Since my sister warmed up to me several months ago, I’ve noticed some changes. My host-mother always used to act apologetic for the existence of Ndeye Fama, and it embarrassed me. She would say that Ndeye Fama is ugly, and crazy, and stupid as she swept the floor in front of her.
It made me angry. I started telling funny stories about things that Ndeye Fama had said or done during meals when she wasn’t around. My mother would laugh and say “she is crazy”, and I would say that no, she was funny, or nice. We started cooking together, and playing cards. One day I realized that she had started responding to me in French. I was extremely excited and surprised, as I knew how much trouble she had had with the language in the past. Now, three months later, she is having full conversations and my host-mom is blown away.
Ndeye Fama greets my host-family’s guests for the first time since I arrived, and she smiles more and more. My host-mother has stopped hitting her for forgetting the bread or dropping the water. This morning she even gave Ndeye Fama a brand new outfit from a tailor in Saint-Louis, and told her that she would cook lunch today instead.
Two days before I am leaving, my host-mother tells me that she missed Ndeye Fama. Confused, I said “you mean, me?” She slapped her knee and laughed and said “no, I missed Ndeye Fama because she has been gone a long time, but you brought her back. Now, it is you I will have to miss.”