Monday, May 9, 2011

Goodbye Jabis

Mariama had her baby!  Last Wednesday, my host family held the baptism (“Kunliyo” in Jaxanke) at the compound, and I got to invite my Jaxanke /Mandinka friends to join.  Baby Gundo (yes, that is actually her name) is adorable.   Prior to the ceremony, she had her head shaved, ears pierced, and thick black eyebrows drawn on with charcoal.  The morning portion involved all the important guys (Keebaas) praying over the new baby’s life and name.  While they were praying in the center of the courtyard, some of the boys were slaughtering a sheep on the sidelines for lunch.  After that, the men sat around talking while the women began preparing the feast.  My male Peace Corps friends decided to break down gender roles and help us female volunteers chop vegetables along with the other women.   The lunch was delicious, and afterwards, we hung out in the compound, playing and dancing with lots of little kids.  Later on in the evening, my host mom, who had left the compound earlier, returned with a makeover.  She had gotten her hair and makeup done, and she was dressed in a new complet.  Her return was quite the event, with drummers following her and lots of dancing.  The whole baptism was a wonderful cultural experience, and it was a blast for me and my friends to participate and dress in traditional outfits.

From what I’ve experienced in my host family, women are in charge of the children and all the daily household chores.  My host mom had just given birth only a few days before I returned to their compound, and she was already doing chores along with taking care of a newborn.  I could tell she was exhausted, and I admire how hard she works for her family.  The night before the baptism, Mariama and my host aunt had to leave to run errands, and my host dad yelled for me to come to his and Mariama’s room.  He handed the baby to me, left the 2 and 5 year olds with me and told me he needed to go to the market to buy something.  Fatou (2) and Moussafa (5) do not speak French or Jaxanke since everyone in M'Bour speaks Wolof, so it was an interesting experience babysitting without being able to communicate anything verbally.  I’m getting good at charades.  After watching those kids, I have even more respect for what Mariama does every day.

One of the days I was at my homestay, I started feeling nauseated in the morning and it got progressively worse throughout the day.  I didn’t eat lunch or dinner and laid in bed all day, feeling miserable.  I finally got to a point where I knew I needed to throw up and my aunt told me to throw up out back where the goats poop.  I was very uncomfortable and irritable the whole day, and a large group of neighborhood children were screaming and singing outside my door.  That noise coupled with the obnoxious goat shrieks pushed me to my breaking point.  Holding back tears, I asked my host aunt if she could please make the kids move to another compound.  Being sick during homestay is miserable since Senegalese life is loud in general, and it’s impossible to find a quiet place.  For the most part, I’ve adjusted to the noise and don’t have trouble sleeping at night, but being sick made me want nothing more than to teleport home to my quiet, comfortable room.  Thankfully I felt much better the following day.

Sunday was my last day living with the Jabi family, and it was bittersweet.  While I’ve struggled to deal with Karumba’s inflexible, condescending demeanor, I’ve really enjoyed spending time with Mariama and Senoubou.  The Senegelese life involves a lot of sitting, talking, and drinking tea.  Sitting with Mariama and Senoubou in the afternoons has been the highlight of my homestay.  They are very curious about my life in America, and we exchange stories about our cultures.  They are extremely strong, kind women, and I plan to go back and visit during my in-service training in July.

For my final gift to my host family I gave them a new soccer ball from the US.  Thank you to those who donated balls to the soccer ball drive!  And thanks to my dad for organizing it!  I plan to use the rest in Nafadji.  All the young boys who live on my compound went nuts over the new ball.  There was only one soccer ball in the neighborhood, and it was deflated and the outer layer had been peeled off.  My host cousins were all fighting to play with the new ball and started a game in the compound.  My 5-year-old host cousin kept asking me if I could make it a gift just for him so he wouldn’t have to share it with the others.  They all loved it!  I gave my host sister stickers and a sticker book which I thought she would get really excited about, but she looked very confused.  No one in my family had ever seen stickers before, so they had no clue what they were supposed to do with them.  I started sticking them on my host sister’s dress and face and they got the hang of it.  I later found my host mom happily sticking the stickers in the album.  It was hilarious.

I can’t believe I’m almost done with training!  Time has started passing much more quickly, and before I know it, I’ll be in Kedougou.  Thinking about being here for 2 years still seems daunting, but if I break it down into little chunks, it doesn’t seem so hard.  Dondin, dondin.  Slowly, slowly, little by little.

I’m back in Thies this week and will be swearing in as a volunteer in Dakar on Friday!!!  I leave for Kedougou on Saturday and move into my hut on Tuesday.  I can’t wait to settle into my hut and not be living out of a suitcase anymore.  Almost done with training!


  1. Hi Marielle---Either we didn't notice the pics b4 or you just put them up....super. We're sending 2 mixed care pkgs tomorrow....hope they arrive before xmas....hope they arrive at all! Big hug from us both....Kevin and Anja

  2. Thanks Kevin and Anja!!! That is sooooo thoughtful of you guys to send me care packages! Looking forward to them!!! :) Hope you are having a wonderful time in London! Send me an update when you can!