Story Problems

“Think Like A Lawyer”

While studying for the LSAT, my book recommends applying all the skills used in the test to real life. So here it goes:

(Answers at the end.)

Logical Reasoning Questions:

  1. Alhadji: I have always wanted to marry a white person and have white babies-we should marry!

What most weakens Alhadji’s argument?

a. I am not interested

b. But you already have a wife.

c. You already have children.

d. I have a rare medical condition that has destroyed my womb and cannot have children.

e. You cannot afford me.


  1. Alhadji: I don’t have 25 CFA to buy water-give me money!

All would weaken Alhadji’s argument EXCEPT:

a. He then buys a chicken for 3000 CFA

b. He is wearing a fancy boubu (~65000 CFA)

c. He owns multiple cows (~10000 ea.)

d. He pays to eat some fish for 2000 CFA

e. He is sitting by the side of the road.


  1. Alhadji: We should marry!

Me: How many wives do you already have?

Alhadji: 4.

Me: Ah! Ah! You’re finished, no?

What is the principle that best supports the above?

a. A Muslim man may have no more than four wives.

b. A Muslim man must have four wives.

c. A Muslim man can have four wives.

d. It is important to check for other wives before accepting a marriage proposal.

e. One should not marry a man with four wives.


  1. In order to justify asking for its annual budget, Peace Corps has recently focused on data collection and implemented new procedures. These procedures involve forms that collect participant’s name, age and other relevant information. With these sheets, data collection will be more efficient and accurate.

A flaw in the argument can be described as:

a. Presupposes what it seeks to establish

b. Overlooks the possibility that many people in village are illiterate and do not know their age

c. Relies on the ambiguity of the term “data collection”

d. The evidence undermines the conclusion

e. Mistakes correlation for causation


  1. Most cars seat only five people. Yet most cars on the Tibati-Ngaoundal route easily transport over ten people each trip.

What best explains the apparent paradox?

a. People do not use seats.

b. The cars drive really fast.

c. Most people sit two to a seat or on each other’s laps.

d. People are really skinny here.

e. People do not use seat belts.


  1. Man on the street, talking on the phone: “Madame! This man says he knows you.” *thrusts phone at me*

Me: Hello? Who is this?

Man on phone: Ismali

Me: ???

Man on phone: Ismali…we were in a car together in December. You do not remember me?

Me: No…

Ismali’s argument follows logically if what is assumed?

a. I was in a car last December with a man named Ismali

b. There is an Ismali in my region

c. I was in a car in December

d. I remember everyone that I meet on public transportation

e. I have a bad memory for names


Analytical Reasoning Questions:

PCV Jess has six activities that can be done today—laundry, cleaning, visiting Jeannette, meeting with the women, visiting neighbors, and eating lunch—within the following restrictions:

Jeanette will be visited directly before any meeting with the women because otherwise it will be impossible to mobilize the women.

If neighbors are visited third, they will give copious amounts of couscous and sauce and so she will eat lunch with the neighbors.

Laundry, if done, is always first.

If she cleans her house, it will be immediately after laundry.

  1. What is an acceptable order of PCV Jess’ activities?







  1. If it rains, forcing PCV Jess to cancel laundry and the meeting with the women, what is an acceptable order of activities?

a. LCE

b. VEJ

c. CEL

d. EJM

e. CJM


  1. What order of activities CANNOT be true?

a. Jess does absolutely nothing all day.

b. She only visits Jeannette and eats lunch.

c. She only visits the neighbors and eats lunch.

d. She only cleans her house and eats lunch.

e. She only does laundry and cleans her house.


Reading Comprehension Questions: 

It is not uncommon to see women breastfeeding in public here in Cameroon. In fact, at this point in my service, it seems stranger that it is so tabooed in the United States, especially after knowing all its benefits.

Although some women do not start breastfeeding the day of birth, this is due to a misconception that is potentially harmful to the baby. The first milk of a woman produces for her baby, the colostrum, may be strange in color—causing some to think it is tainted—but is actually very rich in nutrients and antibodies. The milk is so rich, that some even call it the baby’s “first vaccine.”


  1. What can be inferred from the passage?

a. Breastfeeding is illegal in the United States.

b. Breastfeeding is mandatory.

c. Breastfeeding is better than vaccines.

d. Some women do not give their babies their colostrum.

e. All women breastfeed.


  1. What is the author’s purpose in including the quote at the end of the second paragraph?

a. To quote an expert opinion

b. To emphasize the nutrients in the colostrum

c. To emphasize the importance of the colostrum

d. To highlight the importance of breastfeeding

e. To highlight the importance of vaccines



1. D; 2. E; 3. A; 4. B; 5. C; 6. D.

1. D; 2. B; 3. D.

1. D; 2. C.

Story Problems

Story Problems: M&E


This past month, not only did I have a training on Monitoring and Evaluation (see dancing graphs below!), I had to fill out my first VRF (Volunteer Reporting Form), a report of all my activities at post thus far, which ends up in my country’s report to HQ Washington and eventually to Congress as proof that you tax dollars were not all spent on me making jam, hiding from children, staring at my ceiling, etc.

