Always on my Toes, and on my Head.

Aubrey Haddard - Senegal

October 10, 2011

At my house, every week we wash the sheep. Coumbis and Hadi both laughed when I said I wanted to try but when they realized I was serious they told me to watch first. Hadi filled the bucket to the top, let me see how heavy it was, placed it on the top of her head and set off up the stairs. Then it was my turn. I filled the bucket and thought how much easier it would be just to carry it by hand, but of course attempted to put it on my head. In my first attempt I managed to completely drench myself and I wound up having to refill my bucket. On the second try, I managed to completely drench Coumbis also who, although half my size, was trying to help me. We celebrated a small victory when Hadi returned and succeeding in getting it on my head, but now came the hard part; the stairs. In my Dakar home, the stairs are undeniably sketchy. Uneven, steep and now slippery from water spilling over the edge of our buckets, ascending was no small feat- at least for me. As I got to the top my parents burst out in both laughter and applause as I was still soaking wet but had participated in one of the most traditional acts of West African culture. “What a moment for you! C’est bon Khadija!” they said to me as they splashed the sheep with the water I’d brought. Smiling, I descended the stairs perfectly content with my accomplishment. But, tout a coup, suddenly, I slipped and fell straight on my butt, scaring the cats back onto the roof. Easily laughed off and not so easily walked off, all that’s left is the black and blue souvenir smack dab on the derriere. Next time will be easier, Coumbis says. Later that night, I was able to practice again. On one of our after dinner soiree’s, that always start with holding hands, proceed to singing and skipping through the streets and end with the completion of the task we were actually sent to do, we brought  a silver metal bowl. I, as usual, didn’t know what exactly we were going to do and was completely  puzzled when we stopped in the middle of a parking lot and started to fill the bowl with sand.

“Waa?!”, my favorite Senegalese saying.

“Shhhh!” As if this was some kind of secret mission.

I bent down to help while persistently whispering why.

“Dooy na,” –that’s enough.

Hadi picked up the bowl and signaled towards my head. As I carried the bowl, a responsibility I was honored to hold, Coumbis explained—les arachides. Peanuts! Of course. Roast them in sand for dessert. My successful bowl carrying seemed to make them taste even better. 

Aubrey Haddard