Monthly Archives: August 2013

When I became a Godmother

This is a collection of journals I wrote for Wolof class. I initially intended to try and mesh them into one but I was practicing with different conjugation forms and I’m just far too lazy to move all the information from each into one cohesive piece. So, enjoy!

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July 10th

Ëllëg, man, dina dem New Mexico ndax sama “Godson” am na “baptism.” Alexander Cole Ayodele Akinnikawe la tur. Xander la tudd. Pàppa bu Xander, sama kuzeŋ la. Ayo la tudd. Moom, pàppam mag ju góór la sama pàppa. Waaye, Ayo am ma at bu gën man, kon, tudd naa ko “Tonton Ayo.” Tonton Ayo, jabaram, Erin la tudd. Erin, Ameriq la jóge.

Tomorrow, I will go to New Mexico because my Godson has a baptism. Alexander Cole Ayodale Akinnikawe is his name. He’s call Xander. Xander’s father is my cousin. Ayo is his name. His father is the older brother of my father. But, Ayo has more years than me, so I call him “Uncle Ayo.” Uncle Ayo’s wife, he name is Erin. Erin is from America. 

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July 15th

Man, maa ngiy pare dem New Mexico te dinaa gis sama tonton ak waakëram. Sama doomu tonton bu bees bi, dina am baptisé. Man, Allah-yere bi laay. Kon, damay jëndal naa koy ndawtal. Maa ngiy jëndal sama bopp mbubb bu violet, dàll yu weex, ceen ak semeen yu weex. Dinaa dawal sama oto ciOrlando. Dinaa jël abiyoŋ ci Dallas ak aprés ci New Mexico.

I am preparing to go to New Mexico and I will see my Uncle and his family. My Uncle’s new child will have a baptism. I will be the Godmother. So, I am buying presents for him. I am buying myself a violet dress, white shoes and white necklace and bracelets. I will drive my car to Orlando. I will take a plane to Dallas and after to New Mexico.

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July 16th

Keroog, dama tukkiwoon ci New Mexico. Ñówoon naa ci booru 12:00am. Ci New Mexico, tangoon na waaye nuguloon. Gisoon naa kër yu rafet yu bare. Waajuru Ayo danañuy yàggoon ci kër gi, itam. Samidi, yeewuwoon nanu ci suba teel bi te demoon pour “photoshoot.” Erin ak sama tonton, Ayo, am nañu naari doom. Ayana am na juroomi at te Alexander am ñetti weer. Ci gannaaw, ndékkiwoon nanu ci Cracker Barrel. Dama nelawoon tuuti ci diggu bëccëg bi. Erin, Ayana ak man, génnoon kër ga ci ngoon bi. Premiere, demoon nanu rafetaay bu butig te seeni we wu baaraam piendrewoonal nañu nu. Ci gannaaw, demoon nanu ñam wu butig. Dimaas, danu yeewuwaatoon ci suba teel bi. Maa soloon sama mbubb bu bees ak yëf yu bees. Jëmoon nanu ci eglis ci yoor-yoor. Am nanu baptisé bi gannaaw mass bi. Xarit ak mbokku Erin ak Ayo ñu nga fay, itam. Maa jàppoon Alexander “during” ci baptisé. Moom, baaxoon na lool. Ayana, du baaxoon. Ci gannaaw, amoon nanu ndajee ci kër ga. Danu Lekkoon fajitas ak gâteau. Waajur yi wax “about” seeni xale te xale yi xuusoon nañu.

A few days ago, I traveled to New Mexico. I arrived around 12am. In New Mexico, it is hot but not humid. I saw many beautiful houses. Ayo’s parents were staying in the house as well. Saturday, we woke up early in the morning and went for a photoshoot. Erin and my Uncle Ayo have two children. Ayana has 5 years and Alexander has 3 months. After, we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I slept a little in the middle of the day. Erin, Ayana, and I left the house in the afternoon. First, we went to the beauty store (salon) and our nails were painted for us. (It was my very first mani-pedi). After, we went to the food store. Sunday, we woke up early in the morning. I wore my new dress and new things. We headed for the church around 10am. We had the baptism after the mass. Erin and Ayo’s friends and family were there also. I carried Alexander during the baptism. He was very good. After, we had a gathering at the house. We ate fajitas and cake. The parents talked about their kids and the kids swam.

