Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Send-off to Senegal: Netlife Round 2

My Peace Corps friend Andy Sherman is at it again. A rising 4th year med student at St. Louis University, he and his classmate Jesse Matthews have created, developed,and expanded their non-profit organization "NETLIFE" over the last couple years. Netlife is about raising money stateside to provide remote villages with mosquito nets in hopes of reducing local malaria transmission. This is their second summer-long trip to southeastern Senegal in the heart of ndungu (the rainy season). Arriving in NYC are the boys with their charges in front of Port Authority.

Exactly 2 years ago they made their first Netlife trip over to our beloved Kedougou region to distribute about 600 nets. I was lucky enough to have had the support of Bob Rivera and Mary Gough-Swett to be able to join them for a couple weeks. Here we are in July '05 distributing nets in the village of Thiokoye:

Having fundraised over $20,000, Andy and Jesse plan to distribute over 1000 nets this summer. And this time? Their bikes are coming, too, so they won't have to rely on Peace Corps Volunteers for wheels. Still a ways from village paths, here we are lugging bikes and bags through Times Square:

We had to stop off at Dave & Busters in honor of Glenny and Ag. And to race and drink beers. The manager who initially gave us a hard time for all the baggage? Oh, he turned out to be from Dakar. Our baggage was no problem after that.

Tradition dictates Andy must dine at Malecon in upper Manhattan before leaving NYC. Amy and Egan joined us for mofongo, chicken and Presidente. Although Egan made it very clear "I don't drink that stuff."
Bon Voyage, Ablaye and Youssouf! We'll be thinking of you as you bike your way down the road to Bandafassi, past the Tandabe farming their okra, and beyond the quartiers of Kedougou southbound to Fongolimbi. May you travel in peace and may you and the villagers we love always have a net to crawl under!

To see images from Netlife's first trip to southeastern Sengegal, refer to the previous blog posting. Netlife's blog and website are also linked at left.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Scenes from Senegal: Netlife 2005 trip

Bandafassi is a medium-sized village about 18 kilometers west of Kedougou on the laterite road to Salemata (road in picture). It is significant in that it is one of the local Senegalese government headquarters, but if you roll into Bandafassi, you'd never guess it. Mud and grass huts are the norm and the "electricity" presence consists of a couple of top-loading refrigerators in which you may find a luke-warm Coke, or a street light that may or may not illuminate the dirt path passing through the village.

Bandafassi also is home to the regional "Poste de Sante", or Health Post. This is a 3 roomed-cement structure that functions as the primary clinic for approximately 44 villages spanning over 100 kilometers. It is staffed by a nurse. That's right, one nurse, with the help of a handful of community health aids, of which I was one during my Peace Corps service 1999-2001. This photo at left is of Mactar Mansaly, the nurse who runs the health post and my friend. Below is actually the Health Post at Bindefello, another post 40 k to the south on the border of Guinea. It looks similarly to the Bandafassi post, of which I have no digital photo. We worked extensively with the nurse in Bindefello, as well. His name is Badji and he, too, has been a wonderful friend and resource to us.
When I returned for a visit in the summer of '05, I was able to see patients with Mansaly at the health post and to catch up on what's been happening in the area. In the above photo, we were reviewing statistics he keeps in his clinical log on malaria illness in the surrounding villages. I was trying to get a sense of where the disease hits hardest from the numbers of visits to the health post. This information is only so helpful, of course, since the distances from some villages to the clinic are great and those people would clearly be less likely to seek treatment there, even if they lived in a village by a stream with rampant malaria. Nevertheless, I was there to collect some numbers for my friends Andy and Jesse.

Andy and I served as health workers in the Peace Corps together. His village was a 45 minute bike ride from mine and we trained health educators from the surrounding area. I in fact preceeded Andy in the Peace Corps by one year, so I set up his village. He claims he'll never forgive me for biking him out for his first trip to the village with only the stars to light our way. I say he loved it ; ).

