Saturday, June 19, 2010

5 Top Pulaa Sounds!

I am on a mission to not only master the Pulaar language, but to perfect the ridiculous sounds that accompany it.   This was inspired the other day over Cosan and Lycherie.  I was making  fun of my brothers and told the five things that make them Senegalese.

# 1 Saying Yes with a click, a double click.
#2  A High pitch, short "Aie" sound that is in response to something exciting.  Example,  someone almost scoring a goal.
#3 The dragged out "Yo"when they agree with what you say..
#4 The "NAM"   "NAM"...and this continues, when they want you to eat more
#5  The "WHYYYY"  usually used when stretching (similar to our mmm moan) and also used when they have a headache.

And there you have it. Top 5 Pulaar sounds by Jenae! 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Wedding, Baptism, and Tropical Rains

Wedding, Baptism, and Tropical Rains

My life in the village has been quite busy and I am constantly learning about new customs and traditions. Within the span of three days, I attended a wedding, and a baptism as well as surviving my first tropical storm. 

Senegalese weddings are quite interesting and with my limited language skills I did my best to observe the kaos. My sister Mouna (pictured to the right) has become one of my good friends and shares my fun and enthusiastic outlook on life. She attempted to explain the process of the ceremony. 
Day 1: The day before the bride arrives, all the women get together to prepare food for the upcoming festivities.  I have unofficially named it the “pounding party” because it is a lot of women laughing, chatting, and pounding. .  My site mate, Cara, and I joined in on the fun; but found our lack of arm strength and inability to keep a beat resulted in entertainment for the party.  It’s amazing how harmoniously the rhythm of pounding sounds. I am convinced someone should make a music video of it.  ( I did make a video but it takes so long to upload! )
Day 2: Along with continuing to prepare food, this day initiates the start of a never-ending dance party. Don’t ask me why, but they start dancing to the drums mid afternoon when it is hotter than you can even imagine. They dance to the drums in front of the house and in the room where the bride will stay. I think to create good energy! As the day moves along everyone slowly finds their way to the house of the groom and future bride.  The men and women socialize separately and eat Cheb or Lacherie.  (Or if you are me, you eat both). When the sun gets cooler, they set up a generator for cheesy DJ music.  The dancing continues until about 10 or 11pm when the bride finally arrives on a bus with her family.  The men of both families get together and talk.  It consists of lots of shouting. My guess is they are negotiating the bride price or something to that extent.  While this is happening, the bride accompanined by the women of her family sit and wait. The bride wears white and her face is hidden behind a thick and lacy material. I wanted to take a picture, but I did not get a chance.  After the negotiation finishes they take the bride to her room. She stays there with the women of her family while the dancing continues until 3 or 4 in the morning.
Day 3:  I was so tired from dancing all night that I only returned to greet people and eat lunch. This day is also spent dancing while the bride remains in the room. Finally that night she leaves the room to join her husband in their new hut.  I didn’t stick around for this so I do not have too many details, but I am sure there will be plenty of more weddings. It was fun to actually look pretty for a day, though all my makeup sweated off as soon as I put it on.

The night of the third day, I experienced my first tropical African storm. It was so scary that I ended up sleeping in a room with my whole family.  The wind was incredible and the thunder and lighting was unreal. The next morning I spent two hours cleaning all the debris and sweeping the 2 inch layer of dust out of my hut. Not to self : when family warns “there is a storm coming”  shut and lock doors!  Here is a picture I took right before the storm. It was pretty erie and I really love the lighting.

After the storm, I attended a baptism for my neighbor. It is customary to bring soap or money so I gave the mother soap and got to hold the baby. It was so tiny, only 3 days old.  The way this ceremony works is all the men meet in the morning to decide on a proper name.  In this case, he was given the name Ibrahima. Once this is decided, everyone hangs out and talks.  (Akward times for the white person for I always seem to be the entertainment for the party) Anyways the day is spent eating and dancing.  

