. Way to take a stand, Liz!
h. Totally overhyped. A hate-read.

31. Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers
a. The only thing that matters for success is that 1) you practice something enough to get real, real good at it, and then 2) a market demand arises for people that are real, real good at that thing.
b. If you practice something for two solid hours, every single day, no exceptions, it would take you about fifteen years to be an expert.
c. I don’t think I’ve put 10,000 hours into anything exceptional.
d. Maybe that’s why I don’t have many marketable skills.

32. Goldberg, Myla. Bee Season.
a. I liked the beginning a lot, when it was just about spelling, but shit got weird with Hare Krishnas and kleptomania. Still a good read, but I’d like it more if it were cuter and lighter.
b. A must read if you like Hare Krishnas and kleptomania

33. Green, John. The Fault In Our Stars
a. Quick read; I got through it in one village day
b. Did tend to use big words seemingly just for the pretentious sake of doing so.
c. Very cute story that lent itself perfectly to a very cute movie.

34. Green, Toby. Meeting the Invisible Man: Secrets and Magic in West Africa
a. A guy spends tons of money on gris-gris (traditional charms used to ward off evil), then claims that they actually work somewhat well.
b. Eye-roll inducing.
c. I don’t believe in magic in any country.
d. Killing a cat to use its hair in gris-gris is cruel.
e. Several months ago a Senegalese person offered to pay my red-haired friend exorbitant sums of money for strands of her pubic hair to use in gris-gris.
f. I’m OK with ginger PCVs using their genetic recessiveness as a salary supplement.

35. Heath, Chip and Dan. Switch
a. Behavior change is hard.
b. I wonder if people would wash their hands in village if they all had western-style porcelain bathroom setups.

37. Hochschild, Adam. King Leopold's Ghost.
a. The true story of belgians fucking up the Congo
b. Good/bad story to read in Africa. A downer, but a very important downer.  Made me feel more globally aware.
c. Five stars.

38. Holmes, Hannah. The Secret Life of Dust
a. Do you know what dust is made out of?
b. I don’t remember. But the book explains it, and it’s interesting!
c. Five stars.

39. Huchu, Tendai. The Hairdresser of Harare
a. A swaggy rich man becomes the new hairdresser at a salon in Harare, Zimbabwe, and strikes up a weird "are we friends or more than that" relationship with another hairdresser.
b. Spoiler: They’re just friends. Because he’s gay.
c. He’s a hairdresser.
d. Of course he’s gay.
e. This is for some reason a huge bombshell.

40. Kaysen, Susanna. Girl, Interrupted.
a. Made me want to watch the movie
b. Made me want to spend some time in an institution, just because it sounds fascinating.
c. How do you know if you’re crazy?

41. Kingsolver, Barbara. Animal Dreams.
a. A woman returns to her hometown to work as a teacher and figure her life out.
b. Loyd Peregrina is my biggest literary crush since Marco from Animorphs.
c. Five stars.

42. Kingsolver, Barbara. Flight Behavior
a. Monarchs are nesting in Appalachia instead of in Mexico.
b. I loved every character. Kingsolver is real good at creating people that you feel like you’re hanging out with.
c. Five stars.

43. Kingsolver, Barbara. Pigs in Heaven
a. A sequel to "The Bean Trees"
b. I like the first book better after reading this one. It straightens out legal difficulties Taylor’s clandestine adoption doubtless would have brought on.
c. I was satisfied by how neatly and cleanly everything got tied up at the end.

44. Kingsolver, Barbara. Prodigal Summer.
a. Three interweaving stories of love and family, set in Appalachia.
b. Deanna reminded me of me.
c. I was narcissistic enough to enjoy this immensely.
d. I wish I would have written this. Five Stars.
e. This book told me that when exposed to enough natural moonlight, women will start to cycle with the moon, so they’re ovulating during the full moon.
f. An informal survey of female PCVs showed that most of us do not.
g. I do.

45. Kingsolver, Barbara. The Bean Tree
a. White girl unintentionally kidnaps Indian child, names her Turtle, keeps her, loves her.
b. I wish I could do that with 85% of the kids in my village.

46. Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible
a. A very good book.
b. A missionary family with four kids moves to the Congo. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character. Each character is believably, fallibly human, with flawed, authentic personalities.
c. Inspired me to text a friend only in anagrams for awhile.
d. We have a lot of free time here.

47. Kirino, Natsuo. Out
a. Japanese woman commits Murder Most Foul, asks coworkers at the box lunch factory to help her cover it up
b. I liked two of the women, hated one, and revered one as a personal hero. Read it and try to choose which is which.
c. Four stars.

48. Klosterman, Chuck. Killing Yourself to Live.
a. Chuck Klosterman has a high opinion of himself.
b. It was good but not as good as Chuck Klosterman probably thinks it is.

49. Kolata, Gina. Rethinking Thin
a. A claim that diets don’t work.
b. I claim that healthy lifestyles do work (ie, lead to permanent weight loss).
c. If you want to lose weight start walking/kayaking/biking/skiing/rock climbing/playing outside.
d. #workedforme

50. Kurlansky, Mark. Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World
a. Five stars.
b. Cod are fucking fascinating.

