Survival Wolof, Potty Training, & Hope for the Future

So I got to talk to my family last night. They gave us little Nokia phones (that all look identical, which isn’t confusing AT ALL with 64 of us). My number is on my FB page, if you’re interested. It’s free to receive anything, so if you’re willing to pay, text me! You can also call from Skype, and it’s free for me and only, like, 27 cents a minute for you guys. Also, Gmail has this awesome thing where, if you have a Gmail account, you can G-Chat me here in Senegal for free. We can have whole conversations if you are on a computer and I have my phone, and it’ll be free for both of us. So…get on that.

The convo with the fam went well. The call only dropped once. I thought I was gonna be sad hearing their voices, but I have been so busy/distracted these last 5 days that I have barely had time to think (no offense, guys…love ya).

Last night I slept less well. I went to bed at midnight, and my phone is my alarm clock, but it died last night, so I woke up at who knows when, checked my phone, and nothing happened. I sat up (beads of sweat flying) and freaked out b/c I thought I had missed my 8:15 seminar (haha…I actually was worried about missing breakfast). I jump down from the bunkbed, run to the foyer (aka hangout place), plugged it in, AND IT WAS 6:30 AM! I about died. I was pissed, so I grabbed HP7 and read it until breakfast, which was at 7:30ish. Funnily enough, people were awake! Crazies. Two girls were doing zumba in the Disco Hut (<~~ best sentence I have EVER said), while others were on their laptops. Some people just can’t sleep here, so they wake up every time they do the call for the morning prayer (Senegal is 90% Muslim, so they pray 5 times a day), which is at like 5 AM.

Today I had seminars all morning. The first one was about the ecosystems in Senegal, and I thought it was fascinating. Everyone was falling asleep. Cut to me, right up front, taking vigorous notes. I blame my fascination on Hippie Allyson and her Hippie Ideals. Ya live with that girl for three years, and your interests get greener and greener and greener (and Whiter and Whiter and Whiter). FYI: Not being racist. Her nickname is White.

The schedule is as follows: seminar from 8:15-1015 AM, then a 30 minute coffee/tea time (hey Lindsey!), then two more hours of seminar. Lunch is always at 12:45, and dinner is always at 7:45. Ramadan has officially begun, so the Senegalese are fasting from sunrise to sunset. I am kind of nervous about moving in with my host family now b/c I have to be careful about eating in front of them. They are still gonna feed me, which is good, but it’s gonna be awkward, and I have to do it alone (to be polite).

At noon today was SURVIVAL WOLOF. Wolof is the local language in Senegal (although the national language is French). It was 40 minutes long, and there were only five of us in my group, and I still almost cried. The language is difficult. We learned “Asalamalekum” (sp?) which means “Peace be with you”. EVERYONE says this to you. I’m glad I finally know what it means. I forget what the response is…I am already repressing it.

After lunch we had a Cultural Fair, which had 6 stations pertaining to different things. One was all about religion, and about how to act when people are praying. One was about greetings/dress. The clothes are super cool, and we are expected to buy some local clothes. I am gonna look GOOD! Men basically wear linen pants with a drawstring waist and a long gown that goes to mid-calf. I am gonna be comfortable as f. One station was about food. The national dish is fish and rice. One station was about eating in the communal bowl. NEVER USE YOUR LEFT HAND TO EAT. You wipe yourself with your left hand, so it’s dirty. Actually, you can’t do anything with your left hand (lefties can write, but that’s it). If you use your left hand, they think you are possessed by the Devil (I can’t make this shit up). One station was about local Senegalese items unfamiliar to Americans.

The last, and finest, station was about the toilet. Yes, they had to teach us. I’m sure you guys have been wondering. Current volunteers taught us all about it. They said everyone starts off using toilet paper, then gives up and does like the locals do. Basically, to go to the bathroom, you squat (a lot of people take their pants off completely to avoid messes) and do your thing. In the bathrooms here they have a tap with water and a little cup with a handle. They basically say, to clean yourself, you pour the water down the back of you until you think it’s clean. You use your left hand to make sure everything is gone, and you’re done. They told us we will have to buy a kettle to do this in our homestays (where we will have our own bathroom). Apparently toilet paper is really expensive here, and they sewage doesn’t support all the paper, so you probably have to put the used TP in a baggie and throw it away elsewhere. The current volunteers said the water method is cleaner. They said you don’t use a dry cloth to wash your body, so why do that to wipe your ass? Not clean. I have yet to “do as the Romans do”. I will keep you posted though.

It’s weird how easy it is to get used to things here. I am always moist from sweat, and I am fine with it. I have accepted it. I always have at least three flies on my body at all times, and I am used to it. I am COVERED in potentially-malaria-filled mosquito bites, so I am used to being itchy. I know it’s only been five days, and I have no right to say I know what I’m talking about, but I seriously hope it stays this way. I got used to overall dirtiness pretty fast, and I hope it sticks (just like how my clothes stick to me all the time). UPDATE: I am trying to quit biting my nails. It was gross when I was clean. Here, it’s DEE-SCUST-ING. All sorts of D.

Okay, so I feel like I have a million things to say, yet I can’t think of anything else. The current volunteers are answering a lot of my random questions, and it makes me feel better that, after a year, they are still normal. It gives me hope.

PS: Asalamalekum!

    • Lindsey
    • August 13th, 2010

    Thanks for the tea shout out. FYI, 27 cents a minute is not cheap. But the G-Chat thing sounds cool. I will try to figure that out.

    • Gale (aka mama)
    • August 13th, 2010

    And you thought taking the dog for a walk with a baggie was an issue….. I am glad you’re right handed, there’s enough to worry about without the possible question of devil possession. I, too, am grateful for the “normal” current volunteers! Listen carefully in class – it’s critical!

    • Kittie
    • August 13th, 2010

    Loving your perspective on everything. Keep the sense of humor intact it’s our last defense when things are nuts:-D Good luck with all of this & it’ll be interesting to get the update on the “potty training.” Well, that & I’m still waiting for some hallucinating dreams! Hugs & love to you.

  1. As Salaam Alekum is Arabic for “Peace be with you,” not Wolof. The response is alekum salaam, which means “And also with you.”

      • Lee Anne
      • August 15th, 2010

      Not surprised at all that you know that…

    • Emma
    • August 14th, 2010

    I am ashamed of myself and my dirty, devil-possessed hand. 😦
    But I am proud of you for getting used to the dirty! Also, I liked the clarification of Allyson’s nickname hahaha. You’re the best and I love you!

    • The Amazon
    • August 14th, 2010

    Potty training. Enough said there – I hear your voice in my head as I read this. I WISH I could see you right now – sweaty, bitten up and dirty as f. You’re going to come back multilingual, how awesome. Those clothes sounds like something that was totally meant for you 🙂

    • Sca-rah
    • August 15th, 2010

    ” your interests get greener and greener and greener (and Whiter and Whiter and Whiter). FYI: Not being racist. Her nickname is White.” – hahahaha! oh White!

    “I am gonna look GOOD! Men basically wear linen pants with a drawstring waist and a long gown that goes to mid-calf. I am gonna be comfortable as f.” – The idea of you in this getup made me smile. With all your confort

    “One station was about local Senegalese items unfamiliar to Americans.” – like what? Explain please.

    Also I’m not following how the g-chat with your phone works so we need to set a skype date to chat about this so that we can get on that.

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