Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mama Africa comes to visit

Sorry Ive been MIA lately. I had the amazing blessing/priviledge/opportunity to spend some wonderful weeks with my best friend Molly, who came to visit from the States. It was so great to be able to see Africa through new eyes, and I got to see a little bit of what I was probably like when I first arrived. She doesnt speak any French or Wolof (but great Spanish), so I had to play tour guide. It was great! She got to meet my friends and visit my haunts and do all that is normal life for me, including showering in a bucket, peeing in a hole, making attayah, listening to the sounds of the mosques every day, and doing lots of sweating.
Some highlights from her visit, in no particular order:

-Picking her up from the airport in a giant, sea-foam-green traditional Senegalese dress. Seeing her across the parking lot, I knew it was love.
-talking late into the night and eating the stash of chocolate that my mom sent with her. Because of a mix-up in our reservations, we got to stay at a beautiful and cheap hotel right on the beach, complete with a balcony and breakfast nook.
-We took a pirouge to the Ile de Ngor and hung out on the beach. We also visited Akon and El Hadj Diouf's house. I guess they're roomies in this huge mansion on the island.
-We walked all around downtown and like the nerd I am, I took her to see all the government buildings (sorry Molls). We went to Marche Sandaga where she bought truly Senegalese jeans and fabric for the tailor. It was an adventure and we found ourselves in a dank Senegalese bar with dear old Moussa Kane.
-taking Sept Places to St Louis and back. traveling in style.
-Attayah lessons with Omar. I have never made 4 rounds of attayah before she came.
-We went camping in the back of the truck at Zebrabar. I havent laughed that hard in a very very long time. "You just a 'pidge wit no coups.", "Dafa cameltoe quoi." ....her Wolof is improving.
-Eating ungodly amounts of mangoes.
-She got to participate in the Weekend du Village = a huge party for our group of dorms that included dances, speech contests about Homosexuality, tshirts with our names on them, and fancy prom dinners that started at 3am.
-Ah yes, the soiree at Lazer.
-She got to eat cebbu jen bu neex at my wolof teacher's house.
-American slang lessons with Omar and Magueye. I think they finally understood that "bootylicious" translates to "djaefundae" in Wolof. The teachable moment, thank you Beyonce.
-Questions for Freddy, with some reggae dance lessons on the side
-going to the Pumps Beach in Dakar, eating Magnum bars. Mmmm...Yes please.
-The day at the zoo with the little girl who came to see me, the toubab, as the animal in the cage.
-Careful, Your bin-bins show when you pray.
-Surfing at virage. Im still sore, but it was great to be back there.
-Psyching out the Resto staff. Anyway, all us toubabs look the same.
-baking brownies for a going away party chez Omar.
-getting clothes tailored at Youssou's.
-Shouting over the Bayfall party. watching them drop like flies during the course of the night.
-cafe touba.
-Prayer walks on pumps beach. Clearing the mind and soul.
-"Dafa lame quoi"
-TIA taxis getting her luggage stuck in the trunk when she has to catch her flight.
-Tears in the airport reminding me of my love for her and all my homies and of my own all-too-soon departure.
-African sunrises and African sunsets

All in all, it was a lovely and amazing time. Definetly one of my highlights here. I'm so excited to reconnect with all of my friends when I get to the US. But right now, I am just trying not to think about leaving Senegal. If I think about it, I start to choke up. June 24 is a long time from now, right?

Anyway, in other news, I'm happy to announce that Senegal is now in Mango season. I eat about 10 a day. My favorite recipe of the moment is to mash it up and cook it down with some milk, vanilla sugar and salt and make a sort of mango compote and put it over yogurt or GF crackers when its still warm. Yums! We have to get creative here in Senegal.

There's no internet on campus for the past week+, so Im in town at a cafe, distracted from writing the 4 papers due this week. Yesterday my friend Branton came to St Louis to visit Jill and I/explore west Africa. He too is eating at Pap Laye's right now, but I think soon I will be playing tour guide.
Peace and love to you all, strangers.

