My time in Senegal is nearly over, and after 6 months in country I thought that it was time to share the most important part of my experience in country; my host family. I live in a rural village named Colobane in the area of Lehar. Lehar, also know as Pambal, is composed of 21 villages where the population is completely Sereer Laala. Sereers are the third largest ethnic group in Senegal after Wolofs and Pulaars. However, between the Sereer people there are various groups and different dialects and I find myself living in the smallest Sereer group with a dialect that only 12,000 people speak. My village is highly Catholic, which is rare for a country that is 95% muslim, with this and other factors my experience has been very unique and my family has contributed hugely on this, so here they are!
She is my host mother. She is married to the chief of the village and therefore is very well-known throughout the region. She is absolutely loving and welcoming, but as soon as you meet her you can sense her strong character and resilience. She is one of the strongest people I have ever met and is never scared of saying what she thinks. From the start she has taken me under her arm and called me her child. She loves to joke around as well as to dance. Whenever there’s music or drums you will see her dancing. She is very active in her community and very active in the household, being the strongest figure in it. Here she is making fattaya (fried dough stuffed with fish) in order to sell it and earn some extra money.
You have probably seen her in a lot of my pictures. She is my only little sister. She is 10 years old, and she is something! We do almost everything together. Wash the dishes, give food to the pigs, sweep the compound, sometimes cook, go shopping in the nearest town, play, etc… As well as her mom, she has a strong character and you can notice her funny sassiness when talking to her. I don’t know what I would have done without her in my time in Senegal. She has taught me so much, not only language wise, but about life.
She is my older sister, 21 years old. (The one at the top right) Since the beginning she was the one that kind of explained me how things worked in the area. She also included me in a lot of things in the community, such as this outing at the beach with the young people of Colobane, which has been one of the best experiences I’ve had here so far. She studies Accounting at the University in Dakar which is very admirable of her. She says that when she has money she will come visit me in Costa Rica. She is like the second hand of my mom whenever she comes home from Dakar and she really enjoys spending time with her friends like Isabelle and Etienne in this picture. She is very smart and independent, and talking with her always gives me new perspectives on things.
Sophie (Tacko) and Raul:
There’s not enough words to describe Tacko. She is the same age as me and we have become very very close lately. She often comes to my room and I help her with her homework, but sometimes we just lie down and gossip, or talk about boys, just as normal 18 year olds would. She adores to joke around and you can mostly see her smiling and laughing. We have developed a really good sister relationship and I love spending time with her and getting to know her even more overtime.
Raul is 8 years old and he’s is one of the cutest and most shy little kids I’ve met here. At the beginning he barely approached me as he was very timid around me, but now he storms into my room to play with me, asks me to help him with his homework, or dance with Assounta. He has a smile that melts my heart all the time, and I care for him a lot.
She was not present the first couple of months in my homestay. In fact she is not blood related to my family, but my mom took her in since she was a little girl so she could go to school in our village and help out my other sisters with house chores. Although at the beginning I was very intimidated to have someone new in my family, now I love having her around. I relate a lot to her because she is quieter than the average senegalese, and she is very chill. We often communicate with our eyes and we can sense when the other is tired, or simply not in the best mood of all. She often comes and sits in my room and just keeps me company while she’s on her phone or tries to talk to me in Spanish as it’s one of her classes in high school. Something I really appreciate from her is that she refuses to talk to me in French, so I am forced to practice my Sereer Laala with her and it has helped me learn and improve a lot.
She was also not around the first months when I arrived. She is 4 months old and she is the daughter of my mom’s late sister. In Senegal is very common to take in other people’s children and in this case my mother decided to take care of Elena as her mother died postpartum and her dad couldn’t take care of Elena himself. She has been a very special part of the family as she brings smiles to everyone. I have the theory that she doesn’t like me as every time I hold her she starts crying, but the few times I’ve been able to hold her without her crying have been very special and have let me grow fond of her. I am very happy to have met her and I am very excited to see her grow throughout the years as I keep in touch with my family.
Prospere and Benoit- aka The Twins:
The twins are 15 years old and they go to a boarding school in Thiés, therefore I don’t see them that much. Whenever they are home though, they help out a lot in the house and they also go play football with Raul and their friends or go help at the farm. They are very shy and sweet 15 year olds and definitely very different to my brother back home.
Ton Ton Jacques:
He is one of my mom’s older brothers. He actually doesn’t live at my house but at my grandmother’s house in the neighboring village. He comes everyday to spend the afternoon at my house, talking to my mom and whoever comes to randomly visit my mom. He has become someone very special to me as he is actively trying to engage with me by asking me questions about where I’m from and about life here. He also tells me stories of when he lived in Dakar and whenever I am reading a book, checks it out even though he doesn’t understand the language. He is a very kind hearted person and I really enjoy my conversations with him.
She is my mother’s mother. Even though she has reached the old age, she is more active than what you would ever think. She walks the whole day and sometimes even goes to the farm. She comes by my house several times a day and every time she greets me happily. I love the moments I have with her and especially after she has drunk a lot of palm wine.
Agnés is actually the little sister of another fellow, Izzy. Since we live so close and Izzy and I do almost everything together she has become like my sister. We joke around, we make each other company while going places and we get along very well. I love her a lot and she is really mature and kind, so spending time with her is really chill.
PS: Tried to upload some pictures but the format didn't work out!