Meet Medoune Diaw (Part 1)

I’M BAAAAAAAACK (and obnoxious now, apparently).

This past week has been a blur of ups and downs (mostly ups though!). I now live in Mboro with the Diaw family (pronounced jow). Mboro is GORGEOUS. I will post pics on FB sometime this evening (I am now back at the training center in Thies, hence the internet and excessive use of exclamation points proving my excitement). Mboro is right by the beach (30 minute walk). I haven’t been yet because my schedule has been PACKED with Wolof, Wolof, more Wolof, and other Wolofian-based languages (i.e. Wolof). Pulaar? Nope, Wolof.

Where to begin? Let’s see….how about at the beginning? There are two PC groups in Mboro. Each group consists of one LCF and four trainees. So on Monday, the eight of us piled into an SUV and drove to Mboro. Took about 30 minutes. I was the second person dropped off, which freaked me out. The first night was…interesting. The power went out (yes, I have power!), so I sat in the dark with my family, and they spoke Wolof, and I was freaking the hell out. That was my worst time in Senegal so far. I was alone, in the dark, and sad. I ended up calling my family, which helped. When I got done talking to them, the power was back on. When I came back into the “living room” (basically a porch), the family was watching a black-and-white TV that showed a French soap opera. I was like, “I’M GOOD”. Two men were fighting on the soap. My family laughed. I laughed. It was great. The soaps are just as dirty in Africa as they are in the U.S. (shout-out to my soap lovers, Megoosh and Sca-rah!)

Let’s break down my family (and I don’t know how to spell any of theirs names, so I am gonna guess):

Mama: she is my Mom (“sama yaay” in Wolof). A large woman who is not afraid to show her above-the-waist bits (apparently in Senegal, the waist to the ankles should be covered, but everything else is free to hang out…literally). She is nice, but she doesn’t help with my Wolof much. She doesn’t really talk to me a lot.

Papa (“sama baay”): he is AWESOME. He’s this older man, and he loves to teach me. It’s annoying though because he’s SUPER bad at it. The first day, he spent 30 minutes miming something to me, and when I finally figured it out, it ended up that he was trying to say “This is where we keep the cup.” NO JOKE. I was like, “Thanks, pops.” Luckily, he speaks French, so a lot of the time we speak a little French. I say, “Naka lanuy waxer _____ ci Wolof?” (How do you say ___ in Wolof?”). I use a French word, and he tells me in Wolof, then he asks me the word in English, so I tell him. I teach him English, and he teaches me Wolof, and our common language is French (which is coming out of the woodwork!).

Sadumay (sod-oo-my): she is like 6 and feisty as hell. In the beginning, she called me “toubab” over and over and over (toubab is Wolof for “white person”). Then, when she learned my name, she switched to this charming little scenario, which occurs frequently: we are watching TV, and I look over at her, and she is staring at me. When we make eye contact, she mouths the word “TOUBAB” really slowly. It’s creepy as shit. That girl knows how to get under my skin.

Mustafa!!: he is 3 and HILARIOUS. The game I play with him is, every time I see him, I go “MUSTAFA!” He ignores me. Actually, it’s less a game and more me saying his name over and over again, and him doing absolutely nothing. Him and papa are bffs. They hang out all the time. I know Mustafa and Sadumay are brother and sister, but I, for the life of me, cannot figure out who their parents are. I think they’re Mama and Papa, but I don’t know because they are both older.

Haty Gaye (hot-ee guy): she cooks the food, which is delicious (her ceebu jen is to die for). She is married to Mama and Papa’s son, who lives with his other wife (I think) in Touba, which is east of Mboro. I have never met her husband (my brother), but she lives with his family. The arrangement is odd, and because of the language barrier, I may be completely wrong (there’s a good chance). Haty Gaye is nice and helps me with Wolof.

Amy (om-ee): she is a teenager, and she doesn’t speak much. She is nice.

