In Ohio we cherished snow days. A day with no work and no school. A day to do crafts, scratch things of personal to do lists, watch movies. In Senegal, we have “bës yu taaw”, rain days. It is a funny thing to have rain days in the desert. The earth, and the people don’t know what to do when it is raining. Everyone runs to their rooms, shuts the doors, and only dares to venture into the rain to run to one room where lunch is hosted.
And, just like snow days in the states, I make the most of these rain days. Because when it does rain, it usually rains in the night, it is rare to have a rain day. “When it rains it pours.” Thus, when it rains, typically electricity is lost, and sometimes even the water robinaes have no water. The last rain day, the server for my bank went down and none of the volunteers could access their money via ATMs across the country. On a past rain day, I sat in my room surrounded by host brothers, sisters, and friends. We played UNO and Senegalese card games. On another, my host brother and I made popcorn- some with butter and salt like Americans, some with butter and sugar like Senegalese- and watched a movie.
Rain might be a good thing, but I certainly detest night rains. One particular night, the rains started just before 3AM. I had clothes on the clothesline overnight, remembering this, I had to race outside into the rain/sandstorm. All my clothes were sopping, and covered in sand. Even with all my windows shut, I woke up to a layer of sand covering me and my entire room the next morning. Not to forget, my tin roof makes the rain at night impossible to sleep through. It is so loud, it is probably worse for my ear drums than standing next to a speaker at a rock concert!
The car from my village is a 2 door pickup truck with planks of wood across the back used as benches. I questioned whether cars still travel near my village when it rains. The answer is complicated as it depends on how much it has rained. If it rains a lot, there is standing water- a lot of it. The roads can become flooded in parts and thus cars don’t typically drive. I happened to be on the back of one such car when it started to rain one day. At first, I felt so prepared, and happy to get to utilize the rain jacket I had hauled around all day in my backpack. I donned the cute black jacket and tightened the hood. Speckles of rain started to pelt everyone around me (think motorcycle ride in the rain-not pleasant). Then, a tarp was pulled over all of us. I reckon there were 25-30 passengers sitting on the back of this pickup. Imagine lots of hands holding on to this tarp covering our heads as we drove down the dirt road. We all had to squeeze closer together to cover us all adequately. This was one of the times that I wanted a picture for proof of our bizarre looking car. However, squeezed between many people, hands occupied holding down this tarp, and with my mind preoccupied of how awful my rain jacket, now overheating me under this tarp, I was unable to get a good picture.
In cities, the paved roads become flowing rivers. Thus, it was a rather unfortunate circumstance whereas some fellow volunteers and myself were stranded in town as few cars were driving. All of the taxis seemed to disappear, and those that were still driving refused to stop in the rushing water. Some of our friends decided to wait for a car, they ended up waiting hours. Others of us decided to walk. Two people lost shoes, as the water in the streets was deep and flowing rapidly!
Transportation is always entertaining, but never comfortable. Going to a work meeting, 14-19 women, including myself, were expected to be transported in the back of an ambulance. Another instance where a picture would have been helpful to make this experience easy
to visualize. Just imagine many dressed up women, plus large handbags crammed in the back of an ambulance. Some women bring their babies or small children to the meeting. Those without children on their laps have other women sitting on their laps. The trick is to get in to the ambulance as fast as possible. Closest to the door you are guaranteed to having someone sitting on you. And let me tell you, I made this mistake before and truly thought my legs were going to fall off before we got to our destination..
Aside from experiencing Senegalese transportation, I do stay in my village A LOT. Lately, I have been working on a reusable menstrual pad project with some teenage girls. Here is a picture of me, using a non-electric sewing machine. The girls have been hand sewing theirs, but it takes a long time. In my spare time, I have been helping them finish by using my village friend’s machine. I’ve got to say, I am happy I haven’t forgotten all my sewing skills I learned in my high school sewing class- who knew they would come in so handy!
So I admit I kind of dropped the ball with this blog recently. Thus, instead of going into great length to explain all of the holidays we have celebrated since my last post, I will give you the liberty of using your preferred search engine to do a little research on Tabaski, and Tom Xarit. At least I haven’t been as bad at documenting my time here with photos.
For Tabaski, everyone goes all out. Think high school prom or wedding night but where everyone is the guest of honor. All of the women get their hair braided, many with extensions woven in.
It took about 8 hours spread across three days to finish these beautiful locks. And let me tell you, it was painful! For a few days, sleeping was not the most comfortable. And, it didn’t help that every child in village was fascinated by my braids- as if every other female around me didn’t have identical ones. The problem was not merely their fascination but the fact they all would pull on the ends of the braids. That, my friends, was not a pleasant feeling!
Each family in my village had “otess.” In English, each family in my village shared a common fabric between family members. This picture shows my family’s fabric. Every women pays the same amount, gets the same amount of fabric, and then has the liberty to have their tailor make whatever style outfit they want.
Then we all had our second outfit with fabric we picked out. People get really creative with designing their new Tabaski outfit. The town is essentially a fashion runway when everyone changes into their new clothes.
For the holiday Tom Xarit, my village shared a cow.
Here is a picture of the meat being equally divided out and everyone waiting to claim their share.
And here is a picture of the happiest little boy waiting to take his family’s meat back to their home.
Fifty Senegalese teenage girls participated in a week-long camp ran by volunteers. This camp, called Gëm Sa Bopp, which translates into “believe in yourself” was held at one of Senegal’s public universities. For many girls, this was the first time they had been to a big city, to a university, visited the ocean, or slept away from home overnight.
The camp ultimately encourages these girls to take school seriously, to begin thinking about their future, to discuss women’s health, the environment, and how to impact their society.
I made a video, mostly featuring girls from my village. The video was recorded in local language, Wolof, but I have made English subtitles for your convenience. One man in my village has the ability to broadcast across all of the TVs if everyone tunes to the correct channel. Thus, this video was watched by my whole community. It was funny, I could hear the film being watched as I walked past people’s homes. It replayed over and over for two hours. I didn’t realize people would choose to watch it more than once. But, when kids were coming up to me and reciting my lines from the video verbatim the next morning, I knew they had watched it repeatedly.
Proof that children in my village love to help me when they can. My two year old host brother insists on carrying my empty bedongs to the robinae when I need them filled with water. Mostly, I just thought the picture was cute, so enjoy it.