The following is a collection of my experiences that I deem are blog-worthy, but not quite long enough to have a blog to themselves. They are also a way for me to apologize for my recent lapse in blogging, though I promise more are soon to come.
I start my day out right every day, with a spaghetti sandwich in hand. It is seasoned and cooked to perfection by my host mother, Virginia. Please know this is not the norm for Senegal. It is usually just a baguette with butter or Chocopain (chocolate spread) for breakfast. So how, you might ask, did I get so lucky? Well it just so happens that my Mom is an entrepreneur. She wakes up at 5:30 AM Monday-Friday to make this magical concoction which she then sells on the road near our home, where the children pass everyday on their way to school. In a vain attempt to learn how to make the delectable sandwich, I asked her to explain it. You can imagine my distress when I discovered that over half the ingredients are local, and will not be found in the US. I now treasure each and every bite, knowing my mornings of bliss are numbered.
I am on my way to the beach for a run when I see them. Women, men, and children huddled in groups outside of a home. Everyone is dressed in their finest clothes, as if going to a celebration. I smile and head their way. I get closer. I slow down. These people are not happy, and are not celebrating. They are crying. I stop. I have seen this kind of pain before. They are mourning. Multiple faces spot me before I turn to go home. I walk back quickly. I see my mom. I ask her what has happened, who has died? She says, “I do not know her name. But it is a sad day. She was young.” I ask how young. “Nineteen. And she was pregnant.” I go to my room. I mourn and pray in private for the woman I did not know.
UNO! You Don’t Know….?
For Christmas I gave my little sister, Jacqueline, a deck of UNO! cards. Her face lit up and she was so excited that she hopped out of her seat and gave me a kiss on the cheek. However I was sincerely surprised when she turned down my offer to teach her the game, as she said she already knew how. Fast forward 4 weeks. I’m talking to Lucias, another Fellow who lives in my village, when he says, “Hey, didn’t you give your sister UNO! cards for Christmas? My sister came home with a handful of the red ones…” Upon further investigation, I found out that Jacqueline thought they were a deck of normal cards. Once she realized you couldn’t play normal card games with them, she started trading them with her friends. Similar to the way you would trade Pokémon cards.
Fête Pour Moi!
I’ve been trying to figure out what University to go to for the past three years. I have always viewed college as the beginning of real life, of adult life, and therefore to be chosen with extreme caution. This has caused me stress, anxiety, sadness, and ultimately got me nowhere. This only increased when I got to Senegal and realized that I had to reapply and do so with limited internet. Then I got an e-mail from my older sister, Lauren, back home in Nebraska. It read, “Honestly, just pick a college that has what you want to study. The important thing is to get a degree.” That had a ring of truth to it, and I was tired of worrying about it, so I followed her advice. A little while later, I got accepted. My host family had known I was waiting to hear if I got in or not, and when I told them the good news, they all kissed me on the cheek and told me how proud they were of me. As if that didn’t warm my heart enough, the next day my Dad bought a chicken for us to eat since he knew it was my favorite. Chicken is expensive and not eaten often; a real treat in my village. My Mom prepared a feast in my honor that night, and neighbors and friends came by to congratulate me. Being shown this kindness is something I’ll never forget and reminded me of all the opportunities I have that I will never again take for granted.
I live in a one-room, cement hut with a thatched roof that is located a small hop-skip away from the beach. I consider it to be my own little corner in paradise (minus the fruit, there is never any fruit here). The only downside is that at night I am never, ever to go outside. Not to use the restroom or even if I’m sick, both of which has happened I might add. The reason is one rather scary species of animal: hyenas. Someone has trained Albert, my families’ dog, to stay on guard outside of my hut at night. Whenever he barks, I can hear them “Maaaauuuuu Maaaauuuuu Mauuuuuuu” in a low, quiet response. This used to really freak me out. Hyenas were something I saw in a zoo or in “The Lion King”. Not ever in the wild, un-caged and on the prowl. But after months of living here, something gradually shifted. I don’t know when the transition happened….when they stopped keeping me awake and started lulling me to sleep. All I know is that as long as I’m safely locked inside my hut, cocooned beneath my mosquito net, and on the edge of unconsciousness, all I have to do is listen for the hyenas’ lullaby to softly pull me under.
All My Love,
Penda Liwane Diouf