Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Time for a few More Things

Not as many as last time, I hope. That was a bit obnoxious.

1) My younger sister has a private tutor who comes to the home twice a week and calls me Kate Chopin.

2) My older sister asked me why I didn't go to the big demonstration today. If it weren't such a sensitive subject, I would've sarcastically said I liked Wade. However, I instead went with the safer but still sassy answer of "Next time I'll go if you go"

3) Suur naa (I'm full) is only useful when employed correctly. Say "suur naa" before you are actually full, because someone will certainly tell you you didn't eat (not eat enough, but eat at all). Then eat until you are full, repeat phrase, and get up.

4) I had white rice with chocolate powder on top as a snack today, and was surprised to have enjoyed it.

5) I had an avocado craving, which was strange because I rarely eat them in the US, and I hadn't even seen one here or thought about it until today. But tonight at dinner, we had salad with meat, egg, vegetables, and avocado. That was pretty awesome.

6) You came to let the slave go free, You cause the sinner to sing praise- in You we are secure. WHAT JOY!
- from "What Joy" by Sarah Emerson. This was His Little Feet's status today. It perfectly captured what my heart was trying to say right at the moment I read it.

7) Hebrews 6:19 has been an important verse in my life the past two months or so.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil

8) I love when I'm at home at night and my face feels just a little bit warm, because it's a reminder to be thankful for all the sun where I am right now.

9) I am obsessed with being on the roof of our school, the Baobab Center. I mean, really truly obsessed. Photos may not explain it to you, but it certainly does for me.

Jamm ag jamm (peace to me and peace to you)

Monday, January 30, 2012

I Got a Desk Job in Senegal. What?

Title was prompted by Miss Val Hanson, and is kind of mostly true.

Will I have a desk? Yes
Will my job be at it? Sometimes
Is it volunteer? Absolutely

Now that we have the facts straight, I'll tell you more. I went to Partners International today to get things set up. They tested my French - by appearing to not speak English - and came up with a bunch of ideas (I passed the test!) It looks like I will be teaching English, translating some materials (not sure which way), taking part in prayer meetings, a possible bilingual Bible study (good thing I brought that English Bible. I almost just brought the French one), and of course whatever else may come along. They invited me to make the office my home away from home - to drink tea, to get online, whatever.

They also seemed pretty excited with both the length of time I'm in Senegal as well as the amount of time I feel I can give. The more I saw, the more excited I got. They have this five point "DNA", and one of them was a focus on prayer, which was naturally beautiful. I loved seeing what they're doing, not just in Dakar or even Senegal, but throughout West Africa. They were also glad I was familiar with the 10-40 zone, which is primarily where Partners works.

Which brings me to the other cool point about this whole dealio, which I was reminded of this afternoon as they showed me the country map. Before I ever really thought I'd go to Senegal, in early November 2010, a friend said I needed to get a facebook. One of the reasons he gave was so he could keep track of my future adventures in the 10-40 zone. (those links both go to different sites). I laughed and rolled my eyes and said um maybe some day without actually believing it was going to happen.

And then it did. I'm in Senegal, working with an organization that serves as a catalyst for indigenous church movements and the advancement of the gospel. I'm here, with an open, servant's heart, ready to be surprised by another level of joy in the Lord. I originally had planned on working with IFES, IVCF's international movement, but I haven't heard from my contact since November. What God means to happen, happens. Period.

Some Pictures...

This is from day 2 in Senegal, before I moved in with my host family and started eating around the bowl all the time.

This is also from day 2, on a bus tour through downtown Dakar.

This is one of my favorite pictures so far, from Goree. Thanks to Jenny for use of your arm :)

Goree again, right as we arrived.

From the roof of the Baobab Center

This is from that informal street school I blogged about earlier

These are my older sister's children: Ibou (10), Assy (7), and Barabou (6)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

La Lumiere (The Light)

Last night, when the power was out, I was entranced by the candle in the dark living room. All I could think of was the Light of the world. The Light that was the light of men, that stepped into darkness so that we would see.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:4-5


After you read this post, hopefully you will understand this statement:

Today I got to help around the house. It was wonderful!

