Saturday, January 9, 2010

Wedding Day/ Sex Ed

Whenever I leave my room and am accosted by the smell of chemical hair straightener I know it's going to be a good day. Today, that smell was accompanied with every woman in my family screaming and laughing while they scrubbed the floor of our compound in preparation for today's nuptials. Let me just say that a topless Khady, hair white with product, moving along on a wet towel was a fabulous site first thing in the morning. I love that woman.

The pace of the day only picked up from there. Soon the compound was teaming with various Senegalese women who knew me... I obviously didn't know any of their names and therefore called them "aunt" and "mom" to their great delight. Cleaning, slicing the potatoes I peeled yesterday into fries, and of course the all important hair weaves consumed most of the morning and early afternoon. Then things really started to pick up. More and more people (mostly women) kept arriving and the cooking began in a GIANT cauldron.

I didn't know any of the women cooking, but they seemed like they were having a great time and they invited me to sit with them so I joined in on their hot, greasy, cooking fun. That wasn't all that was hot; they're topic of discussion was decidedly risqué. I now know three different words for vagina in Wolof. Oh yes. Theses women, probably in their mid-thirties, desperately wanted to teach me the ways of the world. At first I was able to play dumb because I didn't know any "sexy" words in Wolof, but once the women started using incredibly lewd hand gestures, pointing, and other various forms of body language I really couldn't play dumb anymore and just had to laugh and shake my head as they asked me personal questions and offered up some "helpful" advice. I can't really describe the level of uncomfortableness that I felt, but it was pretty funny and the women thought the entire encounter was absolutely hilarious.

Soon after breaking away from Sex Ed Class Deenba saved me from any more awkward conversations by taking me upstairs to the balcony with the rest of the girls our age. From this vantage point I was able to see the bride come in with her party. All of a sudden the music started to blare (we hired some drummers) and our front gates burst open to reveal a hundred women streaming in the bride and her bridesmaids in the middle dancing along with the music. It was a pretty cool site. Once they entered the compound and dropped off a ton of food everyone danced and some people spoke, but it was fairly mob like so I watched from the relative safety of my porch.

The bride and her entourage weren't here for long and once they left everyone remaining at my house ate the food they brought us, not the food we made. The rest of the afternoon was spent dancing or alternated between me watching the dancing, retreating into the big house in search of one of my sisters, or hiding to regain momentary sanity in my room. If you think the day is over you are so wrong...

Finally everyone sits down to the dinner my family has been slaving over for two days now. Huge bowls are passed around as I follow my sisters around like a puppy dog waiting for directions on where to sit. They are still only half dressed for the evening and rushing around and not giving me any instructions so I take matters into my own hands and return to my Sex Ed teachers/ cooks. They take pity on me and give me my own bowl! Victory! I devour the chicken, fries, and salad, and pretend to eat the exceedingly oily onion sauce.

Question: Have you ever had the urge to steal some food off a plate in a restaurant? Maybe just one fry?

Ok, well I have had the urge. I've never acted on it in the States. However as the bowls started to come back into the kitchen area full of salad I couldn't help myself. The cooks found this just too funny and finally let me eat out of the huge bowl that contained the leftover salad. Don't worry, they didn't want it, but they did finish off the onion sauce.

Then, more dancing. I was standing on my porch again, try to fit in when the lead drummer calls me out and embarrasses me. It is traditional to give money at a Senegalese wedding and my sister Khady was getting it from everyone and saying the amount aloud, which is normal. I feel uncomfortable with this so I was planning on just giving some money to her after everyone left. The drummer calls me out saying I'm a toubab and should give lots of money and everyone laughs. I'm not sure if my mom or Khady heard, but no one came to my aid and I was incredibly embarrassed and had to retreat to my room. I solved the situation my luring Ahmed into my room with chocolate and then making him give the money to Khady. Pride wounded, but crisis averted.

Even though there was the slight embarrassment in front of a compound full of people I soldiered on to the reception across town, which was epic. When I say reception I really mean receiving line. Music blared as an auditorium full of people watched the bride and her bridal party take the stage and dance a little bit. I should mention that the groom, my brother who lives in Spain, did not attend and the bride had one of her friends stand in. Therefore all of her wedding pictures will feature a man who's not her husband. I guess this is not too abnormal. Regardless, after we watched the bridal party dance for half an hour everyone formed a line to take pictures with the bride and give her gifts.

We were there for less than 1.5 hours and my sisters got ready for approximately the entire day. It was a long, long day. Definitely interesting in some aspects, but a lot of hurry up and wait. There are some new pictures up, but I wasn't really able to take a lot! Enjoy.


  1. How stressful to never just blend into the background. The toubab always stands out. Another reason to love Ahmed! The wedding sounds fascinating though. Will the bride come to live at your house?

  2. Wow, how amazing. What a great view of a wedding in Senegal. If this gets out there may be a lot of grooms who choose not to attend their own wedding.