Thursday, October 30, 2008


Certainly not all of my pictures but some of them

Vocab Lesson

This is how I commonly learn words in French.

To vomit: vomir, gerber [slang]

Moi: “I am going to puke. Je vais vomir (I am going to vomit) Does that work in French? Is that a real word?”
Amelia: “Yeah, but if you want to say ‘I’m going to puke,’ you can say ‘Je vais gerber,’ which is slang.”
Moi: “Gerber. Did I say that right?”
Amelia: “Yeah, it sounds like Gerber baby food which is a good way to remember.”
Moi: “uhhhhh… if I see fish and rice again… Je vais gerber.”


Un hérisson : hedgehog

(Dog barking and creepy noise that sounds like a child crying)
Dan: What is that noise?!?
Moi: I’ve been wondering that too.
Marie (host mom): Oh, you heard that, it’s hérisson >
Moi: What the hell is a Harrison?
Dan: Comment on décrive ?  [How do you describe a < hérisson >]
Marie (translated): Well, it’s like a bird. With needles on its skin.
Moi: It’s a bird?
Marie: Nearly a bird. But it’s a mammal. And it has a face like a rat
Moi: Is it a turkey?
Dan: Is it a porcupine maybe?
Marie: Timbo (the dog) is killing one. It’s over there you should go look
Alex: In our yard? Right now?
Myself, Alex and Dan all go to the courtyard: It’s a hedgehog
The dog procedes to pick it up in it’s mouth and eat it.
Moi: Timbo va le manger! [Timbo’s going to eat it!]
Marie: Non, il ne le mange pas. [No, he doesn’t eat it]
Moi: Non, il le mange maintenant! [He’s eating it now !]
Marie : Personne le mange [People eat it]
Moi : People eat it !
Marie : Oui, sans le peau, mais les chiens ne le mangent pas. [Yes, withoutthe skin, but the dogs don’t eat them]
Moi : Il le mange maintenant ! [He’s eating it now]

School is certainly different here. 

Monday, October 27, 2008

Coconuts, Illness and Langue du Barbarie

On Thursday Alex, Dan Thany (our host sister) and I went out on a coconut buying expedition. I really wanted to learn how to open a coconut, and thought it would also be a good opportunity to buy a small gift for my host family here. Thany led us down some side streets in the market until we came to a small stand. The different prices were based on size ranging from 200-350 CFA a coconut (about 40 to 75 cents). She asked me if I wanted them grated or cut, and I replied cut, but I wanted to learn how to do it. Attempts in the states to open the exotic coconut involved an ice pick, hammer nail, and perhaps a test of strength by just throwing the damn thing on the brick pavers. We picked out two, 200 and 300 CFA each. I was ready to pay and head out but then the coconut man went to work. With a large machete that had been hanging behind him, he began to hack at the coconut. Taking off with each hit a hard layer of shell with incredible precision, still leaving to brown edge on the coconut, but taking off all the shell. Twice he restarted on the coconuts, picking new ones as there had been some imperfection on the others. After hacking off all the shell he cut a small sliver into the top and drained the milk into a plastic bag for us to take home and drink. Then he cut all the pieces up and placed them into another bag. The coconut milk, which I always figured tasted like coconut-flavored milk, tasted more of coconut-flavored water. I would recommend to anyone who is in the position to buy coconut from a random person on the street to do it, as long as they’ll open it for you.

            As happy we were to eat the fresh coconut, it may have also been the cause of some stomach illness. Not because there were any bad germs in it, but rather that coconut milk naturally helps you along in the bathroom. It was still definitely worth it. However the illnesses that we experience have been nothing in comparison to some of the other people in the group.  On Friday we arrived to the bus for our field trip with many of the class members missing. Myra had spent the previous night, until 4am in the hospital. Although the blood work had come back negative, the doctors are fairly sure, given her symptoms, that she had a mild case of malaria. The reason that the blood work came back negative is likely because it was a mild case. A point of interest is that Myra has been taking doxycycline the whole time we have been here. Malaria is also relative to the amount of infected bites a person has had. Therefore, with even the most diligent pill taking, if you get enough infected mosquito bites, you can still come down with a case. Anne- Marie, our bird expert of the group, halfway through our trip to a wildlife preserve became so sick that she had to return to St. Louis rather than continuing onto Langue de Barbarie, a bird sanctuary, with the rest of the group. Dakarrhea (Dakar + diarrhea, though applicable to all of Senegal) has happened to us all, but some stomachs are stronger, or luckier than others. Anne- Marie has been plagued by intestinal issues for much of the trip, while Amelia has been drinking the tap water at her home in Dakar and Saint Louis. I too started drinking the tap water in Saint Louis, but only after realizing how expensive it would be to buy bottled water, and letting Dan and Alex try it for a few days first.