Teranga expresses the Senegalese value of hospitality, which manifests itself quite differently from what we might expect in the US. In the United States, if you stay with someone, it is generally someone you know pretty well. When you arrive at their home, they would likely show you where the kitchen, living room, and bathroom are (perhaps laundry room if it’s a long stay), and tell you the internet password if there is one. If you offered to help with dinner, or at least clean up, they’d probably let you.

In Senegal, it is not so. It is not uncommon to welcome near strangers or distant family members into the home for indefinite periods of time. My host family didn’t even know how long I’d be staying! I also had to ask about the bathroom and password, because it’s simply not their way to just tell their guests these things. They want things to be simple for their guests. And don’t even think about picking up after meals, much less helping prepare them. That’s a big no-no; it is completely unacceptable.

It’s unacceptable, of course, only until you are welcomed in as a full-fledged member of the household. No, there isn’t a ceremony, and it probably varies on an individual basis. But for me, it started my second week here. I started buying bread and coffee for my mom and I in the morning. This is a tiny task, often assigned to children, but it was still exciting for me. Part way into the week, I also got to start buying the bread for dinner. Woot woot. This week, I’ve been given the task of setting out and cleaning up the mats before/after dinner (the maid does it for breakfast and lunch). Last night, I got to make attaya (though a candle-lit lesson probably won’t do me much good in the long run)

And then today. People hard-core sleep in on Sundays, and I didn’t go to church because it’s pretty far from my house and I didn’t know what was really going on yet. So after a late breakfast, I was asked to help my younger sister clean dishes. I also hung some towels up to dry.

I was excited because it means I’m less of a guest and more of a family member, which is one of the great things about doing a homestay – learning what it’s like to be part of a family somewhere else.

At this rate, I’ll be making ceeb u jeen in no time! (Fish rice, the national dish)

What To Do When The Power Goes Out

With all of the happenings around Dakar, and Senegal as a whole, it surprised no one in my family when the power went out around 9 last night.

All of these things were actually done by my family last night, in no particular order:

-Candlelight dinner (more of a necessity than anything else)
-Jokes (the power went out right when my mom came home. I told her it was her fault and she laughed really hard)
-Mock one another's dance moves
-Discuss how old the president is (impressions not required, but strongly encouraged)
-Make attaya. In the dark.
-Julli (pray)
-Read the Senegalese version of People/US Weekly
-Listen to the radio for news
-Laugh quietly at Mamy snoring on the floor
-Stare up at the stars.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Restez Chez Vous (Stay Home)

As some of you may know, there is a bit of a situation in Senegal regarding the February presidential elections. It makes the GOP primary look smooth. If you want to read more, I suggest going here. That link will tell you what's happening today/tomorrow. President Wade wants to run again (he already has a system plotted to rig the elections in a way and ensure victory), but most people agree that it's unconstitutional. He wants to put his son into power. My sister told me his son is a drug dealer and if the president loses, he'd go to jail for a very long time.

During our Wolof class today, one of the directors of the Baobab Center came in and told us what was going on. The two groups - the opposition, and the President Wade's party - are both organizing demonstrations surrounding the expected decision. If he says he's running, the opposition will erupt and be very angry, as most people do not want him to run again. If he says he's not, his party will be upset because he has offered them protection from criminal activities. So people are being very careful. We've been told to stay home and pay attention to the news.

The US Department of State has issued some warnings; the Baobab center is really on top of things and we are all safe. I won't call this fun, but it is quite the experience! I've enjoyed learning more about the events in recent history from my family - it seems I can't stop talking politics no matter where I go! My sister was surprised to hear that the US is also in our election process and was very curious to know more. That French assignment I had in high school to explain the US political system to a foreigner was practical after all!

Mostly I wanted to tell you that if you do happen to hear things in the news, don't worry. I am fine, and we are all keeping a close watch on the situation.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

C'est Quoi, le Bonheur? (What's happiness?)

