Sunday, November 8, 2009

Market Day

Jeenaba and I had agreed to go to the market this morning earlier in the week and we had a great trip. I wanted to buy some fabric to have an outfit made for an upcoming holiday called Tabaski, which got everyone really excited because my family loves it when I wear Senegalese clothes. I assumed that we would go to the main market in Thies because that's the only one I knew about, but there is a smaller market much closer to our house, which still has all the food products of the bigger markets and several fabric stalls and tailors.

All of my sisters are fashionistas and Jeenaba took control of my outfit, which is fine since I don't know what the Senegalese think is nice and not. We settled on some violet eyelet fabric and embroidery, this is after I convinced Jeenaba that a large rhinestone encrusted ribbon down the front of the outfit wasn't necessary. She agreed that I already stick out enough as a toubab. The tailor also got a kick out of the fact that I wanted a skirt with a zipper instead of a wrap skirt because I think they're too hard to walk in. Overall, it was a smooth process and Jeenaba seemed really into it and I'm excited to see the finished product. I'm also excited to have some more Senegalese clothes because they really are the most comfortable things to wear here.

We did a bunch of grocery shopping and it was really interesting to see Jeenaba move around the market. She knew everyone there and would stop and say hi to all the vendors even if she wasn't buying. I met her brother who has a small booth and we talked for a while. The best part about this outing was going to see Jeenaba's mother after the shopping because I was able to put together more of the family tree. Jeenaba's mom is my mom's sister, which makes her a cousin. From seeing their house it's obvious that my family is better off and that's why I assume Jeenaba works at my house. It also makes sense why Jeenaba who calls the other girl who does a lot of the cleaning (her name is Deenaba, oops I thought there were two Jeenabas) a maid. She's not family. I also got to meet my grandma who is hilarious, really friendly, and had a lot of patience talking with me. We went back to Jeenaba's house this evening for a wedding, but we missed most of it and just sat around talking. I'm able to pick up more and more of conversations which is nice even if it's difficult for me to participate. On the way home I thanked Jeenaba for her help and she said no problem I'm her friend. It was really sweet and meant a lot. We are becoming friends and that's great.

This afternoon I watched a lot of television with my family. While we did start out with some CSI Miami dubbed in French, we eventually turned out to a Senegalese channel which was really interesting because it was showing a traditional wrestling match. A match lasts approximately a minute (the winner only has to push his opponent out of the ring), but there is an hour of awesome dancing and other festivities before hand. The dancing and music is really cool and was similar to the performances at the party for our host families.

All in all a good and relaxing day.

I would like to address some comments made on the blog. I did not use precise language in explaining my irritation with people being late. I do regret saying all Senegalese people are late since it does annoy me when they assume all Americans are rich, but I have yet to attend a meeting that started relatively on time. Also, my frustrations lie mainly with my work partner who I've had many discussions with about how I don't like waiting outside a bank for over an hour while he does his personal business. He could have very easily called me and told me to come an hour later. I have also admitted that I'm struggling with all the cultural differences and I hope that that translated into my willingness to try and understand and adapt as much as I can. I am keeping an open mind. Additionally, the Peace Corps is a cross cultural exchange. While I understand, respect, and admire many aspects of Senegalese cultural such as breaking for prayer time, forming personal relationships over afternoons at tea before starting a business relationship, and stopping to great everyone you know on the way to a meeting, I am here to improve business and teach business practices in a culturally sensitive way.


  1. Dear Alyssa,

    Watching 60 Minutes. Andre Agassi had a crystal meth problem in 1997. Thought you should know. He also did not want to marry Brooke Shields. I may send you his new book.

    Thank god Pete Sampras is still morally sound.


  2. Dear Alyssa,
    I really appreciate the work you are doing and the fact that you get back out there every day regardless of the results- or lack there of- the day before.
    Keep up the great job you are doing.. and as I my own kids have heard a million times " go make the world a better place".

    Jo Ellen

  3. Alyssa, you started this blog to share your Peace Corp and Senegal experience with family and friends. Thank you. We have loved it.

    We do not believe that you are denigrating an entire country. You are simply sharing your frustrations. A thorough review of your blog will demonstrate that you have been as hard on yourself as you have on Senegal and the Peace Corp.

    I find the "Anonymous Said..." comments similar to when you are watching a movie and someone walks in part way and wants to know whats happened. The best response is "shut up".

    Reasonable people reading your blog know that your blog is more about you then it is about Senegal. Further, resonable people look past generalizations.

    That said, I looked back at the results of the last Olympics. The Senegalese suck at sports. I would think as much as they fan themselves to stay cool that they would be good at javelin throwing. Further, don't they throw spears at animals so they can kill food. That too I assume would translate to high javelin scores. I might have gotten that idea from National Geographic not you. God, I loved that magazine when I was in 6th grade.

    You have always been a hard charger. Keep doing what you do. Senegal will be better because of you and you will be better because of Senegal.

    Uncle Rich

  4. Alyssa,

    You responded to the duo of "Anonymous" commenter's perfectly. You said it better than anyone could or should. Any reasonable person knows there are good days and bad days. And anyone who knows you understands how hard you work to appreciate and learn about the Senegalese culture while doing everything you can to help in your own way. Keep up the great work and amazing blog posts! I'm so proud of you for everything that you are doing.

  5. So, I just wanted to let you know that I learn more from your blog than I do in my classes, therefore, I thought that was a pretty sound reason to load your blog before going to class today so I could catch up on the few days I missed when I was sick. I was pretty much right... we learned basically the same thing we've already learned 8 times before in previous classes. One week classes suck. Anyway, the point of this is that your blog is way better than my class. <3