Jërëjëf samay xarit!

Weekly Post

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Asalaa Maalekum! It’s likely that Mrs. Blackwell’s class will not see this post, as their school year ends tomorrow. But DANG, what a sweet and goofy group of kids! We started off our final celebration by learning how to say Hello (Asalaa maalekum; maalekum salaam!) and How are you? I’m doing well! (Nanga def? Maangi fii rekk!) in Arabic and Wolof. We listened to some Youssou N’Dour, passed around some goodies I brought back to Dakar (including wax fabric, a hand-woven box, jewelry, bin-bins, and glass paintings), and talked about some of the highlights of my time in Senegal. There were many good questions, from the kiddos as well as Mrs. Blackwell! I felt welcomed from the moment I stepped into the classroom, seeing the smiles break out across the students’ faces. “It’s Rheanna, she’s here!”

As a parting gift, I left the kids each with a plastic bracelet wrapped in wax fabric and a sothiou (pardon, I’m not sure of the Wolof phonetic spelling), a Senegalese toothbrush made of a particular kind wood that is supposed to be chewed and scrubbed against the teeth. They wanted to use them as magic wands, which was to be expected, and we parted on a high note as the class ran outside for afternoon recess to show their friends the goodies and feed off that end-of-the-year energy that seems to be universal in the elementary school experience.

My experience in Senegal felt heightened throughout the 4 1/2 months I was there when the thought constantly streaming through my head was, “I can’t wait to tell my class about this!” It gave me a lens to view my experiences through that encouraged me to pay closer attention to my surroundings, remember conversations I had with people, take photos of things I may have ordinarily passed by. I looked forward to the questions from Mrs. Blackwell’s class each week, as sometimes they, too, added a perspective to my experience that I would not have considered before. The brash curiosity that comes from kids is an untapped resource for discovering new angles, ideas, pathways to things we wouldn’t necessarily consider as adults.

Jërëjëf, samay xarit – Thank you, my friends. This semester would not have been the same without you. I hope I’ll be reading about your own adventures soon enough.

Ba beneen yoon, insh’allah – until next time, God willing.

Much love, 

Rheanna

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Ba beneen yoon, insh’allah

Weekly Post

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Asalaa Maalekum, everyone! As you know, I left Senegal two weeks ago, but this is my final blog post until our in-class celebration (!!!). I wanted to spend this week’s post reflecting on my semester as a whole, as a sort of goodbye to Senegal and Dakar. The first part of this post will be a longer piece of writing, and I’ll use the rest of the post to share some of my favorite photos from the last 5 months.

The day I left Dakar, I spent an hour doing a meditative reflection at my favorite spot overlooking the ocean. After sitting and thinking quietly to myself for the full 60 minutes, I focused my energy towards writing down what I thought would have a lasting impact on me once I return to the States. I don’t believe that one’s life has to be ‘changed’ for better or for worse after visiting another country, but I do believe that we are impacted and also impact upon the places we visit, regardless of how long we are there or what we are doing. Here are a few things from that list:

  1. Aesthetics. Beauty is an incredibly subjective thing – this means that what we as people decide is ‘beautiful’ is not only based on personal preference, but is also very affected by what we are taught to see as having value from things like our parents, the media (TV, advertisements, magazines), and the culture we live in. Some Senegalese ideals of what is considered beautiful, valuable, and desirable are different from those of what we might typically see in Oregon. Living in a culture where my skin tone, clothing, hair, mannerisms, and general way of living in the world are often different from those of the people around me helped me to have a wider perspective than what I have been taught to see as being ‘beautiful’.
  2. Patience. Senegalese culture, much like many other cultures around the world (e.g. Spain, where I currently am typing this), generally has a different concept of time than most places do in the U.S. What we might consider to be ‘late’, i.e. 15 to 30 minutes late, would not necessarily merit an apology in Dakar. This is not better or worse than cultures that generally stick to a tighter time schedule, but it is an adjustment for someone who is used to things happening on time. The time difference mixed with the struggle of speaking different languages, not knowing the transport systems well, and other unforeseen mishaps could turn what would be a half-hour meeting in Portland into a full-day affair in Dakar. Patience is a lovely virtue – when you have the ability (and flexibility in your schedule) to let things go and enjoy the ride, humor and charm can be found in places you wouldn’t normally expect.
  3. Sharing. As I mentioned in the food post, it was startling to me how much I had taken the concept of sharing things for granted until I spent time in Dakar! My experience in the U.S. has been that there is a constant feeling that there is ‘not enough to go around’; not enough money, food, time, things. This leads to a sense of urgency and the idea that if someone else has something, that means there is none left for you. This is so silly to me. I hope to bring the habit of always sharing my food, time, conversation, objects with other people when I can back with me to my life in Portland.
  4. Acknowledgement. At first, the constant greeting of everyone all day long felt exhausting to me in Senegal. I didn’t understand why it was necessary to say hello to someone you didn’t know very well, just to continue a conversation using the same questions and responses every time. What I came to understand for myself is that the importance was not always the content of the conversation, but rather the fact that you recognized another human being and acknowledged their presence in the space. Sometimes, people don’t need a long conversation about deep topics – they just need to feel seen and heard. Not everyone wants or needs to be recognized and acknowledged in the same ways, but the simple act of saying hello can go a long way in making a person feel appreciated.
  5. Humility. I know it’s cheesy, but I think that, (within the bound of reason), life is just too short to get hung up on feeling embarrassed. There were so many moments living in a foreign country where I said or did the wrong thing, inevitably ending in being laughed at by a local person who could so clearly see my cultural faux-pas (missteps). Don’t take yourself too seriously; never be too shy to dance.

Tomorrow is my last day abroad before getting on a plane back to the U.S. I’m sure that when I come in to visit, I’ll have a few more insights and reflections after experiences being back in the States. I’m feeling scared about coming home after being away for 10 months, especially for ‘reverse culture shock’ (the shock of experiencing your home country after living abroad) and for feeling overwhelmed with seeing so many people I have missed so much.

My biggest hope for this blog project was to inspire you all to think with a more open and curious mind about Senegal, West Africa, and Africa in general (which you have more than proved to me with your amazing country reports!), and to encourage you all to feel excited about travelling in your future. What language would you like to try and learn? Where do you most want to visit in the world? I want to hear everything. 

I’ll save the thank yous and goodbyes for next week. For now, here’s a short highlight reel of my semester in Senegal. ❤

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Big mama baobab down in Kaolack.

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Mother dearest.

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Diané, the best teacher ever.

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Papmodou Tall, my Senegalese BFF.

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Dan working on his ‘luteur’ stance.

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Exploring Ile d’Ngor.

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My sweet host dad, Pa Sarr.

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Marieme’s Birthday.

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Finished product of a workshop I held with the kids at my internship.

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Queen of the Desert

 

Ba ayubés bii di ñew, insh’allah! (See you next week, God willing!)

-Rheanna

 

Photo (vidéo) de la Semaine: Week 9

Photo of the Week

 

 

Asalaa Maalekum, everyone! OH my goodness, I love your country report projects so much! I cannot wait to see them all in person. Thank you so much for putting so much time and energy into these reports – I can see how hard you worked. I am so, so proud!

This week, instead of a photo, I wanted to share this video I took of my friends Annabelle and Matou going through the typical Wolof greetings. Greetings in Senegal are VERY important, and can take up to 15 minutes just asking questions about friends, family, work, or just the weather! At the end of this post after your questions, I will post a transcript of what Annabelle and Matou are saying in Wolof and English. How are Senegalese greetings similar and different to how we greet people in the U.S.? 

  • William: What is your favorite vegetable? My favorite vegetable is a lemon cucumber! Have you ever had one?
  • Rueben: Legos are extremely fun and they are the best thing you can ever play with. I whole-heartedly agree with this statement.
  • Sigourney: Do you like to play video games? I do, but not often. My dad makes video games, so I grew up with them around me all the time.
  • Grace: What is your favorite type of soda? I really like Sprite.
  • Ayan: Was that a picture of the school? That picture was of an elementary school I went to, but not actually Ayou’s school, unfortunately. I didn’t have an opportunity to go to her school!
  • Eric: Do they have Rubric’s Cubes? Do you have walkie talkies? They DO have Rubiks Cubes! My friend in Senegal, after reading my blog post, reached out to tell me that she saw a man selling Rubiks Cubes on the side of the road. I’m not sure about Walkie Talkies, but I would imagine they do have them!
  • Ayan: Do they have X Boxes? I never saw any X Boxes. Maybe for some of the more wealthy families? I didn’t really see any video games besides iPhone games.
  • Eric: do you have Takies? (hot orange chips) I never saw any Takies in Senegal, but I DID see them this week in Spain (where I am right now)!

