Thursday, August 19, 2010


Last night when Khady said that we were going to the tailor tomorrow she actually meant that we were going at 9pm yesterday. Khady, Mami, Awa, Big Ahmed, Ahmed, little girl randomly staying at our house, and myself all went to the tailor together under the direct rule of Khady. First stop was a men's only tailor. This was not a good first stop. Big Ahmed described what he wanted and then Khady and Mami told him what he wanted, and then Big Ahmed and baby Ahmed were measured. This took close to 45 minutes as the tailor kept going outside to talk to other people while we were confined to an itty bitty room which only got smaller once Ahmed started crying from exhaustion; I was right there with him. Finally the tailor came back, finished the measurements and talked price with Khady. Needless to say she wasn't happy. My favorite moment during the haggle showdown was when she asked, "Do you know who my father is?" Classic. The "conversation" (read: Khady berates tailor) ended with Khady grabbing the fabric out of the tailor's hand and leaving. On to tailor number 2.

Tailor number 2 is Khady's friend and personal tailor. She assures me he's the very best in Thies. On the walk through the courtyard I made three small children cry. At this tailor's we had to wait until he finished constructing an absolutely awful hat that looked as though it was made from various sifters... it was also neon green. After that we were all measured and discussed what looks we wanted, I didn't even put up a fight and asked Khady to create the look for me, we trudged home at eat dinner. Eating greasy rice at 11pm when I'm so tired that all I want to do is collapse makes me very unhappy and after getting yelled at for not eating enough I fell into bed.

Taking advice from Khady and Mami on Senegalese fashion I consider a lesson in how to be a badass and potentially slightly slutty Senegalese woman. I don't appreciate it when Khady tells me that I look like crap most of the time and that my clothes aren't nice, which happened this morning. I fully admit that I don't look nice 99.9% of the time. It's hot and I'm sweating, all of my clothes are stretched out, and I probably haven't owned as much khaki throughout my entire life than what I currently have in my dresser, but most of these things are inevitable. This morning Khady was looking through my New York Times Magazine fashion issue and asking me why I don't wear Herve Leger bandage dresses and high heels. Other than the fact that I can't afford this particular piece of clothing the impracticality of it was apparently not an issue.

I know that I'm being overly sensitive on this topic, but it is something I think about a lot because I don't enjoy looking like crap. They are always asking me why I don't wear makeup. Probably because it would instantly run off my face in a river of beige. Or high heels? The streets in Thies are more akin to sandboxes than roads. Sexy clothes? Please, like I need to draw anymore attention to myself. I think that is the root of the problem. Khady believes that I have nicer clothes which is true what she doesn't understand is that a lot of my nicer clothes are made for Michigan winters, are completely inappropriate for Senegal, and that I don't want to draw anymore attention to myself. One thing that my family really doesn't understand is that when I'm not walking with them through my neighborhood I draw an unbelievable amount of attention and harassment to myself.

I'm going to continue to feel sorry for myself on another topic...

As I've mentioned it is currently the month of Ramadan and the vast majority of people in Senegal are currently fasting. Greetings also take on more phrases during this time as people ask each other how the fast is going. I totally understand this and participate. When people ask me if I'm fasting I say no and explain that I'm not Muslim. I spent several hours today aimlessly walking the market and buying things for lunch. I have a number of vegetable vendors that I go to on a regular basis so I was having this conversation with them over and over again. In the vast majority of circumstances after I explain that I'm not Muslim and therefore not fasting they tell me that I should fast in solidarity.

I was turning this notion of solidarity over in my head as I was walking around in the blazing sun, which probably had something to do with my mounting anger on the issue. People are asking me to fast with them in solidarity while it is impossible for me to walk out of my door without people telling me how different I am. I can't count how many people called me toubab today while I was walking around. On my way home I passed three siblings. A little boy who was a toddler, a girl who was 4-5, and older boy who was 7-8. The toddler and little girl were so excited and screaming toubab (this is totally OK because it's obviously not malicious) and came to shake my hand. I spoke to them in Wolof and told them my name and asked them their's. As I walked away the older boy called me the derogatory name for toubab. Where's the solidarity in that? Especially after I was just really nice!

I think I'm just having one of those weeks where everything is a little off and I'm easily frustrated with everything. That all being said, I am very excited to see my Korite outfit because Khady was very specific and I get to go back for fittings so it's perfect. I was expecting for everything to really settle down over Ramadan and that's not really happening in my family which is disappointing because everyone's around only crankier. This will all pass and until it does I'm going to stay in my room and be anti-social so I'm not mean to anyone.


  1. Cheer up my friend. You have always oozed sophisticated class in whatever you were doing. People are disrespectful and mean when they are jealous. Keep your chin up. Like your mother said, you are beautiful.