            Even with all of these illness, the overall moral of the group has remained high, and the trip was a fun one. Le langue de Barbarie is a bird sanctuary. We spent a lot of the day cruising up and down the “tongue” in the pirogues (boats) looking at birds, or just enjoying the ride. After our boat ride we stopped at a section of beach for our lunch. Amelia and I decided that the water looked too beautiful (no trash!) to just look at despite our lack of bathing suits. Given that our professor was there, in addition to 2 Spanish tourists who had some how joined our group, we decided to go in with all of our clothes in rather than skinny dip. The rest of the group thought we were crazy until they saw how much fun we were having and how nice the water was. One by one, more people started getting in the water until nearly every one had taken a short dip in the water. There was the perfect amount of waves, though unfortunately my sunglasses were eaten by the waves. Luckily I have an extra pair, unfortunately they are in Dakar. The dust started kicking up again during the end of the day, making my eyes uncomfortable and irritating them. As sometimes days need to, mine ended with a shower, clean clothes and a long nap. After dinner I hit the hay again, but it made for a much more enjoyable Saturday, and was completely worth it.  

Saturday didn’t result of anything much of interest, mostly just a visit to the patisserie to take advantage of WIFI for a while, and quick trip to the “artist market” (aka the same crap they sell pretty much everywhere).  Perhaps a trip to the beach will be on Sunday’s agenda. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Doctor Visits and Flat Tires

Once again, sorry for the lack of updates. Last Wednesday got rather hectic for me and after that we left on Thursday for Ross Bethio for a weekend of field trips.

Wednesday I finally dealt with an ear infection that had been bothering me for about a week or so. While I had asked for (and got) the name and clinic of an English speaking doctor I arrived to find out that Wednesday was his day off, though I was assured that the other doctor also spoke English. I spoke to the receptionist briefly, who had to be torn away from the tv to help me. She wrote me out a bill as I waited to see the doctor (12,000 CFA, roughly 27 dollars). I went in to see the doctor after a fairly short wait, and Alex and Dan who has accompanied me there went out to buy some soap. The doctor was French and asked me if I spoke French to which I responded, yes, a little. His response was, excellent, now I can speak in medical terms in French to this poor girl with an earache. It wasn’t any different from a typical doctor’s visit, and I learned the French word for eardrum is tum-tum. He basically told me that I had swimmer’s ear (I guess those days at the pool and beach add up) and wrote me out a prescription for 3 different things! And if you thought American doctor’s handwriting was bad, you should see French doctors’, I couldn’t tell when it was upside down expect for the heading at the top. Alex, Dan and I headed over to the pharmacy across the street to fill the prescription. They didn’t have the second thing the doctor had written and the third thing was only if I suddenly got dysentery or something like that (they French are hypochondriacs). I just got the first listed item, which is good since it cost another 7,500 CFA (16 USD).  The box was in French on one side and Arabic on the other. I opened it up expecting to find a dropper bottle like in the US but instead got antibiotics to treat the infection, and Dan helped me translate the directions of when to take it.  Since I didn’t get a lollipop, Alex bought me a popsicle. Now a week later everything is fine so I guess it worked out all right though it was a stressful experience.

Dad, do you know how my health insurance repays me? That’s about a month’s stipend I would like to get back.

On Thursday we left for Ross Bethio. It isn’t exactly rural, but if it were in the US it would be what we call a drive through town, only slightly larger than Antes Fort, PA (not Jersey Shore, Antes Fort). We spent 4 days there looking at different fields. We saw rice fields, tomato fields, except that it isn’t tomato season so rice was planted there, peanut fields, and the actually slightly exciting sugar cane field. The sugar cane was the obvious winner, but that could be because we were easily bribed with the sugar cane that we got to eat (for all those wondering, it tastes like sugar).

