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


  1. Social events are the best to get to know the culture!

    Anyway, I'd love to live also a tropical storm, I like looking at the elements.

    Take care and keep on posting!

  2. Weddings there sounds amazing and tiring!