June 1, 2005: Headlines: COS - Senegal: Internet: Blogs - Senegal: Modesto Bee: Gretchen Eisenhut battles with locust swarms, enjoys the occasional feast of goat gumbo and endures the American rapper 50 Cent blaring on the neighbor's stereo as a Peace Corps volunteer working on an agriculture-forestry project in a remote village in Senegal

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Senegal: Peace Corps Senegal : The Peace Corps in Senegal: June 1, 2005: Headlines: COS - Senegal: Internet: Blogs - Senegal: Modesto Bee: Gretchen Eisenhut battles with locust swarms, enjoys the occasional feast of goat gumbo and endures the American rapper 50 Cent blaring on the neighbor's stereo as a Peace Corps volunteer working on an agriculture-forestry project in a remote village in Senegal

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-245-37.balt.east.verizon.net - 151.196.245.37) on Sunday, June 12, 2005 - 3:21 pm: Edit Post

Gretchen Eisenhut battles with locust swarms, enjoys the occasional feast of goat gumbo and endures the American rapper 50 Cent blaring on the neighbor's stereo as a Peace Corps volunteer working on an agriculture-forestry project in a remote village in Senegal

Gretchen Eisenhut battles with locust swarms, enjoys the occasional feast of goat gumbo and endures the American rapper 50 Cent blaring on the neighbor's stereo as a Peace Corps volunteer working on an agriculture-forestry project in a remote village in Senegal

Gretchen Eisenhut battles with locust swarms, enjoys the occasional feast of goat gumbo and endures the American rapper 50 Cent blaring on the neighbor's stereo as a Peace Corps volunteer working on an agriculture-forestry project in a remote village in Senegal

Blogger in Senegal has roots in valley
Peace Corps worker chronicles remote life


Eisenhut


By MIKE CONWAY
BEE STAFF WRITER
Last Updated: June 1, 2005, 04:40:45 AM PDT

TURLOCK Gretchen Eisenhut battles with locust swarms, enjoys the occasional feast of goat gumbo and endures the American rapper 50 Cent blaring on the neighbor's stereo.

A Peace Corps volunteer working on an agriculture-forestry project in a remote village in Senegal, Eisenhut has been chronicling her life in the central African country for the world to read online. It's a life of wonders, sorrows, insights and surprises that she posts on her Web log, or blog, as the online diaries are called.

Eisenhut's blog, "The Quiet American," is about being a stranger in a strange land. Differences in lifestyle and culture are regular themes.

She's the only Peace Corps worker for miles, and goes days without hearing English on anything but a shortwave radio. She is mastering the local language, Pulaar, and uses the French she studied at Turlock High School and the University of California at Davis, as French is the official language of Senegal.

Senegal is a small country thesize of South Dakota, where the average person lives to be about 58. Her village has no electricity or running water, but one of the wealthier residents just purchased a solar-powered television. Wealth is measured by how many cattle someone owns, yet Eisenhut has never seen one being eaten in the village.

Holidays are also different in Senegal. "I woke up to the sound of the skull being sawed open with my machete," she wrote, describing preparations for a feast in the village of Gourel Abdulaye Diaw near the border of Mali.

The blog is a way to keep her family and friends up to date on her life and the village.

"I live vicariously through Gretchen's blog," said Lacey Kiriakou, who has been friends with Eisenhut since they were at Turlock Junior High School. "I love hearing about it and reading about it.

"She's able to talk about what's happening; she explains it so well, you really get a feel of what's going on, what she's going through," she said. She added, "I think her humor really comes through."

"I have gotten a few fun contacts from the blog, people I lost touch with during high school and college, and absolute strangers," Eisenhut wrote in an e-mail interview. "A few random readers have sent me packages, which has been very touching."

Her parents, Cynthia and John Eisenhut, also are regular readers of the blog.

"It really does help us get though the time of not being able to see her for 27 months," said Cynthia Eisenhut. "You get a sense of the experience, the day-to-day, from-the-gut writing."

Cynthia has talked with her daughter since Gretchen arrived in Africa in September and also receives private e-mails. Letters and packages are rare.

"It's expensive to mail things to her. It's $40 to $60 every time I send her a package," Cynthia Eisenhut said. "And it can take from three weeks to two months to get there."

The blog shares village gossip, hardships and humor, and the rugged life. Eisenhut followed the birth of triplets in the village, the death of their mother and how the babies were taken to another town so they could survive. Eisenhut tracked them down to make sure they were OK and wrote about it on her blog.

Death comes more often in Senegal, she writes, and while villagers accept it, she is having difficulty dealing with it.

"She's never watched anyone or anything die like that," Cynthia Eisenhut said. "Death is so imminent for them, it's a daily experience. They sort of roll with the punches, and we don't."

But it's the sense of awe and wonder that shines through in her blog. "I cannot imagine being anywhere but Senegal," she wrote. "I joined the Peace Corps to work, to see what I am made of, and to aid the environment and the people."

"I think she will have a very different outlook on life," Cynthia Eisenhut said, "and be appreciative of what we have."

Her e-mail indicates her mom is right.

"I, of course, miss my family and friends the most, but I also miss doing all the things I took for granted, like swimming every day and having my own car."

Gretchen Eisenhut's blog can be found at: http://gretcheneisenhut.typepad.com/the_quiet_american. Bee staff writer Mike Conway can be reached at 381-0208 or mconway@modbee.com.





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Story Source: Modesto Bee

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Senegal; Internet; Blogs - Senegal

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