Today was our second Dakar in Transition class, with the beloved Ibou Diallo. The topic for the day was globalization, which is a pretty big thing to be discussing. At some point during the class, it turned philosophical; he asked what man's goal in life was to which he answered happiness. But what is happiness? We said it was defined individually. The way he defined it, sharing a story about the contrast between wealthy tourists and a rather poor woman enjoying a piece of fruit, it was more like contentment.

I was having a whole inner dialogue with myself. I had just listened to Eric Ludy's sermon, "Incorrigible Cheerfulness" (highly recommend it!) and had been thinking about how joy is not circumstantial or material. We have reason to leap for joy constantly. For followers of Christ, I don't think contentment is enough. I think contentment is important, to be satisfied with where God has you at the current moment, but to be in content in our salvation? I have to believe that's too small.

I was thinking about this walking down the street the other day. I imagined myself trying to walk to school wrapped in chains and how hard that would be (especially crossing that six lane highway!). That's what it's like when sin is still lord of your life. But when Jesus takes over, He frees you. I imagined if I had lived my whole life weighed down by tens of pounds of weight, how light I would feel having them removed - I'd be jumping for joy! How easy it would be to leap, to dance, to skip. I probably wouldn't be able to contain myself! And that, my friends, is the joy that we should have 24/7.

Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You. Psalm 5:11

10 Bottles of Vodka

Lucky you, you get two fun posts in a row.

Our Wolof teacher, though he is Muslim and does not drink, likes to use bottles of vodka for everything. If you ask a question, he'll say you owe him 2 bottles of vodka. More often, he goes straight to 10. If he asks what someone in a picture drank for breakfast, it was 10 bottles of vodka. Today, we were on the ball, and he guessed it was because we had 10 bottles of vodka this morning. He said he'd have to try that tomorrow. This is highly entertaining because of who he is, and also because of who we are. The five girls from Beloit probably wouldn't even know what to do with 10 bottles of vodka.

We've decided that on our last day, we're going to get an empty bottle, fill it with water, and label it "vodka" just for him.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

There's a Bug in the Shower...

and other random things you may or may not actually want to know.

1) There was a millipede or something else equally yucky in the shower area. My sister warned me about it, though, and told me she had killed it. Oh well good.

2) If, I mean when, a Senegalese man asks if I'm married, I say yes. They often ask when it was. For some reason, I always say August. I like the way an August wedding sounds. Plus August is my birthday month and a wedding would be a nice birthday gift, right? Man am jekkar means I have a husband in Wolof. Pretty useful phrase.

3) I was asked for the first time a slightly different version of that question, if I was "fiancee" (if you guessed that means "engaged", you're getting the hang of things). I said yes, to which my pseudo suitor asked if it was final. Again, I said we were getting married in August. Maybe in the future I'll get married in August for real. Who knows?

4) I've started using the "rest time" after lunch as quiet time round 2 and it has energized me for the rest of my day. Kari Jobe's new album came out yesterday, so that's been a lovely addition.

5) My current favorite French worship song is Toi Seule es Digne (You Alone are Worthy). This might have something to do with my long-lasting and passionate love for the book of Revelation. I think it's the first book I studied really deeply, when I was 10 or so.

6) I only pretend to study Wolof but am learning it thanks to my family who is dedicated to my language learning, as well as the woman with the vegetable stand next door.

7) Our Wolof teacher says "By jove" and sings "I'm a barbie boy in a barbie world" (because barbie girl would just be ridiculous)

8) Last night my sister asked in Wolof where the bread was. I responded that it was on top of the table. Then in Wolof class today I managed to ask my teacher, entirely in Wolof, if what I said was grammatically correct.

9) Our literature teacher likes to talk. But she's fascinating so it's fine.

10) I accidentally bought health cookies when I went to the store. Didn't realize it til I got home and actually read the package and it said there was a lot of fiber and calcium in them. Junk food fail.

11) The power went out this morning but was back on by the time I came home from lunch.

