hunting season

I’m wrapping up a very nice visit to Austin before flying to San Francisco this weekend to house/apartment hunt. If anyone out in the Bay is looking for a roommate or knows someone who is, let’s talk!

Here’s my craigslist post:

$650 – Returned Peace Corps Volunteer looking for home (berkeley)

I’m a newly-returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Senegal 04-06) who is planning to move to the Bay in late December/early January. I’m hoping to start at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism next fall, so would like to be close to campus or a BART station/bus stop.

What I’m looking for:
– A single room
– A well-loved kitchen
– High-speed internet
– Friendly, laid-back roommate(s)

And in an ideal world…
– Off-street parking
– Hardwood floors and big windows 🙂
– World peace

About me: I’m female, 25, and originally from Louisiana. I have done both solitary (mud hut) and group (PC crashpad) living, am generally laid-back, maintain a moderate level of cleanliness, and am a movie lover and aspiring foodie (veggie-friendly). I have a blog/gallery at

I’ll be in the Bay from Dec 2-12 trying to find a place to live — I’d love to hear from you if you’re either looking to rent out a room or looking for an apt/house-hunt buddy. Thanks!

* Cats are OK – purrr
* Dogs are OK – wooof


culture shock: tastes like chicken

Freedom Fuel!

America is awesome. They put bacon in the lima beans and school colors on the Confederate flag.

But no really, it’s awesome. Yesterday I went to Albertson’s and bought every processed cheese, cocoa butter, and partially hydrogenated soybean oil product that I had been craving in Senegal—Mac N Cheese, Oreos, chocolate frosting—and today I packed everything up and sent it off to Tamba. (Hopefully you’ll get it by Christmas, guys.) The all-American junk food cravings have fizzled since I’ve been back, but I haven’t forgotten the joy of arriving in Tamba from the village, dumping a packet of neon-orange powder on top of pasta, mixing it into a glorious gooey mess, and eating it straight out of the pot.

Senegal or PC related

off the smack

Today I swallowed my last dose of mefloquine after taking it weekly for over 26 months.

Mefloquine (a.k.a. Larium), provided by Peace Corps as one of our options for malaria prophylaxis, has a nasty reputation for causing everything from insomnia to suicidal ideation. When I was discussing Peace Corps with a member of the Berkeley faculty on the J-school’s campus visit day, his first reaction to my mention of Africa was, “Oh, don’t let them put you on Lariam!”; he blamed it for a disastrous filming expedition of his years ago. Another volunteer once gleefully told me that it makes your brain stem drip down your spine.

Peace Corps didn’t require that I take mefloquine, but they required “compliance” for prophylaxis of some sort. The other primary option, doxycycline, wasn’t all that attractive—it had to be taken daily and, as an antibiotic, sun sensitivity and yeast infections were potential side effects—and PC Med was reluctant to prescribe a third option, Malarone, as a prophylaxsis because it was A) expensive and B) a very effective treatment for malaria that couldn’t be used if it had been taken as a prophylaxis. While mefloquine wasn’t given to people with a history of depression or other psychiatric problems, it was the default because it was a once-weekly rather than daily medication—and therefore volunteers were more likely to take it on time. Volunteers who choose not to take their meds and who as a result got malaria (a significant number of the “non-compliant” group) risked administrative separation (in addition to, well, death).

So mefloquine it was. Possible side effects listed by Lariam’s manufacturer include “agitation or restlessness, anxiety, depression, mood changes, panic attacks, forgetfulness, confusion, hallucination, aggression, psychotic or paranoid reactions and encephalopathy”—not that Peace Corps exactly broadcast that information to us. Because most people had already heard negative rumors about Lariam, when it came up during a med session the PCMOs’ side of the discussion was basically limited to, “It’s the preferred anti-malarial (so quit whining and take it).”

I definitely had a long list of medical issues while in Senegal, but I’m not sure how many I can blame on mefloquine. In the first few weeks I had extremely vivid dreams and even a mild hallucination: mefloquine. The strange dreams continued to a lesser extent throughout my service but also morphed into a habit of waking up in the middle of the night anxious and disoriented.

Insomnia, hair loss, limbs going numb easily: mefloquine. Feeling frustrated, restless, and up-and-down emotional, with waves of despondency alternating with rushes of anger: maybe mefloquine, maybe just the joys of life in Senegal. I know that Peace Corps would have been stressful, exhausting, and not always hella fun no matter where I was or what medication I was taking… but I do wonder what the past two years might have been like without mefloquine.

Senegal or PC related

"Senegal Sings"

The Washington Post has a very nice slideshow of photographs from Dakar set to a Baaba Maal song. It’s part of a groups of articles (1, 2) and slideshows (1, 2, 3) from/about Senegal. I liked that first slideshow because not only have I been to some of the places pictured in it, but I also understand some of the song’s Pulaar lyrics.

Peace Corps year 2

index, two years

Weeks of Peace Corps training and service: 108

Books read: 108

One-hour miniDV tapes shot: 20

Donkeys captured on video braying: 1

CFA in the village women’s group’s bank account when I left: 369,500

Functioning wells in the village: 2

Square meters of enclosed gardening space next to the new well: 225

Babies born in the village: 10

Deaths in the village (none of them residents): 3

PCV visitors to my village: 13

Non-PC American visitors to my village: 13

Other PCV sites I visited: 15

Trips I made back to the U.S. during my service: 0

Times I gave someone the finger in public: 0

Percentage of my stage who “Early Terminated” their service: 20

Percentage who were medically or administratively separated: 0

Grams of mefloquine (a.k.a. Lariam) ingested: 28

Non-rhetorical questions that the Country Director asked me during my 45-minute exit interview: 1

This was a difficult list to put together—sure, I read a book a week and, sure, I somehow managed to muster the monumental amount of self-control necessary to keep my middle fingers down… but what did I do?

Stuff, I guess. I may add to this list as more entertaining numbers come to mind.

Last night I returned from Suzanne’s wedding in North Carolina (Trips through the Atlanta airport in as many weeks: 3), which—as the British guests described it—really was quite lovely. It was also an interesting reintroduction to American life, packed with abundant food and drink (Martinis I had at the reception: 5) and beautiful fall foliage.

I can tell that I’m still in transition: On one of the many airport runs made during the days preceding the wedding itself, I drove the minivan back to the house. When I stopped at the teller’s booth to pay for parking, I realized that I was reaching my arm all the way across to hand him the ticket with my right hand. Recognizing that this looked silly and/or a bit deranged, I resolved to hold out the $2 fee with my left hand. I had to actually move my left hand out the window and then put the money into it with my right hand in order to accomplish this. Senegal had so ingrained “right hand good/left hand bad” into me that I physically could not use my left hand.

I’m more successful at suppressing “Assalamu Alaikum“s when walking into stores and at substituting English for Pulaar or Peace Corps jargon. And, thankfully, the habit of clicking my tongue to signal assent is fairly inconspicuous.

Last week’s nominations for The Best Things About Being Back in America? Cold weather and quality liquor.