He said, she said, we said: In translation

Grace Bachmann - Senegal

March 12, 2013

 Host father, the village religious leader- “Fatou, where have you been? I hardly see you, my child, anymore.”
Me- “I like to wander all over the village.”
Host father- <chuckles> “That’s great- now the whole village knows you.”
Neighbor- “You’re taking corn to the grinding machine.  Can you cook latcheeri*?”
*traditional corn cous-cous dish
Me- “I try.”
Neighbor- <laughes> “Eh, Fatou. Yes, you can. You’ll be Peul soon.”
Friend- “Why’d you cut all of your hair? It was beautiful.”
Me- “The heat is coming. I would have suffered.”
Friend- “Did you keep the hair?”
Me- “Yes.”
Friend- “Can I have it to weave into my hair.”
Me- “Sure.”
Friend- “Great. Bring it tonight.”
Friend- “How come you can speak Pulaar and we can’t speak English?”
Host sister- “You’re back. Here, grind these leaves and meat, and then throw them in the pot.”
Me- <sets down lap top on a stool, finds life-size wooden mallet and commences pounding>
Student in my class who I met at the water pump- “Fatou, are we learning to draw today?”
Me- “Yep. Are you coming?”
Student- “If I finish cooking.”
Nephew, almost three years old- “Fatou Diallo, are you afraid of hot pepper?”
Me- <doesn’t yet understand baby talk in Pulaar> “What?”
Nephew- <repeats his question, more vigorously each time, until my sister repeats more articulately> “ARE YOU AFRAID OF HOT PEPPER?”
Me- “Oh. No.”
Host father- “Where are you going?”
Me- “I’m going to the primary school to teach.”
Host father- “Wait for the third cup of tea.”
Me- <sacrifices being early to class for the third cup>
Friend- “If you go home to America, come back here and marry me.”
Me- “Can  you wait ten years? I have to go to college first and then find a job.”
Friend- “Ten years!?! I’ll be old and grey by then.”
Host mom- “Fatou, come and eat.”
Me- “I already ate, thanks.”
Host mom- “Eat just a little more.”
Me- “Really, I’m very full.”
Host mom- “Come on. Just a little- it’s rice and peanuts!”
Me- “Okay.”
Host brother- “What’s this?”
Me- “An Etch-A-Sketch.”
Host brother- “What?”
Host grandmother- “Take a break from cracking peanuts. You must be tired.”
Me- <a mound of cracked peanuts in front of me, my thumbs red and swollen> “I’m fine.” <continue cracking peanuts>
Host brother- “They [GCY Fellows] refuse to rest.  Fatou runs to the top of the mountain everyday.”
Host grandmother- “Uh! O tampi!*”
*Tampi (from verb tampugol) refers to suffering and exhaustion

Grace Bachmann