12) There is also a 3 day traffic strike currently happening.

13) So my younger sister doesn't have school.

14) One of my older sisters doesn't have school because of a strike at University Cheikh Ante Diop

15) I have no idea what everyone does all day, including my parents as they are both retired. My one older sister works. See point 17.

16) Here, beach = gym

17) My other older sister works for Coke. I quit drinking soda 10 years ago.

18) Senegal Kate is basically the same as US Kate except I talk to more people and occasionally join in on activities with people I don't spend all day every day with. But I'd still rather do something calm like help my sister with English than go out to a club or whatever.

19)Addresses are practically useless. I had one and a map and still ended up walking around and stumbling upon the building by accident.

20) If you mail/email/facebook/leave a comment don't ask how Senegal is or anything else equally way too open ended. Ask me what you want to know because I'm really settled in and it just feels like this is how life is. But I do want you to do those things.

21) Why did I number this list? It could have just been bullet points.

22) Maybe it looks like there's more of a point. There's not.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jamm Rekk (Peace Only)

Reading this blog is like getting a Wolof lesson little by little. Loyal readers will at least be able to survive in Dakar.

Jamm rekk is the response to a number of questions, and is something i say often. Knowing the word jamm is also essential in pretending you speak Wolof. Listen for it, and the response is almost always jamm rekk (Exception ba suba ag jamm...until tomorrow with peace....jamm ag jamm...peace to me and peace to you)

Jamm nga am? (Do you have peace?)
Jamm rekk
Sa yaram jam? (Does your body have peace; are you healthy?)
Jamm rekk
In asking if you slept well, someone might ask you if you spent the night in peace - peace only.

Someone asked, well what if you have malaria or insomnia, in which case you would not have only peace. He was told the appropriate answer is still jamm rekk.

I can't help but think of the old hymn, It Is Well, "But whatever my lot/Thou hast taught me to say/It is well, it is well with my soul"
Because Christ is our joy, our hope, our peace - the anchor of our souls - we have the ability to say it is well, that we have peace only. This is not circumstantial; "it is well" with our souls no matter what happens to our outer bodies.

Today, I read Ephesians 2:14, which explicitly says that Jesus is our peace. With the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, at all times and in all circumstances we have our peace living inside of us.

So even if I didn't sleep well or I'm sore from a workout on the beach, I can confidently respond jamm rekk

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil
Hebrews 6:19

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation Ephesians 2:14

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tu Es Saint (You are holy)

An acquaintance recently blogged about a song by Nichole Nordeman, with a lyric that says: "What can I bring? What can these poor hands Lay at the feet of the King?"

This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. I submitted a request to work with Partners International here in Senegal, and as I did so I was wondering what I could even do. Sure I speak French, but that's not anything extra; it's an essential. In the end, I decided to write honestly that I didn't know what I had to offer, except that I was totally open to whatever the Holy Spirit is doing/is going to do here.

I've been walking down the street singing French worship music to myself, and one of the first ones I'd found was Ouvre les Yeux de mon Coeur (Open the Eyes of my Heart). To make the syllables work out, in the French translation the last bridge says "You are holy, You are holy; You are holy, You are holy; You are holy, You are holy; I want to see You" I've been thinking about how God isn't any less big or less holy even though I'm in a place where most people don't recognize it. Jesus is still Lord and He is at work here.

All I can do is be ready to go where and when He calls.

Mangi Yekkati Sa Tur (Lord I Lift Your Name on High)

Today I went to the church of a friend of a friend, L'Eglise Evangelique. If I had to guess, I'd put it at around 200 people; there were maybe 10-15 "toubabs". The entire service was in French, except one song that we sang in French and Wolof. Singing that very familiar song in an unfamiliar language was so wonderful. Being in Dakar, singing praise in the regional language!!! There was a praise and worship team, essential to the emphasis on joyful celebration. I'm not sure I've ever been at a church service where we sang so much :) There were prayers mixed in, of course. Then there was a testimony about the power of the Holy Spirit, which was naturally exciting to hear. Several people talked about how they had one been slaves to their amulets but had found freedom in Christ. We sang some more, and then read from the Bible about communion. They definitely took its significance seriously, though anyone who didn't want to take it (wasn't ready) was ore than welcome to abstain. As the elements were distributed people would start singing a capella. We took each element as a body. The message for the day was about the sacrifice of the body; how we are completely for the Lord and not for sin. I noticed the guy next to me was taking careful next to me was taking careful notes, as was the girl next to him.