Anyhow - these two crazy dudes founded a non-profit based out of St. Louis where they attend med school at SLU. Their organization is called NETLIFE and they basically fundraise money to purchase mosquito nets to distribute to villages in the Bandafassi area. Partly because this area is the farthest from the capital, it is the most underserved from a health perspective of all of Senegal. Finding nurses to work there is difficult; it is the bush, afterall, and well-educated health practitioners would much prefer to live and work in nice areas of Dakar, the capital. Mosquito nets for sale under subsidy from the Minister of Health often don't even reach the Bandafassi area, so its villagers rely on torn, older nets and the clothespins we used to use to patch the holes at night. And, this is the part of the country with the most substantial rainy season. It rains twice a day for about 4 months starting at this time of year. Having lived through 2 rainy seasons, and having contracted falciparum malaria myself, I can attest to the hardship faced by this population during what we call "summer".

Friday, May 25, 2007

We've known each other since....

...we were 7. That's what I think. Sarah seems to think we were 8 when we started 2nd grade at Cougar Tech. I say she's a little off, anyway, so why should you listen to her? We hit the Ice Cream afterparty for some refreshing beverages after a glorious day at our favorite city spot, Coney. The cyclone never ceases to thrill: Sit in the back for the best ride.
Michael and I go back to Richmond days of Church Hill and southside and have a history of bad, up-close self portraits: Check out his websites - ice cream truck songs and ONE RING ZERO - listed at left.

Songs for Ice Cream Trucks

"It's cold and it's sweet, a tasty treat; ice cream's here to stay..." so goes one of my friend Michael Hearst's new SONGS FOR ICE CREAM TRUCKS. He had a CD release party tonight at Housing Works, complete with his full band and free ice cream by 5 Boroughs (I recommend Cha-Cha Chocolate). Cassidy is shown here, sporting her ice cream hat. She was a pretty big hit at the party, dancing and clapping and even playing some of the smaller instruments. Look for both Mike and Cassidy on the TODAY show this coming Saturday June 2 - they were there to film the show!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Cousin Liz graduates from GW

Lady Liz, our super cool cous on the McNabb side sure made us proud this weekend. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from GWU in DC with a major in English. AND she wore that graduation cap with style unmatched by any of those other graduates - ie. tilted way back. Here she is with Mom Lindy & Dad Ed.

Here was our view from the bleachers. According to a graduation speech by an honored physics major GWU's student body can be summarized by the following: "gay men, poli-sci majors and Jewish girls from Jersey."

Perhaps most of these people fell into those 3 categories?

Here's our graduate for our pre-ceremony Starbucks party - - which fell only after the pre-pre-ceremony bloody mary's at the Watergate:

...and here she is with her coolest cousins and with her roommate Stevie right after the ceremony.

Bar shots and trash-talkin' in Foggy Bottom:

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Julia Blanca's Baptism

Julia Blanca Viego was baptized today at St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Richmond, Va. You were right, Gabriel, Carey does have 3 sisters and this one was so glad to have made it to Richmond despite the wind and rain. And Sarah even found the right church, after some trial and error.

We all enjoyed seeing little Julia look like a princess in her christening dress from 1884. Many a Thompson has been christened in that special, white gown and Julia looked truly lovely continuing the family tradition.

Here she is with auntie Sarah at the brunch Carey and Fernando hosted on Floyd.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Snowy Easter = Party Time

Ahh, the vibrant color possibilities of PAAS easter egg dye! I used to diss PAAS, said it was for wimps. Food coloring with vinegar was more my style. But this year Sarah and I wanted those wire dipper things, so we invested in a couple PAAS sets. These were the eggs we dyed. They were gorgeous, and they got more exciting the drunker we got. We figured since it was snowing, and neither of us could get south to Va, we may as well enjoy the holiday.

Here's our ham:

Here's Sarah making her famous key lime pie:

Egg portraits of 2 very important individuals:

And the grand finale?

the tastiest treat imaginable at Easter time:the BURGERMALLOW: