Meet Joe Black…wait, that’s not right…(Part 2)

Hello, minions. My most loyal followers have already read Part 1 of the epic home stay saga (in theaters July 2011). For those few stragglers, see below to read the first part (and maybe you should re-think your priorities a little…just sayin’).

So I introduced the family. Interesting people. To clear things up (LINDSEY), Medoune Diaw #1 is the Papa, and I am Medoune Diaw #3. MD #2 is my other brother. It’s confusing.

Because it’s Ramadan, the family (minus the children) fast during the day. They still cook lunch for me (cut-up spaghetti with a weird onion sauce EVERY DAY), and they break fast at 7:30. We eat baguettes and drink Cafe Touba (coffee) with enough sugar that I usually have to eat it with a spoon (<~~ sarcasm). They slather every inch of the baguette with butter, which I dislike, so I quickly learned how to “I don’t like butter” in Wolof (“Begguma burr”). When I first said this, they thought I was just practicing Wolof, so they cheered and preceded to dunk my baguette headfirst in butter. I said, “Guys, legit, I don’t like butter.” They finally got it. Now I just eat the bread alone, which is fine by me. I like bread.

Dinner is served at the lovely hour of 10 PM, after evening prayer. I hang out with my family between break fast and dinner. Here we watch the news (in French AND Wolof), and they teach me things/laugh at my misuse of the language. Dinner is ALWAYS ceebu jen, which is the national dish of Senegal. It’s rice (ceeb…pronounced “cheb”) and fish (jen). It’s served, like in the Training Center, in a MASSIVE bowl, and we all sit around it and eat. The men in my family get spoons (myself included), and the women eat with their hands. They get rice, ball it up, and shove it in their mouths. We don’t really talk. Sometimes they point to a carrot and teach me the Wolof word for it. Ceebu jen is really, really good, but I envision myself getting sick of it quickly. I don’t know if I can eat it EVERY DAY for 2 years. We’ll see what happens.

So I am always exhausted from my long day of Wolof, so after dinner I usually stand up and say “Surr na” (“I’m full”). They freak out and scream “Lekk! Lekk!” (“Eat eat!”). They think I don’t eat enough. I slowly walk away, saying “Surr na! Surr na!”. Then I say “Souba ci souba!” (“See you tomorrow morning!”), and go in my room. After Ramadan, I will be better at hanging out with them after dinner, but we eat SO late that I usually fall asleep right after.

I have found that Senegal fits my sleeping needs perfectly. There’s not a lot to do, so I sleep ALL THE TIME. I go to bed at 11ish, then wake up at 8 (9 hours). I have Wolof from 9 until 1, then I come home and eat lunch. I eat alone in my room because it’s rude to eat in front of them while they’re fasting. I then take a 1-hour nap and go back to class at 3:30. Class ends at 7, so I go home and break fast. This has become the routine. This sort of stability is very helpful because it structures my day and makes the time go by faster.

Wolof class has been really fun. As you read this, you’re probably like “Eight hours of Wolof a day? That sounds horribly dreadful!” (apparently you’re British now, whoever you are). Wolof class is fun though, and the alternative is hanging out with your family all day, who doesn’t speak English. Plus, I crave the knowledge. When I learned French in HS/college, I thought it was interesting, but it was a requirement, so I just went along with it. Here, I have to know the language, and the more I know, the more I can speak with my family at night, so my drive to learn is heightened. The three other girls in my group feel the same way. We find ourselves asking advanced questions, and we completely throw off Sidy’s lesson plan. Every morning, the four of us get to class with a list of questions. I write down A LOT when I’m sitting with my family because they say something I don’t understand, so I make a note to ask Sidy about it the following day.

Class is held at Sidy’s house. Like us trainees, Sidy is staying with a host family as well. He is from Dakar, so he had never been to Mboro, too. Our classes are so stereotypical Peace Corps. Literally, there is a chalkboard leaned up against a tree, and Sidy teaches. Me and my group sit on a bisaan (mat) on the ground and frantically take notes. The shade from the tree makes the temperature perfect. Not too hot. Sidy’s host family likes to sit near us and laugh at us butchering Wolof. The family has a baby, who likes to walk around and mess with us. He’s adorable.

Sorry I keep jumping around subject-wise, but this is kind of how my brain functions (if you hadn’t noticed).