I liked two seemingly contradictory things about this congregation:
1) The joy
2) The seriousness

The cross is a very serious thing, and our sin is a very real problem. But because of Jesus' sacrifice, we have reason to celebrate with the fullness of joy. In addition, I believe people gave the air of taking their faith seriously, because here, you have to. If you're going to follow Jesus when everyone around you is Muslim, it's not going to be half hearted or on a whim. You really have to believe in Him and the life the He's called you to.

I passed two mosques on the way to church this morning. When I came home, my mom and sister were veiled, on their faces praising Allah. So when we sang Mangi Yekkati Sa Tur as a body, I was overwhelmed by the strength of the Spirit of the Lord that filled the room. Oh how great a love!

We sang one song that, translated, went something like this:
I will praise You with my voice.
If I lose my voice, I'll praise You with my mouth
If I lose my mouth, I'll praise You with my hands
If I lose my hands, I'll praise You with my feet
If I lose my feet, I'll praise You with my soul
And if I lose my soul, it's because I'm in heaven with You.

I really liked this one! A lot of people were doing motions with it, which was very fun.

Here's a picture of the church...hopefully I'll be able to get some pictures of worship while I'm here.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2

And I looked, and behold,in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. Worthy Is the Lamb. Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “ You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us[b] kings[c] and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:6-10

Mangi Yekkati Sa Tur!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How Sweet the Sound (Taste, Sight, Smell, Feel)

A friend emailed me and asked how I was enjoying the sounds, the tastes the smells, the sights, even feels. It made me think about using everything I have to sense the world around me. Being in a new place, there is a lot to take in. At meals, walking around, even sitting around the Baobab Center. Taking advantage of this new way of "seeing", I found myself humming that classing hymn.

Amazing grace how sweet the sound

Are sounds sweet, or is attaya? Both.

What does grace sound like:

Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.
It is finished.
Follow Me.
I will be with you.
Be healed.
I will have compassion on No Compassion, and Not My People shall be My People, and I will be their God.
As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so I will rejoice over you.
I have overcome the world.

The ocean, washing over all my sin.
The walk to...everywhere...filled with those as lost as I once was.
The hand of a child, looking for hope.
Oh my smells like ceeb u jeen; I must be in Senegal!
Seeing an Evangelical Church after I've passed three mosques on my way there.
Rice in my hands...Thou hast brought me to this place

How sweet the sound
How sweet the smell
How sweet the taste
How sweet the feel
How sweet the sight

How lovely the cross that has given me this adventure and this life.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Two Lists

Last night, I decided to dedicate two pages of my journal to ongoing lists of "Things I Will Miss" and "Things That Will Bring Me Home", to be updated as I think of things. I'll post it here every few weeks or so, whatever works.

Things I Will Miss: the weather, value of family, speaking French, proximity to the beach, my family, Wolof jokes, long walk to school, proximity to beach, super fresh orange juice, greeting everyone, long lunch break, Dakar time, Pape Samba, eating around the bowl, "we share it", the air, rooftop of Baobab center, corporate worship in French, ananas, fresh bread, buying fruit in the street, being constantly pushed to think about new things & in new way, attaya, ceeb u jeen, hot yogurt-rice-banana soup, baobab everything, tampico, fluid concept of time, the baobab center/staff/everyone who comes, jumping in the ocean during/after a run

Things That Will Bring Me Home: friends & family, breakfast food (eggs, pancakes, waffles, EVERYTHING breakfast), BCXC (BCTF), guitar, baths/clean bathroom, Rock Valley Chapel, desire to share what I've learned with others, wearing shorts, legit coffee/my coffee maker

Seeing as I still have a long time here, it's good that there's much more that I will miss than I will look forward to having when I come back home.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Comfort Items

Some students brought particular photos, music, journals, books, or food items to remind them/connect them with home and center themselves. For my comfort item, I brought Starbucks instant coffee, via. Though I can go a long time without good coffee, or coffee at all, I truly enjoy a good cup of coffee. Knowing that I have that when I want it feels really good.

