Saturday, May 22, 2010

Boobs OKAY? No Knees!

Humans are a funny creation. I often find myself laughing at the situations that arise and pondering why and how things become habitual habits.  I thought it would be fun to share some observations that are different than what I am used to in America.  
            When someone wants your immediate attention they do not politely ask you something. Oh NO they do not, instead they snap and hiss repeatedly until you acknowledge or answer them.  I think most would agree that this would be considered rude in the states; however here it is completely normal.

# 9
            At first getting proposed to on a daily basis was a little annoying but now it is one of my favorite things because I have learned that telling someone NO, because they are ugly, is totally okay!  I love this and they think it is hysterical.  If they ask again, which usually happens, I tell them that men in America clean and cook and if they want to be my husband they have to do this.  And if they still say they want to be my husband, I tell them that I already have one husband but I want three.  One to cook for me, one to clean for me, and the other to do my laundry. Their reaction is priceless!

            In places with electricity, the mosque will initiate prayer time. This happens 5 times a day!  The people are so diligent about it that it amazes me.  They have a ritual in the way they wash themselves.  I actually learned this and was praying with my family at the pray before dinner. It was really cool to learn about and also to show respect for them.   You rinse everything 3 times. Starting with your hands, mouth, face, head/ears, right arm, left arm, right leg,  and left leg. This is to wash your impurities away. Then if you are a woman you cover your head and put on a long skirt. Then you stand on a mat behind the men. Usually the eldest man leads the prayer.

            Moderation does not exist here!  I bring a family a kilo of sugar and a huge package of tea. No joke, it’s gone by the next day!  There are no such things as left over, for you eat until its all gone.  If you try to say you are full, they say you are too skinny and need to be fatter.  “A falat reedu hewdi” –“You need a big Stomach”  or they say you need a bigger but.

            Greetings are the foundation of this culture. If you do not greet everyone individually when entering a room or a place, all hell breaks loose. They will give you such a hard time!  And greetings are not just hi, how are you! They go like this…
How are you?  --peace only
How are you? (phrases a little differently) –-Peace only
What’s up? –Nothing
You woke up? (for morning)  --Yes Peace only
You slept?—yes I slept a little
You ate lunch? –Yes Peace only
Hows the family—Peace only, good
Hows the work—Peace only or okay
Hows the sun?—very hott!
And it goes on like this for a couple minutes! With each person..back and forth!

            You share EVERYTHING! No joke!  A kid will be sucking on a candy and they will take it out of their mouth and give it to their siblings.  You buy someone a coke and they take a sip and then save it to share it with their family. It was difficult to adjust to at first, but I am starting to embrace it. And no I do eat the candy!   Also it is extremely rude to eat in front of someone and not offer it to them.  And if someone offers you food it is rude to decline.  It is funny because if you don’t offer food they will call you out on it.  “Cuamba, you did not give me your food”

            Showing your boobs is totally fine, in fact a lot of women are topless a lot of the time, especially if they are nursing. However, don’t you dare show your knees! That is a huge NO NO!!!  Your knees to your waist is for your husband’s eyes only!  Most women also wear beads around there waist. They are very sexual and not talked about openly with the opposite sex.

            Yes this happens in the states, but here people are not ashamed! I am convinced Senegalese are the best Snot rocketers. They may have possibly invented the talent!

            The majority of people eat with their hands!  Everyone sits around a big community bowl. Most of the time the women sit with the other women and children and the men sit with the men.  Before a meal they put a bowl of water out. Everyone sticks there hands in the water to rinse them.  No Joke! The water will be brown and people still wash them, with no soap!  Germ Heaven, to say the least! It would not be so bad if, # 1 did not happen!

            There is no toilet paper, instead pot that looks like a tea kettle filled with water.  You go to the bathroom by squatting over a hole  (a lot of people just piss outside)  When finished, you use your right hand to hold the kettle and rinse yourself, using your left hand to wipe.  Then you rinse with water!  Soap is a difficult concept!  My  biggest challenge is to convey the importance of using it.   However, you don’t eat, drink or shake hands with your left hand. If you do so, you are thought to be possessed. 

The last week was a break through week for me!  I stayed behind an extra week, in Mbour, to work on my language and I can officially admit that I am now able to communicate at a decent level. I am nowhere near mastering this language, but I can, with confidence, stand my ground. I feel very content and look forward to the next week of officially installing into my village.  It feels like I have  been waiting for this moment for way tooo long. It’s finally here! KOLDA…here I come!  

Friday, May 14, 2010

"I am a part of all that I have met"

My last week in Mbour was quite an emotional one.  I experienced the beauty of connection and how bitter sweet it is to say goodbye.  We express ourselves through words, yet the power of connecting beyond and without them is absolutely amazing. (My Pulaar is improving, but communicating is still limited)  I lived with this family for two months and throughout this time I was awakened to Senegalese culture. I shared many akward moments, most of the time resulting in laughter and smiles. I was constantly greeted with warm hearts and lots of love. 

It was strange because I did not come to fully understand the depth of my connection with these people until it came time to say goodbye.  It was really sad as I started to realize that I would no longer be eating cheb with the ladies,  helping my sister study, or dancing by moonlight during the blackouts.  My appreciation for them was also overwhelming and I felt the need to thank them somehow. 
Kelly, Wilma, Dave, and Myself got together to celebrate our last day in Mbour. We made Morringa Benyays for all of our families.  Morringa is a leaf that contains a lot of nutritional value and we learned in training how to better implement it into the Senegalese diet. Now I am not sure how healthy it is after it is mixed with flour, sugar and then deep fried, but it sure does taste delicious. They are very similar to donut holes but, in my opinion, much better.  My last lunch in village was spent with a lot of fish and Bissap juice. Here are some pictures of my family!  
Stay tuned for my next blog. I will be discussing the things that happen here that would never happen in the states. It should be fun, but until then!  Peace