Sunday, January 21, 2007

Une Semaine et ma famille

Well I have been here in Senegal for one week. The first five days were all orientation…which was annoying in many respects because they were telling me things I already knew. Not to mention, I think learning from observation and experience is better than just being told about the culture. For example, we spent like two hours talking about the way men will approach women to express their love. I feel like once it happened to you a few times, you could figure out what men do when they approach you (i.e. “what’s your name? your number? Your address? I love you.” Etc.) But some of the orientation was beneficial, such as the Wolof sessions and the information about Senegalese values.
Friday I moved in with my family. It is a very big family:
Dio-Dio (Jo-Jo) – 25 years (ma soeur). She is studying tourism. She also speaks a little English, which comes in handy when I am having communication problems. She also knows some Italian.
Uzin – 24 years (mon frère) – makes really delicious Senegalese tea (which is very strong and has lots of sugar. It’s a cultural tradition; it takes special practice to make it.)
Ndeye – 21 years (ma soeur) – A really sweet girl who hates to follow the rules in Uno.
Souba – 18 years (ma soeur) – Also knows some English but is studying Spanish at school as well.
Samba – 13 years (mon frère) – likes football and loves to play Uno. He was able to explain the rules of the game to the rest of the family, so we play often.
Nene – 10 years (ma soeur) – Full of personality, she reminds me of a little diva.
Baba – 4 years (mon frère) – wishes he can play Uno with us, but is completely satisfied as long as we include him in some way (he loves to yell « Uno » randomly and say my name and start giggling)
And ma mère – Yaay – really kind and outgoing, always asking me if everything is okay.

There is also another girl living with us, but I haven’t gotten her name (Rabah, I think). I also met my uncle, Tonton, yesterday. My father is in the military. We have three goldfish and a parrot. It’s a very nice house, located in Comico 2, which is where military families live. I am about 15 minutes from Suffolk where I will be taking classes. And I think I can totally get used to bucket showers. ;)
All the ladies in the fam are gorgeous and the men are cute, which only goes to show how the people in Senegal are. The tv is always on: either on music videos from all over the world, soap operas from Brazil and Spain, news programs from Senegal or foreign films ( I have watched one from India and another from Japan). They also love watching movies, whether they are dubbed or with subtitles (they have watched at least three of the American movies I brought from home already). The tv is on when they clean, eat, play cards, just as background noise. This will take some getting used to, but listening to French tv all the time may improve my comprehension skills.

Yesterday we went on a tour of downtown Dakar as a group. I can’t reiterate how much I hate being in touristy groups, so needless to say, it was quite bothersome because we stood out so much. After that, I rested a bit, then headed to the Suffolk soccer field to play a friendly game of football. We, the CIEE girls, played against the Suffolk girls’ team and got beaten 2-0. Nevertheless, it made me realize how much I missed being out on the field, and I am going to see if I can train with them and play on their team. My brother, Samba, went with me to the game, so that was fun (he helped me learn crucial words in French, i.e. goal, kick, referee).
Later, I will write a blog comparing my experience here to my experience in Ghana. One thing off the bat is “la nourriture” (food). The Senegalese food actually has taste and isn’t overly spicy. They also use more ingredients, delicious sauces, and a lot of baguettes. Often they serve fruit as dessert after a meal. It was really funny when the other students in CIEE learned that we would be eating with our hands out of bowls. After various Fufu/Kenkey experiences in Ghana, I was a little doubtful about the Senegalese food experience. But, the food here is much better, there isn’t some sketchy soup and sticky, doughy material, just rice or couscous or bread. You sit on the floor, minus shoes, wash your right hand, and wait until your host digs in. Then you can eat out of your side of the bowl, making sure to not reach into the middle. The meat and vegetables are in the middle, so the host distributes these evenly to the rest of the eaters. When you are finished, you can burp to say you are satisfied, or say “Net na barima” (it was good, I am satisfied). You then get up and wash your hands (this has been difficult to do with the host family because they want you to “mangez!” a lot, so you kind have to really be firm or just finish all your food).
One thing my host sisters love for me to talk about is my “jaay fondey.” This means “big butt.” The Senegalese want us to gain weight and have a “jaay fondey.” I am going to take a dance class, play soccer, and perhaps join the local gym in order to not gain a larger “jaay fondey.”


anna d said...

Sounds like you are settling in wonderfully.

Look forward to hearing more from you.

PaPa said...


I just love your attitude and outlook.

Glad that you got there OK and are off and running.

Sachi said...

People should read this.