In that sense it was nice–“Oh, I have done something these past several months!”–but there’s a hitch: not everything is “counted” because we have specific indicators under our framework. These indicators allow Jean Claude (a delightful and energetic human being), Peace Corps, and other organizations to see the big picture patterns and view overall progress, but only for a few select data sets. In theory this makes sense, but the framework is broad, our posts are unique. Cameroon’s nickname is “Afrique en miniature” and headed to IST this past February, I was amazed at the difference in development from the Adamawa to the West to the Northwest (“other villages have working water pumps?” Meanwhile, chez moi, I woke up to find my well crumbling in.) And this leads to the eternal delimma: Do I work strictly according to the framework or according to my village’s needs?

For example, according to the data I collected at my health center, about 15% of cases in 2014 were caused by a lack of proper sanitation and clean water (i.e. diarrhea, parasites, worms, amoebas, cholera, etc.), but sanitation is hardly mentioned, only teaching hand washing to mothers with children under 5 as a method of making a proper meal counts.

Or take malaria, if I teach someone something about malaria, it does not count, but if I teach someone to teach others about malaria it counts (which I suppose in the long run is good for sustainability).

Or take PEPFAR (The Presidential’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). Is there really any point to focusing on these indicators since they consolidated and pulled money out of most regions, specifically the Adamawa?

Lastly, trees. I can count every tree that I plant. Ergo, maybe I should just focus on planting trees. (I can even count if they survive one year! (but not on my VRF…))

Furthermore, the framework is clearly lacking some critical indicators that would fully capture the “Peace Corps Experience™” (Follow us on Facebook and Instagram today!) such as:

-Children named after you

-Cups of tea consumed

-Amount of couscous and sauce your neighbors force feed you

-Goat population of village

-Books read during service (NOTE: Working on it here.)

-Obscure illnesses caught (NOTE: This might function better as a BINGO card with a free trip to Yaoundé as the prize/ cure)

-Hours spent waiting for grands

-Hours spent waiting for people to show up to meetings

-Hours spent watching Broad City

-Kg each arm can carry and for how long


Appendix I:

(Dancing Graphs!)

Story Problems

Train Odyssey: 2016

With two of my cluster mates writing about the train (read Terry’s post here and and Phoebe’s here), a unique characteristic of being posted in the Adamawa, I, too, wanted to join the club; however, as I’ve often noticed, my life seems much less poetic than others.

Having chipped my tooth the previous week (due to eating a rock-attention to detail has never been my strong suit, especially when it comes to cleaning rice), I needed to go the dentist (which is located in Yaoundé and does not qualify for a med evac trip to Morocco, as another volunteer, who will remain unnamed, told me, raising my hopes only to have them crushed by the fact that dentists do exist in Cameroon) and so I had my friend reserve a ticket for me from Ngaoundal to Yaoundé.

The day of, I woke up early (which I always do here) and followed my normal routine of running, eating breakfast (a much sadder affair since Ngatt’s egg stock-out and Ngaoundere’s recent lack of oatmeal), and going to work; however, today I left early in order to prepare for the journey. At 15:00, I said farewell to Metis and locked up, this is where things get exciting (or very boring depending on your point of view):

15:05 Catch a car heading to Ngaoundal. This is strange. It usually takes an hour to find a car and then two tries after that.

16:10 Arrive in Ngaoundal. (Even more suspicious, I travel with more than enough time for things to go wrong and then resolve themselves, and now? I had approximately six hours to kill before catching the train.) Since the volunteer was out of town, you head to Santa Barbara, one of the nicest restaurants in town, and more importantly the producer of the best kossam (yogurt) of the Adamawa.

16:20-19:00 Order kossam, tea and chai while reading one of the books you brought. When you finish reading it, you decide to head to the station since you have to pick your ticket up at 20:00.

19:15-20:20 Of course you arrive early, but luckily all those years procrastinating school work has taught you how to kill time. You open your pocket sudoku book and begin to sudoku. Continuing even as you stand in line.

When you arrive at the window, the man asks “wagons-lits?” You nod yes, only to have him tell you they are finished. “Mais j’ai fait une reservation,” you respond. (This is much more like the traveling in Cameroon you know and love.)