Thanks for your questions! Ba beneen yoon, insh’allah.

-Rheanna

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Transcript for the Video ‘Wolof Greetings’

(Cultural Note for the Video: In Wolof, instead of saying how is your family, one will usually say where is your family. Saying ‘I am here’ or ‘they are here’ means not only that they are physically there at home, but also that they are mentally and spiritually present and healthy.)

Matou: Ko kan la? Who is it?

Annabelle: Man laa. It’s me. 

M: Yow la kan? You, who?

A: Man laa Annabelle. Me, Annabelle.

M: Aaah okay na nga def, waay? Ah okay, how are you, friend?

A: Maangi fii rekk! Yaangi ci jamm? I’m here! You’re in peace?

M: Waaw, maangi ci jamm. Yes, I am in peace.

A: Alxamdoulilah. Ana sa waa kër? Praise be to God. Where is your family?

M: Ñungi fii. They’re here!

A: Ñungi ci jamm? They’re in peace?

M: Ñungi ci jamm. Yes, they’re in peace.

A: Alxamdoulilah. Naka suba si? Praise be to God. How is your morning?

M: Suba san gi nii rekk! Maangi ci kawam. The morning is here! I’m on top (I’m doing great).

A: Alxamdoulilah. Praise be to God.

M: Alxamdoulilah. Yow nag, naka suba si? Praise be to God. And you, how is your morning?

A: Maangi sante Yallah. Maangi ci kawam. I’m thanking God. I’m on top of it. 

M: Naka ligéey bi? How is work?

A: Nungi nii! Nungi nii, mungi dox. We’re here! We’re here, it’s working great.

M: Mungi dox bu baax? It’s working really well?

A: Waaw, bu baax u baax. Yes, really really well.

M: Naka njàng bi? How is school?

A: Alxamdoulilah, maangi ci kawam. Praise be to God, I’m on top of it. 

M: Aah, baax na! Aah, wonderful!

A: Waaw, baax na. Ana sa yaay? Yeah, it’s great. Where is your mom?

M: Mungi fii! Mungi ci kër bi. Waaw, mungi neelaw, waaye, dafa teel. She’s here! She’s in the house. She’s sleeping, it’s early in the morning.

A: Dëgg la, kaay. Nuyul ma sa waa kër! It’s true. Say hello to your family!

M: Insh’allah dinañu ko dégg. God willing they will hear it.

A: Maangi dem. I’m leaving.

M: Nuyul ma sa waa kër! Say hello to your family!

A: Insh’allah dinañu ko dégg! God willing they will hear it!

Feccal!

Weekly Post

Asalaa Maalekum, everyone! This week I wanted to shine a spotlight on just a few kinds Senegalese music and dance. Feccal means ‘dance!’ in Wolof. Music and dance are intertwined in Senegalese culture, so much so that it’s hard to talk about one without the other. Something I experienced on a regular basis was that in situations where people in the Pacific North West (Seattle, Portland, etc) might feel shy about getting up and dancing, Senegalese folks never seemed to have that hesitation. If there was music, it was only natural that someone would be grooving along. This post will be mostly videos – feel free to watch just a minute or two of each, to get an idea of the sound or movement, but I highly recommend you watch all of the last video on this post!

First we have Sabar, the traditional drumming and dance of Senegal.  Sabar is a historically Serer music and dance (my host family is Serer!), originating hundred of years ago in the Senegambia region. Sabar dance is big and full of energy, using the dancer’s arms and legs to their fullest. I only saw Sabar being danced a few times while in Senegal – at a dance performance, and at my brother’s wedding. Though it’s not danced as often as other, more modern dances, even my 6 year old sisters knew the basics of Sabar and would try them out every time a song came on while watching TV.  (It was adorable).