I also have comfort passages in the Bible, that I often turn to in different situations. Things like 2 Samuel 2:22, Isaiah 41 and 62; Psalms 37 and 63, Ezekiel 34-36, Hosea, John 16, and, this morning, I turned to Revelation 21

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. Revelation 21: 1-6

Every time I read this, I learn something different. Today I was particularly struck by "I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts" There is something extra special reading this line in a country where it is essential to drink either filtered or bottled water, where it is indeed hot and dry. To know that we will always have what we need in Christ is incredibly re-assuring.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

L’école de la rue (School of the Street)

This is one of the informal schools we visited in a very poor area. I was very much so struck by it, possibly because of my own family. Because my dad was on the school-board most of my childhood, I learned a lot about educational issues. I remember reading Savage Inequalities and the Essential 55, and hearing all the research about education.

Going to this school, where young students led the class, where classes were held outside or in poorly conditioned baracks, where donated school supplies went unused because they involved paper, and chalk/chalkboards are more cost-effective and easy to share, was very difficult for me. You can read about these things, and even see pictures, but it's a whole lot more real when a little girl takes your hand and you have to stare poverty in the face. As we observed, two or three little girls were hitting each other, and I so badly wanted to separate them and say "Kay, toog" (come, sit), but another girl pointed out that this is every day for them.

As we walked around the area, kids just clung to me, all over, and I relied on the little Wolof I know to communicate. The first girl who stuck with me smiled when I called her, "suma xaritu" (my friend). I have to wonder what she saw when she looked at me, what they all saw. Was it just that I was white, a toubab, a novelty. Or have their minds already begun to believe that we can change things, that we, in some way are their hope. At one point, she was sitting on my lap and she wrapped my arms around her and clasped my hands. What did this do for her? Did it, for one moment, make her believe she had some sense of security?

There is the selfish part of me that wants to forget about my experiences there. And that other part of me is praying I never do. I pay thousands of dollars to go to school, and to complain about it. I told a friend, we say, "I'm too tired, this is boring, I don't feel like this, this is pointless", but these people don't have that option.

There are probably a million more things I should be saying, but I'll leave it here for now.

Oui Monsieur (Yes Sir)

Si j’écrivais comme ca, la majorité de vous ne comprendriez pas. Mais voilà la cas pour le début des écoles en Sénégal.

If I wrote like that, the majority of you would not understand. But that was the case for the early Senegalese schools. Our teacher for today said that one of the first French phrases he learned was "Oui Monsieur", because he was going to school without knowing an French. During the colonial era, and even as it ended, the French system was used for a people who didn't speak French. He was living in northern Senegal, where it can be 120 degrees in the shade, and writing essays about winter and central heating, things he had no experience of. He wrote about cherry harvesting, having never tasted or even seen on for himself.

Before coming to Senegal, I had seen the film Rue Cases Negres, set in Martinique, but also a good depiction of schooling in French colonies. Children were reciting districts of Paris and learning French geography, learning things completely irrelevant to their lives and giving no hope towards finding a job.

You might think things are much better now. Yes and no. In public schools, there might be 180 students for 1 teacher. 80% of schools have no electricity. Most of the budget goes to pay teachers. Skilled teachers are more expensive, while voluntary teachers are very cheap. But you get what you pay for. Many "informal" schools are done in the national languages, of which there are more than 25. But you can't get a job speaking just Wolof, etc, so you're stuck.