SO, the question that’s on everyone’s minds: the toilet. I share a bathroom with the random family that lives in my building. There are two doors. One leads to the little room with the hole in the ground, and the other leads to the little room where I take my bucket bath. I have a big bucket of water and a little cup, and every morning I just pour the water all over me, soap up, then rinse. It uses less water than a normal shower. It’s not ideal, but I can deal.

The Turkish toilet has been an adjustment. By the end of my service, I am gonna have thighs of steel from the squatting. I still use toilet paper, which the PC graciously provided. I tried the paper-free water way, but I ended up with a wet lower half that still wasn’t clean. I was also in there for about half an hour. It’s a delicate art that hopefully I will master soon (apparently TP is expensive here, and the PC isn’t always going to provide it). The whole thing is highly comical. I have found my nemesis in the whole be-your-own-bidet department. I see how convenient it is and how hygienic it is, but the actual practice is mad difficult.

So…I feel like I have nothing else to say. Today is pretty mellow. We did a home stay debriefing this morning, and we have more shots this afternoon (a second rabies shot included). Obviously, there are a million things that happened that I can’t fit into my blog, so if you ask questions, I will attempt to answer them in my next update. I am at the Center until Wednesday, so I will have internet until then.

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    • Lee Anne
    • August 23rd, 2010

    so I am thinking your first care package might need to include some biodegradable TP…

    • Lindsey
    • August 23rd, 2010

    Agreed – we should just send you toilet paper. Good for you to be keeping up with your Wolof even on your off days. Is your old French emerging from the woodwork too?

    • Gale (aka mama)
    • August 24th, 2010

    I saw some pictures today and it looks like more than the bathroom situation is an adjustment! The village/city countryside looks green and lush….the homesteads and buildings look dry and bare. You and friends look wonderful! I’m impressed with your language acquisition and am wondering how it will fit into your future (the French definitely will)! I, too, love the Theis visits – lots of communication with family and friends. Keep up the great work!

    • Kittie
    • August 24th, 2010

    Okay, much like your family I’ve become a slave to your next blog. I have to confess I don’t mind the way your brain jumps around cause I do the same thing…makes me feel better about myself:-D With monotony in your food, your care packages may need to carry not only TP, but some good old fashioned American junk food! Totally impressed with how much Wolof you’ve already managed to pick up. I’ve always suspected full immersion would make me learn like a dervish as well cause my need to communicate would force me in to it. Enjoy, keep learning & thanks for sharing with us.

    • The Amazon
    • August 24th, 2010

    Ummm incredible! The pictures are great, thanks for finally putting up what a hairy beast you’ve become (love it!!). That reminds me, is it difficult to shave?? Does this mean you’ll have a rumpelstilskin type of look going on?! At least you could hide things in your beard if you need to. =] The napping and eating aspect of your life sounds perfect for you btw. And I’m not gunna lie, when you weren’t updating, I didn’t know what to do while I was at work… I eventually decided that I actually had to get stuff done. It made me sad =[ Anywayyyyy love ya boo!

    • Sca-rah
    • August 24th, 2010

    All sounds good. I’m plotting when I can come see you. When is the earliest that anyone could come? I have to go when I can see you and when it is not hurricane season so that limits things. We need to work on this boo. Let me know.

    • fenella
    • August 24th, 2010

    Finally caught up. Did my text get through?

    Very interesting and often very amusing. Haven’t yet gone to see the pix yet. I’m very impressed. I never would have thought you’d go off and do something like this.

    Is there any chance of meeting up with any other aid agency workers? Like Oxfam or Christian Aid or other organisations in the area?

    How do they say Allah? Allah? or another word?

    Do they do the five prayers a day?

    Where do they get the food from? Does a family member go to market? Once a week, once a day? How does the family get income?

    I’ll leave it there for now.
    much love,
    Fenella

      • jamiew1288
      • August 24th, 2010

      I got your text! Thank you!

      There are a lot of NGOs in Senegal, so we may work with them. It kinda depends on your site and what kind of work you do.

      I have not heard Allah, so I do not know. Yes, they do pray five times a day. It’s crazy.

      I do NOT know where the food comes from. I think the women go to the market early in the morning, but because I’m a boy, I have yet to be invited.

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