Food, Marriage, and Strangers With Spoons

So I have nothing exciting to update, but I felt like a new post was in order. I didn’t know what I wanted to write, but I figure, my life here is so different and interesting that, even on a boring day, there is always something to say.

We just got done eating lunch. It’s so funny that, for the first month I was here, it was Ramadan, which is this small part of the year unlike the rest. I didn’t really get what Senegal was about until after Ramadan. Everyone has so much more energy because they don’t have to fast during the day, and people eat ALL THE TIME. I am going to be 500 pounds the next time you see me. Just you wait. It’ll have been worth it, too.

The food here is tasty. Ceebu jen (rice and fish) is eaten practically every day. Sometimes I eat rice and beans, other times its fondae, which is this porridge-esque stuff made with millet, milk, and sugar. It’s insanely good. I have had beignets a few times, too. The Senegalese LOVE their sugar. I am shocked everyone isn’t diabetic (they might be, actually). The amount of sugar in the morning coffee and evening tea is INSANE. I thought the South was bad, but Senegal kicks ass sugar-wise. I stopped eating/drinking half of the things they give me because, at the end of the day, my teeth would be grimy and gross. I do not want cavities, nor do I want rotting teeth, so I either tell them I am full (“Surr naa”) or I’m not hungry (“Xiifuma”).

Vegetables are also strange here. They are a sign of wealth, so they are in the ceeb bowl every night, but the Senegalese don’t really eat them. Thus, they sit there (or I eat them, which I’m fine with). Every ceeb bowl (usually) has a carrot, a potato, a bitter tomato, and an eggplant. My host family eats a little then slides the veggies over to me. It’s so bizarre (“Dafa doywar”).

Another strange thing is the marriage proposals. Not just for the ladies in Senegal. I am walking down the street and people say things like, “Hey! Toubab! See my daughter? She’s four. Don’t you want to make her your wife and take her back to America?” All of this is in Wolof, of course. I politely decline, regardless of how adorable their 4-year-old daughter is. Everyone asks me if I have a wife. I have a speech now that I give every time someone asks. I say, in Wolof, “No, I don’t have a wife. I don’t want a wife right now. I am a child.” They ask me my age, I tell them, and they rant about how I am old and their son, who is younger than me, has TWO wives. I tell them that, in America, I am still young.

Here, everyone shakes hands. It’s a greeting culture, so I constantly say hello to everyone (even strangers). I shake their hands, too. If a woman tickles your palm when you shake her hand, it means she is interested in you. My friend Clare’s 15-year-old host sister, who may be the most abrasive person I have ever met, tickled my palm the other day. I fled. I avoid her now at all costs. No, seriously. I changed my route to class to avoid Clare’s street because her sister is so frightening.

Senegal is also a very welcoming culture. If you walk into a compound during mealtime, the family WILL give you a spoon, regardless of whether or not they know you. For pretty much every meal, there is a random stranger sitting on the other side of the bowl from me. These people walk in from the street and eat with us. They don’t speak or do much of anything. They eat, and then leave. No thank you, either. So many things here would be SO rude/strange if they happened in America. If a random guy walked into my house in the U.S., it would NOT be okay. Here, it’s like, “Hey, man! Come on in!” It’s pretty cool, albeit hard to get used to.

I am gonna wrap up. I am officially back in Thies (for a week!). Thus, I have glorious wi-fi. I am here for the counterpart workshop, which I will tell you ALL about in a few days. Ba ci kanaam! (Until later!)

    • Sca-rah
    • September 28th, 2010

    You are a child. This is true. So basically you have two arch foes. Your host sister that mouthed toubab to you and the host sister of Claire. Yet they seem awesome and crazy to me. I think there should be more stories about them in fact!

    Also you need to answer some of the questions we asked in our posts! I want to know bubba!

    • Kittie
    • September 29th, 2010

    Hadn’t commented in a bit to your very interesting life. I’m enjoying your quirky perspective on the strangeness of another culture:-D It has been really fascinating reading about your learning process!

    In case I’ve forgotten to mention this in my other comments, WOW am I impressed with you:-) I know I’m not alone in that, but felt it needed saying. I just need to be included in your friends that can see your friggin’ pictures on facebook…hint hint. I saw the Blooms & T & E for my b’day & heard about pics that I’m not allowed to get to soooo….please, pretty please can I be your friend? Of course, it was awesome to see them (don’t be jealous, but Eli is only getting more adorable) & who else could have given me a vuvuzela for my b’day! Keep finding things interesting rather than scary & good luck avoiding the marriage proposals LOL!!! Much love to you, Kittie

    • The Amazon
    • September 29th, 2010

    Oh em gee dear, this was one of the bests! I’m so impressed on how African you’re becoming 🙂 and durrr you have a way with the ladies ahahaha. Love 🙂 if you come back with a wife, I will not be happy for I am your sole woman. E Alv is allowed to be the mistress. Speaking of, we missed you through the ‘Mary is more BA’ incident. Glad to see you’re enjoying life and immersing yourself (I know how could you avoid it… I’m just so impressed and proud). Miss you!

    • Lindsey
    • September 29th, 2010

    Great post! I remember when S and I traveled in Morocco the locals were similarly friendly/generous. We were on a 4-5 hour train trip in a small compartment with two families with babies. One mother was completely organized with snacks and drinks for her baby, the other had nothing. But Org Mother never gave her daughter anything to eat or drink without giving it to the stranger’s baby too – without even asking the other mother! S and I had an apple or something, but we didn’t share. Nasty furrenners.

    Interesting/sad about the high sugar, low veggie diet of the Senegalese. I’m glad you are resisting that assimilation. On the whole, though, the Senegalese sound like really wonderful people.

    Are the locals ever surprised when you speak Wolof to them? Surprised that you understand the language, I mean.

    • Lindsey
    • September 29th, 2010

    Also, I was re-reading an old post about your site assignment. Is Joey from your stage still going there too? So you already know at least one other cool person, right?

      • jamiew1288
      • September 29th, 2010

      Yep, he’s still gonna be like 7K from me. Of the 64 people originally in my Stage, only 3 have ETed (Early Terminated) so far, which leaves 61.

    • Lindsey
    • October 1st, 2010

    Interesting. I hadn’t thought of early termination. Did they have personal reasons back home, or just hated it? What’s the normal drop out rate?

      • jamiew1288
      • October 1st, 2010

      The ET rate for PC Senegal is 6%. The extension rate (extending for a third year) is 30%. RIDIC.

      Sometimes people get to country, and they realize it’s just not for them. It sucks.

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