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Goree – Take 1

So today, August 17th, I had the choice between studying for my French exam and going to Gorée Island for the day with some people from my neighborhood – judging by the name of my post, you can probably guess which one I picked. I had stayed in my room studying until someone knocked on my door and said “Come eat, we’re going to Gorée” – not quite like that, but you get the gist. I ate a late lunch, since I had been antisocial all morning, took a taxi and went to the ferry port. A ferry takes you from Dakar to Gorée. Before we disembarked the taxi, Papi turns to me and says: “Don’t act like a foreigner, they’ll make you for 5,000 CFA.” Apparently that’s the price for non-Senegalese people and for Senegalese people its 1,500 CFA. Not trusting my poker face, I just gave him my money to get my ticket for me.

We get a ticket and filed onto the ferry – the whole thing is actually quite an efficient process. There’s a place to buy your ticket then you go into another room to wait for when you can board the ferry. They hole-punch your ticket before you get on. We sat on an upper deck on the ferry ride which was about 20 – 30 minutes. It was a lovely day – over cast, but warm with lots of breeze.

On Gorée, there were many, many people. The beach itself isn’t large and it’s quite rocky, but there are many places that jut out of the side that older kids like to dive into the water from. I jumped in once – the water is VERY salty and I grew up on the other side of the Atlantic! I just don’t remember Ocean City’s water being quite that salty. But many of the divers were quite impressive, doing flips and such. It was fun to watch – especially since I wasn’t about to get back in.

We stayed there the whole day (well we had arrived around 3pm – maybe later). Going in and out of the water, talking, watching other people. Most of the people in my group were planning on staying the night at island and had brought a tent. But I had to return and someone went back with me. But we noticed the 2nd to last ferry arrive just as it was leaving! We ran to catch it but to no avail. Luckily there was one more that arrived around 12:30 a.m. – I don’t even want to know what time I got home. All I know is that when I did, there was a party for young boys and girls (tween looking) in the house across from mine! It was extremely loud, but I drifted immediately to sleep! Gorée had been way to fun for a loud party to keep me up. A couple less hours of studying was definitely worth it.

Another wonderful thing about Gorée is that I finally took pictures!! To make up for my complete lack of pictures recently – I’ve put the entire set here! I also have some videos of two brothers from the neighborhood flipping into the water – I’ll try to upload them!!

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I also wanted to comment on why this is called “Gorée – Take 1”. It’s because in the CIEE program that I am on, we’ll be going to Gorée Island on September 1st. When we go there, I’m pretty sure the primary objective is to explore the historic slave house. Before today, I only knew a few things here and there about Gorée. When someone in the states tells you about it, it’s all about the slave house and how it’s a huge tourist spot. And when people as if you’ve been to Gorée, it usually implies have you toured the slave house. What they don’t tell you is that lots of people live on this Island and that many Senegalese people go there for day trips, fun days at the beach, etc; essentially, that life goes on around this historic site. I fell that somewhere along the way, I learned this. But seeing it in person made me really warmed my heart. To me, it was similar to the Elmina and Cape Coast slave castles in Ghana. Outside those eerie walls, and right up against it actually, Ghanaians moved on with their daily lives not allowing the history of the building to hinder their work and their play. Like in Ghana, I love seeing Senegalese people utilizing their own tourist attractions.

I’m finding it hard to quite express what I feel I’m trying to say. Simply, for me, it’s an interesting comparison. When the people in my neighborhood say “oh, we’re going to Gorée,” it means, “We’re having a beach day, let’s go have some fun.” But I know when the program puts it on our schedule, it means “Let’s go explore the slave house and reflect on this horrific part of world history.” This is of course a worthy pursuit and I’m looking forward to that event, but I’m glad to have seen this other side, this local side of Gorée first. So yes, I’ve been to Gorée Island. But no, I’ve haven’t seen the slave house.

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The Power of Positive Thinking

In order to truly appreciate this post, you have to first read the previous one, entitled “My First Bad Day.” This post is written about 4 hours after the previous one. So basically, here’s what’s happened in those 4 hours.

After making up my mind to be positive and finishing the last sentence, I opened my door and started unpacking my first suitcase. Soon my host mom came to introduce me to a girl who had lived here in 2012. She’s American and had been on the CIEE program. Now graduated, she was vacationing in Senegal and headed to France to teach English for a year. She told me I would love it in the house and the family was very nice and that she would come back for dinner tomorrow. You don’t come visit your host family unless they were awesome!