Friday, May 2, 2008

It dont matter if you're black or white

Yesterday a bunch of us Toubab girls went to this secluded pool resort in St Louis called Ranch de Bango. Normally, obvious shi-shi European toubab places like this turn me off but, frankly, we all had to escape the racism we have been experiencing. It's interesting to note that all of us are expressing the sentiment that we've had it up to here with the comments and obvious racial remarks.
Let me preface this by saying that the racism we experience is NOTHING compared to the virulent hatred that exists between races elsewhere in the world (ahem. Milwaukee). I cannot complain, but I need to vent.

Yes, racism against us is real, and we're getting a little fed up with the comments such as, ¨You're from America! Marry me and take me there!¨, ¨Yangy lekk sa xalis.¨ (Literally, You are eating your money. Figuratively, you're doing well), ¨Hello. How are you. Do you want a Senegalese husband?¨, ¨Why dont you speak Wolof well? Waw, you dont understand anything!¨, ¨You dont want an African boyfriend? What, are you racist?¨

Example: My sweet friend Magueye and I went on an adventure downtown, and he bought a sandwich and the guy stuck his hand out to me to pay for Magueye. Mags was more offended than I was.
Example: One of my toubab girlfriends went to the beach with her Senegalese friend and the taxi driver charged them 4 times the normal amount because she's white. When her friend contested the price, the taximan refused to back down because he said that all Toubabs have money.
Example: My friend Birame told us that there is a group of students here on campus that think us toubabs are spies! No lie! He said that they approached him after they saw us together at the Resto. Because, why would a ¨rich¨ American want to come to Senegal, unless they had ulterior motives?
Example: My friend Stephanie was trying to buy something at a boutique, but the owner was ignoring her and serving everyone else who was pushing their way in front of her. She was so fed up, after months of this behavior that she snapped and started yelling at the Senegalese that ¨this is why Africa is so underdeveloped! You don't respect each other!¨ Wolof.
Example: In a taxi 2 days ago, I asked the taximan a question in Wolof and the other people in the taxi were surprised that I spoke the language, so we started chatting. When a different guy (a University student) got in the cab, he said to one of the guys in Wolof ¨You're chatting with your xonq nopp, huh?¨ Xonq nopp means ¨red ear¨and it is the equivalent to the N-word in English. The guy I had been chatting with got really embarrassed and said ¨Uhh...she understands Wolof, man¨. Awkward silence.
Example: Sitting on a bench outside my friend Freddy's room on campus, a middle-aged man asked him in Wolof, ¨May ma sa jabar.¨¨...¨Give me your wife.¨Then the guy asks me if he can bring me home to meet his daughter because shes afraid of toubabs. If I could just go home and meet her, because she's always complaining that she doesnt know what white people are like. Sweet Freddy was livid, ¨She's not an animal in a zoo to be examined! What? Pretty soon people are gonna throw pieces of fruit at you! Do you prefer apples or bananas?¨Then he starts reeming the guy out for raising his daughter in ignorance. He just about lost it, though, when the guy started taking pictures of me from all angles with his camera phone. It was funny and sad at the same time.
Example: One of Megan's friends proposed to her the other night, saying, if you take care of the VISA paperwork, we can tear it up when we get to America and I'll let you go free.

etc. Sigh.

Granted many comments are said in good fun, but once they've been repeated for the zillionth time, they get old. They stopped being funny in November. Maren's friend argued that it is just the uneducated Senegalese who act racist like this...but no, the educated elite university students are sometimes the worst!

And I wont even go into how the West is blamed for all the underdevelopment in Africa, in almost every single one of my classes. (I slightly agree, but it is taken too far). But at the same time, the West is also blamed for not helping with all the underdevelopment. Racism against the occident is ingrained in the educational system. The humanities are centered around colonialism and decolonization and their effects. The French are pretty much hated here by the Senegalese, because of the colonial history.

Joking between races is perfectly acceptable here in Senegal. Example: ¨Oh you're Jola? The Jola's are the slaves of the Pull!¨, ¨I cant have dinner with you, Serrer, cause your kind just eats everything in sight.¨, ¨Watch out for that Wolof, he'll steal everything you have.¨ In America, this would be completely unacceptable. But here, pejorative terms are thrown around like rice at a wedding, and nobody bats an eye. And they wonder why there are so many ethnic conflicts.'s all just getting to be a bit much. However, It is a strange privilege to be able to understand this on a personal level, so that I can apply the lesson elsewhere. Needless to say, sometimes I just have to get away and sit in a pool with people who understand. These toubabs have been my sanity.