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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

CBT updates/pictures!

Well, I am definitely not fluent in Fulakunda (yet?  How optimistic can I be about that while remaining realistic?) but I am a lot better with it than I was 11 days ago.  It took minimal pantomiming to tell Babba this morning that I was heading back to Thies, that I’d be back in about two weeks, that I’d miss the family, and that he should keep my room key for safekeeping while I was away. 

As promised, here are some pictures:
I almost don’t even want to put this one up because it’s such an obnoxious 
“white girl goes to Africa” picture, but I look really happy and 
my hair is fantastic, so let’s just get over it.

Here’s my homestay neighborhood:

There are “farm” animals all over the city.  Notice the giant hog near the playing children in the street.  There are goats, chickens, cows, donkeys, sheep, pigs, and cattle roaming all over.  I don’t know how they keep track of which animals belong to whom, as nothing is collared or tagged.  None of the animals are scared of people, but I’m a little scared of the pigs.  They’re very big.

In our compound, we’ve got a sweet mango tree right in the middle of the yard.

This is the bathroom building

Notice the blue bowl outside.  That’s Kadi and Yaya’s training potty because 
they’re not big enough to use the hole yet.  If you mistakenly use the bowl 
as a shower cup, your family will laugh at you.  FYI.

All the food is great

My Bill Clinton breakfast platter

French fry salad!  Genius!

which is impressive considering that this is how they cook

and that all water has to be hauled up by hand from a very deep well.

They’re ridiculously kind as well.  I had a weird reaction to a medication I was on this week, so every time I went outside during daylight hours I got a weird red blistery rash on my arms.
I only had the language to sadly tell my sisters "The sun comes. Then I am a lizard."

My family reacted by finding some spare fabric and tying makeshift sleeves on me.

This is babba am, my father, Mamadou.

Immediately before this picture was taken, I asked all the kids to gather around him for a photo, then he yelled and swatted at them and they got out of the frame. I wasn’t sure if he did that because he didn’t want a picture or because he wanted one alone, so I just awkwardly took one, curtseyed at him, whispered “yafo” (sorry) and backed away. 

I have never understood anything my father has said to me.  His voice is quiet and raspy, and he mumbles.  He has a good, strong handshake and sometimes laughs, though, so I assume he’s a good guy. Here’s a story about him:

A few days ago, I woke up at around 5am to a loud squawking coming from just outside my door.  As I slowly opened my door and my eyes adjusted to the moonlight, I saw babba holding down a rooster with one hand while ripping out the poor bird’s tail feathers with the other.  He looked up and we made eye contact.  I shrugged and closed the door, thinking that even if I had the language skills to ask what the hell he was doing, I wouldn’t understand the answer in English, let along Fulakunda.  Later that morning, I asked my little sisters what had happened.  They understood the question, because they had been woken up by the rooster too, but they didn’t know the answer, so I asked my language coach.

“You know, your father, he is a Maribou, so maybe it was for some mystical thing. I don’t know. But in the future, please feel free to stay in your room during the night, because maybe there could be a problem for your safety and security.  Maybe someone could come into your compound with perhaps a machete and maybe they would defend themselves.” 
“Does that happen?” 
“Oh yes, that can happen.”


I did eventually figure out that it’s a common practice to pull out a rooster’s tail feathers so it will have bare skin on its butt, which makes sunlight uncomfortable, so it will want to stay in the shade and is therefore less likely to run away. In any case, that rooster was annoying as hell and squawked almost constantly.  I was trying to be sympathetic to him because he was so pathetic, skinny, and bare-butted, and he obviously had a tough life, but I was not in any way remorseful when he showed up in the dinner bowl two days later.

Babba has either 3 or 4 wives, depending on who I ask, but only two of them live in the compound.  One is Adama and one is Assamau but I can’t keep track of which is which.  Much like Babba, they talk quickly and mumble, and I can’t understand them, so I don’t interact with them as much as I probably should.

Hadja, my namesake, is awesome.  She’s 26 (like me!) and has three kids (not like me!).  She’s originally from Guinea Bissau and knows what it's like to be a stranger in a strange land, so she’s really patient, kind, and understanding when I’m oblivious to everything going on around me.  She also has the cutest baby in the world. 

Yaya’s birthday is Cinco de Mayo, so he’s almost a year old.  He only knows about 5 words, and one of them is "Hadja", which he says when he wants me (or his mother...) to pick him up.  He’s adorable.

Yaya is also way more self-reliant than any baby I’ve met in the states.  I’ve never heard him cry.  He’s entirely free to crawl around wherever he wants, so he spends most of his time like this.

Happy as can be, with no purchased toys around to occupy him.

Kadi is Hadja’s kid too.  She’s easily my favorite in the compound. She’s sweet, energetic, and outgoing, and usually has plastic in her mouth.

The kids seemed to warm up to me immediately, possibly because I brought UNO and crayons.

One day last week there was a birthday party at another PCT’s compound. 

Lexi’s breasts attended and were well-received by all.

Jennebou and baby Samba dressed their best for the party

Flashy scarf/hat combo, considering we live on the equator.

and we had a work day assembling a compost pile in a corner of my family’s compound

Other than that, my last 11 days were nothing but a lot of sitting and trying to be a language sponge, with limited success.  I’m at level "intermediate low" right now, and I'm only required to be at "novice high," so that's pretty cool.  I'm loving Senegal and I’m so happy I’m here.  Thanks for reading!  Please send me emails with what you have been up to lately.  I miss y’all.  

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