A day in the life of Astou Ndao

Claire Amsden - Senegal


December 5, 2012

As I gradually make my way from my dreams to consciousness I become aware of a noise. I realize it’s my phone telling me it’s 6 AM. Ugh. Time to get the day started. I stay in bed a little longer, listening to the sounds of the village waking itself up. The sound of women pounding grain into “cere”, (Senegalese couscous) is interspersed with roosters crowing and donkeys braying. If I feel up to it, I’ll get out of bed and go on a run out in the fields with my neighbor. Otherwise I go back to sleep, stretch, or journal. The morning is my personal time to get focused for the day.

Seven o’ clock rolls around. I take a bucket shower, eat a breakfast of bread and coffee, and say my hellos to everyone in the household. Hopefully by 8 I’m leaving the compound, but this is not always the case due to breakfast being late or kids not yet dressed for school. Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays I go to teach at the preschool. Tuesdays and Wednesdays I work at the health post. At the preschool we are learning basic French, singing songs, and learning how to draw. At the health post I’m learning how to give shots, assisting with births, and giving malaria tests.

At 1:00 I get off work and head home. I sweep my room, clean the bathroom, and nap until lunch around 2 or 2:30. Communal meal time is one of the best parts of my day. The whole family gathers around 2 or 3 bowls on the dirt within the walls of the compound. Usually we separate by gender. Typical meals include “ceeb u jen”, “maffe”, or “soup u kayndia”. Afternoons are really up in the air. Maybe I work on my Global Citizen Year homework. Maybe I read a book. Maybe I go visit the neighbors. Maybe I just lay outside on a mattress and talk with my siblings. In the evenings I either make fatayas and beignets with my “badjeen” (my aunt) or I have Wolof class with Moustapha.

As it finally starts to cool down, I rinse off to get away from the heat of the day, and then chill with the family until dinner is served around 8:30. My all time favorite dinner is “cere ak mbuum”. After dinner I help my sisters and brothers study for school. Sometimes this is frustrating because the education system here is so focused on memorization rather than comprehension. I want my siblings to understand what they’re learning, but in order to do well in school the next day they need to have the lessons memorized word for word.

Now, that’s a typical day. But some of my favorite things to do don’t happen all the time so here’s a list of them:

Saturday mornings SLEEP IN

Once I get up Saturday I hand wash my laundry and hang it up to dry in the neighbor’s yard 

Fetching water in the evenings

Going back to the health post in the afternoon and drinking “attaya” (Senegalese tea) with the doctor under the big tree

Singing in the church choir on Sundays

Going to visit my fellow Fellows in Joal

As I close my eyes and get ready for bed I always feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and joy that I got through one more day, and that I have another day to look forward to tomorrow.

Claire Amsden