Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Xaalis is the word for money in Wolof.

Rent day is by far the absolute worst day of the month. I know it's going to be awkward and terrible and just really annoying and today was no exception. Mothers here grab their breasts and shake them at you to say that you are like a child to them, I call the female head of my house hold yaay or mom in Wolof, and walk around the house like a member of the family, but on rent day it is never so obvious that I am not nor will I ever be a real member of the family and I guess that's to be expected. I had a minor disagreement with my mom about the amount and it's resolved and fine, but it's so frustrating. Paying rent makes me feel like a transaction.

I wish it was black and white. At home paying rent is part of a business and there's a contract and it's easy, it's straightforward. Here, I am a part of the family, but that family is a money making entity. The grey area between business and family is a huge problem here because people will pay personal expenses with business funds and do not understand that that's a problem. It's very hard to walk the line of family and tenet and it's impossible on rent day. Part of the reason why it makes me so upset is that my family here is rich by Senegalese standards, as I've been invited into everyone's rooms they each have a TV and many people have their own refrigerator. My home stay had nothing and they shared everything with me and that's not how it works in the big city. I guess the same is true in the US. Everyone talks about small town values...

Ok, moving away from that rant. This morning I conducted my first solo lesson of any kind. I taught a computer class at a preschool for the teachers. It actually ended up just the head mistress who strong armed me into helping her create an email account even though she doesn't know how to turn on a computer or type. Obviously, this went well. Even the head mistress agreed that we should probably scale back the lessons and I'm going to try and find an online typing game to help her and two other teachers on Thursday. Although the lesson didn't go amazingly well, she understood my French and I'll definitely have a better plan of attack for round 2. I was proud that I rode my bike to the school without my bike breaking down or me getting lost. Baby steps people, baby steps.

After my rent debacle, crying in my room, and listening to Rihanna's Disturbia (oddly it makes me feel better/ think of Rick's for all of you UM readers!), I extricated myself from my room and went to meet a prospective Wolof tutor. I knew that it was probably a bad idea because I wasn't in a good mood and I'm getting a cold (no, it's not village water related, but I went anyway because a girl who is working for USAID set it up for me. I met my tutor and his wife as they were trying to fix USAID girl's fan. An hour into meeting everyone the fan was finally fixed and we began the lesson. The Peace Corps language training is great. It prepares you for being a volunteer in your field and daily activities, but my vocabulary beyond that is limited and he really pushed me. Usually, I would be ecstatic to find someone who was excited and willing to work with me, but I held back tears for our hour session as he continued to use words I didn't know, ask thought provoking questions, and just generally make me think. It was rough, but I think it will be a good partnership in the future.

Since I'm just trying to make it through the day and into bed, I will answer a reader question in stead of boring you with more mundane details of my day.

Q: Do people in Senegal deal with negative body issues?
A: I haven't really heard the type of complaining or general discussion of negative body images that exists in the US. A lot of people live hand to mouth so there is very little obesity that isn't linked to diabetes, which is a huge problem here. I really have no idea if boys have any body issues. For girls, hair is a HUGE beauty point. As I've mentioned weaves are a big thing here and my sisters spend hours braiding each other's hair and then putting cheap fake hair in. It's important to have a good weave and if not a good weave then they do use chemical straighteners. Jayfundays are also big, haha I made a joke in Wolof that no one else will understand! Ok, a jayfunday is a big ass. Yup, that's the beauty point here. Since breasts are no big thing aka women walk around topless all the time (at least in the house, but they don't cover up when company comes over) that butts reign supreme. A very nice complement is that you have a big ass.


  1. I would be considred a major beauty in Senegal!! Maybe that should be my next trip.

  2. Yep.. I'm commenting on your blog. Anyway, my paying my rent ended in me saying "for November" handing my dad a wad of money, jumping out of the car, and hiding in my room.

  3. Alyssa,

    Money is and will always be an issue whereever you are. Time really flies here, you received in the mail and application to AARP. Congratulations on reaching 50. On a third issue, I always hate to agree with Lynn.