Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Taf Taf

Taf Taf is like Pow Pow in English aka the sound a gun makes. If I have learned one skill here in Senegal it is how to make an excellent Lego gun (and car and giraffe). I don’t mean to brag, but Ahmed asks me to make a Lego gun all the time, which means they have to be pretty cool. Legos was a big theme of my day today as was writing. The power goes out more frequently and for longer periods of time now so I’ve taken to writing epically long journal entry by candle light because there’s nothing else to do and my family gives me a hard time if I try to read by candlelight. Why by candlelight you ask? Because as soon as the power goes off my sisters demand my headlamp so they can cook. I can’t say I blame them.

So now that Ahmed and I are BFF he wants me to help him with everything, look at what he’s done at school that day, and just generally entertain him constantly, most of the time I’m happy to do this for short periods. Today he wanted to show me that he could write, which he can’t, but I let him scribble on an extra sheet of paper. I kept telling him good job and encouraging him to practice and copy what I did. At the same time everyone else in my family was telling him he couldn’t write and was doing a bad job. I’ve mentioned this before: that Senegalese encouragement is negative. By that I mean that Senegalese people will tell you that you can’t or that you are bad at something to encourage you to try harder. This is often infuriating for an American, but in my attempt to integrate into and appreciate Senegalese culture I was thinking about this tonight. I don’t think I can tell Ahmed he’s doing a bad job or that he can’t do something. He’s so happy when I tell him he made a sweet Lego giraffe even though I can’t tell the difference between his Lego giraffe and his Lego car.

Intellectually I understand that American and Senegalese encouragement are different and that they might both work, but at the same time I’m struggling with what to do about Ahmed. I don’t want to confuse him by telling him he’s doing a good job when his family is telling him the opposite, but at the same time I feel cruel telling a three year old that he can’t write. That just seems mean. Anyway, this is something to ponder. I don’t think that I will ever get used to the fact that people are encouraging me to practice Wolof when they tell me I don’t speak the language. I actually just want to slap those people and demand they speak fluent English four months after they arrive in the US.

A totally unrelated Ahmed story:
He brought pictures home from school today and I had to cover my mouth with my hand to stifle my laughter about one picture. They are learning all about Christmas and Santa Claus visited his school. A Senegalese man was dressed as Santa. This on its own isn’t funny, but the fact that the Senegalese man was wearing a Caucasian Santa mask and a white beard while he was holding Ahmed’s hand with his black hand. I don’t know how well this story translates in words, but imagine the picture. It’s priceless and I’m going to attempt to take a picture of it so I can post it in all of its hilarity.

Speaking of Christmas, my typing class was cancelled today because the little kids were having their Christmas party and the teachers invited me. The party was supposed to start at 3 so I showed up at 3:45. Luckily I brought a book because it actually started at 4:45. I must say it was adorable to watch these little kids sing French Christmas carols in front of a table covered in wrapped presents. My favorite part was definitely everyone’s outfits. All the kids and their presents were dressed to impress and little three year old girls with hair weaves as big as they are will never cease to amuse me. Also, most of the little girls were wearing more bling than I have in my entire jewelry box they were rocking it. After making three babies that parents had brought along to the party cry in fear of the scary toubab I left, but it was fun.

Ps. My sudden affection and patience for small children is scaring me. Please help.

1 comment:

  1. Alyssa, Ahmed is a bright 3 year old. He knows when an adult is being straight with him. Only tell him the truth as you see it...that is that he is doing a great job by being interested and excited about writing. He is learning to control the pencil and learning a symbol on paper represents a spoken word. He is doing a great job. He also knows you are different from the rest of the family so I don't think he will find it odd at all that you reinforce him differently