Village Life

Thies Travel Blog

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The perpetual sand and wind combination in the village is not a pretty one. Within 15 minutes of being outdoors, I rub my arm with my hand and it feels like a day at the spa with a nice exfoilant. An exfoliant of sand and dirt. Great for my pores.

The morning comes, I emerge from my bedroom and am directed to my parents bedroom where I am served breakfast - a nice baguette filled with some sort of meat and hot coffee. It's so much better than what I am given in Dakar. I finish it all.

My sister says we are going to the nearby arondissment of Notto to do some errands. As we exit the compound, I see Jill balancing a tub of water on her head near the well in the central yard. The women all around her are giggling and holding their arms up, ready in case the water comes tumbling down.

Along with one of my little brothers, we start the 2 km walk in the hot sun to Notto. I try to make conversation as we slowlu trudge along in the humid heat, at the same time trying to enjoy every tiny breeze that manages to whip up when a vehicle zooms by. We are lucky enough to hitch a ride with this old, white pickup truck about a third into the way of our journey; there's nothing better than a 45 mph wind drying out your eyes as you lean your head over the truck bed.

Arriving at Notto, I follow them into this tiny general store whose goods are all locked behind a large wire fence from floor to ceiling - the kind you see in movies when Danny Ocean is checking out of prison and his possessions are handed back to him through the fence's tiny rectangular hole.

After buying some candy, lamp oil, and other things, we head back to the village. Next up, helping to make dinner - or at least get it ready. They hand me a silver bowl and say, "cheebu jen." I'm very confused. They lead me out into the central courtyard where all the women have gathered around another rather large one. The large woman in the middle of the bunch is loud and uses her knife to point in multiple directions, the top part of her right index finger missing.

She's the grocery store, and it is up to me to do the shopping for the cheebu jen. Great. I don't know how many fish to get or what kind of vegtables we need. After awkwardly going through the basic salutations of my Wolof, the women all around me suddenly silent that laughing at me, my mother finally rambles off some intructions and hands the large woman some money. In the silver bowl I now carry the ingredients for dinner.

I had commented when some of my siblings were playing with each other's hair. My sister now told me it would be a good time to braid my hair if I wanted. Why not? Who knows the next time I will get such an authentic hairdo?

TWO HOURS LATER. My legs and butt are fast asleep, my head has been jerked around in every possible direction. But I have lovely cornrows to proudly display on my head. It looks pretty funny, and I'm not quite sure how the other students will react the next time I see them. At least I can really feel that breeze on my head now. Ponytails are just not helpful when trying to cool down.

After lunch, my sister and I exchange contact info, also writing down the names of my family members. I promise to call them from the US. That will be one long and expensive phone call. It's also funny to watch her write her interpretation of how American names are spelled. For the 'j' sound in Jeff and Jason (my brothers), she substitutes 'nd'.

While chatting on a mat in the shade, they tell me it's time for me to take a bath before we dance the tam-tam. Okay? They hand me a traditional outfit to change into as well. What's going on? I take my bucket bath in the concrete cube, return to my room and change into the outfit, not getting very far. My aunt helps wrap my head up with a matching scarf and ties an 'underskirt' under the skirt I'm already wearing. It's like a petticoat with holes that you are supposed to show when you hike up your skirt to dance. Ooo. Provocative.

I finally get it when they lead me to the courtyard where Jill and David (the two other toubas in my village) are waiting, both in traditional dress. Jill lifts her skirt a bit to show her 'undergarment.' "You got one?" she says, similing. "Of course."

We all head in this massive heard to the dance party at the central village. We see the other students there, all in their various brightly colored garb. Sarah made the comment that Ken looked like the Senegalese Santa. It's fun to compare experiences of the village with each other since most of us have been apart since they whisked us away to our families.

Thus began a long evening of high-energy jumping and dancing. We all, of course, we wrangled in to dance at some point. It was quite embarrassing, but totally fun. Like guests of honor, we all sat in chairs while the children gathered between us and sat on our laps.

We return home, laughing the whole way. The local girls make fun of David (I think they have crushes on him), and he doesn't understand half of the questions they ask him. It's funny to see his reaction as we transalate. My sister and I eat dinner together in my room and debrief on the day. I had such a good time and tell her I really wish I didn't have to leave the next morning.

I clean up and change, then head back outside under the stars to the porch of the main contrete cabin. We sit with the breeze coming in, all the kids, my mother, and I. While waiting for the tea to be made, we teach each other weird sounds you can make with your mouth or various other body parts. Remeber the one where you put a fist to your mouth, pinky up like you're a snotty Brit drinking tea, and say 'girl'? You sound like a sick duck, and all the little kids loved my demonstration of it.

The tea preparation is a long process. It has to take at least 30 minutes. The water must be slowly headed over hot coals to a boil. Tons of tea is added to the water so that it's about equal parts of both. That's some really strong tea. But it's good and sweet, especially after the sugar is added. It's a wonder people fall asleep at night after drinking it. It was such a cool setting - a dark cool night, the soft glow of the oil lamp around us as each person cuddled up in their jacket or scarf. The real way, not like any tourist, to experience Africa.

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photo by: jeannajumps