She said her goodbyes and went on her way. My host mom then walked off and came back with a fan for my room!! Alxamdulilah (Praise to God). I kept unpacking and my host sister, who is 35, and her two sons came home. They are 12 and 10. (I know all of this from CIEE’s information, not from asking). All three were very sweet and the boys seem like they are funny. One brought me a jug of water (as required by the program) and then later came back to chat with me in my room for about 5 minutes. My host sister told me to come on upstairs once I was done unpacking. Upstairs, I think I met my host dad and then the boys were watching a soccer game on T.V. I then went on to win major cred from my brothers because I was able to crack my neck, knuckles and other random bones! We then ate spaghetti and onion sauce for dinner. We each got a plum for dessert! Then we watched more T.V. and talked on and off. When my eyes got heavy, I excused myself for bed.

So there you have it. My new host stay is definitely different from my other one. But sometimes difference is good. It allows you to see other parts of the society. I’m sure I’ll like it here!

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My First Bad Day

So I know for blogs, you’re mostly supposed to talk about how many fun and wonderful things you’re doing! But the truth is with traveling comes some hardships – some are petty, some may make or break your experience (or at least you feel they will).

Before I recount my day, I have to say that the title is a bit misleading. Today, like most of my “bad days,” wasn’t entirely bad. It started off wonderfully actually. I slept really well, we had crêpes for breakfast – in addition to the usual bread staple, and there was cheese for the bread (as opposed to yesterday when there wasn’t – it’s the little things that count sometimes). All in all, a generally wonderful start to my day.

Since I don’t actually have many bad days, I’ll label a day bad if something happened in it that caused be sad for an extended period of time or I receive news that makes me cry (sad tears, not the happy ones). Most of my bad days occur by accumulating little sad things that eventually make me cry – like today.

I continued my day with survival Wolof as part of the CIEE orientation. It was good for those who knew no Wolof, but after 2 and a half months of Wolof, it was a bit of a snore fest for me. The only reason I didn’t skip this session was because I have a lot of anxiety about skipping things I’m supposed to be present for – which makes me a good student, but also tremendously wastes my time sometimes.

The day started going downhill when the results for the French test were posted. I didn’t quite place into the level I wanted, but I had mentally prepared myself for this so I wasn’t devastated but I was a bit sad. So I placed into Intermediate 2 (instead of Advanced 1) which means I can only take one elective class in French and that class can be an internship (as opposed to Int. 1 in which your French class can’t be an internship or Adv. 1 where you can take all your classes in French). Long story short, I really want to do the internship, but I also want to take a class called Crisis Management and International Law in Africa – but it’s in French. So new dilemma – I can’t take the classes I want. Specifically, I can’t take an International Law class that I’ve wanted for a while, which also means I most likely won’t be able to complete a French minor. I shyly asked if they would mind terribly, but it was a no. Now I was a bit devastated – I hadn’t mentally prepared myself for not being able to take the Law class. After I asked, I got that lump in your throat that you get before you start crying, but I swallowed it and relooked at the English elective options. They’re not so bad do I’m trying to stay positive about that. We’ll see what ends up happening. After that, I met with the housing director to find out who my new host family was. (I’ve moved out of the host family that Baobab gave me because I don’t want to bend the CIEE program too much). He explained my family dynamics to me and based on what I thought I wrote in my application, it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. But as I was about to leave his office, it dawned on me that this was the same family that a friend of mine had stayed at house on this same program. She had a great time in the country – but perhaps not the most ideal homestay. That made me a bit sadder.

Fast forward to the hotel we’ve been staying at for the past 4 days for the orientation where everyone is being picked up by their host families. The housing director calls me over and tells me my host mom can’t pick me up, so I’m going home with a neighboring host fmaily. I get sadder, many questions run through my head: I don’t get to meet them right now? They don’t want to come get me? Will all our bags fit in one car? And sure enough – the bags didn’t fit. We had to put one of my bags in another neighbor’s car – granted, I’m not the lightest packer, but still.

Anyway, we get to the house. Ring the doorbell. Ring it again. Then again. The other host mom calls someone on her cellphone then knocks on the door. We wait some more. Finally someone opens the door – it’s a lady, a woman – I can’t quite place her age. Older than 25, younger than 35. She’s accompanied by a girl that can’t be older than 5 – perhaps 3. We take my things in. My other bag arrives a little later. And the host mom soon after. She shows me around just a little bit, shows me my room, makes small talk about where I’m from and then leaves me to unpack my bag. It’s a nice room and I have my own bathroom. But mostly I have a lump in my throat that I’m trying to hold back. I want to lay down for a bit. I look at the ceiling to see if I should turn on the fan before resting my head. There is no fan. For some reason, it’s that little detail that puts me over and I fall to my bed sobbing!