Medoune Diaw: yes, we have the same name. I got my Senegalese name the day after I got there. Apparently it’s normal to have the same name in one family (which makes sense because there’s only like 20 Senegalese names). My name is Medoune Diaw, his name is Medoune Diaw, and Papa’s name is Medoune Diaw. No joke, Papa calls himself #1, Medoune Diaw #2, and me #3. In Africa, I have been reduced to merely a number.

Leiy Kane (lay kaan): He is my BUDDY. He is so cool. He’s a tailor, so he always has cool fabrics, and he tries the hardest to teach me Wolof. He is super nice.

Share Kane (sp?): HIS NAME IS LIKE THE TIGER FROM THE JUNGLE BOOK. He is intense. He is mute, so he, legit, makes Darth Vader breathing noises. He is SUPER nice though! Seriously, I can’t make someone like this up. Every time I talk about him with my group, they’re like, “I keep envisioning the tiger with the flaming stick tied to his tail!” He is super cool, and he is actually better at teaching me Wolof than Papa is. He motions, and I get it. Somehow.

Yep, so that’s my family. It’s weird though, this whole other family lives in the same compound, but they don’t eat with us, and I never see them. They are gone all day. It’s strange though because I live in their half of the compound. My family all lives in these block of rooms, and I live across the courtyard and down this hallway with the other family, who I share a bathroom with. Senegalese architecture is strange. Everything is centered around a central courtyard, so basically it’s a bunch of bedrooms leading from the outside. There is no furniture, but everyone sits on either plastic outdoor chairs or on colorful, straw mats called bisaans. I want one for myself! They are super durable, and you take your shoes off before walking on it, so generally it’s pretty clean. Sometimes we eat out in the courtyard, and sometimes we eat on the covered porch area. We just drag the bisaan from one location to the next.

Okay, I don’t want to overload you, so I will update again tomorrow with the rest of my week. Part 2 Preview: Wolof Lessons with Sidy the Rapper, Jamie vs. The Toilet, and “Guess the Toubab”.

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    • Megan (aka Megoosh)
    • August 22nd, 2010

    umm I’m cracking up at some of your descriptions. First, I read Mustafa as Mufasa and pictured you being like the hyena in the Lion King being like “Mufasa, Mufasa, Mufasa…oooh do it again.” I’d make friends with Share Khan since he does legit share his name with a Disney character. And I seriously can’t tell you enough how awesome I think it is that you watched an African soap. You know me and Sara would be sitting there desperately trying to figure it out and comparing the whole thing to General Hospital.

    Can’t wait to see pics!

    • Lindsey
    • August 22nd, 2010

    So who named you Medoune Diaw and who is Medoune Diaw #2 (you never got to that part of the explanation). Sounds good like it was a good week after all. And now you have your “weekend” until Wed. Off to see you on the webcam!

    • Blana
    • August 22nd, 2010

    Sadumay is my fav, hands down. Do you have an address yet? I want to send her a thank you card for taking over my ultimate creeper position in Africa.

    • Gale (aka mama)
    • August 23rd, 2010

    Great talking to you, hearing from you, and SEEING you….brings tears to a mama’s eyes! Interesting tales and impressions of a toubab new to the village and culture – again, thank you for sharing. Your family sounds nice and they all seem to be working hard to make you comfortable in their home – a gift. I love you, Medoune Diaw (or by any other name)!

    • Kittie
    • August 23rd, 2010

    You must be sleeping well at night regardless of the heat…trying to learn a new language is tiring on the brain. Really impressed with your adaptability. However, find it hilarious that you’ve got a 6 year old intimidater on your hands lol! Thank you so much for all of your detail. Feel like I’m learning a new culture with you somewhat. Good luck going forward with all you have to learn. Enjoying each installment! Hugs to you:-)

    • Sca-rah
    • August 24th, 2010

    I laughed outloud at the creeper girl (at work so not good). In fact I’m laughing thinking about it now. That is by far the best thing ever! I can just see this little girl staring at you and the look on your face. Oh I love her!!

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