51. Lamb, Wally. I Know This Much is True
a. A man tries to come to terms with his twin brother’s schizophrenia.
b. Five stars.

52. Lamb, Wally. She's Come Undone
a. Girl deals with a troubled past by stress-eating, lying, acting out, and being a terrible person. Gets mental help. Loses weight. Continues being a terrible person until she figures some stuff out.
b. Very good, but also my least favorite Wally Lamb book.

53. Lamb, Wally. We Are Water
a. One of those books you stay up reading until 4am just to see what happens
b. Wonderfully developed characters.
c. Full of rape, incest, traumatic experiences, and pain...will make you feel some feelings.
d. Five stars.

54. Lee, Chang-rae. Aloft.
a. A middle-aged man struggles to figure his life out. He has kids and they’re also figuring their lives out. One of those stories where the plot itself is sorta mundane but told so well that you love it anyway.

55. Lee, Chang-rae. Native Speaker
a. Gave me a qualifier I now use to describe myself, "B+ student of life. "
b. I wanted to hug all of the emotionally fragile men in this story.
c. Beautifully written.

56. Levi, Primo. The Periodic Table
a. This book was a gift from Mark M when I was home for vacation.
b. Short stories written by a chemist, each inspired or involving a different element.
c. My favorite element is carbon.
d. This is not related to the book, just a fun fact.

57. Maguire, Gregory. Wicked
a. You’ve probably seen the play. I haven’t, so I thought the story was interesting, original, and engrossing.
b. I wanna hug ephelba.

58. Margulis, Lynn. Symbiotic Planet
a. Did you know she was married to Carl Sagan for awhile?
b. Why did she tell me about him and other lovers in what I thought was a science book?
c. Oddly, bafflingly personal. Two stars.

59. Martel, Yann. Life of Pi
a. Boy travels in boat with tiger.
b. Detailed descriptions of what it’s like to poo after months of dehydration and starvation.
c. Somehow beautiful story anyway. Five stars.
d. I thought the ending was invocative and original. I have heard hateful reviews of the ending. Read it and tell me what you think.

60. Martin, George R.R. Storm of Swords
61. Martin, George RR. A Dance with Dragons.
62. Martin, George RR. Feast for Crows
63. Martin, George RR. Game of Thrones
a. Lives up to the hype.
b. Well-rounded and developed characters that are believable and demand respect, even if they’re unlikeable.
c. I think most of the changes the show made were for the better.
d. I haven't read A Clash of Kings because I haven't been able to find it at any regional houses.
e.  My friends say it's the worst book anyway, too Stannis-heavy.

64. Max, Tucker. Assholes Finish First.
a. Skeevy man tells skeevy stories about doing skeevy things with his skeevy friends
b. It certainly seems like Mr. Max is enjoying his life, I’ll give him that

65. Meyer, Kathleen. How to Shit in the Woods.
a. BURY it, for pete’s sakes.
b. This book taught me that traditional female vs. male garb was probably traditionally chosen based on ease of urination in different garments.
c. I confirm: it’s easier to pee in a skirt than pants.

66. Miller, Alan. Gaia Connections
a. This book was published in the 1960s and hard to get through. Very hippy-ish.

67. Moalem, Sharon. Survival of the Sickest
a. Being heterozygous for many genetic traits is good, but homozygous can kill you.
b. Two copies of sickle cell = sickle cell disease = likely death. One copy = your blood cells are completely functional, but also you can’t get malaria = likely survival = gene stays in the population.
c. Several other examples of this.
d. Fascinating.
e. Five stars.

68. Montgomery, David. King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon.
a. Man finds resource. Man overexploits resource. Resource runs out. Man is indignant.
b. Interesting read. I wish the planet had fewer humans to muck stuff up.

69. Munro, Alice. The View from Castle Rock.
a. Fabricated stories loosely based on truth.
b. Not good enough to be worth your time as fiction not true enough to be valuable as non-fiction.
c. Two stars.

70. Murray, John. A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies
a. A short story collection. I usually don’t like short stories, but every one of these was gorgeously written, in the type of way that you just sigh, relax, and mentally swim through the pages. Beautiful. Five stars.
b. I don’t recall there actually being anything about butterflies in the book.

71. Niffenegger, Audrey. The Time Traveler's Wife
a. A man sometimes travels through time. He can’t control where or when he ends up, and he can’t control when he takes his trips. A lot of times he visits his future wife throughout her girlhood (before they "meet"). It is a silly concept, but not a silly book.
b. Hauntingly beautiful. The kind of book you think about for weeks after finishing it.
c. Five stars.
d. I did not care for the movie.  I don't think this book could ever make a good movie.

72. Palahniuk, Chuck. Choke
a. I don’t care for Palahniuk.
b. I suppose if you like him this is pretty standard writing by him.

73. Pollan, Michael. Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
a. I don’t remember reading this. Take that for what it’s worth.