He opens the book. You stand on your tippy-toes peering down. And there it. Your beautiful name. Capitalized and written in the reservation book:


“Ca! C’est moi!” You point triumphantly. The man looks concerned. He tells you to wait a minute and leaves the office. (In a land of Djika’s and Dandjoma’s, I guess it would make since that Djessika is a masculine-sounding name.)

While you are waiting, you ponder your options: a) go the next night in wagon-lit (inshallah) or b) go second class. It’s a difficult dilemma. You’d definitely have to reschedule the dentist if you go the next night, but second class is a living and breathing version of Sartre’s No Exit: if hell is other people, then how about a fourteen plus hour train ride down, overnight, overbooked and without the guarantee of a seat?

The guy suddenly appears behind me. “There are only two beds left and they are in a men’s room.” (Generally they try and put all males or all females in a room.)

“That doesn’t bother me at all,” I reply. “I’m American.” I could feel the secondary honorary male status exuding from me as I purchased the ticket.

20:40-10:30 Excitement over. You go back to your sudoku. At 10:30 you realize the train isn’t coming. So you ask one of the guards. He tells you the train is an hour behind. “Could be worse,” you think and go back to your sudoku.

10:35-11:45 More sudoku. Eventually you hear the horn, announcing the arrival of the train. You pack up and prepare to board.

(Total sudoku count: 22)

12:00 Board train. Fortunately the men you are with do not seem to mind that you are a woman. Go to sleep.

??:?? Train stops. “Not a good sign,” you think turning over.

??:?? The horn announcing the departure of the train starts. And does not stop. “Qui a decidé de s’asseoir sur le klaxon?” Pleased you can think nonsensical thoughts while half asleep in French you go back to sleep.

??:?? Your bunkmate opens the door. You realize that a) you have stopped again b) it is daylight. You check the time, 5:30, morning time. Fortunately the train starts moving again.

5:30-7:00 You try to sleep more but give up.

7:00-8:00 Wait for the breakfast lady who never shows up. “That’s Chantal Biya’s (the First Lady) village” one of my bunkmates tells me. “That’s nice,” you think, as the train comes to a screeching halt.

Your other bunkmates comes back. “It’s a derailment,” he says, “I’m taking a car.” “How much?” I ask. “3000 CFA, arrive in Yaoundé by noon.”

And so another dilemma poses itself: to wait in the air conditioned train for an unknown amount of time (usually just a couple hours) or to take the car?

Your stomach decides this one. It wants the train breakfast: omelet, croissant, baguette, jam, butter, vache qui rire, tea, and fruit. (Oh my!)

8:10 You wish your bunkmate good luck and continue to wait for breakfast. In the meantime you chat with your other bunkmate, who you discover is a urologist and had been visiting the Norwegian hospital up in Ngaoundere.

9:30 Hungry, you take matters into your own hands. You walk to the restaurant car.

9:40 Discover breakfast is finished, but be offered cake instead. Accept cake and munch it in melancholy.

10:00-12:00 Read.

12:00 Realize if you had taken a car you would have been in Yaoundé by now. Text three volunteer on what they would do in your situation, receive mixed results. Decide to ask the train guard what he thinks. When he tells you that you’ll be in Yaoundé by 16:00 at the latest decide it is not worth taking a car. Besides all the cars are gone. You ask about food and he tells you the free sardine sandwiches are coming (yay!). Meanwhile your bunkmate, Makon (“like Akon, but with an M) has gone to village to explore. You go back and wait.

13:00 The horn sounds. The most joyful sound in the world. You call Akon-but-an-M and tell him to hurry. He says he’ll be there in twenty. You re-open your book and begin reading, enjoying the lightness of the feeling that arrives when you once again have hope (or was it just the lack of food?).

13:50 A woman walks by muttering, “the train should have left by now, is this a joke?” You glance at your watch. She makes a good point. The train has not moved an inch. And you still have not been given your promised free sardine sandwich. Starving you decide you must find food and you head to the dining car.

On the way you run into the same guard. “On ne part pas?” you ask. “Non.” He looks very forlorn. “Alors, je cherche les ailments.” But he then once again tells you that the sandwich is coming. Defeated you go back to your room and curl in a ball, wondering if you might actually never leave and will have to live the rest of your life in this train. A scene from Atlas Shrugged comes to your mind, the train, broken and unable to move forward, is stuck somewhere in the Southwest and then, a wagon train comes along and offers a ride to the passengers. The guy leading the wagons says something like “You can’t trust mechanical trains these days, horses are much more reliable.” I would have gladly taken a wagon train at this point.

At some point, you look up and spy a girl selling hard-boiled eggs outside. “FOOD!” You leap up and run, jumping out of the train to catch her. “Food!” you think again, lovingly, as you take a bite.

14:30 HOOONKK HOOONK!!! “Ha.” You won’t fall for this joyful sound again. But. Then the train slowly lurches forward. It’s a miracle.

