Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Happy Labor Day

September 7, 2009

Today we had class again, which was a relief since I knew I had at least 6 hours blocked off of my day with something to do, but class is class and it’s getting a little redundant. Tomorrow we have a language test to mark our progress and Wednesday afternoon we’re going back to Thies and I’m definitely ready for the change of scenery/ ready to see everyone else back at the center.

Nothing really interesting happened today. The village is pretty much the same. We are starting to make friends with all the people who live near our class and it’s fun to see all the kids in the morning. They run to us/ mob us as we near their house. They are adorable and love to talk to us and hold our hands. I can’t wait to put up the pictures. Once the pictures are up, you will not only see how cute they are, but also why I need to Purell my entire body after a small child encounter. 99% of them have snot running out of their noses or some other infection type thing someplace on their bodies.

Since I really have nothing too interesting to talk about I will answer some questions my Grandma Titche sent me.

Are there many fat people in Senegal?
I have not seen any fat people/ any fat people at all. Most people don’t have enough to eat so obesity isn’t really a problem here although Diabetes is. The Senegalese LOVE sugar and hate vegetables. They put a ridiculous amount of sugar in everything so while they aren’t fat they don’t have the greatest health.

Is there poetry? Do they write and tell stories?
I have not read any Senegalese poetry yet or read any stories. Senegal has a long oral history as many people are illiterate (including my mother). Although it’s terrible that people are illiterate it does mean that people have amazing memories. They will remember anything you tell them and expect you to do the same, which is really annoying when an entire village of 50k expects you to remember their names. Being a toubab makes you a local celebrity. Anyone in my home stay village can guess Jeenaba (which is my name) or Aysata (Tamar) and have a 50/50 chance of getting the toubab girl’s name right. It’s kind of an unfair advantage.

Is there a library system?
Yes, there is a library in my town. It’s one room and has a couple of hundred books. They are mostly in French and I’ve never seen anyone go into the building.

What is the art like?
Senegal is known for it’s furniture, which is elaborately carved huge beds and dressers mainly. I want to buy a really cool little chair that people have which is just two planks in an erganomic design. It’s awesome. I can’t wait to get one. Jewelry is also huge here. Both sexes wear twisted metal bracelets and rings. I’m also going to indulge and get myself some bling ASAP. Pictures to come.

Is there any wealth?
Interesting question. Not really in my village. We went to the village chief’s house on our first day and he had tile floors and a big screen tv, but the outside of his house is still as crappy looking as everyone else’s. Tamar also has a family member with a comparable house, but most people are fairly hand to mouth. My family doesn’t have a savings account and buys groceries for the day based on how much money they have on hand. As a SED volunteer one of my jobs is to talk about how useful/ important a savings account can be. Poverty is everywhere. My family always has enough money for food, but people are constantly begging and there’s no spare money. Wherever you go in Senegal you will find unfinished houses because people start houses when they have money and finish them little by little. This happens for two reasons: 1. People rarely have large sums of money because they don’t save and 2. Senegal is an extremely communal society and family members will ask each other for money and you have to give them some… unless you don’t have any because you’re randomly building a house. Genius.

I think that covers a majority of your questions grandma. I’ll try to get to the rest later.

As for my mental state… I’m hanging in there. Sometimes it’s just still shocking that I’m in Africa. What the hell am I doing here? Yeah, that runs through my head several times a day. PC is a rollercoaster ride. It’s not just ups and downs day by day but second by second here. It’s trippy. I can’t wait to get back to Thies/ internet and find out my site. I hope it will make everything clear even though I’m sure it wont.

Happy Labor Day. Enjoy the BBQs.

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