Thursday, December 15, 2005

While we’re on the topic…

So I’m not sure I mentioned, but I quit my job a couple weeks ago. Or, more accurately, I gave notice. My last day will be on January 6th.

I am thrilled and excited and I know that this is beyond a doubt the right move for me. It would not be good for my well-being or my career to stay longer in this job.

Not that I have a new job or anything.

Peace Corps, as I think I’ve mentioned, won’t start until June.

So what am I planning to do with my newfound freedom? Funny you should ask.

I’m going to Dakar, the capital of Senegal. That’s in West Africa. Actually, a couple miles west of Dakar is the westernmost point in all of Africa. There’s a plaque and everything. Or so I’m told.

Theoretically, I will be a “stringer”. Which is a jargon-y term for a freelance newspaper journalist. I’m working on figuring out how to do that. I’m talking to newspaper editors, and foreign correspondents, and everyone and anyone who has been in Dakar or West Africa, or you know, anywhere.

In reality, I have a feeling that what I’m really going to be is unemployed. But in Dakar! Which is far more exciting and less like being a bum than being unemployed in Washington, D.C. Right? Eh, maybe.

So anyway, I’m going for three months, after which I will determine what my next move will be. If I’m wildly successful at this “stringing” business then maybe I’ll just head straight back to Dakar and keep doing that. Or else I’ll probably follow through with the whole Peace Corps thing. Or maybe I’ll decide that I’ve had just about enough of Africa, thank you very much, and get a job in New Jersey. (The funny thing about that is that every time I tell people this, they all say, “Oh god. Definitely don’t get a job in New Jersey.” Cracks me up.)

And the (tenuous) connection to the previous topic? (The previous topic being “bugs, Naomi’s deeply-rooted dislike of.”) Let me explain.

Reading up on Dakar in the Lonely Planet, I came across the section on budget hotels.

At a Christmas party recently, I started telling some co-workers what I had read.

Naomi: So, the section opens with a little explanation that says, “A particularly aggressive strain of bedbugs seems to have infested Dakar, specifically in the city’s budget hotels. We searched hard, but were unable to find any hotels free from the infestation. We can only hope that by the time you arrive, the bugs will have moved on to some other city.”

Co-worker 1: Ewww.

Co-worker 2 [who did Peace Corps in Morocco]: Yuck. They probably just mean fleas, though. There are definitely fleas in all the cheap hotels.

Naomi: Yeah, but fleas aren’t nearly as bad, right? I mean, bed bugs, they get in everything. And they’re bigger.

Co-worker 1: True.

Naomi: Actually, the only thing I know about bedbugs is what I read in the New Yorker last summer, about a recent bedbug infestation in NYC. But there was no way to get rid of the bugs. The people in the article had to throw away ALL their furniture. So here’s my question: If I use my sleeping bag, will the bed bugs infest the sleeping bag? And then I’ll have bed bugs FOREVER?

Co-worker 2: Hmmm….

Naomi: And you know what else? So there are like 5 or so hotels listed in the section, right? And they all seem normal. You know, this one has air-conditioning, this one has private bathrooms, whatever. Except in the description of the fourth one, they say, all nonchalant-like, “Like all cheapies, this one’s a brothel.” What?

Co-workers 1, 2: [Laughter]

Coworker 2: Yup. I stayed in brothels all over Morocco.

Naomi: Does that mean that all the rest are brothels, too, and they just didn’t feel like mentioning it?

Coworker 2: Pretty sure.

Naomi: So, do I, a woman, traveling alone, want to stay in a brothel?

Coworker 2: It’s fine. You’re a foreigner, so they put you in a different category.

Naomi: But. A brothel?

Coworker 3: [just joining the conversation] Did I just hear you guys talking about brothels? [We fill her in on what she missed, with appropriate faces of shock, horror, and disgust, made mostly by me.]

Naomi: So, I think I might stay in a non-budget hotel. You know, just for the first night or two. Like maybe a “moderate” one. Because of the bed bugs. And the brothel.

