First day in my new home!

Gaya Morris - Senegal


October 6, 2009

Bonjour!

I find myself now in a cyber not too far from my new home in Mermoz, a neighborhood of Dakar across the VDN highway from the Baobab language school in SICAP baobab. Amongst the usual street noises through the open door I can hear singing, a sort of chanting coming from a small group of men standing in the middle of a football court, dressed in long colorful robes. I hqve no idea what caused this spontaneous burst of song, or if it is a common occurence; but I hope it is because its beautiful and their passion is remarkable.

I appologize in advance for any strange spellings or punctuation, the symbols on this keyboard dont exactly correspond to the actual letters and its pretty tricky; also I have a lot to share and not much time so its hard to know where to start. I was afraid I might skip the “honeymoon” (yes I found the quotation marks!( phase of cultural adjustment since I’ve already been to Senegal and everything felt so familiar during the first few days – but I’m happy to say that its here!
Yesterday was my first day with my homestay family here in Dakar. I spent nearly the entire day sitting in their stifflingly hot courtyard, often simply in silence, just listening distantly to the Wolof chatter, which is all basically jibberish to me; and just “being” which seems to be a pretty Senegalese thing to do – just hang around all day and be together. I”m not very much of a “just sit around person” so maybe I will adopt this potentially useful cultural skill during these next few weeks and months.
My family is very large, but as we learned today during our cultural orientation at the Baobab center, it is very bad to ask how many people are in a family – it attracts “jenni” or bad spirits. My host mother is the grandmother of the family: Her daughters currently live in Germany and Italy, but they have sent their kids home to be raised by Fatou, the generously open, warm and fairly large grandmother who greeted me from the first as “ma fille” (my daughter( in her deep feminine voice with a big kiss. Fatou’s sons live at home with their wives and children, of which there are an abundance. The family is fairly well off and they live comfortably sending even the youngest toddler to school. Today was little Maj’s first day and her mother went out shopping for her returning with a plastic pencil case and kit and some of the most sparkly school shoes I have ever seen, a mother’s pride and joy.
Now that I’ve rambled on about who knows what it’s about time to head home. The sun has set which is a good thing in that it’s bad to be out at sunset when the Jenni are out and the men are still singing, in even greater crescendos and decrescendos. I must find out what this is all about…. Hopefully if I make it home in time I’ll get to join in watching the Hindi soap opera that they love – the best part is when Samba sings the theme song at the end – its quite impressive. I hope I will have more time to write tomorrow and share more little details of things I am experiencing and learning.

But for now, to friends and family, know that I am very content and grateful to be in the hands of good people. To our dear Guatemalan fellows – Alec and Hilary danced the salsa today in your honor! To the beat of “head shoulders knees and toes” in Wolof. We miss you muchacha Zuleika!
A demain! Inshallah (God willing…..(
Hopefully then I”ll find the other end of the parenthesis!

Gaya Morris