In my host family, my older sister goes to a university here, and my 13 year old is at a private middle school. I guess I didn't realize how well off they really are. My younger sister loves studying English and science, and wants to go on to university and study to be a doctor. There really is a huge disparity in wealth and possibility here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

How To: Bucket Shower

I’ll lighten things up a bit here.

I’ve spent the last week learning this art and I thought I’d enlighten my readers, just in case you ever find yourself without a shower or like to conserve water.

Pros: Saves water, I think it takes less time, you certainly waste less time, and it’s weirdly fun like being a kid again

Cons: This, I hope, will make itself obvious.

1) Go to bathroom wrapped in a towel
2) Grab bucket
3) Fill bucket from spout in kitchen area
4) Grab measuring cup/pitcher
5) Return to bathroom and hang towel
6) Dunk hair in bucket
7) Use measuring cup to wet body
8) Shampoo hair, soap body
9) Use measuring cup to rinse soap
10) Use measuring cup to rinse shampoo
11) Dunk hair in bucket (this sounds redundant, but you don’t want to get the water super sudsy)
12) Condition hair
13) Dunk hair (now it’s ok because you’re done)
14) Grab towel, dry yourself and you’re good to go (after clothes of course)

I hope this was informative. I sure wish I’d had this handy guide. It took some experimentation to figure out the best way to go about actually feeling clean, but this is working for me now. 4 months from now, when I don’t want to get on the plane, I’ll just keep telling myself that I can take a bath when I get home. I’m not sure that will be enough, though.

And I apologize if this was an over share /no one actually wants to hear about my shower situation. Please just pretend this post never happened.

L’océan (The Ocean)

I’ve lived in the Midwest my whole life. I’ve been surfing in the Pacific Ocean once, and beyond that, most of the beaches I’ve been to are very lame.

Yesterday we went to Gorée Island and took advantage of all the water. It was amazing! And very salty ☺

Today, I’d been invited by some new acquaintances that live in my neighborhood to meet up. It turns out they had a football (soccer ;) ) game with some of the other neighbor boys. We went to the beach, and it was really fun. My soccer skills are zero, but it was still great. If anything, it made it even more fun. That, and my Wolof attempts. I’m still working on that…but at least my French is still better than most peoples’ English. Then we just stood in the water a while. I looked out and was reminded how small I am, and how little I know of the world.

One of my favorite songs is “I Hope You Dance” I love the idea of taking advantage of every opportunity, and finding joy in life. And of course, most relevant for today, “I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean”. I do, because it reminds me of how big our God is. When I looked out, and all I could see was water, I just thought about how far I’ve come, literally as well as metaphorically. Jesus is Lord, Lord of all the heavens and the earth, the mountains, the sea, and all that is within them. When the ocean is before you, it’s pretty tough not to stand completely in awe of the Lord our God.

L’église de Christ (Church of Christ)

Sunday was absolutely fascinating and wonderful. I went with two other Beloit girls to a church that we’d found. When 95% of people are Muslim, and 4% are Catholic, we were amazed to find a Protestant church not far from our homes. I was even more amazed that there were more people here than at many churches in Beloit (75, and only 4 were new/visitors!)

We neglected to account for Dakar time, and arrived “early” at 10, which was when the service was scheduled to start. Several people greeted us, and as things got going, we were quite surprised with the fact that a lot of things were translated into English. We sang and prayed, and then there was a discussion portion, from the Scriptures. They must have started last week, discussing what it means (biblically) to be a church, who founded it, what should it be called, how to know if it’s a thriving church. There was some intense discussion that took a long time; we were told it was much longer than usual. Afterward, there was some more singing and praying, and as we sang one song (in English), we greeted each other and moved and danced around. Everyone seemed so happy to be with each other in the house of God. We even opened the doors so people on the street could hear us. I wonder if that’s part of their evangelistic approach.