15:00 The free sardine sandwiches are handed out. Blissfully you accept it and manage to not eat it all in one bite. You also realize your bunkmate has not come back. “Man,” you think, “your day could have been much worse-you could have been left stranded in Chantal Biya’s village with your luggage on the train.” You decide that you will talk to the station guards when the train arrives to see if they can take care of his stuff.

15:10-16:30 Sandwich eaten, you take out your i-pod. It has been long day, one that calls for Kanye.

Suddenly, you are awakened from your doze by your bunkmate entering. “Tu es là! J’ai peur que tu as manqué le train!” He laughs in response and tells you he found a friend and they had been chatting in the dining car. He also tells you that the train will arrive before 19:00.

16:45-18:00 More Kanye. And then, you recognize a building that turns into twenty and then into twenty hundred more: Yaoundé! HOONKK HOOONKK!! The train announces its arrival. HOOONK HOONKK! The train continues its gleeful honks, triumphant at finally reaching the capital. Both you and your bunkmate stare out the window admiring the beauty of the city, you thought you’d never reach. He points out the hospital where he works, conveniently located next to two other hospitals (not sure the logic behind this). And then, you pull up to the station.


After quickly departing, (no post-train security this time, a perk due to the tardiness of the train) you depot a cab (pay for the whole cab-more expensive (2000 CFA), but faster and since I also just saved a total of 3000 CFA, 6 USD, by staying on the train, I deserved a treat) and head to the transit house where hot showers and internet await.

On the way there, you lean out of the open window, allowing the last remnants of the day’s ordeal to fly away with the breeze.

Motion. It’s a beautiful feeling.


Story Problems

Story Problems: Nasara in Ngatt Edition


Ever wonder how you would do if you moved into a small Cameroonian village? Find out if you would survive the first month with the quiz below.

Part I: Arrival

1) Finally after 10 weeks of training, 1 week of case life, and the train ride down to Ngaoundal the night before, today is the day you will arrive at post. Too excited to sleep, you awaken at 5 AM ready to head out, but alas, the others are still asleep and it seems rude to ghost, so instead you finish packing. At 8 AM (how people sleep past 6 AM here will forever amaze me) the others begin to stir. When your friend’s landlord knocks to check in, you greet him with your backpack on and ask him to take you find a petite voiture to your village. On the way you attempt to call your landlord to inform him of your exact arrival, but the réseau dérange (Ashia!). What do you do?

A. Wait until you can contact him.

B. Decide to go on and try calling again on the way.

C. Allons-y! Assume since all of les blanches look the same and there’s only been one other nasara (foreigner) of Ngatt the town will know what to do with you.

D. B & C.

2) Having arrived, everyone swarms inside until your landlord (and neighbor) tells everyone to clear out and let you rest. A blessing considering how overwhelmed you are from the adrenaline of the last couple hours. Unfortunately, you are not the only one who is overwhelmed. Métis, your newly adopted cat, fled upon seeing the crowd and appears to have fled upon seeing the crowd and appears to have run away. What do you do?

A. Wonder how you will explain to the former PCV that her beloved cat ran away.

B. Move his food outside as a peace offering.

C. Make tea in order to calm down and try to worry about the cat later.

D. All of the above.

3) Later that day your landlord returns so you can fill out your lease and pay rent. He also informs you that Jess is too difficult for the townspeople to say, thus, you most pick a new name. After racking your brain for names that appear in Islam and would likely appear here (actually you are probably just thinking of names you have heard in Farsi) what name do you choose?

A. Mariam

B. Khadijah

C. Fatima

D. Aisha

4) After a weekend of moving in and getting settled, it is finally Monday—your first day of work at the health center—however, your counterpart, Moussa, stops by in the morning to inform you that he is going to Ngaoubela today and you should come in tomorrow. The next day you arrive and realize that you do not see Moussa. Your new work collegues inform you that he was in a moto accident the evening before and broke his leg. What now?

A. Counterpart down = find a new town

B. Stay and observe the hospital

C. Call Monique

D. Call your program managers

Part II: Petits

5) Everyday after work you go home to se reposer (relax), but somehow they know. They always know when you are back and soon, they begin to ask: “Tu es là? Je veux designer! Mi yidi vindugo! Je veux écrire! Madame? Madame!”

A. Go outside and let them draw.

B. Tell them not today.

C. Hide. Pretend no one is home.

D. Plot twist! You are not home, having the foresight to visit others during this time.

6) Today is the day! Polio vaccinations courtesy of MINSANTE, which means you will spend the next three days en brousse recording the vaccinations, vitamins and deworming medicines given to children 5 and under. But—ashia!—some children begin to scream when they see your team approach. Why?

