Jerejef Arame, Jerejef Allah

At dusk in a southern region of Senegal, West Africa, three men don winter coats, rubber boots and pull on canvas sweatshirt with attached veil and put on rubber gloves tying strips of old fabric around the cuffs to secure the openings to make sure none of the tiny, but deadly creatures we plan to rob invade the makeshift suit.

We are going to collect honey in mangrove forest just beside the small village of Sangako at night from African bees. Also known as killer bees. The three men have been doing this for years, their wisdom precedes their age and they understand the risk they take for the liquid gold they hope to find.
Continue reading “Jerejef Arame, Jerejef Allah”

And I’m leaving…

tomorrow on a (red eye) jet plane. Something is very scary about leaving for a year (or more of your life). I packed a week ago but of course the last little bits take up more space than I dedicated for them. Luckily (or not) we are allowed 2 checked bags, and I’m using it all of it. My bags are light, but just have lots of volume due to needing both work and nice clothes and I packed some food. Within a short time I won’t own as much.

yes that is 4 bags, 2 check, 2 carry on

I hoped to pack less this time around, since I’ve done this before and it’s only for a year. But the need for ‘stuff’ is sad but true. I can cope, but ‘less’ is always something I strive for now in life. To lighten myself enough to travel more freely through this world. To carry experiences rather than ‘stuff’

Also I took an 8-day road trip a 2 weeks before I’m due to leave, the Minneapolis International Film Festival is going on, the Association of Writers & Writer’s Programs happens to be in town (along with many free events), HBO has a new app (free for the 1st month) and I’ve been dying to watch a few of their documentaries that I keep hearing about (namely “It’s Me Hilary: The Man who Drew Eloise“,  “112 Weddings” and “Going Clear: Scientology”). Everything fun happens to happen all at once. Oh and I have a stack of books I would love to read before I leave but that’s not going to happen either. 😦

I’m sorry that the photos that I will most likely share in the next year will give you some emotion along of “I want to be there” to “I am jealous of this person’s life” PLEASE DON’T BE. I know this is easier said than done. “Emotions are like clouds, if you wait a few moments they will pass” I don’t like the idea of jealous towards me or my work. Everyone has an interesting life, regardless of where you are. Everyone has a story to tell.

My goal is to “Document the moments you feel most in love with yourself – what you’re
wearing, who you’re around, what you’re doing. Recreate and repeat.” – Warsan Shire with the photos I will try to take for the next year. 

But honestly, thank you for all the well wishes, blessings, prayers, thoughts, visits, emails, notes, lunches, dinners, drinks, love sent from afar and hugs! I am very blessed to be doing what I do and can not wait to see what’s going to happen!

My view from where I stayed in Minneapolis

My mailing address (and is also under the contact tab)

M Wannarka
Peace Corps Grenada
Upper Lucas St. and Lowther’s Lane
P.O. Box 766
St. George’s, West Indies

How to pack for the next 2 years of your life

Sound very daunting, doesn’t it?

The nice thing about this is for the Peace Corps I have an 80 pound weight limit on 2 checked bags and 1 carry on with a dimension limit. Having limitations helps, right? Strangely enough packing for 2 years in a under-developed country (I don’t know what the definition of 3rd world country and that makes it sound like it will never get better) is easy. Pack less.

This first piece of advice I had gotten during a Peace Corps meeting of new invitees and a few returned volunteers. The people in the place you are going have things to live, to survive, maybe not creature comforts. But they brush their teeth, just maybe not with toothpaste.  They have clothes, just not at a store, they go to the tailor and have them made. Things are different, for a reason. Being flexible and open to the adventure is part of the journey.

3 bags is all I”m bringing and the one on the right is half full

Above are the bags I will be bringing (from right to left):

  • Chrome Metropolis Messenger Bag: Purchased a few years back I LOVE THIS BAG. Waterproof and huge. I consider this thing my purse 🙂 40 Liters
  • Kelty Pack Bag, Red Cloud 80-5000: I bought this years ago and used it once, maybe twice, but kept it in hope I would use it again. (perfect, huh?)82 Liters
  • Seattle Sport Hydra Light Dry Bag:
    I do love this bag as when it’s not in use it packs down to nothing 11 W
    x 5.5 H x 1.25 D inches closed. 24 W x 12 H x 15 D inches open and is
    water resistant. 52.5 Liters
  • TOTAL SPACE:  174.5 Liters

And what’s in the bags:

Clothing (I’m not expecting it to be to cold I would need to layer but this gives me options if I am): 