Though the actual field trips (get it, hahah, punny) weren’t that interesting, it did provide a good excuse to get out of cities and to interact with the Senegalese students who are in our class.  Though I was disappointed that we didn’t go to any cornfields, as I was ready to display my expertise and declare, “Oh, the corn’s bigger in the States.”

Though we did get to explore some of the roadside as twice in the 4 days our bus got a flat tire. Luckily we had a spare tire, unfortunately we only had one, so when we got the second flat the next day, only 15km away from St. Louis we had to call for a new bus to come pick us up and change over all of out things. Amelia, Anne-Marie, Alex, 2 Senegalese students and myself decided that we weren’t that far from Saint Louis so we would walk the rest of the way. Influencing this decision might have also been my mistranslation of fifteen to 5km.  We started walking, but didn’t get further than 5 minutes away when the new bus arrived. They were kind enough to stop to pick us up as they came our way, saving us the rest of the walk.

Other highlights include petting a donkey, tasting raw peanuts that aren’t really ready yet, eating sugar cane, and stopping at a French, I don’t even know what it was, all I know it that they had an ice chip maker and we got ice. Overall it was a good weekend, though fatiguing in some ways and a nice departure from the usual city life. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Packing List

While I realize most people who are reading this aren’t going to Senegal, if someone does stumble upon this and is going, here is a list of this I I’m glad I brought and if packing again, I wouldn’t bring. And of course, the old packing adage remains true, pack half the clothes and twice the money.

Good things to bring:

Quick dry underwear. You wash your own and this can make the difference between mildew or not, I recommend ex officio underwear.

Steak knife. Fantastic for cutting a mango or just about anything. You never know what you access to use the kitchen is.

Nalgene water bottle. This is great for filling up when at reliable water sources (for me Baobab center). Everywhere else you can buy water.

Whatever swimsuit you want. I figured modestly would prevail at beaches too, but really you could wear a string bikini. I would prefer a two piece because then you don’t get so much sand stuck in it.

Febreeze. You certainly don’t wash your clothes (at least not skirts) every time after washing them, and febreeze can really stretch things out)


Batteries, very expensive here

Flashlight. Seriously. Bring one, and then bring a head lamp too. Seriously.

Chinese type paper fan. It’s a God send in a hot classroom where the power to the one electric fan just cut out.

Spaghetti strap tank tops. Totally fine to wear, and sometimes its just too hot for much more

Flip flops, you’ll almost never wear close toed shoes, and if you need too, you might as well just go to HLM once you’re here and then buy some for 4 dollars.

Pens. The pens here freaking suck. I have no idea why, but they always break, except for the bics which are expensive.

A gift for your host family. Anything is ok. Really. Even if you think it is ridiculous or will never be used, the Senegalese always no someone who could use it if they can’t. Though candies, a map of your home country/ city and candles are typical or popular gifts anything would work. (candles are rather functional too, since the power is often cut)

Conditioner- very expensive here. Also a good host family gift.

Duct tape- when isn’t useful?

A few granola bars to hide away after too many fish and rice meals.

Zip lock bags

Pepto/ Immodium- Anti diarrhea medicine.

Fiber- Senegalese diets has very few fruits or vegetables and sometimes you swing to the other extreme and have constipation.

Leave it at home:
Shorts that go much further than an 1 inch or 2 above the knee, there’s never really a time where they are worth it or appropriate.

Mosquito net- they can be bought here, treated with permethrene already for only 10 dollars.

Skirts above the knee- just kind of inappropriate. As my host mom said, you can just sit easier the longer the skirt is.

Jeans- They take too long to dry, and are considered “very sexy” for women, though you will see women wearing them. At most, one pair.

Overall for women and clothes, they can be tight (some of the jeans and skirts here look like they were painted on) but have them be longer.


