Saturday, September 26, 2009

Millet Is Not the Same As Oatmeal

September 23, 2009

Today was one of those days when you fall and then people repeatedly come by to kick you when you’re down. We still have family visiting us from Dakar until tomorrow, which is nice because it gives me someone to talk to but bad because the house is chaos. I’m immediately irritated by the fact that my breakfast, which I’m not allowed to procure for myself, is late getting ready and my mom absolutely refuses to let me walk and eat bread at the same time. I also requested my bike be brought out of the locked shed multiple times last night, but alas, my dad had left early this morning for the mosque so the bike remained locked and my best laid plans to run to the cyber during lunch dashed.

Luckily, at lunch I did stop into a boutique to buy ingredients for no bake cookies. My family thinks I’m absolutely helpless and finds it hilarious when I do housework and especially when I stir pots for dinner or the like. Unfortunately, oatmeal is not oatmeal here. It’s pretty much millet repackaged in a bag that says oatmeal.

When I get home from lunch I notice no one is cooking. Bad sign. It takes forever to make anything here and they know that I have class at 3pm every day. I remind them I have class as usual and am brushed aside… they know. At 3:20 I say that I have to leave for class. We’ve had the conversation countless times that while Senegalese people are always late and it’s not rude, it is extremely rude and disrespectful to be late in American culture. This goes in one ear and out the other and I think my mom is about to have a heart attack that I’m not going to eat lunch. So, I sit down and literally shovel the same ceebu jenn I eat every day into my mouth for a couple of minutes before I say I’m full and get up to leave. Rage ensues as everyone tells me I haven’t eaten enough, I again explain I have to go to class and get up as my phone rings. I’m trying to talk on the phone, navigate around my screaming family and make my escape only to have my bike appear and my family demand that I take it. Damn.

Bikes = trouble here. Now, I’m trying to walk with my bike and my bag as I try to talk on the phone. It’s really hard to ride bikes here since the roads are several inches deep with sand and I pass by an area with notoriously terrible little boys. They start grabbing the bike and grabbing me and trying to take the bike. I scream at them in Wolof that I’m going to get their mothers as one of their fathers sits on the sidelines in silence and watches. Then I switch to French and the I turn scary toubab and scream in English. Obviously, my phone conversation is done now and I try to bike away. I get to the mosque where the old men know me and the kids stop, but it’s just a slap in the face. People are supposedly so friendly and polite here with all their greetings and pleasantries… I just wish that I was on the receiving end of that every once and a while.

In class I completely break down again and my teacher pulls me aside. She had already planned on visiting our families this afternoon while we did a small interview in town and she promised she would help me with the timing of meals so I wouldn’t be so late to class. My family also eats dinner extremely late, so late than usually one other trainee is asleep before I eat dinner. Ah! I thought that this would be done in a culturally appropriate/ round-about way so that my family’s feelings wouldn’t be hurt, but when I returned to the compound that obviously wasn’t the case and my mom was irate and giving me the cold shoulder.
I decided to press on with my no bake cookies to try and alleviate the tension. It definitely worked. Although, the cookies were a disaster. Oatmeal in the states is delicious and has big flakes. The “oatmeal” I got here was literally tiny bits of millet so the cookies didn’t really get big like they do in the states and it turned out more like a brittle. But, if you give a Senegalese person something that tastes like a ton of sugar and chocolate they are happy and the kids liked the bowl. I literally had about 20 people watching me stir this pot. Oh, another thing… I cooked it over a FIRE. Yes, we ran out of propane so I attempted to make cookies over the fire. It was hilarious and a disaster. I also did very little of the actual stirring or fire stoking since all the women in my family were appalled at my technique and just had to step in. I hope it showed my family that everything is not bad and that I am trying to integrate. Maybe I can try something else another time.

The one bright spot to my day was finding the other internet café, which is faster, cleaner, has a fan, and where all the men don’t hit on me! What a find! So I will definitely be hitting that place up a lot. Sorry if I’ve been slow responding to emails, I’m trying m best. I can’t wait until I have internet installed at my post!

Here’s to putting one foot in front of the other and a prayer for a little rain to beat the heat…

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