74. Priven, Joshua. The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook
a. I have forgotten everything in here since reading it.
b. But I’ve been surviving pretty well anyway
c. #crushinit

75. Rachman, Tom. The Imperfectionists
a. A bunch of overlapping stories of people that work together in a Rome newspaper.
b. I remember I liked it, but I honestly don’t remember any other details.
c. So, clearly, it was enjoyable but forgettable.

76. Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged
a. I’m slightly ashamed to admit how much I loved this. I wish it were just a story, not a political allegory.
b. But I skipped the 40 page John Galt rant. Jesus Christ, Rand, hold it in a bit.

77. Rivoli, Pietra. The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy
a. An economics professor traces the life of a Florida souvenir t-shirt she got at a big box store.
b. Lots of technical talk about economics, subsidies, global trade, written easily enough that a novice like me could understand it.
c. Interesting.
d. Maybe without subsidies my Senegalese host family could sell their cotton for more money
e. Maybe without subsidies cotton clothing would be crazy expensive.
f. IDK.

78. Roach, Mary. Packing for Mars
a. A true story about past and potential future space travel.
b. Lots of poop jokes.
c. Silly, well-researched, scientifically accurate fun.
d. Five stars.

79. Robbins, Tom. Jitterbug Perfume
a. Every sentence was poetry.
b. Weird and wonderful.
c. I want to read everything else he’s written but so far the regional house library gods have not answered that prayer.

80. Rowling, JK. The Casual Vacancy
a. It’s weird that Rowling wrote a book with so much profanity
b. I cried at the end.
c. Five stars.
d. Apparently they made a BBC miniseries about it, it's on my to-watch list when I return to America unemployed with ample free time and abundant internet.

81. Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In
a. Did you know that men apply for jobs if they have 60% of the qualifications, but women tend not to apply unless they have 100%?
b. Change the world! Men as partners! Reach for the stars! Lean in! Get it, girls!
c. Just after finishing the book, I heard Ms. Sandberg’s wonderfully supportive husband died recently in a freak treadmill accident. I almost cried.

82. Sedaris, David. Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim
83. Sedaris, David. When You Are Engulfed in Flames
84. Sedaris, David.  Naked
a. David Sedaris is delightful.
b. He somehow makes common things sound fascinating and exciting.
c. I would like David Sedaris to narrate my life.

85. Shaffer, Mary Ann. The Guernsey Literary and Sweet Potato Pie Society
a. Adorable. The fluffy white baby bunny of novels. I recommend this to anyone, no reservations. It’s an overload of cute.
b. Neighbors bond together over a book club. The novel is written entirely in the form of letters they send to each other.

86. Shah, Sonia. The Fever
a. A history of malaria and discussion of why it’s so hard to stop worldwide
b. Occasional segments were grossly untrue to my experience here
c. Overall very informative. Read it, then call me so we can talk about it more.

87. Shteyngart, Gary. Super Sad True Love Story
a. A weird futuristic older man/young Korean girl relationship is the love story in question
b. It was sad, but not super sad, and definitely not true.
c. False advertising.

88. Stein, Garth. The Art of Racing in the Rain
a. A dog/human companionship story told from the point of view of the dog.
b. Did you know when dogs shit all over the rug they’re doing so purposefully and vindictively, because you or your girlfriend has wronged them?
c. I want a dog despite this.

89. Stephenson, Neal. Anathem
a. This story is only about 80% English, the rest is made-up vocabulary and concepts.
b. Made me feel like I’m not even fluent in English, there’s no hope for my Pulaar.

90. Stephenson, Neal. Cryptonomicon
a. About codebreakers, both human and machine.
b. Every character in this book is smarter than me.
c. Except the one token woman, who is of normal intelligence.
d. I disliked this.

91. Stephenson, Neal. Snow Crash
a. Hackers and computers and futuristic skateboard girls
b. Skateboarding tethered to the back of semi-trucks sounds fun.

92. Stevens, Stuart. Malaria Dreams
a. Delightful story of trying to drive a car from the Congo to Egypt.
b. I’m thankful I don’t have a car here.
c. Mechanical skills would be far more valuable in a PCV than any attribute I bring to the table.

93. Stokes, Penelope. Circle of Grace
a. A supermarket ‘mom book,’ mindless but cute.
b. Minimal character development

94. Styron, William. Sophie's Choice
a. Two stars.
b. I think the movie was probably better because it was edited.
c. I wish the book would have been edited.

95. Taylor, Justin. The Apocalypse Reader
a. The worst thing I have read in this country.
b. I read it early on, when I was trying to not quit any books.
c. Since reading this I have quit roughly ten books that were all better than this one.
d.  One star.

96-98. Tolstoy, Leo. War and Peace.
a. Tolstoy said War and Peace was three books, so I do too.
b. I don’t care if this is cheating.
c. It’s motherfucking War and Peace
d. It was a bitch to get through, I earned it.

99. Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots & Leaves.
a. The title of this one is hard to write as it's intended because I love the oxford comma.
b. I tend to overuse commas in general.
c. Ms. Truss says this is not incorrect, merely annoying.
d. I’ll probably keep doing it.

100. Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle
a. A memoir of growing up with vagabond parents.
b. Made me feel some feelings.
c. Amazing story. A must-read. Five stars.