A. Fear of vaccinations

B. Fear of white people

C. None of the above. Children scream for a variety of reasons.

Part III: Fulfuldé

7) Leaving one of the vaccination sites, an old man calls out: “Hokkam Mariam. Hoosu bala!” Translate his Fulfuldé into English.

A. Farewell Mariam. Have a nice day!

B. Allah bless you Mariam. I’ll see you soon!

C. Thank you Mariam. Take this gift!

D. Give me Mariam. Take the moto!

8) One day, while chatting with patients, the question of your hair comes up. “Where did it come from? How much was it? Can I buy it?” Successfully explain in basic Fulfuldé where your hair comes from and that it is not for sale.

A. Horre am haa gité am. Mi yiday filugo.

B. Gité am bee koole am. A yiday soodugo.

C. Gasa am haa bandu am. Mi sippay gasa am.

D. Koste am bee pade am. Mi yidi soodugo pade am.

9) The other day while looking over records, you overhear a patient say “Hookam nasara.” Still slightly annoyed after the incident where the old man tried to buy you with a moto, you ask a fellow work colleague who said that. She laughs, why?

A. As suspected, the guy was trying to buy you.

B. Being a nasara, anything you do is amusing.

C. Plot twist! There are actually two nasaras here.

Part IV: Oddities

10) Which of the following creatures do you live with? (Choose all that apply).

A. Cat.

B. Giant spiders.

C. Ants.

D. Cockroaches

E. Bats.

11) The other day while you are walking home, something flies by and nearly hits you, Name the inanimate object.

A. Shit.

B. Onion.

C. Baton de manioc.

D. Book.

12) One morning you wake to Métis mewing. This behavior continues into the night. Worried something is wrong you ask your neighbor who all. What does she say?

A. He is hurt.

B. He is catcalling.

C. Nothing is wrong.

D. He is stressed.


13) When should one start saying “Bonsoir” instead of “Bonjour”?

A. In the evening, until bedtime.

B. From the hours of 4 PM – 6 PM

C. Anytime after noon.

D. Anytime throughout the day.



  1. D. I gambled correctly. When the driver dropped off me and my baggage, random townspeople and children grabbed my stuff and headed towards my new home. I gave up calling again in order to follow the procession. Best first impression of my new village. Also my house has purple doors, which I took as another good sign.


    My living room. The former PCV even left me a Christmas tree!

  2. D. Fortunately, Métis come back in the evening and let me pet him. He woke me up the next morning and wanted to cuddle—we have been friends ever since.


    Adventure hat and a cat. Meet Métis.

  3. A. Mariam. Still not actually sure how I came up with this, but they seemed to accept it. On another note, Aisha was the name the other PCV chose, so now I have to correct the townspeople from not only calling me nasara, but also Aisha. (In other words, I now respond to all three.)
  4. B. So far this strategy seems to be going well. The health center staff is friendly and the center is utilized by the town and surrounding villages. We also visited Moussa the first night and he will be out for a while (compound fracture) but hopefully he will be walking again by IST.
  5. Depends on the day, but usually it is B or C. In other news, I find it hilarious that I sit around drinking tea, while hiding from small children.
  6. A & B. As some children are, they were terrified of the vaccines; ergo, we had to call them “bonbons”or candy, as we sometimes also do in the states (I guess some techniques of persuading children are universal). However, some children had never seen a white person before and would scream when they saw me and/or if I came near them. I tried being friendly and speaking to them in Fulfuldé but to no avail. That said, the adults found the whole scenario to be hilarious, so eventually, I would give up trying to befriend the children and laugh with the adults.
  7. D. Not a very romantic marriage proposal, and he definitely did not need more wives, but I guess it’s always nice to know your value as a bride here. (Or at least starting price, I think I am definitely worth at least 3 motos…)
  8. C. Roughly translates to “My hair is from my body. I am not selling my hair.” Clearly I’ll be fluent in no time. Just kidding. It’s seta seta (little by little).
  9. C. Since nasara is the word for foreigner, anyone who is not from nearby is a nasara, ergo, Glenn, another work colleague is a nasara too. The guy was simply asking that she give him his medical carnet. In other words, context is everything, especially with Fulfuldé.
  10. All of the above to a degree (see explanation below):

A-Obviously, I live with Métis. He is wonderful and kills mice, which he tries to bring back inside to eat, causing me to move him and his mouse (still in his mouth) outside.

B-Spiders. Any trace of my arachnophobia as a child is long gone. There are just so many and since they kill other bugs, I let them be and greet them every night when they chill on the walls.

C-Ants. Yes & no. I tried insecticide when I first arrived but them ran out. Now as long as they live inside my walls (#MudWallProbs) and I don’t see them, I don’t mind. Occasionally, they come out to eat whatever crumbs I dropped while cooking, but having cleaned they return to their nest.

