Shorts

Madeleine Balchan - Senegal


April 4, 2011

  • My friend told me I have 2 faces, “sometimes you’re white, sometimes you’re red.”
  • The Poussal or Peujot is a public transportation pickup with a canopy to hold produce and more people. Today there were a few sheep lying peacefully on top of the canopy with their legs tied – I didn’t even know they were there…until all of the 18 people below got some of the sheep pee flying through the wind on them – including me.
  • It’s 9:30PM and we just discovered a new “resteraunt” where I bought some warm powdered milk with sugar – closest thing to a bar or nightlife in the whole rural community of Leona.
  • While sorting through peanuts with Gisela Holle, the village chief’s 60 year old wife,  I noticed a hole in one of their buckets. I sang “there’s a hole in my bucket, dear liza, dear liza”. Holle wanted me to translate into wolof and then we sang the translation for a good half hour.
  • People have been telling me “yow dafa moos!” – roughly translated the best I could understand is “you’re tasteless” or “you’re too smart for your own good” or “you’re ridiculous” or “you’re funny”. Today while sitting with my aunt Iada Sec, mother of 11, I discovered that moos literally means cat. At this realization Iada Sec again said “yow dafa moos!” and I said yeah, but you’re a mother of a moos.
  • Today I learned it’s bad to put the bowl of water for handwashing after a meal down in the same spot that the bowl of food just was. Oops
  • I went to an all-night religious chanting ceremony. “Pregaming” consisted of visiting 7 different houses, 4 dinners of oily potatoes and lamb meat and 6 glasses full of orange soda. At 1AM I passed out on someone’s bed while 5 women over the age of fifty sat chatting waiting to go to the ceremony. I woke up and we all went, but I left at 2:30 and they stayed until 6AM.
  • With pay as you go phone minutes, a one minute call is VERY long. Today’s 0:12 second call:

“Hey will you bring an anti-diarrhea pill to Ndeye’s shop?”
“Sure I’m just going to bucket shower real quick I’ll be right over”
“Okay bye”

  • People must have heard that I’ll defend my family with some amusing insults if they call my younger siblings or one of mothers ugly, because I often get “Ndeye’s ugly!” or “Iada’s hideous”. Just learned the new phrase “yow dafa dey xalaat kom mbaam sef!” You think like a donkey! Now this one gets them everytime.
  • After dancing at the tea party, my aunt told me “YES – now you can have a Senegalese husband! You can clean, cook, and DANCE!”
  • The first time I got my hair braided, my 2nd mom (who’s 20) said “Now you’re a girl!” I asked her what I was yesterday. Then I told her in the states, it’s usually guys who have corn rows. She told me I was crazy.
  • My cousin and I took my soccer ball and 2 younger brothers to the soccer field. After 3 minutes 40 people average height 2.5 feet tall rushed to the field. We played for an hour till the sun went down over the sand.
  • After three months in Leona we went to St. Louis for our monthly meeting as Fellows. My host mom told me to call Anta, our program manager, and tell her I was sick, so I couldn’t go. (white lies are acceptable in Senegal). I went to the meeting instead and had a great time. But even as I rode a camel (tourist-like excursion) I thought about how much I missed my family and friends in Leona already. When I leave in May, it will be much harder than I ever thought it would be.

Madeleine Balchan