On Sunday, our first free day Dan, Alex and I headed over to the beach called Hydrobase. As we hailed a cab we admire the blue sky above us, rather than the haze the last week had provided. We took a cab over there about 1500 CFA (3.75$). The taxi pulled up to some thatch huts pointed over the edge of the sandbank and said that’s where the beach was. Anywhere else I would have thought this peculiar but I’ve just come to accept it as a part of Senegalese life to not know what the heck is going on, and just to go with it.  Walking over the crest, we stopped looking at our feet and took in the beach. Empty, blue water. We were ecstatic, the Senegal River, which St. Louis is at the mouth of, is a muddy mocha brown and had been fearful for the same result for the beach. We walked over to the water admiring that other than a group of about 5 Senegalese men playing soccer further down the beach, we were the only ones there. 

The day passed rather uneventfully, and while a few vendors did wander over through the course of the day (Sorry, I’m married, I don’t have any money, I’m not in the Peace Corps, I’m a student, United States, not Canada, not I don’t want to look at your statuettes, bracelet’s and necklaces for the “pleasure of my eyes,” perhaps another day, Thank you for the compliment, no thank you, good bye, another day, goodbye, Inshallah.) It was rather uneventful, which is exactly how one likes a day at the beach to be. Though perhaps I did forget the sun block, and got a little more red than I would like, it’s turning into a tan and I would rather have color, than be pale like before, which is just ridiculous when you are in Africa.

As we were swimming a man walked on the water’s edge with about 8 oxen, which we found rather amusing.

It was a bit of an adventure going home however. As we were the furthest down the beach, away from the few hotels that are there, no cabs were coming down a dead end road. We started walking back, hoping to catch a cab back at some point. Well, we walked, and waked, hoping for something but ended up walking all the way back in all, about 1 hour to get home. Something that I would probably never do in the states, but at this point the heat doesn’t seem so bad anymore (and it’s actually getting cooler) and I’ve gotten used to walking everywhere. We tried to go to the patessiere on the way home (which is open all night on the weekends and by the bars), but unfortunately was closed.  We settled on some Laughing Cow cheese (la vache qui rit) and a baguette for lunch and tucked in once we got home. All in all uneventful, but it was wonderful to spend an October Sunday jumping in the waves and reading on the beach. 

Darhas Koranic School

Today our History of Islam teacher came up from Dakar for a trip to a nearby Koranic School. This meant that the women of the group had to wear headscarves and long skirts, which created a last minute scramble for these items and borrowing from several people (thanks for the skirt Alejandra!) Once we arrived, we sat in the yard (dirt patch) of the school on mats and talked with some of the teachers and advanced students from the school. Overall I didn’t find it that interesting. It was mostly a combination of “it’s a koranic school” and “look they have to memorize it all.” One interesting point was that they served us bissap. It’s a delicious drink made hibiscus flowers, mint and sugar. Of course, since it’s Senegal they had reused the containers that they were served in, which just happened to be motor oil bottles.  No biggie though, they didn’t taste like it at all, just a little fishy from the ice bucket they had been in.

After talking with the representatives for about 2 hours we looked into the 4 classrooms they had.  Each room had about 30 children, or at least as many could be fit in there as humanly possible, a chalkboard in the front, which beautiful Arabic writing, mats for the children to sit on and that was it. There was no power. No books, nothing. Some of the kids had slates with the day’s passage to memorize, but really nothing. Seeing the resources of Senegalese schools whether public (University Cheik Anta Diop in Dakar) or private (koranic school) has definitely convinced me not to complain about Kalamazoo’s resources. Though there is a trade of that university is free for all students, including room and board, though with rigorous exams at the end of each year, and the suspicion that not much learning actually goes on it’s still something to remember that I don’t have to worry about the power going off in the middle of a Kalamazoo class.

The chanting of the students was a beautiful thing to listen to, I love the sound of Arabic. Again, it was nice to get out of the classroom and see other things but overall not that striking of an experience, but I’m glad I got to go. 


Today’s excursion was to a dam. No seriously. The whole morning was to ride over to a dam and look at it. We walked around at the dam and then rode back the 45 minutes to Saint Louis.

All joking aside I did enjoy the trip. It was nice to be out of the classroom. We only take one class while we are in Saint Louis which suites me well, I refer to intensely study one subject at a time rather than be all over the place with several classes. The course is about the Senegal River valley, looking at different aspects, the people and cultures, history, agriculture around it and, dams.