D-Cockroaches. No. Although I’m sure they are alive and well in my latrine. Fun fact: I did squash a fornicating pair the other night, which probably saved me from not only those two but also hundreds of babies.

E-Bats. Sort of? Bats get stuck in the top of my roof and run around until they fall out and die. Then I find them on the ground in my house and move them outside.

NOTE: From ants to spiders to cat, I almost feel like some weird Disney princess living with all these creatures that clean and kill for me. (Sleeping under a grand mosquito net only adds to the illusion since princesses always sleep under those bed curtain things, right?) *Fingers crossed* we all start singing together in harmony each morning and they start drawing water from the well for me.


My bedroom. Mosquito nets are pretty regal.

  1. A. By some stroke of luck (?), I was nearly shit on by a goat riding by on a moto. If bird poop is good luck, then goat poop must be fantastic luck considering the odds of it flying by and landing on you. (Plus birds totally have to be aiming…)
  2. B. Literally, he is catcalling. As my neighbor put it: “Métis cherche une femme.” Overall, this was a week long process. On another note, horny cats are super noisy and really annoying when you are trying to sleep.
  3. D. My French professors tried so hard to enforce this slight distinction that starts sometime in the evening and goes until bedtime, but here, I am “bonsoir-ed” at every hour of the day, including on my morning runs at 6 AM. Moral of the story: you can say bonsoir whenever and wherever you want. Send my condolences to my French professors, L’Academie Française and all of France.
Story Problems

Story Problems: Mengong Edition

Time for a little quiz.

Part I: Things Go Bump in the Night

  1. At 2 AM you are awoken by a strange noise that is definitely coming from your room. After confirming it is definitely not a person, you realize it must be one of the following options:

A) Rat

B) Mouse-like creature

C) Cockroaches

D) Something else?

More importantly, what do you do?

  1. At what hour does the rooster crow?

A) Before sunrise

B) Sunrise

C) After sunrise

D) Midday

E) Evening

F) Night

D) Midnight

Part II: On the Road


  1. On a journey to Ebolowa, the regional capital (aka land of cheese and all the food), you discover a man with what appears to be a soft serve ice cream machine. Excited about the idea of stuffing your face with ice cream after almost two weeks without, you eagerly buy some. The man hands you a cup of pink ice cream and you take a bite. What flavor is this pink ice cream?

A) Bubblegum

B) Strawberry

C) Pepto Bismol

D) Prune

  1. Monday morning while on your 6 AM jog you notice a crowd of people on the usually deserted road. Coming closer you realize a giant truck had crashed and was lying on its side. Curious you run even closer, what are the people doing?

A) Helping the driver

B) Rubber-necking

C) Drinking

D) Celebrating

Part III: Miscellaneous

  1. Last Thursday when I placed the Sorting Hat upon my head, to what region did it send me?

A) Adamawa

B) The East

C) The Northwest

D) The Center

6. Translate the following to English:
A) “Small small catch monkey”

B) “Ma belly don flop”

C) “Jam na”

D) “Pookaradgle”


  1. If A), you are now the proud new owner of giant rat. Recommendations: Kill with poison or a machete. Bonus: You can eat the meat. (Congrats!)

If B), you possibly have a mouse or something like that. Can be identified by its small droppings either mouse-like or spaghetti-like. Recommendations: Kill with poison. (Hopefully host mother does not step on it.) Bonus: At least it is not a rat? (Although you can’t eat it, bummer.)

If C), you are now the host of a species that can survive an atomic bomb. Recommendations: Kill with insecticide or wait until it dies on its own and then sweep away. Bonus: You can also eat them!

If D), good luck champ.

  1. Trick question. Roosters crow at all hours of the day. All those children’s books about life on the farm are lies. Good luck trying to sleep!
  1. C) Pepto Bismol. Mmm yummy. Definitely would not buy again. Bonus: Maybe it will calm an upset stomach?
  1. C & D. Why? It was a beer truck! Ergo, everyone was drinking and collecting all the free beer with their hands, baskets and wheelbarrows. According to a friend, his family had woken up at 4 AM to start drinking and collecting (we believe the accident occurred sometime around 3ish). The kind people offered me a beer, but I explained that it was difficult to drink and run at the same time. (Also 6 AM still seemed a bit too early for a beer, its better to wait until at least 8 AM.) Overall, it was a day of frivolity and festivity. In the words of some of the villagers, “God has blessed the village!”
  1. Adamawa! I will be in the northern part of the country in a small village of about 1,200 that is half Christian and half Muslim. Karen, the PCV who I am replacing, was only there for about a year so it will be as though I am quasi-opening a site, which gives me a lot of flexibility in projects as the village can benefit from all aspects of the PC health goals. She has only positive things to say about the village and is also possibly the kindest human on the planet. She told me the other day she was going to stock up on toilet paper, water and food for me so I will not have to worry about those things when I first move in. Also I get to adopt her cat, Metis. My days as a cat lady will begin very soon. Being in this region also means I have to learn a new language: Fulfuldé! I’ve only had one class so far, but hopefully foreign languages are easier to learn third time around. We also have to keep up our French, thus French is the language of instruction.
  1. A) “Small, small, catch monkey” – Little by little you will succeed. (Pidgin English)

B) “Ma belly don flop” – I’m full (hence the belly not flopping around. Pidgin is logical in the least intuitive way and is also possibly the most amusing language to hear.)

