“Hey! So I’m lost. I don’t have any idea where I am, I have only a minimal grasp of the local language, I am slightly malnourished, and it’s getting dark now.”
If you don’t know about what I have been doing the past few months then we are probably not very close and it’s weird that you are even reading this. Go find friends or go outside or something. If you do know, then it comes as no surprise to you that im in the small but surprisingly beautiful country of SENEGAL! The quote above (said by me to myself on an almost daily basis) is kind of a metaphor for my time here. Does it count as a metaphor if it actualy happens but also just encompasses everything about the past 4 months? I don’t know. What I do know is that I am almost always very confused, tongue-tied, and usually pretty hungry. I would like to say this is because I am living in a new country, learning a new language, and coping with everything that a developing country can throw at me, but…to be honest…that’s basically how I have lived my whole life.
I started being confused around the time I started understanding rational thought—roughly a year ago—and haven’t really stopped since. I have had a pretty sweet life in America. I had two loving parents who expect me to do great things. I had two sisters (hey guys! you better read this or we aren’t friends anymore) who probably think I’m a little nuts for doing a lot of the things that I do but have always been supportive. I had opportunities coming out my ass and tried to take advantage of all of them throughout my life. This adventure, like all of my previous adventures, is going to be…interesting. I already have a whole list of stories to tell—donkeys giving birth, getting my first golden shower, and introducing my family to the pb&j sandwich—but for now, I’m going to start by telling you about the basics.
My current situation-
I am in a program that extends Agroforestry techniques throughout Senegal. I had some intensive language training with a Senegalese man named Ibra in a village called Dakhar Mbaye before being placed in my permanent site for the next two years. Although I could not have asked for a better teacher, I would say my Wolof skills are about equal to the English skills of a certain orange American currently in the news. Now I am trying to meet interested farmers to work with over my time here. I am going to try to integrate trees into fields for long term benefits including raising the water table, providing some much needed shade, and other things that I will make a more serious post about later…maybe.
In Senegal I am living with a host family in a small village called Keur Demba Kebe. I have just one mom (in Senegal men can have up to 4 wives) and she is the best human in Senegal hands down. Her name is Nday Rama. I have not met every person in Senegal but she is definitely numero uno. She is in a good mood almost 100% of the time and always greets me with a huge smile every morning. She is beautiful and so smart and I want to be her best friend in Senegal. The best part is, she wants to be my friend too! Women in Senegal definitely don’t have the same opportunities to be outspoken about feminism when they come from small villages. As a low-key/hard-core feminist, this is something I like to bring up in conversation with the ladies in my village, my mother most often, and gauge their reactions. My mom is about as feminist as a small town Senegalese lady can be. Recently, I asked my mom whether she thought it was fair that Senegalese men could have four wives but women could only have one husband. She said, “Why would you want more than one husband? One husband is too much work”. We also talked about the women’s marches happening in the United States and she said that good things always happen when women unite. After we organized a mini women’s march in my village. Really we walked to the neighbor’s house and she told everyone we were doing a march for women. Some kids joined in but mostly we were met with a lot of odd looks.
My dad is the chief of the village, so basically the boss bitch in the neighborhood. His name is Pape Mbaye. He has beautiful fields all around the village and helps to pay for a women’s garden. He works hard in the fields all day and then comes home to play with the kids and listen to my terrible Wolof for hours. I can tell he will be a great work partner down the road and is always interested in experimenting in the fields.
My oldest sibling is Baye Dam and he is basically a typical cool kid teen. He has all the swagger of someone living in the Trump household as if he isn’t living in a country where over have the population is below the poverty line. He has a bike, which makes him definitely the coolest kid in town and probably the world—this according to him. When I say he has a bike, I mean more that he has all the parts that would make up a bike. He spends approximately 99% of the time fixing his bike. I’m still not convinced that he can actually ride the bike. That is yet to be determined.
The next sibling down the line, Seneba, is a tiny reflection of her mom. She is always smiling and thinks I am hilarious, even when I have no idea why she is laughing. We hang out a lot and talk about ants. She is super into killing the ants in our house and we go on raids. Things got really real one night when she saw an ant crawling away with some of out lunch rice. She destroyed the nest and ate the rice they had taken right in front of their lifeless bodies. It was savage and now I know to never mess with Seneba and her food.
My tourando (the person that they named me after because when they tried to say Kelsey it came out as Koko) is my sister, Fama. She is a wild child to say the least. She has limitless energy and I think that makes it really hard to control her limbs. They fly out in all directions as she runs around our house crashing into things. I think it was a good choice for my tourando. We equal each other out.
The baby of the family is Njaya. Or at least I think so…I have no idea how to spell her name and nobody else does either. She mostly just sits as babies do. Sometimes she cries and other times she doesn’t. I don’t know if you can tell but I’m not big on babies. She is certainly big on me though. I am the only one who can make her laugh besides her mother. There is something funny about a big white girl trying to blend in with her family.
Finally there is me. I eat a lot of rice. I mostly sit with ladies all day practicing my Wolof and occasionally go on an ant raid with my sister. I have yet to eat their food though. I’m still working on integrating but I’m not sure if that is part of it. Let me know what you think.
That’s it for my first blog ever. As you can tell, as I learn Wolof, I slowly lose my English skills. Sorry ‘bout it. I will probably post more as I have internet but also I am too lazy to even edit this blog post so who knows what will come. Ba Benen Yoon.