Besides being quite the social butterfly, I am actually doing work, I promise!  I painted a mural at the school and am working to get a causerie about hand washing for the kids.  (picture below)  I am a little frustrated with the Health post. It turns out there is some controversy with money and medicine so I am trying to figure it out before rainy season starts (when illnesses are the highest).

 I have also planted about 50 trees and am excited they are starting to sprout.   I am looking to get watermelon seeds and plant them for the rainy season.  Gardening is sooo fun!!!  (a great stress relief) 

I am also working on creating a map of the village.  I did not realize how difficult it was to hand draw these things. I could sure use a hand held GPS and some GIS hardware right about now.  I hope to digitalize it eventually. I think it would be cool, geographers, let me know if you want to help me out with this.

Anyways sorry for such a long note. Busy times here! Lots of love <3
Until next time, Jenae

Friday, June 4, 2010

Made it through the Wilderness

*Have been trying to post pictures all night and its not working. I will try to post some soon!
Hello Friends,
 I hope this email finds you well wherever you are. Things here are good!  I am learning to embrace a life much  slower paced than I am used to. My village is great and I really like the family I am living with.  My host father is a cattle herder and owns an ample number of cows. I got to help round them up the other day and will be helping  milk them next week.  I have come to love these cows because they provide the most delicious milk, which after being left to sour is then mixed with sugar to create, what they call, Coasn.  It is then usually  added to rice or letcherie and, oh my, its the best!

  My host father is not only the village chief, but has three of his children living in Spain thus my family is a little more patron then others.  He is a very quiet and content man who is extremely interesting to observe.  I was watching him make rope the other day and it was absolutely fascinating. I am amazed at how the people function here and how they find a use for everything.  For example, after unpacking all my stuff i had some cardboard boxes. I told my mom i did not need them and gave them to her to throw away.  A couple hours later I saw one of the little boys running around pulling the box by a string.  Then the next day it became a trough for the donkeys. 

My host mom is a gentle giant. She is loving but I would no way want to be enemies with this huge Pulaar woman. She is the president of the women's group and holds a lot of ground in the community. I  got to accompany her on National Women's Day (of Senegal) where i met a lot of the local officials.

My host parents have 10 children aging from 9-30. 3 of them live in the village, 3 of them in spain, 1 in darkar and 3 in Vellingara.  One of the sons who lives in Spain has a house in Velingara where his wife and their children live. (accompanied by some of his siblings)  It's really nice and they have a TV. Which means soap operas with english subtitles.  I can't tell you how nice it is to watch TV after a long day of speaking Pulaar.  I am also addicted to the TV show GLEE which is apparently popular back in the states.  PC's have a remarkable collection of downloads.

So besides drinking lots of Cosan, my meals consist of laicirri, rice, and millet.  My family makes me eat so much,  It has has actually become a game.  Before I understood how to play this game I would  find my self extremely full.  If you say you are full, they laugh at you and say "no eat more you are too skinny".  Then I respond, "no really i am sooo full i can't eat anymore, my tummy is too big."  they say "no eat". i say "no". They say "take two more bites", i say "okay" and take two more bites and then they say "they were small bites take two more". It goes on like this for about 15 minutes.  So I have just learned to say "I am full" when I am about really half way full.  It works quite well.

I got to help with a vaccination campaign and meet the health workers in the two villages next to mine. I have been very stimulated meeting so many new people. They are all very excited to get projects going and work with me. Another volunteer and i are working on a bike project for the health workers. I will be emailing about that in the next couple of months. Right now my work consists of learning the language, adjusting into a new community and connecting with it's people.

It has only been a week, but I find that  going to sleep under the stars and rising with the sun is quite wonderful.  Though I could do without the biting ants, and scorpians running around the dinner bowl, I am leaning to embrace this new simplistic lifestyle.

Miss you all! Thanks for reading. There is so much more to share about my new family, but so little time. Hope to give you more details soon.
until next time,