 

In Wolof, Mbalax means ‘rhythm’, and it is used to describe the specific rhythms used in Sabar music. However, the rhythms of Sabar and the more modern genres of jazz and pop fused together to create it’s own genre, also called Mbalax. Youssou N’Dour is the most famous Mbalax singer in Senegal, and I’ve heard it said that his music has done more for the country than all of the NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations – organizations that do aid projects in Senegal, usually) in Senegal combined. Any time Youssou N’Dour came on the TV or radio, each of my family members would stop what they were doing to sing and dance along. Some other famous Mbalax singers are Pape Diouf, Coumba Gawlo, and Cheikh Lô (though Cheikh Lô is more of mix of genres).

 

The Kora is an instrument native to West Africa, specifically in Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and Burkina Faso. It’s a 12 stringed double-bridged lute harp (wow!), and is traditional to the Mandinka peoples. It’s made with half a calabash shell, wrapped in cow hide to create the drum base. How is the Kora different or similar to other ‘classical’ music and instruments you have heard? 

 

Senegalese music and dancing isn’t all Sabar and Mbalax! People listen to all sorts of pop, rap, jazz, and hip hop from all over the world (every time I introduced myself I received a “Oh, Rheanna? Like the singer? I love her!). However West African pop, mostly from Nigeria, was by far the most popular. This song was blasting everywhere during my time in Senegal, accompanied by the dance Maître Gims does in the video. Most pop songs come along with a specific dance, much like the Whip Nae Nae, that everyone knew how to do. The few times I went out to the clubs, people would be dancing their hearts out to Nigerian pop until 6 in the morning. Do you like this song? Do you think it would be popular in the U.S.? Why, or why not?

 

There are many, many more kinds of music and dance styles from Senegal that I would love to explore with you, and hopefully I can play some for you when I come visit! This video above was made by a dance studio right next to my house in Mermoz, making an A-Z alphabet of different styles of African dance. How many did you know about before this video? Which ones would you like to try out?

 

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Me, caught in the middle of a Sabar dance circle at my brother’s wedding. 

Ba ci kanam, insh’allah!

-Rheanna

 

Photo de la Semaine: Week 8

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Asalaa Maalekum, everyone! This week I pulled up a photo from early in my semester in Senegal. This picture was taken on Mardi Gras at my internship in Guediawaye. Most of you have probably heard of Mardi Gras in relation to the giant festival that happens every year in New Orleans. Mardi Gras, or ‘Fat Tuesday’ is supposed to be a festival for eating heavy, delicious foods and partying it up before the Christian tradition of fasting for Lent. Though Senegal is 90% Muslim, the country is known for having excellent harmony between their Christian and Muslim peoples. The holiday has evolved into something resembling what we in the U.S. celebrate for Halloween – all the kids get dressed up in whatever kind of costume they want, and later in the evening are allowed to go up to people to dance and sing for coins, candy, and sugar cubes. These girls above are dressed up in more traditional outfits, with face makeup reminiscent of tattoos indigenous to the Fuulani – one of the most wide-spread and populous ethnic groups in West Africa. What do you think of these outfits? 

Ayan: Did you have a lot of fun there [at your brother’s wedding]? Yes! I had a lot of fun. It was lovely to see my whole family so animated and excited about something so sweet and unifying.

Grace: Do Senegalese weddings have cake or miniature bride and groom? Not to my knowledge, no! But as the world becomes more globalized (meaning, information and advertising is available all over the world and styles and customs from the U.S. and Europe can be found in any big city), more ‘American’ or ‘European’ things become more popular because they are advertised as being cool, or important, or valuable. Therefore, it’s possible that some weddings do happen with cakes and miniatures in Senegal! I would love to talk more about this in person.

Ayan: Why do they smear that stuff in each other’s face? It is my understanding that typically, they are supposed to simply feed each other the lakh to symbolize being united as one – much like we in the U.S. sometimes have customs like sharing rings, saying vows, and throwing a bouquet. The idea behind getting it on the other person’s face is more of a joking tradition, to see who will ‘be in control’ or ‘make the decisions’ in the relationship for the rest of their marriage. It’s supposed to be silly and fun. 🙂

Grace: I’d be jealous if my husband had another wife. Why is that, Grace? What do you think you would do if it was culturally expected to have a co-wife? What do you think the women in Senegal do about having co-wives?

