September 19, 2009
I potentially hit my lowest point this morning after completely breaking down in my language class and starting to cry because I really didn’t want to return to my home stay village. My teacher was fairly shocked since it’s never appropriate to cry in Senegal. I really couldn’t control myself so I ended up skipping a culture class on Islam (I thought the Arabic degree covered me in the that regard) in order to lay in my bed and cry and talk on Skype. Whoever invented Skype is my favorite person in the world. Going back to the home stay village means going back to a town I don’t like, kids on my way to school who harass me, a family who rarely interacts with me, and just more uncomfortable situations. The thought of 20 more nights in this hell was just too much, too overwhelming. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Luckily, PC gave us the afternoon off and then didn’t have enough cars to take us all at once and my group had to wait for a car to return. We were supposed to leave at 5:30 obviously we left at 6:45, which was excellent by me since we got to stay on the internet while no one was around and have a good connection. I was even able to stream a little bit of the Michigan game. Go Blue! It also gave me time to collect myself, my emotions, and mentally prepare a little bit for the 10 day battle that awaited me. Eventually we heard that the car that was supposedly returning to get us broke down so we had to call someone else who finally came and then we found the broken down car along the road and had to stop and help them for a minute so there was a little chaos, but nothing you wouldn’t expect living in Africa.
The suspense of coming back to my family built as we drove along the road and climaxed as I dropped all my classmates off. I got home last. The bus driver honked so that someone would come help me with all of my stuff. No one came. So, I saddled up all my stuff and walked into the compound. No one greeted me. I tried to briefly greet people (we have extended family staying with us for Korite apparently) and then went to my room to put everything down and have a small, private pity party for myself while hyperventilating for a few minutes in solitude. With sugary dates in hand as a present I went outside to face my fate. The family was, no surprise here, playing “I want to get drunk right now, now, now” on their cells phones and I could dream how much better a Rick’s fishbowl induced liquor stupor would make my live so much easier right about now. My mom was pleased with the dates and even gave me some right away. Then I painstakingly greeted everyone I didn’t know trying to remember their names. No one seemed impressed or interested with me.
After an amazing dinner of chicken! Yay Korite! And being ignored for 2 hours my older siblings decided to go out so I invited myself along, refusing to be ignored any longer. I was exhausted so I asked how long they would be out and they responded they were just going to walk around to say hi to friends for a little bit. LIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We left at 10pm and got back at 2am. I was not pleased. We did walk around saying hi to people for a little while as I attracted young boys and insults. Then we went to a friends house and sat down and I was forced to drink bissap, tea, and orange juice although I tried to decline any drinks because my stomach is still in knots and I already had bissap and tea at home and no one ever goes to the bathroom here/ it’s weird to go at other people’s houses. My attempt at the non no Senegalese style failed royally and they pretty much pumped fluids into me as I watched someone get a hair weave and was asked about why I don’t fast for Ramadan and why I don’t want a Senegalese husband. Obviously. Once this lovely hair weave was done I thought that I would get to go home especially since I had been saying how tired I was and how happy I was to have my bed at the house back. Yeah, the Senegalese love to be subtle about saying no, but you pretty much have to beat them over the head with a stick to get what you want in a short amount of time.
So we go to the next compound where I scare a small boy into running into a door because he was watching that the toubab didn’t chase him as he cried and searched for his mom. Pretty normal. Then my sister decides to get a hair weave and I announce that I’m going to leave. I know that they wont let me walk home alone so this was a ploy to get at least one person to leave with me. FAIL. They attempt to force me to sleep on a mat next to a woman ironing clothes with an iron full of coals while the men in the compound butcher a goat right before my eyes. Yeah. I’m sitting there dying of sleep deprivation and I see a young boy starting to harass a goat. Animal cruelty is no big thang here so I just kind of ignore it until I see a boy about my age sharpening a machete. Uh oh. I ask the girls if they are going to kill the goat and they just laugh at me as the men slit the goats throat and blood literally shoots all over the compound. I thought I was going to die.
As the men continue to break the goat’s legs and hack it to bits in front of me my sister is getting her hair weave and a man walks in and calls me the equivalent of the N word. Awesome. The word translates to “red ears” and is extremely derogatory, which I tell him in my limited Wolof as everyone laughs. I was really disappointed my sisters didn’t stand up for me. Toubab is one thing and it’s not a bad word when used most of the time, but this word is always offensively and belittling. I attempted to explain that I’m living like a Senegalese person for two years and learning their language. He just gave me a look and then asked if I had a husband. Fuck you. At this point I deemed the situation fairly hostile and asked to leave again. It was obvious we weren’t leaving until this stupid hair weave was done.
With the smell of goat blood wafting through the air and really ugly fake hair being sewn onto my sister’s head, I questioned what the hell am I am doing in Senegal. It was like the twilight zone. Luckily an old man came to talk to me and was very patient with my Wolof and I suffered on until 2am when the damn hair weave was finally done and we could go home. It was a ridiculous night. While it was extremely uncomfortable most of the time, it was cool that I could understand a lot of the conversations even if I couldn’t really add anything.
I thought to myself: This is the next two years. Can I do it? Sure. Is it going to be ridiculous? Without a doubt. Will I be sane at the end? Probably not. Oh well. All I can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and pray that I can make it through the next 10 days let alone 2 years.
Messy, but Warm
10 months ago