The Senegal River is also the border between Senegal and Mauritania in many parts, so in crossing the dam, and stepping to the other side we were able to set foot on Mauritanian soil. None of having the foresight to obtain Mauritanian visas we were not making border crossing, but really, there wasn’t much to see beyond the guard point anyway. We did rejoice on our placement of Mauritanian soil though, if just for the idea of it. Once we had reached Mauritania, we turned around and walked back across the dam. You might be wondering how walking back and forth across a dam could take 3 hours, but you have clearly forgotten the African pace of life. 

Stage 2

Sorry for the lack of updates this week there’s a few reasons for that. First of all we have been getting settled into our host families, exploring St. Louis, making trips to the beach and most of all being in Stage 2.

There are two models of culture shock; the U and W curve.  The highs and lows of the experience correspond to the shape of the letter, each letter being a different   theory on how people react. Our group has accepted the U curve as our model, just because we think it more accurate. Stage 1 is the honeymoon phase where you are excited for everything and can’t stop singing the praise of your new country.  General excitement tends to over take everything. Unfortunately, one needs the lows to have the highs. Stage 2 is when you are fed up with your new country, sick of the way they do things, missing family and friends back home, craving for some good pizza or a pb&j sandwich, and reading and watching anything in English. While we are not all firm believers of the U and W curve, subscribing rather to the idea that you have good and bad days, the bad days show up a little more in stage 2. That’s why when someone walks in the classroom and says that they are having a “stage 2,” or “shell” or “grumpy” day you generally give them a hug and leave them the heck alone after that unless they specifically request your company, and most often another person to grumble with. However, there are great ways to pass the time during stage two, listening to your iPod, taking a nap, writing, drawing, drinking or what has become our favorite game, “I miss.”

I miss is a game that can be played for as long as one likes, very portable and can go from 1 to 100 players. What you do is sit around and list all of the things you miss at home. For example, “I miss clean clothes, air conditioning, autumn, my friends, my family, salad, orange juice, brooms with handles, watching TV in English, driving a car, real grocery stores, peanut butter, cereal, cold milk, real pillows, not worrying about the tap water, cooking, flush toilets, warm showers, coffee shops, having power and water all the time, clean roads, not being called ‘Toubab’ every 30 seconds…

As you can see this game can continue as long as one want for it to continue. We all know that these days come and go, but pretending they don’t exist is rarely the solution, rather it is better to just accept the grumpy day and remove your toxic self from others and take the time to do whatever it is you need to do.

Frustrations come from homesickness of course, but also a general sense of helplessness. While St. Louis certainly isn’t an intimidating city, daily life means relearning how to do things. This might mean boiling water on a gas canister rather than a stove, flushing a toilet without an actually flush, taking public transport, bargaining to buy things or cutting watermelon (seriously, my host mom asked me to cut watermelon and then my sister/maid, and her mom took the knife from me and cut it the weirdest way I have ever seen, just really long pieces traveling the length of the watermelon so that they are impossible to hold or eat from.)

But once you hit the bottom, you have nowhere to go but back up. Yeah, we might hang out around the bottom some days, but normally we float around the middle, doing simple everyday things like we would in the states; eat, sleep, go to class and hang out. You relearn how to do things, the Senegalese way, whether you like it or not, or you learn to put up with it. Do not worry though, stage 2 has not been the whole last week, but rather once out of the habit of writing I just kept forgetting to write. Please read the other entries that I just posted to realize that I have had good things happen since I came to St. Louis.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sorry for lack of updates

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, i'll be updating later this week, probably a few posts at once. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

St. Louis (Senegal, not Missouri)

On Sunday we arrived in Saint Louis. The drive was about 4 hours long from Dakar, and most of the time through beautiful scenery lush with grass (!) and spotted with many Baobab trees. We stopped in Theis for a quick rest stop, but unfortunately only really got to see a coffee shop. On the plus side I got 3 bananas and an orange for only 50 cents, and when I went back to the fruitman with Alejandra he gave her two bananas as a gift (sometimes being a white woman in Africa has its perks). Sadly the mangoes season is on its way out.

