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Shakhi Begum - Senegal


March 27, 2014

“Ban tubab? Ban tubab?” Every passing person from lamb bi, Senegalese wrestling match, managed to ignore the question Mere coco was asking. Mere coco was the nickname of  a woman in my neighborhood, who I have become really close with and call mom, thought that I had gotten hurt. She, like some women in Ndianda, sells fruits, vegetables, and homemade goods and and this is why everyone calls her Mere coco, mother of coconuts. She was outside the field of the wrestling match to sell her goods since a lot of people were going to be there. When I was going inside to watch the match, I bought gato u gerte, peanut brittle, from her. I expressed to her how excited I was to see my first Senegalese wrestling.

There is a couple from peace corps that’s placed here in Ndianda; Malik and Mariama. Along with me and my family, the couple decided to go to the wrestling match. I was sitting right behind them and my host parents. Because I couldn’t see while seated, I moved to the other side while not many people gathered. Wrestling matches are exciting and all the kids love to just run around and get attention from the wrestlers. One of them thought it would be fun to throw a rock to make the wrestlers look at him. Unfortunately, it fell on Malik’s head, hard enough to knock him down on the floor from his chair. Poor 70 year Malik and his wife did not know much Wolof. They are in the exact same position as I was a few months back.

A young boy came to me and told me what had happened. I was eager to squeeze through about 300 people to go outside of the field to help them with translating. It was too late and my dad had already taken them to the health post. I turned around to go back to the match but the sight of Mere coco caught my eyes. She was sobbing and I couldn’t help but know why. I went up to her to ask what happened and instead I got a huge hug from her. She wipes away her tears and said “Dama doon xalat, yow la!” I was worried that it was you! She explained how she has been asking which tubab, foreigner, has been hurt but no one knew or answered her right. She was crying because she thought I had gotten hurt!

At that instant, I couldn’t help myself but tear up. Five months have already passed by in a blink of an eye. It’s hard for me to think about going home even now, though I love my family and would do anything to see them right now. I don’t want to leave. Why couldn’t I have everything combined; the culture and people of Senegal, the Bengali food my sister and mom cook, and the freedom I have in the U.S?

This made me realize how much I will miss Ndianda. I will miss walking on the roads where every step led my feet to sink an inch in the sand. I will miss coming home from my apprenticeships on 100 degree weather to my sister and cousin and opening my hijab. I will miss tying my tiny nine months old cousin on my back and walking till she falls asleep.I will miss every single person I have grown to love and still get to truly know them. Most of all, I will miss the way people of Ndianda took care of me like Mere coco.

Shakhi Begum