Farting– Sarah has made a few appearances in my blog but I think her shining moment was when I was visiting her at her site in Mboro. We don’t exactly blend in to the crowd in Senegal and tend to garner a lot of attention when we travel together—one short, one tall, both blonde and kind of crazy. A girl around our age started following us down the street. She asked us what seemed like endless questions about why we knew Wolof and what we were doing in Senegal. Her final question, repeated again and again, “Where are you going? Where are you going?” Sarah, not wanting to tell this girl exactly where we were going, replied, “We are just walking.” This seemed like a simple enough answer. The Senegalese girl started laughing and ran away to tell everyone what the white girl had said. Sarah gave a confused look and kept walking. A few seconds later she stopped, gave me a horrified look, and said, “I said we are just farting!”
Feminist– Can I still be a feminist but do a double take when I see a woman driving in Senegal? Senegal has taught me a lot about feminism that I didn’t fully understand before living here and probably still don’t fully understand. I have learned so much more from watching the women in my village than from any seminal feminist text.
Fine– Sometimes I feel like my life is that episode of Friends where Ross drinks all those margaritas and keeps telling everyone he’s fine when he clearly isn’t fine. Oh the scorpion stung my foot—fine. The snake isn’t poisonous but it will crush you to death—fine. The flies lay their eggs in your skin—fine. Mango season is almost over—fine. Wait…what? NOT FINE!
Fingernails– During my cultural training period at the beginning of my service I was told that babies don’t have their fingernail clipped because if they are attacked they can defend themselves. I thought this was kind of ridiculous at first. How much could a baby really protect itself with just some long fingernails? Turns out they can really mess you up. I learned this the hard way when my host sister was NOT interested in being held by me anymore and she nearly scratched my face off. At the same time, I was also told that when napping, a knife is placed above their heads so they can protect themselves. I laughed to myself picturing a Chucky style baby rampaging through my little village. Then one day I walked in on my host sister fast asleep, holding a knife in those talons and smiling. It was unnerving to say the least.
French- I took a few years of French in high school but never really committed to studying or practicing. The redeeming qualities of learning French are that the structure is pretty similar to English and it’s filled with English cognates. Wolof is not similar in structure and the only English cognates used are when they use French words instead of Wolof. Wolof is supposed to be one of the easiest West African dialects and I sound like a child beating on a tin can when I speak. I’m still learning and will be learning for the next 19 months (8 months in y’all). I’m not sure I will ever be fluent, but I’m not sure I will ever be fluent in English either. Maangi jëm (I’m trying).
Future– I have talked to many volunteers who are finishing their service here and heading home soon. They all tell me about their plans for the future: Foreign Service, development work, urban gardening projects, etc. Peace Corps seems to bring together a group of people that I am very pleased to call my friends—even if they are government issued friends.
Café au lait– There is a taxi driver in the city that I somehow always end up finding. He has picked me up all over the city and now knows me by name. “Fama,” he shouts out the window as he pulls to the curb. I roll my eyes and climb in the back seat despite his persistent attempts to get me to sit in the front with him. I greet him back. “Café au lait,” I call him while stuffing my bags in the back seat and regretting everything. He then proceeds to tell me all about the beautiful café au lait babies we would make if I would just be his wife.
Dance Clubs- Senegalese people love to dance. Most of the dance clubs in Senegal that I have been to are almost exactly like in the United States except a few main (very important) differences. 1) There is no alcohol served in clubs because most of Senegal is Muslim and they don’t drink. 2) The music is mostly Afro-pop mixed with weird German techno. 3) Everyone dances by themselves in front of mirror-lined walls. This usually makes for a good show—watching twenty or so stone-cold-sober Senegalese men really feelin’ themselves, watching only themselves in the mirrors, dancing with nobody, without a care in the world. These clubs are all fun and games until you try to leave and take the wrong door and almost get locked in a Senegalese sex room.
Eating- I think everyone has heard that old joke—getting a raisin in your cookie when you think it’s a chocolate chip has given you trust issues. Try getting a turnip in your rice bowl when you think it’s a potato. You can’t trust ANYONE!
England– I went to England with Sarah (or Rara for the frisky friends out there) for a brief but amazing vacation from the heat, sand, and mango worms. We are back from England. I am here in Senegal but England has not lost its hold on me. It’s a weird feeling to return after being away for so long. It seems like there should have been some changes while I was away. The world should understand that I had a new experience that was significant and because it affected me, the world should make a shift too. Men will now be two inches taller and slightly more handsome, rice will be slightly whiter, and Netflix will be free. Sadly, the only thing that changed is that the mouse that previously resided in my room was eaten by a rather large lizard that has now taken its place. Cheers England. It was great. Hope to see you again soon.