Thanks for the questions this week, everyone! Ba beneen yoon, insh’allah.

-Rheanna

Kii, jangkat la!

Weekly Post

Asalaa Maalekum, everyone! I left Senegal this week after the end of my program, and will be in Europe the next few weeks. However, I have some posts lined up about different things in Senegal for the remaining few weeks of this blog! The other week, I finally had a chance to interview our resident jangkat, or student: my little sister Ayou.

Ayou is 9 years old, in the year CE2 at her elementary school. Senegal has the same school system as in France, which is very different than the U.S. Instead of grades 1-5, the French use a different system:

After the first few weeks I was in Senegal, Ayou had the misfortune of getting hit by a car on the way home from school. She was okay, but ended up on the couch for a month away from school with a broken leg. Now, I’m pleased to say that Ayou is up and running with the rest of the neighborhood kids, working twice as hard at her studies to catch up! Ayou is funny, sweet, and has a sharp sense of humor that will snap at you if you’re not careful. Here’s our interview with your questions!

Emma: What do you like to do for fun? I like to play with my friends. That’s all!

Grace:  What types of food do you eat when you go home for lunch? Ceebu jën (cheb-oo-jen), chou kandia (shoo con-juh).

Rayne:  What is your favorite? Soupe kandia (soopa con-juh) is my favorite!

Connor:  Do you have middle school and high school? Yes.

Grace:  Do you have colleges and do you get homework? Yes! Yes, we have homework. Mostly exercises. And lessons to read. Mostly the math. But I don’t like math. You calculate, and calculate, and calculate, and that’s it!

What is your math like?  Do you have to learn fractions and negative numbers? Addition, subtraction, division, multiplication! Yeah, I know about fractions and negative numbers.

Do you have recess?  Yes. There are two recesses (called ‘creation’ in French) that are 30 minutes each.

Givonne:  Do you have to go to school in the summer? Yeah! In Senegal, school is closed for vacation between October and January.

Eric:  Do you have teacher planning days? Yes.

Do you have report cards? No, I get my grades back in my notebook at school and at the end of the year I get all my grade on a piece of paper.

Ayan:  What do your play grounds look like? Yes. There are rocks, and sand, and a field for the boys to play in, a place for the girls – it’s a little square box that we sit in and write on the ceiling who gets to be the next president of our friend group. I always vote for Kolibala, she’s my best friend!

Eric:  Do you have field trips? Yes. We go to Hann Park, the fair, and the swimming pool.

Do you have outdoor school? Non, not really. I don’t really know. I don’t think so.

Grace:  Do you have any class pets, as in animals? No.

Ayan:  Do you have a mascot? No, there isn’t one.

Eric:  Do you have iPads or other electronics? The teacher has an iPod!

Do you have cell phones? Non, but sometimes a kid will have one yeah.

What do kids get in trouble for the most? Fighting each other. Today one kid but rocks and sand in the president’s eyes!

How long do you go to school each day? What time does school get out?8am to 1pm and then from 3pm to 5pm.

Rheanna! Give me 50 minutes to do something. Fifty minutes? That’s a lot. Yeah, I need 50 minutes to do something really important. Like what? Drink water. You need 50 minutes to drink water? Yes. Wait for me there.

Eric:  Do you do class photos?  Do you have picture day?  Do you have yearbooks? Yes, yes, no!

Genevieve:  Is there a library there? Yes.

Grace:  Do you have teacher appreciation week?  What specials do you have, like PE or Art? Yes! The ‘gentillesse’ (in French: the kindness). We have sports, not art.

Eric:  Do you have chalk or white boards? Blackboards.

How many questions are left? Only five, don’t worry. Uuuuuuuugh.

What do you wish your school had? I don’t know. More races!

Eric:  Do you have Legos? No, what’s that?

Genevieve:  Do you read comics? No, not yet.

Are we done yet? Soon! Hold on, just two more! 

Grace:  What do your classrooms look like? There are tables, white walls, and a blackboard.

Genevieve:  Do you have a dog or a cat? No, no dogs or cats.

