Yankhoba, The Mentor

Alec Yeh - Senegal


November 12, 2009

Yankhoba is quite the guy. He took me to his house to meet his family. He introduced most of the men as his brothers and most of the women as his sisters. I thought he had 20 siblings. He later told me most of them weren’t actually his brothers or sisters. He just considers them family. The Senegalese consider their friends and neighbors as part of their family. As Americans, we have a very structured view of what family is. I think we should adopt the Senegalese idea of family.

When I asked Yankhoba and his brother, Allen, if they were students, they seemed a little uneasy answering it. I didn’t mean to put them in an awkward position. They answered nonetheless, telling me that they were not at the university. I believe they completed their education, but just can’t find jobs. I love what Yankhoba said though. He said “nous sommes de l’ecole de rue,” meaning “we are of the school of the streets.”

While we were hanging out on the couch, I could barely understand anything. But laughter erupted and I had no idea why. Allen explained to me that Yankhoba has a ton of girl problems. And that Allen and Yankhoba’s friends usually have to fix all his problems. I told them that in the US, he would be called a “pimp” or a “playa.” They found this amusing. I later saw first-hand what Allen was talking about. Yankhoba and I ran into one of Yankhoba’s ex-girlfriends. He looked at her, with a puzzled expression. He forgot her name. It was an awkward minute.

Also while walking through town, I met many people who were Bayefalls. Bayefalls are Muslims, but less strict. I’m actually not sure what exactly they are. They have this cool handshake where they bring your hand to their forehead and tap it once or twice. The other person reciprocates. It continues back and forth for two or more times. I am an honorary Bayefall apparently.

One of them was so nice that he gave me 250 CFA as a welcoming gift. He just put it into my hand. I said I couldn’t accept it, but he insisted. It’s amazing that despite them living below the poverty line, they are still generous with their money, especially with a foreigner.

Alec Yeh