I’ve decided that there is too much to write in one blog post about what has happened in my life over the last two weeks in my homestay. This time around, I did bring my computer along in order to write posts so that I didnt forget anything by the time I get back to the training center in a couple of days. Some other good news for those of you out there reading this blog, I have discovered an internet cafe hidden in a cubby of a building near the boulangerie where I go for an occasional borro e nebbe sandwich (bread and bean). This means that hopefully the posts will be more regular.
On to the point… I have been spending the last two weeks in my homestay here in Mbour. In this post, Id like to break down my experience into what a regular day looks like for me. I will try to be as detailed as possible. Obviously my days do vary, but they tend to hold this regularity, which Ive learned to love in most cases, tolerate in others.
7:00-7:30 am: I usually wake up around this time in order to get myself ready for the day. I tell each of my family
members good morning because they are usually awake a little before me, and grab one of the three plastic kettles that resides in my compound for hygienic means. I wash my face and brush my teeth using the kettle, pouring it over a pile of rocks at the back of the compound. I guess you could call it our sink. After Im ready, my younger sister or my sister in law usually has breakfast ready. Breakfast consists of a plain baguette and a cup of the sweetest coffee an American might ever have tasted. Did I mention that Senegal likes its sugar?? Not my favorite meal of day, but we will get to that. After breakfast, I help sweep the sand in my compound, wash the breakfast dishes (which are few) and sweep up the rooms.
8:00 am: My group members, Adrian and Tucker, roll up. Usually I know they are coming, because the shrill alarm of “Toubab Toubab!!” beats them to my door. Sure enough I look out and there come two tall white boys up the sandy road to my house, a trail of African children in their wake. We take the watering cans to school across the road from my house where we have been maintaining a garden. We share the garden with another Peace Corps group not far away and we take the watering job in the morning. We have to bring our own pulley, buckets, and watering cans and usually have to wait because at 8 in the morning, the well is a popular place. The women at the well love watching Tucker and Adrian pull the water because men DO NOT draw water in Senegal. They laugh and whisper behind their hands and look at me like, why arent YOU pulling the water!
9:00am-1:00pm: Time for language. Language language language. Fulakunda. The language I have learned to love. Its strange that I have only been here 3 weeks and I feel like I have been taking it for as long as I ever took French or Spanish. This is probably the most tiring, rewarding, frustrating, hilarious part of every day. Tucker Adrian and I work well together navigating the stormy sea of Puulaar Fulakunda. Slowly but surely under the patient and sometimes not so patient Falaye we have gained enough understanding to have toddler conversations with our families. These classes happen wherever the wind blows us and the wind in Africa is a strange thing. Ive had class under mango trees, sitting in sand, on porches near women cooking peanuts, next to goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks, amist screaming children of all ages, and this morning in a stranger’s storage closet. College friends, I say to you… I have got used to focusing without the need for silence. 🙂
1:30-3:00pm: Bottari time! This rivals to be my favorite part of the day. I have become a scavenging wolf here in Senegal, every mention of food makes me salivate, every dream of a icy fanta makes me break into a cold sweat of longing. On a diet of rice, rice, rice, and some times some bread, I look forward to the most important meal of the Senegalese day where I know Im going to get a bit of fish and vegetables mixed in with my rice! If Im back in time from class I help the women cook lunch, pounding beesap or fanning the flames under the rice pot. By the time Im done with lunch Im full of marro (rice) and good to go again for the day!
After lunch- 5:00pm: I like to call this Fulakunda and Family time. This is the hottest part of the day, so most Senegalese can be found laying on their mats underneath their mango trees making attaya. Tucker Adrian and I take this time to visit each others families and test out the waters on our newfound language skills. I find I learn just as much from these fam sessions as I do from class and the two parts of the day are a good compliment to each other.
I feel that I should explain Attaya further here. How do I explain the importance of attaya? I can only begin by making the extreme claim that Senegal would go to war if you told them you were going to take away their attaya. It is a beloved tradition and a way to pass the time and talk to one another. Usually attaya is served in 2 small glass cups and gets drank based on a hierarchy within the compound. Guests drink first, then men, then women, and finally the maker of the attaya, although this seems to be the most honorable position of all. Although I have been trying to learn under the wise guidance of my brothers Abdu and Ebu, I have failed to become as adept as them pouring the attaya in order to get the perfect foam. Nor do I have the calluses to grasp the tiny burning hot tea cups. In the end, I’m going to blame my poor attaya making skills on the fact that I have to wield teapot and cups with my right hand which those of you who know me realize gives me absolutely no chance at hand eye coordination as a lefty.
5:00-7:00pm: Back to the garden for some maintenance time with the other group. Working with seven volunteers in the garden is fun and a good way to rehash the adventures of the day. We make sure our field crops, pepinyares, and double-dug beds are doing well, we check the compost piles, then we chat under the mango tree in the garden.
7:00-9:00pm- My curfew is 7 because this is when it begins to get dark in Senegal. In my host father’s mind dark=bad for a American white girl walking the streets of Liberty, Mbour and he’s probably right. Usually I use this time to write, study, and talk to my family. I also love this time of the day, because I wait until the stars come out and then I go to take my bucket bath. Although it is getting nicer, and is not nearly as hot as it was at the beginning of the month, it is still the only time of day that I am not sweating profusely. Dinner is also prepared around this time. It’s usually just straight up rice or rice and sugar, which makes a kind of porridge meal.
9:00-10:00pm- When all the dishes are done and the electricity tends to just shut off, my family lays out mats and we lay under the stars until people wander off to sleep. As far as I can tell, the Senegalese dont sleep that much, which means I am always the first one to bed. I even beat my seven year old brother and sister most of the time!
So that is a regular day. I fit in other things much of time– dont worry, Ive already got a few tame adventures scattered here and there, but that is for another blog post! For now en burini han and Ill keep you waiting for the next blog on these two weeks until tomorrow!