 

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Ayou and Laura at Laura and Cheikh’s wedding.

Thanks for the questions, everyone!

Ba ci kanam, insh’allah.

-Rheanna

 

Photo de la Semaine: Week 7

Photo of the Week

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Asalaa Maalekum, everyone! This is the Monument of the African Renaissance, finished in 2010 as commissioned by the former president, Abdoulaye Wade. It is 49 meters tall (about 147 feet!) made out of bronze. The inside is hollow, and tourists come from all over to climb the steps and take an elevator up to the head of the giant bronze man. It is the tallest statue in all of Africa! I have some friends who run up and down those steps every morning for exercise. Think you could run up these stairs every morning? Would you try?

Léegi léegi, insh’allah!

-Rheanna

Jabar ak Jekker

Weekly Post

Asalaa Maalekum, everyone! In Wolof, jabar means ‘wife’ and jekker means ‘husband’. Typically the first question I get asked by any new person I meet after “How are you?” and “How’s your family” is Am nga jekker? or, “Do you have a husband?” Marriage is incredibly important to Senegalese life and culture, and the wedding can be quite the party. Yesterday I had the honor of spending the day preparing for and participating in the wedding of my host brother, Cheikh, and his wife, Laura! I thought I’d make this week’s post talking about the festivities that went down. This post is mostly photos, so excuse the length!

8:30am

I woke up to the comforting sounds vegetables being chopped, rice being stirred, and the ladies of my family chattering excitedly in Wolof. The biggest pot I have ever seen was being used to make a giant batch of ceebu yapp, a delicious dish of spicy rice with diced vegetables and mutton.

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Taken from the 2nd floor window looking into the dining room!

I stuck to my room for most of the morning, finishing my final papers for school. Guests started arriving at the house in the early afternoon to chat and wait for lunch. All the while, my mom and my aunties, who came to Dakar for the wedding from all over Senegal, were laughing and singing in the kitchen, enjoying the opportunity to all be together at the same time.

2:30pm

At long last, Laura made her first appearance! Being escorted into the house by her best friend, she was greeted with cries of excitement, applause, and flashing iPhone cameras from the guests. Typically, modern Senegalese brides wear a white dress for their wedding. However, since Laura’s going to have a 2nd, more traditionally American wedding in the U.S. with a white dress, she wanted to wear something more traditionally Senegalese. Cheikh, in his traditional bubu, and Laura went outside to pose for photos with all the guests. What do you all think of these Senegalese outfits? 

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Look at that embroidery!

3:30pm

Finally, lunch was ready! The guests filed into giant tents set up outside the house to eat and enjoy the company.

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Bébé Ayou gettin ready to mange some ceebu yapp!

6:00pm

At 5pm, all the men went to the Mosque for the traditional Muslim marriage ceremony, which typically includes the fathers of both Laura and Cheikh who agree to marry their children to each other. The women are not allowed at this part of the ceremony, including Laura. Around 6pm, the men had returned and Laura made a re-appearance in her evening gown.

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7:00pm

For the rest of the night, everyone danced, talked, and ate the hand-made snacks that came with goody bags handed out to each of the guests.

11:55pm

After most of the guests had left and the dancing had quieted down, the final part of the ceremonies took place. I was about to fall asleep, and I’m so glad I got up to check out the hubbub outside my door! For this tradition (that not all Senegalese people do at their weddings, but Cheikh and Laura decided they wanted to do), the wife and husband are escorted to the husband’s bedroom by a griot, an important community member that tells stories through song and sometimes accompanies traditional ceremonies (griots do a lot more, but it’s hard to go into completely). The couple are given a bowl of lakh, a dish made of sweet yogurt with millet, almost like a tapioca pudding. The couple feed each other the lakh, and in doing so try to get some on the other’s face. As tradition has it, whoever gets the lakh on the other’s face first get’s to be ‘in control’ of the relationship for the rest of their marriage. Who do you think won? 🙂

Typically, this tradition isn’t as competitive as Laura made it, but everyone loved it anyways.

