Just found out that I’ll be living in Kebemer in the region of Louga!
It is so hard to believe that we have only been here a month! I’ve adapted in a lot of ways: Tasks like brushing my teeth and tucking in my mosquito net at night are now mere inconveniences rather than reasons to dread the sun going down. Sure, I still dehydrate myself as the evening approaches to avoid leaving my room, but really who doesn’t? And I might still clean up the occasional coffee spill with my dirty clothes, but I no longer feel the need to choke down my entire bagette in the morning- just pass that nom off to a little sibling or a fellow Peace Corps trainee!
Other adjustments are a little unsettling. I now throw my trash on the ground without a thought which would have horrified States-bound Hannah. Trash cans don’t exist here to my observation.
I’m starting to reallly get to know (and love) my family here. With the help of my improving Wolof skills, I put together a family tree of 50? relatives, 19 of whom live with me. My other sister just had a baby putting our infant count up to 3! And you know what that means – another baptism celebration! Pictures of that and tabaski coming next!
If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.
Community Based Training
I leave again tomorrow for a fortnight stint at my CBT site. My family in Bayakh, the Amars and Jahumpas, are wonderful and plentiful. There are three buildings in my compound, and I think only about 15? people live there total, but there are constantly relatives and friends from all over Bayakh and Senegal visiting, so it’s hard to be sure. I still don’t know everyone’s names in my family, and figuring out the family relationships is far, far beyond my grasp. (This is further convoluted by the fact that polygamy is common). Since one of the only phrases I can understand in Wolof is What is her name? I get called out a lot.
It’s difficult to explain how hilarious, stressful, and absurd it is to be dropped off into a family without knowing how to communicate anything. The first few days I spent a lot of time staring off into space while my family members called my name repeatedly. It’s exhausting listening to a constant stream of noises you can’t even distinguish into words or phrases, but it’s also amazing how frequently you can understand the gist of a conversation or question without understanding a single word that was said. Non verbal communication and intuition are my best tools here.
The first full day I was in Bayakh, I went down the wrong road in search of my compound. Halfway down realizing I was lost, I turned around to head back to the main road when I was called over by a woman under a shade tree. It was lunchtime, and I was ushered into a family’s compound where I was forced to eat with 15 people and fan myself (that crazy white girl sweating buckets wandering around in the hottest part of the day!). There was so much laughing while we tried to communicate in broken French, and they sent people out in search of someone who spoke English. Finally, a boy I recognized came by the compound (I think he is related to my family somehow?), and he agreed to show me back to my house. However not before we stopped by his house, and his neighbor’s house of course. By the time we made it back to my compound, I sat down for my 4th lunch with my family!
I’m back in Thies with internet for a couple days, so I’ll try to post as much as I can before heading back to Bayakh for 2 weeks!
Some quick highlights:
There was a baptism, a ngente, at my house on Saturday which was a big surprise, overwhelming but also really fun. Some rams (which had previously scared me charging around our compound) were slaughtered, a million people came, and SO much dancing happened. Here’s a little clip.
I was named after Ndëye Fatou Amar in my compound, who among being an incredible dancer (see above clip), is the family hairstylist. So this happened after a few days of persuasion…
My language group of 4 trainees leaves for Bayakh today for Community Based Training. The PC bus will take me to my host family compound (or as close as possible), drop me off with my bags including a gift of tea and sugar, and leave me alone with a working Wolof vocabulary of about 5 phrases.
I’ll be greeted by my host family who will give me a Senegalese name –hopefully one I can pronounce. We will stay with our host families 6 days and beyond that, I am unsure what to anticipate. It’s really hard to imagine what I will do to pass the time for 6 days unable to communicate. Some sites have electricity and others do not, but I’ll be out of touch for a while regardless.
I just found out I’ll be learning Wolof!