Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hands On Mothering

Thermometers, a mother touching her child's head are both familiar ways to gauge one's temperature. I've never heard of ripping someone's shirt open and putting their hand between your breasts, but Senegal is excellent at reminding me that there's a first time for everything. This first occurred for me last week at the mini Artisan Expo when I was too delusional and exhausted to really put together how awkward this experience was. When Madame Ly did this for the second time today I realized that it is a a little weird to have another woman's hand in between your breasts especially when you are standing on a busy street in a Senegalese market. The situation was only compounded by my toubaby-ness.

Madame Ly calls me her child and is the sweetest woman on Earth and if neither or only one of these things were true then I would be creeped out by this situation, but every day she has been calling me to make sure that I'm better or at least getting better. As soon as I walked up today she was in a tizzy because of my "rapid weight loss" which is totally untrue since I've been gorging on my recent packages and my "paler than usual skin," but it's been cold and cloudy! That's when her hand went in between my boobs and she proclaimed that I had a fever. I don't know if it was true, but she sat me down and proceeded to give me a nice head rub for the next hour so I can't really complain about it.

The entire situation was quite the spectacle. My hair was, I'm sure, beyond disheveled, Madame Ly had me mostly covered with her shawl, and told every and all passers-by that I was her sick child and don't we really look a like? While I was receiving a nice head rub in the middle of the market next to a mountain of Madame Ly's jewelry I was also privy to a discussion between Madame Ly and the old man selling newspapers next to her about "the clothes kids wear these days." This discussion was really the icing on the cake. Hearing them ranting about boys wearing tight red jeans was just too much especially when I was told not to laugh because it was causing wrinkles on my forehead which Madame Ly was holding and pressing to extract my sickness. When she was done she took all of my "sickness" that was now held in her hands and put it into the ground. Now, I don't believe this will work nor do I feel better, but I sure hope Madame Ly knows something because I'm still hacking up a lung.

After getting a fantastic head rub/ sickness banishing procedure, Madame Ly and I did get down to business. It looks like we are going to have a meeting/ training for all of the artisans at the Peace Corps center in Thies the two days after WAIST. I'm really excited a bout this because I think the artisans will be excited about it and I'm interested to see if people other than Madame Ly will step up and take responsibility. It would be amazing if a real group forms and they can start organizing expos themselves and collaborating more. Madame Ly is going to call the artisans in the next couple of days to tell everyone about the formation and I'm going to email all of the PCVs to make sure we have our bases covered. I also got to see Baye's, Dioss' brother, cards. He's finally taken a hint from all of Dioss' success with his cards and made cards of his own which are really cool. There are a bunch of pictures on my blog if you want to take a look.


  1. Alyssa,

    I am starting to think some of these African customs have promise. Get better.


  2. I will have plenty of oral thermometers when you arrive home!

  3. Wouldn't it be cool to have the expo on the last day of WAIST - then all the PCV's will be there to buy stuff!

    Baye's cards are wonderful!!

    (PS - I'm not telling Mark about this new way of checking for fevers.)