And now, I’ve cried it out. I know that it’s not because of my host family in particular that I am crying – it’s just been a long day – a long 2 and a half weeks. I want to make the most of this and I think everything happens for a reason. So perhaps I’ll really enjoy the quite that’s in this house and those classes that are taught in English won’t be so bad – I’ll understand them more anyways! After my cry, I wrote up this blog then posted it a day late because my house has no wi-fi. But it made me feel better knowing that I could vent for a bit via words and the interwebs. But now, I’ll close my computer, unpack and try to bond with my new family.

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Njekki Ayubes Bi (The First Week)

So I’ve officially been in Senegal for a week and 2 days, so I suppose if I’m going to make this blog thing happen, I should hit the ground running and give a recap of my time thus far.

Overall: It’s been a super emotional week for me! I’ve never traveled far by myself and for such a long time. It hasn’t quite hit me that I’ll be here for 6 months; and it didn’t quite hit me that I was coming all by myself until our plane landed and I got through customs, then it was like “sh*t…who was picking me up again? What do they look like? Where am I supposed to meet them? Dang it, who speaks English here!” I actually almost cried upon arrival because I couldn’t find the person who had my name on a sign. The first two days were pretty hard – you would think I never studied French or Wolof before, but as my nerves calmed, my French came back in full force – and I remembered I don’t actually have that much Wolof to loose yet.

And so in the little time that I’ve been here, I’ve had maffe, ceebu jen, attaaya, a million and one bug bites, lots of 2nd hand smoke, I’ve danced till the morning and gotten a marriage proposal. I’ve yet to walk more than a half mile radius of my house by myself, barter for a good price or not stumble through a conversation. I’ve also yet to take any photos. This is very odd of me since I usually take a bunch. But between not knowing how to say much and remembering my trip to Ghana where kids grab for your camera when you try taking pictures, I’ve been hesitant. The one day it rained, I felt the urge to take a picture and put a caption that would read: “Nothing clears the streets of Dakar like a rainstorm,” but I just wanted to hurry home instead.

With that said, here are a few of my most prominent first impressions. I’ve broken them down into the following posts.

My goal for the coming weeks is to start taking pictures – oh and get better and Wolof and French.

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Waxtaan (Conversation)

There are multiple ways for a location to be outside your realm of comfort. For me, the culture and lifestyle isn’t too different from that in Nigeria – but language – I might as well be a complete and total foreigner. But I’m surviving and I can hear my language skills improving every day! Why just yesterday, I understood my first full Wolof sentence that wasn’t slowly directed at me! Bayyil xale bi – leave the child!

In addition, the human desire to converse really pushes you to be quite creative!! One time, I was trying to ask for a match and was trying to play charades with Baba Kaar and Allen. I was given a towel to dry my hand because that was apparently what my motions looked like. Then a sponge for bathing. And finally I drew a match with a box next to it and Baba Kaar goes “allumette!” You bet I’m never going to forget that word!

And that’s just it. Everyone is really patient with me here when they see that I am trying to speak Wolof or French and they get excited when we successfully understand each other! It definitely makes it easier to try and learn!

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On the weather and my health

Most of the days I’ve been here, the weather has been beautiful. There was one day where it rained the entire day. Honestly, it was like a monsoon. I wanted to take a picture of the street and have a caption that read “Nothing clears the streets of Dakar like a rainstorm,” but then I just wanted to hurry and get home. The nights are beautiful and whenever I say so, the person I’m talking to either says “o.k” or “why do you say that,” and I have some trouble explaining. I’m not really sure, it’s just so warm and breezy and it’s really easy to just sit outside or take a walk at night. The night is clear and you see the stars, it’s wonderful.

We’ve had a few days that were unimaginable hot and muggy and you could feel the heat permeating throughout your body (it might explain some of the lethargy here, as the gathering place in front of my house is well shaded and quite breezy). In fact,– maybe Tuesday night or Wednesday night – I noticed my ankles were swollen. It freaked me out. Not to sound conceited, but I really like the size of my ankles, so to see them at that size was – a shock! I thought, “oh shoot! Maybe I’m already gaining weight from all the rice and bread.” Luckily the wifi was working that night, and I looked it up. Your feet swell in heat and if you have been sitting for a long time – like on an airplane. It’s suggested that you just massage your ankles and then elevate them, so you know I slept with my ankle propped up that night. Now they are back to their usual size and all is right with the world.