C) Jam na – Hello/Good day (Fulfuldé)

D) Pookaradgle – Student/Trainee (Fulfuldé)

Other notes:

-People can use Facetime to call me and as long as they are using Wi-Fi it is free for both of us. (Message for more details, like my digits.)

-We have site visits next week, which means we get to visit and stay with current PCVs and see what life is like at post.

-Next week will also commence the month without Wi-Fi, as we won’t be heading to Ebolowa for several weeks. Please excuse the brief hiatus from the blog and assume that I am alive and eating beniets.

Story Problems

More Story Problems: Cooking, Hashing and a Few Oddities

Because another midterm examination is just what you need. Answers at the end.

Part I. Cooking

1. The fantastic host student you are, you decide to cook for your host family. Having bought fancy hot chocolate in France, you decide to buy some milk and make it tonight. Later, when almost finished cooking, your host mother adds a cup of                    to the concoction.

  1. Milk
  2. Chocolate
  3. Sugar
  4. Oil

2. Kind student that you are, you next decide to cook an American classic for your host family: pancakes. After hours of scrubbing off oil that has spent years seeping into the pan, you are finally ready to start cooking the batter. Just as you are about to start, your host mother adds a cup of                 to the batter.

  1. Milk
  2. Butter
  3. Salt
  4. Oil

3. You actually are the best host student in the world. This time you decide to cook the cheesiest comfort food in existence: Mac’n Cheese. After a day of converting the recipe into metric measurements and Russian names, you return home with a brick of cheese and other important ingredients. Your family loves the dish, but your host mother thinks next time it would be better with a little               added.

  1. Milk
  2. Mayonnaise
  3. Sugar
  4. Oil

Part II. Oddities

4. Identify the mysterious grey substance.



  1. Cement
  2. Canned Liver
  3. Cat Excrement
  4. Sunflower Paste

5. Walking down the street towards Rudaki Avenue on a way to catch a “three” to Salam Namaste, a car honks for you to get, placing the “three” sign up in his dashboard. As you are about to get in you notice that your driver is a ginger. In fact, the very first ginger you have seen in Tajikistan. What do you do?

  1. Flee.
  2. Get in. Feel bad for stereotyping and wonder if you have developed a strange prejudice against gingers growing up in America.
  3. Feel slightly less bad, when the next women picked up has the same reaction and the actual language skills to express this concern.
  4. B and C.

6. Your host sister’s second birthday is this Friday. Everyone will be coming over and your host mother has already started constructing a cake. Being amazing host student that you are (see Part I) you decide to buy her a gift. What do you get her?

  1. Ask your host mother for suggestions, only to have her shrug and say, “she’s two”.
  2. Struggle for several days, trying to figure out what a two year-old could possible want.
  3. Head to the Bazaar and hope inspiration hits.
  4. All of the above.

Part III. The Hash

7. Laying the trail for today’s Hash, you consider leading the trail to the top of the mountain. Following you friend who is scouting ahead, you begin laying shred, only to have him run back with the information that the hill never ends and a decision to not go this way, but due to your frivolous shred-laying, there is already a solid trail. Now what?

  1. Nothing and hope nobody notices.
  2. Lay that false trail and laugh as they follow it.
  3. Run back and pick up the shred.
  4. Decide to just tell everyone where to go when they reach that point.

8. Later, as you are with the runners on the magnificent trail you helped to set, they take off in the wrong way and begin heading in a direction that has no markings with reckless abandon. What do you do?

  1. Nothing. If you love something, you should let it go and if it was meant to be, they’ll come back. Or figure it out eventually.
  2. Follow them, which will lead them more astray.
  3. Yell at them to turn around.
  4. Head off with the slower runners in the correct direction.

9. How many people can you fit in a selfie?

  1. One
  2. Three
  3. Five
  4. Ten

BONUS: Who can guess my new Hash name?