  • 4 Long Sleeve Shirts
  • 1 Pant
  • 5 Capri pants (1 exercise)
  • 5 Tee Shirts
  • 4 Collared T-shirts
  • 7 Tank Tops
  • 10 Bras/underwear
  • 2 Dresses
  • 1 Swimsuit
  • 1 Leggings
  • 1 Bike Shorts & Running Shorts
  • 2 Pj Pants
  • 1 Pair Thermal
  • 2 Large Scarves
  • 10 Pairs Socks (I ALWAYS have cold feet)
All those lovely clothes turn into the left with some cinch bags 🙂 & the pack bags tidy on the right

 I made sure to purchase cinch bags to pack things, as space is a hotter commodity than weight when packing.

Bedding-Camping hammock on the right
  • Hennessy Deep Jungle Camping Hammock: So happy to have this awesome camping hammock, with mosquito net built in & rain fly. Honestly the best money ever spent!!
  • Small travel blanket-Sure I got this from one of the times sleeping in the airport, light but warm
  • Travel pillow: Again small enough, but works for me.
  • Small camping stool: Picked it for $10 from Northern Tool, again handy, small, why not.

Cooking & Water:

List is from top right to bottom right then to top left to bottom left
  • Large Nalgene bottle: I had so I figure it would come in handy for something, right?
  • Small tiffin: Handy little devil for food,storage, etc. Like a little lunch box.
  • Dueter Hydration backpack: Basically a camelbak, has a 2 liter bladder in it for water and a handy drinking straw on the strap.
  • Small Pot with lid: Thrift store find, copper bottom, too cheap not to buy & perfect size
  • Fairshare mug: Measuring cup with lid & the story behind it is awesome.
  • Aladdin Collapsible bowls:Stumbled upon these in a gift store. They don’t completely nest in each other but that’s my only complaint!
  • NOT PICTURED Sawyer Squeeze water filter: Awesome water filter that takes out 99.9% of bad things & I can use in on my hydration pack.


Listed from top right down to left

  •  Rayovac rechargeable batteries & charger: Only problem it plugs into a standard American electrical outlet 
  • Olympus Camera:I’ve had this camera forever, but it takes pretty decent pictures.
  • Joos Orange Solar charger: Awesome, efficient, sturdy charger and it comes with many cable plug-in for various electronics
  • Kindle Fire with Otterbox Survior Case: I bring this with me to site and charge it with my solar panel, mostly for reading books, but I’m also bringing a keyboard to write on it too.
  • 17″ HP Pavillion Laptop: I will leave this at a regional house and use it when I’m there instead of bringing to site. Too heavy to lunk around. 
  • Also NOT PICTURED Ipod mini: Also had and will bring with me to keep my sanity at site

Tools & Miscellaneous:

Odds and ends of stuff
  •  Bike lock & patch kit: We are given a bike during service and they have a tendency to walk off (or be borrowed) so hopefully I don’t have to go searching for my bike too often
  • Cigarette case & zippo lighter: I don’t smoke, this is more for storing incense or the like.
  • Leatherman, fruit knives, camp utensils and set of allen wrenches: More handy things,some I had and some I purchased.
  • Sewing kit: Shouldn’t need it but you never do know
  • Gardening gloves:Helpful for many things and sure they will be well used
  • Wet stone and honing oil: To keep all those knives sharp.
  • Bic pens: I’ve heard/read that bic pens are a hot comadity with the kids there. And since white women supposedly eat children, I thought this would help me make some friends.
  • Ames Honey: This is more than me for anything else but bringing a little bit of home with me.
  • Binoculars: With all the birds in Senegal these are a nice and light thing to help pass the time.

 Books & supplies:

  • Leather clutch: This works well for events and my travel documents when I’m traveling.
  • French dictionary & a couple paper backs: Hopefully will not be used for kindling but they could after I read them.
  • Crochet & knitting needles: I’m sure I will find something to knit or crochet or both there. Something to pass the time and handy to fix things.
  • Playing cards, Velcro ties, frisbee, rubber bands, travel electrical adapter: Odds and ends of things that are handy.
  • Princetop TEC LED headlamp: Runs on 3 AA batteries and
    should be helpful if I need to get up int he middle of the night or just
    see stuff.
  • Accordion file: We get a lot of paper work and this will hold paper supplies and helpful documents while traveling.
  •  Moleskin notebook & 7 year pen:I love moleskin journals & I really do hope the pen lasts for 7 years….we will see.


