Saturday, September 26, 2009

Just Dance

September 24, 2009
I woke up exhausted and fairly defeated from yesterday. These feelings were only exacerbated by my mom giving me breakfast at 9am when my class starts at 9am. I’m pretty sure it was late on purpose. While a lot of my troubles here have stemmed from my family. We do have good times. I do laugh with them and talk and try to understand their lives. We just have miscommunications sometimes and my family doesn’t react with laughter or interest in my culture like the families of the other trainees do. I think that’s where a lot of my frustration lies that the other trainees aren’t having nearly the family troubles I am. My dad showed up at class today to speak with my teacher in an attempt to smooth things over so I hope things will get better since I still have 2+ weeks left in the village. I am making a concerted effort to fit in and get along. I’m very happy that my family in Thies, my permanent site, seems much more sophisticated and knowledgeable about American culture. It’s frustrating that I feel like there’s no exchange of values or knowledge at my home stay. My mom has pretty much said it’s a one way street… I need to adapt to them and she really isn’t interested in my culture.

Class is class and WWIII hasn’t broken out at my casa so I will explain a few things that people are wondering about…

My newfound marital and religious status:
1. I think I’ve explained the married thing pretty well. It’s just a lot easier to say I’m married. Sometimes men will give up at that point (they never do when it’s just a boyfriend) or at least demand my hand in marriage less times. Being married gives you some thin veil of protection even if the hubby is in the US.
2. Senegal is over 90% Muslim and many people really don’t know that much about the world outside of Senegal. There is no reason to explain that I am Jewish. First, it’s a Muslim country and I would just rather not go there. Secondly, many people do not understand that Christianity is fundamentally different from Islam so explaining Judaism would be a nightmare. During Ramadan a generic greeting is “How’s your fast?” I would always respond I’m not fasting, which would immediately spur the question “why not?” To this I would respond Christian and then about 50% of the time have to explain that Christians don’t fast during Ramadan because it’s not a Christian holiday. The Senegalese pride themselves on being very accepting. The different ethnic groups live in relative peace and Muslims, Catholics (this was a French colony after all) and anamists can live in harmony, but I don’t want to through Jew into the mix. I’m already a toubab so that’s enough weirdness for one person to handle. If you guys have any more questions please let me know.

Everyone is starting to crack a little bit under the pressure. The five of us are at our wits end. We’ve been snapping at each other and hitting a wall in our ability to retain Wolof. We need a break. Unfortunately we probably wont be getting one because the next time we go back to the center all of our Senegalese counterparts, the people we will be working with at our posts, are coming to Thies for a conference. Since my home stay village is relatively close that means we will probably be schlepping back in forth in the morning and at night. Obviously, I’m not happy, but I’m more unhappy that I don’t know for sure what’s going on. Peace Corps is absolutely terrible at logistics and it’s impossible for a Senegalese person to give us a straight answer so we’re waiting to baited breath to see what’s going on. I do know that we’ll be going back to Thies on Monday and then turning back around and going to the beach! Yay! I haven’t seen the water yet so I’m excited. I’m also excited to drink, eat, and relax. I’m not excited for the personal maintenance that’s required to go to the beach. Actually, I’m dreading it. We’ll see what happens. Sorry that was graphic…

Anyway, this post is all over the place. I’ll leave you on a preachy note since that’s the kind of mood I’m in:

Be so happy that you are American. There is no greater country in the world and if you think American bureaucracy is bad you have no idea what life is like here in Africa. Be thankful you can get things done if you want to and that your electricity works all the time and that you don’t shit in a hole. The US is a great place.

That said… see how the other half lives and come visit me in Senegal!

So, I wrote the above post at lunch thinking that I was going to go the cyber this afternoon, but that didn’t happen so here’s a rundown of my afternoon/ evening:

1. This afternoon we had our class at Byron’s house so we could have tea with his sisters and speak in Wolof. It was so fun! He sisters are vivacious and fun and interesting and the whole family welcomed us so warmly and was so excited. It was a huge contrast from my family who when I returned home barely acknowledged me. Byron’s sisters taught us how to dance Senegalese style and I have some amazing pictures of us toubabs looking like idiots to put up when I get back to the center. I had a really good time and I wish that my family was as warm and excited as Byron’s it would really make all the difference.
2. As Tamar and I were walking home from class a grown woman stopped us on the street, told me I had a beautiful dress, and proceeded to grab my crotch. Hard. I was totally taken aback and she just laughed and walked away. Tamar and I were stunned. It was not culturally appropriate nor do we understand why she did it.
3. Our family from Dakar left this evening. The little 4 year old girl I’ve been hanging out with wanted a picture of me so I let her pick one out of the photo album I brought from home. When I’ve shown Senegalese people my pictures from home they instantly fall in love with the blonds so I was surprised when she picked a picture of me and Diana. Diana, she said you were my most beautiful friend. Go you!
4. Before my family left we had a snack of those weird shrimp chips and onion sauce. Or, at least I thought it was a snack… it turns out that was dinner because I found myself sitting alone outside on a mat while the rest of my family was inside sleeping. Everyone neglected to tell me that we were going to bed early tonight. Still a win for me.
5. The heat is insane right now. Tamar has a thermometer and it was 87 degrees last night when she went to bed. Tonight seems way worse to me. I’m sitting in my room in the dark typing this and sweat is dripping down my body. I love waking up in a pool of my own sweat.

I think that’s the update. Amazing pictures will make this post way better. For now I’m going to bed when I usually eat dinner so I’m excited for an amazing night’s sleep.

Babenen yoon (until next time),

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