We arrived in Saint Louis and after quickly meeting our host families, went on a horse drawn tour of the city. The city is rather small, made up of a peninsula that cups an island (historical section) and the mainland which has the “suburbs.” My house is not far from the Pont Farhaide. The city’s small size is nice, as there won’t be a whole lot to try to figure out in terms of geography, like in Dakar. On Monday I went with Dan and Alex and we walked around the historic section together. The island isn’t much over a mile long, if at all, and much narrower.

I was surprised, as was everyone else, to find out with our host family assignments that I was living with Dan and Alex! When they mentioned the possibility of three people living together rather than an old man out I had figured that I would be with 2 other girls. It’s not all one party room though, Dan and Alex have their own room and use the common bathroom while I have my own room and bathroom!!! Might I also mention that the bathroom has a mirror, shower, sink, toilet that flushes AND has a seat. I really couldn’t ask for more. The bedroom is also rather large and I have double bed again.  The courtyard of the house is really nice. It’s filled with plants, as our host Mom (Marie) said that gardening is one of her passions. She also reads and writes English really well and speaks fairly well too. We eat at tables, and so far, with silver wear, which is a nice change for all of us. Marie has also said that she only eats rice once a day because she has a sensitive stomach, so we are all ready for the break from fish and rice! She also doesn’t use a lot of oil in her cooking because that upsets her stomach. There is a rooftop that we can hangout on, and it gets a nice breeze.

The only downside is that at the first meal our mom started talking about how only women should work and take care of the men, and that it’s the women who do the work in the house. She then had me serve Dan and Alex meat and clean up the dishes because I was the woman. It was just weird in the context of it all, even though clearing the table certainly isn’t a hard task or an uncommon one for anyone in the States. Though she also says that because I am the woman I am “la reine” (queen) and Alex and Dan are my guards.

Just settling in to Saint Louis, and as always, more news to come. 


On Saturday I took the plunge and headed over to Oceanium, the only dive company in Dakar. I was really nervous about heading over there, given how important safety is in SCUBA and I was a little apprehensive about how that would be handled in Senegal. But I had heard that the place was alright form Matt, another person from the Baobab Center who has been working on marine conservation in Senegal.

While there was some miscommunication at Oceanium as to the possibility of a dive, it all worked out. Given that the day hadn’t started out looking very nice, people were put off of coming, but a 23-year-old Frenchman showed up, so the dive was on. It was just the two of us and the dive instructor, which made for an awesome dive; feeling like it was just me and the water.

Unfortunately I don’t know anything about fish, so I can’t exactly tell you what I saw. But here are some highlights as to the best I can describe

2 eels, very irridescent
a fish about 10 by 12inches that was rainbow sherbet colored
bunches of black and white fishes feeding
if garbage sludge was made into a fish, it would have looked like a brown one I saw

There was about 25-30 feet of visibility, and the guides were all very professional. The dive site we went to was right off of the cliffs of Goree, an island whose history lies in the slave trade.  I would definitely go again, however the waters become a bit murkier and colder come November, the next time I am back in Dakar. Who knows though, maybe I’ll end up back there. They also have kayaking there so maybe I’ll get a chance to do that.

SCUBA diving was a fantastic last activity before leaving Dakar for the month. Once I was in the water I just had a surge of happiness, in a way that nothing other than swimming can do. It definitely left me on a high before heading out to Saint Louis

FYI: I am in Saint Louis from October 5- November 2, though letters will still reach me if they are sent to the Baobab Center address. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Updates and other blogs

Hey everyone
I wrote up two posts but when I went to upload them I had saved them in the wrong format, so it will be another day or so before they get put up. I just wanted to let you all know that I'm doing well and in Saint Louis now.
If you want to hear what Senegal is like for some other people in my group you can visit their blogs too.

Alejandra (Kalamazoo College)

Alex (College of Wooster)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Korite (part 2)

So Korite is now over, and what a day it was. I think I got photos of all of my host family members at some point, so I’ll be able to show you them eventually. It’s a pain to load pictures here, just because of internet speeds at the Baobab Center, but Alex, another student on the program said that he might put some up. I’ll let you all know the link if I do.

