Little Moments

Katie Mastriano - Senegal


November 22, 2019

Little Moments

After two and half months and a tough beginning, I feel at home with my family of seven in Tivaouane, Senegal. I embrace the name given to me, Ramatoulaye, which means God’s Mercy. I am an only child in the States so five siblings has taken some time to get used to. Well, I’m still getting used to it. My sister Habibatou is nineteen years old and is super passionate about math and science. She’s called my twin since we’re both 19 years old. The next oldest is Adama, and she’s is thirteen years old. She’s the most passionate about learning English. I give her lessons after dinner. Seydina Mohammed is nine and has a calm personality and beautiful singing voice. My other host brother Abdou Aziz is seven and has a great sense of humor. I can tell he wants to get closer. We have a secret handshake. My youngest sister is Marème and she just turned six. She has the largest personality of house! She runs it. My mother Saïnabou (Yaay) is very caring and stern. She stays at home unless there’s an event at another person’s house. I learn most of my Wolof from her. She has great facial expressions. The first thing my father Omar (Papa) said to me when I came into the house was, “You are our family.”  He continues to tell me that almost everyday. My father speaks Wolof, French, and a little bit of English. My mother and two eldest sisters speak Wolof and French so I’m speaking three languages a day. That’s been tiring and challenging, but so fun. 

My family is tremendously understanding, generous, and respectful. They give me all of the time I need for myself. It’s difficult being present all the time. Recently, I’ve been taking myself out of my own head and into the space with them and it’s made a tremendous difference. There are days where I feel like I could greet every person I pass and there are days where my bed looks like the best place to be for the day. I am constantly being stretched physically and mentally and sometimes negativity or yearning can cloud my reason for being there. To try to combat that I write two things a day that I am grateful for. My host family is so loving and protective, and I feel so fortunate to have them as my family. This is the first time they are hosting a Fellow. Not only is this a learning curve for me, but for them, too! There are many things we question about each other. They wonder why I go to bed so early, why I don’t eat a lot, or why I don’t like spice. The only time I truly worried them was when I was sick. I finally feel like a family member and not just a guest. The other Fellows and I were taken out of Tivaouane and put into other Fellows’ homes for five nights for the celebration of Gamou, the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. Being away from my family really brought to my attention how much I love them and how much I want to spend with them the time I have left. Coming home felt so right. The little moments are what make it feel completely like the right place to be at this point in life. I’ve postponed this blog for two months now because my relationship with my family gets stronger and closer everyday. I always wanted to add more and more to my blog drafts, but if I were to write about my the love I have for my family it would probably never be published. Four more months doesn’t seem like enough time at all. 

What is a little moment that made a difficult time feel better? 

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Katie Mastriano