Microbiology, Immunology & Pathology

Volume 6, Issue 9
September 2009

Email from Keving Kobylinski, September 3, 2009
Hello All,

Senegal is still treating me well. Iím still in good health. We are finishing our work in the first two villages, Ndebou and Boundacoundi, and are beginning to work in the other two villages, Naathia and Dambacoi. One village is Pular like the first two, the other village is Bedick, so it looks as if I will be learning a third language while Iím here. The region that Iím working in is quite different from Dakar and the rest of northern Senegal. Northern Senegal is primarily Wolof people, most of whom are muslim. The region Iím in is a mixture of Pular, Malinke, Jahonke, Bassari, Bedick, Wolof, and another group of people whose name I cannot remember. Each group has their own language but there is some overlap among them. Islam and Catholicism are the organized religions that have become intertwined with local Animist religions.

The student that came to work on another field project became ill about a week after he arrived. We took him to the hospital which was quite an interesting/scary experience: bloody discarded syringes lying on the ground, Aedes aegypti (dengue/yellow fever transmitting mosquitoes) were flying everywhere, no functional bathrooms, etc. He was placed into a room with about 20 other people to spend the next few days. The woman next to the door was hooked up to some grimy, obsolete machine, she did not look be in very good shape and died later that night. Another man was checked into the same room after being bitten by a very deadly snake. The man did not have the money for the antivenom and he died later that night. Apparently this is a relatively typical experience in a hospital in Senegal according to the student. I requested that I not be taken to the hospital unless I am bleeding out of all of my orifices.

My experiences in the village are still entertaining. I have managed to get most of the kids in Boundacoundi to stop screaming toubap (literal translation is doctor but now just means white person) at me and scream Kevin instead. The only French that most young children know is Bonjour - hello and cadeau Ė gift. I have given some over the counter medical supplies to some people and the older people I give Cola nuts. Cola nuts are terrible, chalky tasting disgusting nuts that apparently have some sort of stimulant in them. Nevertheless, the older ladies go berserk when you give them a few and will be much nicer to you afterwards. Unfortunately the medical supply donation was a slippery slope to have entered because now every mother presents me with their scabby, fungusy, wound infected, or sick children. Fortunately one of the people whom I work with is the local nurse and I usually pass them off to him.

The other day we saw a vaccination campaign for newborns. They were being vaccinated for yellow fever, measles, polio, rubella, tuberculosis, tetanus and diphtheria. It was quite entertaining to see 40+ mothers with their newborn babies strapped to their backs. It was a relief to see that the idiotic blathering of Jenny McCarthy has not persuaded mothers in rural Senegal to forgo vaccination of their children.

Some of the local people we have hired stop by our place to hang out when they come into town to buy supplies. It has been fairly entertaining teaching them how to play dominoes and various card games. It is difficult to actually make friends here as most locals view white people as walking wallets due to the tourist industry. I have been asked for just about everything I own. I have had to tell a few people that I am not St. Nicolas. A few of them stop asking for things after that, most donít.

My desire to eat only Senegalese food is waning. Fortunately in Dakar I can get odd versions of hamburgers and some crappy pizza, at least its something different. Ramadan has begun. Muslim people fast all day long and then after sunset are allowed to eat and drink water. My observation of Ramadan definitely does not increase my desire to convert to Islam. Everyone keeps asking me why Iím not fasting. I try to explain that since Iím not Muslim there is no religious connection and therefore I would just be starving myself, which most people donít purposefully do. In Dakar we have been spending most of the nights with Miriamís (the wife of my co-worker Massamba) family. It has been entertaining. About 25 people live in one house. The kids are fun, a little crazier than most. Massamba always makes a point to inform me which women in the house are not married yet .

Iím still enjoying my experience here. The 16+ hours a day Iím working in the field are helping me keep my girlish figure. I hope everyone else is doing well. I attached a few more pictures.