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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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