  1. That’s probably somebody’s daughter.
  2. Spud in my Mouth.
  3. The Blonde Bombshite.
  4. Sunny-Side Up.


  1. D. Oil. Oil is an important ingredient here. In fact, most commercials that I have seen on the Tajik channel aside from car commercials are oil commercials.
  2. D. Oil. See above.
  3. B. Mayonnaise. Bet you thought I was going to say oil again, didn’t you? Don’t be silly. Oil and Mac’n Cheese? That’s absurd.
  4. D. Sunflower paste. Surprisingly delicious once you get past the ominous grey substance appearance.
  5. D. The guy spoke better Tajik than me so I guess he was legit. Or at least as legit as any other “three” driver.
  6. D. When there, on the suggestion of a friend, I ended up buying her a teddy bear. When I gave it to her, she was so extremely happy and I felt like the coolest big host sister in the world for about five minutes and then she got distracted because she’s two. But she learned how to say the word for bear because of it, which is pretty awesome.
  7. B. I’m deceitful human being.
  8. B. See above.


    The face of deception.

  9. C. Five. Or at least that is our current record.

So many people. One frame.

Also someone was kind enough to capture it from another angle:


So meta.

BONUS: A. That’s probably somebody’s daughter.


All about that circle life.


“When one girl in an orange shirt drinks, all girls in an orange shirt drink (and Nick).”


Getting named.


Being christened in beer.


The snap of success

Story Problems

Celsius for Dummies: Redefining the Word “Cold”

These past few days have been cold in Dushanbe. Being an American, Celsius isn’t always the easiest to understand. Here is an easy guide for interpreting the nuances between different degrees in Centigrade, based on a day in the life:

-20˚C/6:00. Force yourself to leave the burrow of your bed and become a real person. Your muscles are stiff, possibly frozen, so you hobble to your alarm, which you regret setting so far away from your bed the previous night due to some cleverly cruel intention about forcing you to actually get out of the bed.

Maybe you thought about going for a run today, but it is cold. Fortunately, you have started figuring out how to exercise in your room: you begin running around in circles, with a new understanding of hamsters and hamster wheels.

-19˚C/7:00. After about an hour of exercise, you decide to shower. It has been several days. There is still no hot water, which means you get to break out your recently perfected method of cold showering:

1. Remain dressed.
2. Using the cold water that is still running (thank goodness you understood that piece of advice from your host mother), bend your head under the spout for a good shampooing. Be quick so you can finish before your hands lose feeling (or your hair freezes, if your hair is a long as mine).
3. Use towel to wrap up hair and reenter your room.
4. Warm hands in front of space heater.
5. Use Pampers baby wipes for the rest of your body.

(I bet you haven’t smelled as clean as a baby’s bottom since you were wearing diapers.)

-17˚C/8:00. Breakfast. Drink as much tea as possible. Get dressed. Discover a new appreciation for stretched out jeans, as you easily layer them over your long underwear. Pack up the rucksack and head to school. (This will include your laptop because, as you discovered a few days ago, laptop batteries do not charge if they are too cold. At home, this means you have to share the prime spot in front of the space heater with your laptop). Trek to school.

-15˚C/9:00. Electricity goes out. Coats go back on. It is something that becomes much more common when it snows, I am told. Electricity returns. Decide to make a nice cup of coffee, since the water heater is working again for now. The drink room is a bit cold, which is weird, since the crack in the window has clearly been repaired by a sheet of ice.

-14˚C/12:00. Lunchtime. Bundle up and scurry to the closest café.

-10˚C/14:00. Attempt to use the Wi-Fi to check e-mail at the school. Due to the inclimate weather conditions, it is actually slower than Saxanet.

-11˚C/17:00. Head home. Studying in front of heater until dinnertime.

-12˚C/20:00. Dinner finished, you return to your room. Upon walking into the bathroom you discover that not only is your toilet frozen, but also a small ice skating rink has begun to develop in your bathtub. (The most serendipitous news, really, as your indoor morning exercise routine just got much more exciting!) You decide you do not really need to wash your hands that your two-year host sister decorated with green scribbles. Besides, the soap is frozen to the counter. Instead, you rush to find your camera, in order to capture this glistening new development. Returning, you discover your camera battery is too cold, or “exhausted” as your camera prefers to say, for photos. Luckily, you still have your phone camera:

What is the most aesthetic way to capture a frozen shower handle?

Artsy frozen shower handle pic?

That is ice in my toilet.

That is ice in my toilet.


“Bathers on Ice”

After photographing icy bits of plumbing and with a new resolve to take all electronics to school tomorrow, including your frozen camera, you finish studying and checking e-mail, pausing occasionally to ponder whether or not you can blow smoke rings with your icy breath.

Aside from the cold, which one somewhat grows accustomed too, the snow here has been absolutely gorgeous:

View from my window.

View from my window.


Dusk in Dushanbe

Dusk in Dushanbe.

Night time view from my street.

Night time view from my street.