When I woke up in the morning, most everyone was running around trying to get something done. The boys and men were all dressing up to go to mosque, while to women were busying preparing food. Given that food preparation was first on the list for today, I figured that it was a free pass on clothing, because you would want to wear something you didn’t care about.


I forgot I am in Senegal, where everything is an occasion to get dressed up.  While I didn’t look homeless, as usual I was outshone by the Senegalese. With maybe the exception of my aunt who is 9 months pregnant.

While suma yaay (my host mom, suma- my, yaay- mom) was cutting potatoes for French fries, she asked me, once again, what kind of food I could make. I found it difficult to try to explain how we cook in the states, especially from a college student’s point of view. Given that all of out food, except rice, it bought that day, and the huge freezer is only for drinks and lamb butchered by the family, explaining freezer meals, in French, was too much to do. My response; I can make mashed potatoes.  Suma yaay’s response was a hearty laugh and then, “ How are you going to get married? You can’t eat mashed potatoes all the time!”

Clearly the Senegalese don’t realize, that yes, I could live on mashed potatoes.

Anyway, back to the real events of Korite.

In terms of preparation, potatoes and onions continued to be cut, and then suma yaay started on the lamb.

Not seasoning lamb, but butchering it.

Alright, it was already dead, and skinned but it still had the head attached. I watch with fascination as she cut it apart, using a hatchet to sever the spine.  It was a bit much for me, given that a month and a half ago, I didn’t eat meat. However, it was good preparation for Tabaski, when my family will slaughter 2 sheep.

On Korite, everyone goes around asking friends and family for forgiveness of sis and transgressions of the last year. Every conversation went like this (though in wolof of course)

Hello, How are you?
Good, and how are you?
Fine, How is your family?
The are there (fig. of speech), and yours?
 They are there. And your mother?
She is there. (continue with almost all family members)
‘Till next year
May you live until next year
Forgive me if I did wrong
I forgive you, forgive me too.
Ok, may God forgive us all

They would usually go through the whole family doing this, but skip me because I’m white (toubab). They would usually get a kick out of it I started it with them and held the conversation. Unfortunately this usually resulted in them trying to speak more Wolof with me, which I couldn’t understand.

I had a bad headache, verging on migraine in the afternoon so I slept a lot, which I felt bad about because I knew I should have been hanging out with my host family. However, Miriama (my sister, 8) woke me up when Amelia and Alex stopped by. They were both wearing their boubous (did I mention I got one?) and wanted to take photos, and then visit Alejandra and Alex to take photos. We took some photos, laughed about us being white (Toubab) or asian (Ching Ching) and pretending like we looked normal in the bouboubs. It was decided that Alex looked good, Amelia looked like a pink highlighter and the Chiquita banana lady gone Asian and I looked like I was ready for a fiesta. It remains true, even in Senegal, that one should never let their mom tell them what’s the fashion right now.

As we were walking to Alejandra’s we passed the group of women who always sell things on the side of the street. When we passed in our outfits they started laughing and clapping. They thought it was even better when we then started talking in Wolof to them, saying the traditional greetings and salutations of Korite. At Alejandra’s we took photos and her mom lent her a boubous to wear to Dan’s. We stopped by Amelia’s, took more photos and then headed to Dan’s. Unfortunately he wasn’t in so from there we parted out separate ways and headed home.

The rest of the day was filled with similar visits, and I got to meet my aunt’s family (2 older sisters and her younger sister, in addition to nieces and nephews).  A lot of it was similar to the states on Christmas when you just hang around people’s living rooms, waiting for the next group to say hello to.

Dinner was actually something I like to eat; lamb with onions, shredded carrots, cucumber, French fries and tomatoes with a vinegar dressing.  That’s it for the night really. Just three things before you go (if you even made it this far)

1. Fun fact: The word Korite comes from the Wolof word, Koor, which means to fast. The end of Ramadan is only called korite in Senegal.

2. I leave for Saint Louis, in the north, for a month on Sunday.  I don’t know what kind of internet I have there, though there will be cyber cafes, I don’t know of their quality or location

3. I LOVE getting emails. or my gmail account is fine too. 

(response to a question from Kate: No i did not feel more spiritually cleansed or anything after fasting, just grumpy and hungry)