  • Travel towel, body brush, & rest of my usual stuff: All stuffed in the bag on the left.
  • Makeup bag: I’m sure there will be a use for putting it on at some point, right? I’ve been told volunteers resemble homeless people soon after going to site.
  •  Hair ties, barrettes, bobby pins & headbands: I’m sure dealing with my hair will be a fun part of being in the heat. I’m thinking of shaving it off, we will see how it goes
  • Generic pepto-bismol, other medications
  • Contacts
  • Toothbrushes & dry tooth paste
  • Medicated Body Powder
  • Chapstick
  • Sunscreen
  • Blister bandaids


  •  Keen Flops and Sandals: I lucked out and found out that my foot size fits a youth size 5 in Keen shoes. So I ordered a few pairs 🙂
  • Sketchers Sneakers:  I love these shoes, perfect slip-on sneakers for traveling.

Bringing but not pictured: Beekeeping suit & hive tool, baseball hat, stocking cap, bandanas, notebooks, miscellaneous office supplies, inflatable roll,duct tape, zipties, assorted plastic bags, carabiners, granola bars, Emergen-C drink mix, sound-deading ear buds, sleeping mask, updated: Permethrin for my clothes and Ultrathon lotion

I’m planning on purchasing a few things or rather have them made in Senegal, such as a traditional Senegalese outfit and a very large brimmed straw hat. And planning on shipping a box to myself mostly so I can see how well the mail works. I’m sure I’m forgetting things or am over weight someplace so I have made sure to leave 1 bag packed only half way so I have room to move things around.

Overall, I’m feeling good about things, just trying to finish up my lists and making sure to keep everything together as I can not really pack everything until a week before I start traveling as I’m using most of it yet.

What am I forgetting????

is the power to stand up to the madness and chaos of the physical world
while holding the position that nothing external has any authority over
what heaven has in mind for you.”

– Caroline Myss

What can you do for me :)

Of course you must have thought that I wouldn’t be writing a blog unless I wanted something, right? Even if it’s as simple as you to read what I have to say and listen attentively.

Traveling is exhausting as many of us know. It’s always nice to have creature comforts with to make the journey a bit more enjoyable when you simply just want to get there. While moving to another place is still as distributive there is a finite amount of time that you are unsettled. I think in my case I’m not sure if I will ever be settled again. This is where you, dear reader, come in.

As seemingly being in constant movement creature comforts are not bulky things, sometimes ideas, and even better yet something that can not be contained. As having to carry everything I own on my back while traveling everything I carry must be of importance. So what are things that would bring me comfort while traveling that could be given or sent to me:

  • Motivational music (what gets you up in the morning? or better yet,what puts you in a good mood or what do you listen to while you work out) I listen to everything from classical to Marilyn Manson. Just send me the title/list/you tube link and I can look it up before I leave and add it to my ipod.
  • Contacts of People that could be helpful to me  Trust me this might sound weird but I can never know enough people & I have the most wonderful people in my life due to just this thing. If you know me and know someone else that for WHATEVER reason you think I should know, PLEASE send me their information or vice versa. 
  • Forward on my blog to others Again this is not just to put me in contact with people that I should know but people that might like to know me. (There are many things I would do if asked, for career, for fun, for a favor)
  • Penpal Do you have a school age child that is starting to learn geography? Or would like them to start writing letters? I could easily be there penpal. I WOULD LOVE to have regular letter correspondence with anyone. My contact info is here.
  • Correspondence/Speaker Match: This is the place if you have a classroom that would like to adopt me you can sign up here.  We can correspond in various ways with classrooms and also meet with classes to talk about your experiences after we return.
  • Good Books– What’s your favorite book? What could you read over and over again? Send me the title(s) I will be bringing a Kindle Fire with me and have a book list of 300+ (mostly non-fiction) that I hope to make a dent in, but sure I will run out of ideas. Sooo many books & luckily a lot of time 🙂
  • Drought hardy seeds-I will be planting a TON of seeds and helping start gardens (container/raised beds/etc) so more the better, but SPECIFICALLY DROUGHT HARDY. We will also try and collect seeds to use again the following year. UPDATE: I received 100  vegetable seed packets from Seed Savers to bring with me-this should be plenty for a while
  • Anything else you can think of that might be helpful when traveling/living abroad in an under-developed country for 2+ years Send me the link or shoot me an email about it. The best advice I have gotten so far is from people I would never have thought of asking about it.

Thank you in advance!! Any and all will be helpful and am more than amazed at the people I have in my life and glad I can share a piece of my adventure with you all.