Monday, February 2, 2009

Rural Visit, Illness and Planes

So I got back form my rural visit a few days ago (last Wednesday), though the “rural” visit title would be more appropriate. Though the area we were staying in was very rural Alejandra and I stayed in an auberge rather than with a host family in the village. It actually turned out to be a really nice mix of things. We got to see a lot of aspects of rural life basically without having to deal with any of the really bad parts like actually staying with a host family. All the people at the auberge acted as our host family though. Alpha (Thomas) Ba was our true host though all the women who worked there certainly took us under their wing as well.  While we were there we took a horse cart ride of the whole island (there are three villages on the island), a boat ride of the mangroves, made Senegalese couscous starting all the way from the millet still being on the stock (it’s still is gross though), went to Sunday mass, and learned to carry a baby on our back with just a piece of fabric like the Senegalese do. It was a great stay over all and we learned quite a bit, as our host was very knowledgeable about a variety of topics.  He is divorced with 3 children who live with him, speaks a little English and Italian and in addition to French, Wolof and Seerer is also fluent in German and lived in Germany for 6 years. We talked a bit about the culture shock between Senegal and Germany and decided that there probably isn’t a harder two countries to move between.

Oh, and as usual, he was very interested in me so now my dowry offers are now as follows.

1.     Abdou- The Goat Herder

2.     Ama Sarr- a hamburger

3.     Youssou- He’s gay, but my age (but also not our of the closet since this is Senegal)

4.     Alpha- An auberge in the Sine Saloum Delta. (Quite pretty there)

I think I’ll have to keep mulling over the possibilities until coming to final decision.

My tavels down to Mar Lodj were delayed by, what else, Dakarrhea. I was at the bus station with Alejandra waiting to leave when left with no other options I decided that I was willing to try their bathroom. (For future reference, it was actually quite clean, though a squat toilet, but somebody comes in and hoses down the whole place after each person) I even after venturing into the bathroom and not feeling better I decided I should fork up the money to pay for my taxi back home (3 dollars, I could have gotten it cheaper but diarrhea means you’re willing to get home a little quicker) After getting back together with my good friend Imodium I was ready to leave the next day. I met Alejandra there and everything went well.

However the other day I was struck again by illness . I was feeling some nausea, and had difficulty eating Senegalese food (nothing really that new or out of the ordinary). Yesterday (Saturday) I was feeling terrible, like mild flu symptoms. Unfortunately, since it was a Saturday morning and I was just wanting some peace and quite and not to look at Senegalese food I’m pretty sure my host family just thought I was hung-over (though I was the only person NOT drinking Friday night).  By now though I am much better so no worries. I have to say though, being suck in a foreign country is the worst. Possibly worse than even being actually sick itself. Being sick in the states usually means spending the whole day sleeping alone in a dark room with lots of big blankets, perhaps read a book or take a warm bath, maybe watch some tv, all the while chugging down some honey lemon tea, maybe some bananas, plain rice, or chicken noodle soup, if you feel like eating at all. If you should feel better later in the day, you must suffer the consequences of having taken the whole day off by not doing anything fun for a while and not having anything really good to eat.

In Senegal being sick means sit on the couch in the living room, but you can’t actually sleep because of all the noise and it’s weird to be that random white person sleeping on the couch when visitors come over, sit in your room by yourself while you debate possibly passing out when you stand up in order to go site in the living room so you don’t offend your host family. They will then call you to come eat lunch (which in your mind you should be able to eat whatever you want when you want it, not at meal times, I mean, c’mon, you’re sick, right?). You think to yourself, well, I’m sick, but rice is good for me then. You got wedge yourself a seat around the bowl, nearly passing out to get there, then take two bites and realize that it’s spicy rice and you kind of want to puke. Host family tells you to go to the doctor while you think, “but I’m not dying yet and it’s not malaria, why would I got to the doctor?” Make it back to your room and fall asleep for a while more.  Then you wake up and your host mom has purchased you 2 bananas which seems like the food of the Gods at a cost of about 50 cents, which you feel so bad that you got two whole bananas to yourself and you didn’t share them with the 11 other people in the house and should you repay your host family that 50 cents? Fall back asleep a while feel mostly better except for chills, trying to wrap your one sheet tighter around you. Get told to go to the doctor again even though at this point you really feel fine. Sit with the family a while as they watch TV in Wolof.  Eat the birthday dinner of your host brother (salad [salad is a loose term] and shish kebabs). Sit with the family a while longer. Go out to the boutique in your pajamas with your host sister because she wants company. Eat brioche and sweetened breads for birthday celebration snacks. Actually don’t eat them because you’ve been sick all day but have your family tell you to eat more. Go to bed at 11 because, ya know, you’re sick. Have host family ask why you are going to bed so early.

In short, I guess it could be said that it’s a little weird for an American to be sick here.

But stop your worrying I’m fine.

Anyway, on to my last topic: planes.

I’ve changed my plane flight home. I’ll be returning home February 28th rather than March 8th. With returning home on March 8th I would have had about 5 days at home before heading out to Michigan, then NC and then back to Kalamazoo to start school. This way I have a little less than 2 weeks at home, which is much easier transition than going rushing back into everything.

I can’t wait to get home I already know there is so much about Senegal that I will miss once I am home.  I will likely complain about all of those things while ignoring the fact that that I have had rice twice a day for the last 5 months, didn’t have hot water, I weighed the cost benefit of drinking from the tap each time I was thirsty, the internet is the slowest I’ve used since the 90’s, I couldn’t wear anything that went above my knees, I really missed washing machines, and I wore the same 9 outfits clothes for 6 months.

Anyway, the point is I have one week less than before until I can go to a Jersey diner and get a huge fountain Coke with crushed ice, a strawberry milkshake, and a BLT with French fries. 

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