Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “BONJOUR TOUBAB”

So I have been in Mboro for nine days straight now, and my group and I are getting antsy. The eight of us cannot wait to go back to Thies, where there is variety in our meals and showers (oh, showers!). Luckily, these two weeks are the longest we are at our sites for any one time. We will return to Thies more frequently after this.

Wolof is going well. Unfortunately, the language has sort of plateau-ed for me. I was learning so much so quickly, and now I can make sentences/paragraphs, but the details and vocab are what mess me up. Lots of memorization now instead of learning. We get frustrated, and as a result, Sidy gets frustrated, which makes our frustration worse. Luckily, we have been doing tech the last few days, so the only Wolof we speak is at home (so basically all the time).

Aggie Update: our garden is coming along swimmingly. We lined the beds with rocks, so it’s nice to look at it. We made a compost pile and MANURE TEA. It’s exactly how it sounds. You use a bag of manure as a teabag of sorts and “steep” it. After a few days, you water the garden with the tea, and it’s really good for the plants. Smells like shit though (because that’s what it is).

Health update: I have had a cold the last two days. It sucks.

Sunday, the gang and I went to the beach! It was such a surreal feeling swimming in the Atlantic from the other side. It was so familiar yet so unfamiliar. The beaches were prettier than I expected, too. Beautiful sand and beautiful water. This man let us hang out on his porch because it was shaded. The Senegalese people are SO welcoming. I still can’t believe he was cool with eight toubabs gossiping in English on his front porch for four hours. We gave him a mango as a thank you.

Getting to the beach was interesting. We took two cabs. Basically, in Senegal, you can hail cabs or go to a garage. Garages are like bus depots. They have big signs with places to go, and you find a cab going to that place and negotiate a price. Being one of two boys in the group, I had to sit in the front (my friend David sat in the front of the other cab). A lot of female volunteers, in the past, have been touched/groped by taxi drivers, so it’s best for a guy to sit up front. I was still freaking out though. I can’t wait until my backbone grows in. It’ll make things easier and less stressful for me here.

I have been here for three and a half weeks now, and I have found that the thing that bothers me the most is the children. I cannot get over “BONJOUR TOUBAB! BONJOUR TOUBAB!” every time I go anywhere. It’s constant. Even when they know my name, they still call me toubab. Hell, my creepy little sister still calls me toubab to my face (luckily, my family yells at her for it). It’s just very unsettling to me. I decided that, if my life were a TV show/movie/Broadway musical, it would be call “Bonjour Toubab!” It sums up my daily life more than anything.

No one expects me to speak Wolof, so they speak to me in French. “Comment t’appelle tu, toubab?” I tell them my name, and they still call me toubab, so now I just ignore them. Literally, they approach me, and they scream “Bonjour toubab!” They hold out their hand to shake. I used to shake back, but now that I’m sick and don’t know what the source is, I am no longer gonna touch the children.

The toubab thing is just something I don’t know if I’ll get used to. Harassment is never okay, even from harmless children. It just gets to me. I envision it never stopping, and I know, at some point, I will accept it. I think it will always bother me though.

I am typing this on my laptop in my cell. I will put the document on a USB and upload it at a cyber café sometime this weekend. The keyboards are weird, so I wanted to type the post on my computer. We’ll see when I actually get it online.

Well, this update was sufficiently depressing and not fun. Luckily, site announcements are Wednesday (September 8th). I am SO excited! This time next week, I will know where I’ll be living the next two years. Then I can research it and see how cool it is. The following Monday (the 13th), everyone is visiting their sites to see what they’re like. We get three days. If your site is close, you may spend all three days there. If you site is far away, you may spend only a day there and spend the other two days traveling to get there. Yes, although Senegal is only the size of South Dakota, public transportation is difficult, and it can take up to two days to travel from one side of the country to the next.

    • Allyson
    • September 5th, 2010

    Don’t let the children get you down mon ami… Sometimes a nickname you HATE can become tolerable (yes, I would know).

    I’m excited to find out where you’ll be and everyone can plan on coming to visit! Plus hopefully you can live in a cool apt with fun furniture and reliable Internet and such. Hope you had fun in the tailor shop with your brother. Project Runway it up and make me some clothes please. Miss ya!

    • Lee Anne
    • September 5th, 2010

    Everywhere we went in Malawi they called us “azungu”!! They would yell it as we arrived and when they saw us. It is weird and I’m sure having it everyday all the time gets old FAST. I’m sure you’ll come up with an appropriate response 🙂

    You are missed and prayed for and loved ….

    • Lindsey
    • September 5th, 2010

    Can’t wait to hear your assignment. I’m sure wherever you end up you’ll have fun and make it your own. Keep plugging away at Wolof – you’ll get thru this nasty bit before you know it!

    • Sca-rah
    • September 6th, 2010

    Well at least the kids are not calling you the really mean word for white person. It could be worse. Like you said the people there are very welcoming so I’m sure the kids dont mean anything by it.

    As for white talking about not liking nicknames I’m SURE she was not talking about being called white. I mean white is the best nickname ever (except for Sca-rah). 🙂

      • Allyson
      • September 7th, 2010

      Don’t worry, Sca-rah, I was NOT talking about you guys calling me White. Just some of Jamie’s other choice nicknames (mainly = LES)

        • The Amazon
        • September 8th, 2010

        I’ve gotten Les too Allyson!! But mainly I was called “The Amazon” and didn’t embrace it until the last day I spent with Sir James. I guess there really is such thing as karma, eh? =]

    • Gale (aka mama)
    • September 6th, 2010

    I love your enthusiasm and outlook (“I can research it and see how cool it is!”)…the perfect sentiment. I, too, am looking forward to Wednesday – love you!

    • The Amazon
    • September 8th, 2010

    Like I said in my reply to your sis and Allyson, it’s just coming back to you =] Could be worse too though. I’m excited to hear about your placement!! I still have letters to send you, but now I am waiting and putting a package together. Marbu and I had some great ideas but I can’t remember most of them right now… Don’t judge =]

    Miss you and make good choices ❤

      • The Amazon
      • September 8th, 2010

      Sorry, one more thing – sorry about your cold!! Feel better soon!! What do they do about medicine there??

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