Other marriage facts:

  • People in Senegal tend to marry young, and it is still normal for families to occasionally arrange marriages for their kids
  • After a couple gets married, the wife is supposed to move in with the husband’s family. It is completely normal for there to be multiple generations in one house! In my house, the grandparents, parents, and little kiddos all live together
  • In Senegal, polygamy is legal and widely practiced (in contrast to monogamy in the United States). This means that husbands can have more than one legal wife. Sometimes the wives live in different places, but often they live all together in the same house. The husband is culturally obligated to spend the same amount of time, money, and attention to each of his wives. Wives, however, are not allowed to have more than one husband.

What do you think of Cheikh and Laura’s wedding, and about marriage in Senegal in general? How is it different than in the U.S.? Would you want to have a Senegalese wedding?

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Our maid (though she’s an honorary member of the family, and my dearest sister), Ndock and I.

Ba beneen yoon, insh’allah!

-Rheanna

Photo de la Semaine: Week 6

Photo of the Week
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The dress of my darling friend/teacher Simone

Asalaa Maalekum, everyone! Did you know? Senegal is famous for it’s abundance of African wax print fabric. It’s called ‘wax’ because of the waxy texture, which is more or less shiny/stiff depending on the quality. Wax fabric comes in any color/pattern combination you could possibly think of. Things I have seen printed on African wax fabric include spray paint (with hand attached), toothpaste, electric fans, bathtubs with showers attached, shrimp, lightbulbs, flashing camera (with hand attached), dismembered fingers, and dinner plates with whole fish. If you look in the ‘About Rheanna’ section of the blog, you can see me wearing a dress my host aunt made out of of wax I picked out at HLM, the biggest wax fabric market in West Africa! What kind of wax fabric would you want?

And now to get to all those awesome questions!

Emily: Yes I did like [the finger henna]. Thanks, Emily! So do I!

Rayne: In the city, do they have bathrooms for both genders or just one? Most of the bathrooms I see are single-stall bathrooms designated by ‘male’ or ‘female’, or else as gender neutral if there is only one.

Samantha: Do they have clothing stores like Ross? Not really, no! Some people get their clothes from used clothing markets where clothes are sold in little market stalls at low prices, but most people get their clothes hand-made by tailors out of wax fabric! I’ve had four dresses made while being here – none of them cost more than $14 each.

Grace: Do you see tumble weeds in the desert? No, Lompoul was not a desert with tumble weeds.

Connor: Was it difficult adapting to Africa? Well, that’s hard to say, as Africa is HUGE with many countries, many climates and many, many different cultures. I’m not sure if I would be able to easily adapt to any other African country besides Senegal. As for adapting to Senegal – many things were very hard. The first month I was here, I was constantly sick from the change in food. And even though I speak a pretty decent level of French, it was really hard to adjust to everyone mostly speaking Wolof all the time. There are dozens of cultural things that were difficult to adjust to completely, which I’d love to talk about sometime. Thanks for the question!

Jacky: Was that snapchat for the picture of the fingers? Ha! Yep, you got me. 🙂

Emma: That [slavery] is terrible. I completely agree, Emma.

Does slavery still happen in Senegal? Do the English come take people away? Legal slavery was abolished (ended) by France in 1794, as well as Senegal since it was under the rule of the French. However, legal slavery in Mauritania, the country just north of Senegal (which I posted about last week), was not abolished until 1981! That’s only 35 years ago. It is very probable that even though slavery was ended in Senegal, there were still people from Senegal enslaved in Mauritania. Unfortunately, although slavery is no longer legal anywhere in the world, illegal slavery still exists everywhere, including the United States. It is simply harder to see because of how hidden it is.

William: I never actually knew that slavery was going on in West Africa. Well, it technically isn’t anymore, at least not legally. Had you learned about the trans-atlantic slave trade and slavery in the U.S. in school before?

Reuben: I do not like slavery especially because I am Black. I saw the movie Django. Dang, I haven’t even seen Django yet! I hear you, Reuben. I don’t like it either. As a white person, it is hard for me to imagine what Black people must feel when reading about things like this.

Ayan: That’s sad. I agree, Ayan.

Thanks for all the great questions this week. I can’t wait to interview my sister with your great interview questions, as well!

Ba ayu bès bii di ñew, insh’allah! (See you next week, God willing!)

-Rheanna