Coworker 3: Apparently, Naomi wants to do the Peace Corps in Connecticut.

Cue laughter.

Okay. I recognize that I’m not choosing the path of luxury and spa treatments here. And it may be that last night’s Waterbug-Gate won’t be the most disgusting thing that I encounter in the next few months.

So I hope that Jessica was right when she commented, “Noames, I bet you will come back from the Peace Corps and read this post and laugh until tears come out your nose.”

I’m sure I’ll be fine, once I get there, right? I’ll just get used to it. I’ll soon become so jaded that I will blithely pull the wings off beetles and eat them whole. While sitting on my bed-buggy bed in a brothel.



Blogger David said...

Noames, I'll take you out to dinner at the best bed bug brothel restaurant in Miami next month. We'll celebrate your unemployment and toast all the poor frozen snowpeople living in Connecticut who aren't in the Peace Corps.

8:35 PM  
Blogger jeanne said...

The brothel thing could be a little bit of a problem. Not so sure about that. I could make a sick joke here about you maybe being unemployed anyway, so it might come in handy, but I'm far too sophisticated and polite and outraged about brothels to do that. Plus, that would be in such horribly bad taste.

Fleas vs. bedbugs. I pick bedbugs. Fleas are merciless, attack endlessly, you can't see them, there's no defense, and they can drive you out of your mind with the itching and the scratching and the ....arghhhhh get me away from the fleas!!! I'll eat ants!!!! anything but fleas!!!

Wait. Maybe there's a special sleeping bag that's treated for fleas? or bedbugs? or both?

11:15 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

I must already be jaded because when I read your post I laughed until tears came through my nose;-)

I spend 30-some days in the middle of no-wheres in Egypt and had a daily fight with fleas, bedbugs, lice and things that I didn't even know what they were. Fleas are by far the worst as Jeanne said. A couple guys brought flea collars (like for dogs) with them and seemed to have less problems. The army also issued us some flea powder.

We had our sleeping bags disinfected by a dry-cleaning firm after this ordeal and that seemed to get rid of all the critters. You might ask around.

2:41 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Wow! I was quoted. *shivers with pride*

Here's the deal with the bugs: it seems like a big deal now, but once you get there ALL of your expectations will change, either subtly or with bangs and clangs. And pretty soon you'll be leaping joyfully over your middle-class American expectations and bounding away into the freedom of a whole new worldview, bugs be damned. Or at least, that's sorta what happened with me.

You need an arsenal: for me what worked best was the Big Red Can of all-purpose bug terminator which I sprayed all over everything every night (choosing as bedfollows harsh chemicals rather than bugs, at least the first few nights), and the good ole desert sun (when life gives you lemons...). Put your sleeping bag and mattress out in the sun every day (unless you happen to be in a place where it would get stolen). Bedbugs like damp, cozy places like your armpit; not so much the blistering sun, so let it do your work for you.

You can tell the difference between bedbugs and fleas in that bedbugs march (and bite) in a straight line while fleas are much less organized, despite the flea-circus lore of yore.

If it's a brothel, just make sure your door locks.

You can buy the Big Red Can or its Dakarian equivalent pretty much anywhere. And there are no pesky anti-DEET laws to get in your way!

4:14 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

You'll be fine. It's not like they said anything about spiders...

4:57 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

Well, almost ate a cockroach 2 nights you will fit in perfectly!!! :)

8:13 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Oh yeah, one more thing: if the malaria medication makes you slowly go insane, stop taking it. Everyone's doing it! Listen to the little voices in your head!

2:57 AM  
Blogger Riona said...

Nanga def! Naomi, CONGRATULATIONS. And you will be totally fine. I'm looking forward to reading about Dakar. It's a great change to make and one of my biggest regrets is that I DIDN'T quit my job and so something similar ... go for it.

2:09 PM  
Blogger ShoreTurtle said...

What an entertaining post! No matter what happens, don't get a job in New Jersey. The horror!

3:05 PM  
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