Another thing is that I don’t usually get bitten and right now my feet and ankles look like a game of connect the dots – but at least they aren’t swollen, so life goes on.

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Sama Waakër (On my host family)

My host family is great! It took me a few days, but I’ve learned the full dynamics of the family. My host mom’s name is Arlett. She reminds me of my own mom in that she is the epitome of all things good hostess. She’s always asking how I’m doing, ensuring I’m getting fed, and all those things. And they serve the best food in the house!! One time, she even insisted everyone talk to me in French and Wolof only since that’s what I was trying to learn! She takes the time to try to talk to me even though she doesn’t know much – if any – English and my French is deplorable. When my host sister did my hair, she insisted that I didn’t pay because “Vivi est ta soeur.”

My host dad is pretty cool too. He’s funny because it took him forever to get my name, and now whenever they introduce me to a new person, he personally ensures they are pronouncing it right. He’s the couch of the football (soccer) team here so all the young people that I was talking about in the earlier post hang out in front of our house. It’s pretty cool. People just come and go, usually come.

In our house is Vivi, she’s the youngest of four and she is 24. She has a 5 year old named Ida – sassiest little thing, but extremely cute. I think I’m sleeping in her room so right now she is staying with her older sister in a house not too far from my school. The older sister, Mico, has 2 daughters, probably 7 and 1, I’m not sure. They come around a lot and are very cute (the 7 year old is of course quite sassy, but well behaved). In my house is also Remy, Vivi’s older brother. He’s 26 and his wife Ana (she makes the best ceebu jën – rice and fish) and their son Junior, who is probably 1 and a half, live with us too, on the third floor – which I’ve never actually been to. And Baba Kaar (I might have spell that wrong) – he’s the son of Arlett and Allen’s oldest daughter who I have never met – sleeps here sometimes. But I think it’s just when he doesn’t feel like walking home.

Our house is warm and inviting and the door is always open! It’s been a great place to get to know lots of different people and work on my language skills. I’ve never had lunch with the same group of people twice. At lunch, we all eat from the same bowl and it’s just whoever is around at the time. It’s a great environment.

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Les Jeunes (a.k.a. people around my age)

Just like the young anywhere, lots of sitting around doing nothing. O.K. maybe a lot more sitting around and doing nothing than I’m used to. But right now, they are on their summer break so it’s not as if they are skipping school to sit around doing nothing. On the one hand, it’s an awesome environment for just chilling and conversing – or if you’re me, chilling, listening and painstakingly answering questions – and cringing a little when they burst into laughter. This took me a while to notice, but in reality, they aren’t laughing at me, they usually laugh when one of them tries to speak English to me. A lot more of them know English than I was expecting. I don’t know how many times I’m been told “Me, I don’t speak English,” – in English! My suspicion is that their English knowledge comes from the songs they listen to. Most of them are familiar with a lot the top hits on the U.S. radio. A friend of mine in the U.S. told me that many of the young men learn English to try and impress girls at parties.

As they sit around doing nothing (this nothingness more than likely consists of playing cards), they smoke – a lot! I think I have gotten more 2nd hand smoke in this past week than I’ve had my whole life, even when my dad was smoking. Now this is an observation of just the kids in my neighborhood. I’m sure it’s different with other friend groups. Some of the people seem to do it habitually and others seems to only do it if it’s passed to them.

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Waa Senegal (The people of Senegal)

Teranga is a real thing. (Teranga is a Wolof word that encompasses a lot of things but is most simply translated into hospitality, but runs deeper than that).  It doesn’t seem like it when you get off the airplane, but as you immerse yourself in family and everyday life you notice it each and every day. At the airport, just like in Ghana and Nigeria, you find people who say “oh, let me help you with those bags, do you need to use my phone, no worries I work here,” and then after they say “so how much are you going to pay me?” Luckily, I was ready for that; unfortunately, I still needed to use two phones to call the one contact I had; fortunately, I’m also really good at feigning stupidity and confusion – it’s all the more believable when you truly don’t understand what they are saying that well.

It was a frustrating start to my stay here, but now that I have gotten to know my family and a lot of the neighbors, it’s wonderful! I feel welcomed, and people invite me places and ask me to join games even when they know I don’t understand everything that’s happening. I’ve been shown how to xiim tea (that’s the way to pour the tea (ataaya) to make sure there is foam at the top) – not that I did it well or anything.


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