Nguéniène: Kërg gi, Bin na

Pablo Quezada Cortés - Senegal


May 31, 2017

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The old and big mango tree at the middle of the courtyard stands as
the house’s life symbol.

 

With more than 20 year inside its wood, its presence creates a
peaceful space that makes it the center of social interaction at the N’dour
house. Relatives and friends of the family will come and sit under its shadows
for afternoon’s talks, lunch or dinner invitations or just enjoy the welcoming
fresh spot on hot days. Children may play around the tree and rarely, when
their energetic bodies get tired of playing, they may sleep under it.

 

So here I found myself, sitting under the tree in companion of my
host family. Almost every afternoon, when my host parents come back from work,
the kids from school and I from one of my apprenticeship, we eat lunch together
on this spot and then we repose. My host mother will ask me for my day usually
– Nan calel ke? Xaye, kaa sum[1]
meanwhile my host father will listen with its usual contemplative silence. My
host sisters will ask me other questions meanwhile my host brother will make
jokes. My host cousins will play and scream around and I just laugh looking
them.

 

The day will pass over and this scene may take hours. People will
come and by –including myself – but the generous invitation to take a seat and
share with each other is always present. Even though this is a common situation
considering the Senegalese cultural context, this atmosphere created by the N’dour
family is the same one that touched my person through their sense of family and
inclusion.

 

…………………………………………………………….

 

Nguéniène, the N’dour family. The first time I read about them was
in the documents that my regional team leader gave me on the placement
notification day:

 

 Nguéniène, a rural town located at the Prefecture
of Mbour (Thiès Region), zone that is commonly known as La Petite Côte. Specifically,
the town is located between the port city of Joal-Fadiouth and the village of
Thiadiaye.

 

Next page, the N’dour Family:

 

 

Rosaline Sene. Host mother, preschooler teacher.

 

Eduard N’dour. Host father, administrative worker at local middle school.

 

 Julia, Pascal and Marie-Floran N’dour. Host sibilings, high school,
middle school and elementary school students respectively.

 

Ami Sene. Host cousin, at the time in a year-off before university.

 

The paper did not mention Madame Ely (an elementary school teacher
who rents a room in the house) and Llamay Sene.

 

Language spoken at house: French, Wolof and Sereer Sine. Religion:
Christianism, Catholicism.

 

 

At the beginning, the nervousness to start over again was constantly
present. I got used somehow to Dakar’s wild rhythm, to the hard tenure and fast
pass. However, Nguéniène will be my final placement after all.

 

Once the bus arrived at the house, I cross the threshold and I saw
the big mango tree at the center. Under it, the N’dour family was awaiting
meanwhile the Ataya was being prepared. For a few seconds I didn’t know what to
do or how to start. But at least I was confident that I could communicate with
them: On my time in Dakar, I developed my French and I started to learn Wolof.  Having in mind that Wolof is widely spoken in
Senegal and French is the institutional language, I thought there would be no big
deals into communication.

 

Nevertheless, it was other the situation.

 

Salaam Aleikum, I said.

 

Mbaldo[2],
they replied.

­­­­­­­

­_____________________________________________________________________________________________

[Note from the Author]

 

My host family belongs to the Sereer ethnicity, specifically Sereer
Sine (both N’dour and Sene are traditional Sereer Sine last names). In general,
the Sereer ethnicity is one of many ethnicities that demographically composed
the wide ethnical diversity in the country. At least, 14.7% of the Senegalese population is thought to be
part of this ethnicity, which it includes its internal crystallization due
territorial concentration and language development[3].
In the same way, Nguéniène is predominantly Sereer Sine being the main spoken
languages Sereer Sine and Wolof.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Speechless and without a clue on how to response, I just rubberized
and said “pardon”. The entire family laughed at me for a while, meanwhile
Rosaline came to me, shacked my hand and said “ça va aller”. Then Pascal
offered me attaya and Eduard grabbed my baggage. I was introduced into my room,
and then the whole family presented themselves under the tree. They offered me
a seat without hesitation and through my inexperienced French we started our
first bonds.

 

Where are you from? You are American, aren’t you? Chile, Isn’t
located in the United States? Questions and questions came on hand without
pause. It took me longer to explain where I come from, helping me with the dirt
floor to draw two shapes between the Atlantic ocean, then localized South
America and finally Chile. They didn’t know what to say either, expecting an
U.S citizen instead.

 

In a way we were in a plane field; we wanted to mutual discover what
was unknown for us.

 

The night came and our talk extended at this point. From them I
learnt how Senegalese people loved to talk and discuss, even though my French
was forced and basic. They wanted to know everything, to understand who was the
person in front of them. I was trying to do the same but, with my lack of
context, few I got.

 

Suddenly, Rosalie said: ”Eduard, we need to give him a name”.

 

It is a tradition for Senegalese families to give a foreigner friend
a Senegalese name. It solidifies its hospitality, its openness and inclusion to
their lives, family and community. It may take some time, but they didn’t
wanted to wait or it seemed liked that.

 

Eduard doubted: “You can choose between two. Wally or Déthié?”

 

“Déthié” I said because I didn’t like Wally.

 

Eduard looked at me surprised, Rosalie just laughed.

 

“You have chosen my uncle’s name” said Eduard, perplexed.

 

“So, now on you are Déthié N’dour from Nguéniène” celebrated
Rosalie.

 

………………………

 

“Hi, I’m Déthié N’dour from Nguéniène. My father is Eduard N’dour
and my mother is Rosalie Sene. Nice to meet you.”

 

Time passed and that was my introduction for 8 months. Even though
people will laugh and then ask again for my real name, the N’dour family
corrected them saying I was Déthié N’dour. They knew more about me, about this
Chilean person who told them about a large country with an ocean a west
boundary, as Senegal does. About a country with different crops and very
exigent with introducing vegetal/animal products. About a young adult that
wanted to open his eyes through them.

 

Indeed, I did not only open my eyes through them, their passion and
understanding.  I also open my heart to
them.

 

If I think of them, the N’dour family, I just recreated the
courtyard in my mind. The same courtyard with the same mango tree. The same
chairs around them, with people talking at any time until late night. But most
important, the same voices from a family whom made of this experience a bridge
of inclusion and understanding.


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[1] Sereer Sine: How
is the work going? Today is hot.

[2] Sereer Sine: Good
Morning

[3] If you are
interested in this topic, I recommend you to research on the topic
independently. Sereer’s internal diversity is really hard to explain in one or
two paragraph, creating another topic that it will be different from the main
purpose of this entry.

Pablo Quezada Cortés