The sermon was from 2 Kings, and was translated phrase by phrase from English to French. Near the end, members stood and gave praises and prayer requests; we sang and prayed together. We also took communion (as we got it; we didn’t wait for everyone to take it together), and an offering was collected. We prayed and sang some more, and the visitors were officially welcomed and introduced to the congregation. At this point, we were told to go to this other room where they had Ananas (a delicious pineapple soda!)* for us. The other visitor was from Nigeria, but he’s been working in Dakar for a while. The pastor and guest preacher (I couldn’t really tell who everyone was) came and talked with us, making sure we knew we were welcome. Everyone was so nice, exactly how a church should be.

I should add that the service was nearly 4 hours, but they told us that was atypical. My Muslim host mom called me 3 times, so the third time I went outside and spoke with her. She was pretty impressed with how long I was at church for, lol. C’est bon ca, she said (That’s good!).

As for the content, there were some things I agreed with, and some things I’m not sure I did. I’m not super familiar with Church of Christ even in the US, but I know that there was something about it that was off-putting for me. I may not have understood this correctly, but it seemed like they were saying that God isn’t going to speak at all until Judgment Day. To me, that seems to limit a lot of the way the Lord can work. I’ll have to look into it.

I really enjoyed the emphasis on the unity of the church (Ephesians 4:5). There was something extra special about hearing that message in another country, and being able to realize that in Christ, we really are one. It doesn’t matter if we come from different places or speak different languages; we are all the sons and daughters of God. That was something very wonderful to experience.

Another thing I appreciated was the emphasis on the Bible (like 2 Timothy 3:16), and trusting it as “la voix de Dieu” (the voice of God). The pastor said, “The question is, ‘what does the Bible say? What I think, what you think, no, what does the Bible say?” The Bible has more wisdom and knowledge in it than we will ever know.

One last thing that I found to be incredibly beautiful was the way that this church answered the question, “If all you had were Jesus, would He be enough?” They don’t have a big fancy building or nice chairs or pews; there’s no worship band (or even a piano) and they don’t have thousands or even a hundred people gather there. But being there, it was enough. God is enough.

I think I’d like to keep coming. I felt pretty comfortable there; there was certainly a lot of joy in the Lord. It will be interesting to talk with the other girls about their thoughts and experiences.

*I also just have to repeat how delicious Ananas is. If I thought I could get it through customs, I would bring home gallons of it.

I was just really thankful to be in church in Senegal! God is with us.

No Koo Mbook (We share it)

Jerijef (thanks)
No koo mbokk (you’re welcome, literally we share it)

There is something so wonderful about this phrase! It just captures so much about the Senegalese way of life. Everything is communal; we all experience life together.

Part of the standard greeting is “ana wa ker ga” which means, “how are the people of your house” (your family). Your life is not just about you, but also the people you represent.

Today my older sister brought home t-shirts from her work. She gave one to me, as well as the rest of the family. It was very touching for me, to be included in the family. When I said “jerijef”, she naturally said, “no koo mbokk”.

I think when you say you’re welcome in the English language, it’s really placing importance on yourself. It’s kind of arrogant in a way. But “we share it”, there’s something bigger than yourself.

This might be a good time to talk a little bit about eating around the bowl. Not everyone on my program is living with families who eat in this traditional way, but my family does. For lunch and dinner, my family eats together out of one big bowl (except Papa, he eats alone). We sit on a mat on the floor, and sometimes we even use our hands (though for the most part we do use silverware). However, in this society you only eat with your right hand because the left hand is unclean (most people don’t use toilet paper…think about it. I think there are other reasons too that have something to do with everyone being Muslim). There are quite a few rules like waiting until you’re told to eat (usually by the host saying “aci”), eating from your wedge, eating rice on your first bite and the other meat and veggies after, getting up right when you’re done to leave a space for someone else to come, just in case… It’s really interesting, and fun. I was really skeptical about this part of sharing, but I’ve adjusted well, and I love eating around the bowl with my family!

I want everyone to come here and learn from these people. If all you learned was what sharing really were, it would be time well spent.

PS I think I am Senegalese at heart. My 20 minute walk to school took 45 because I was talking with people along the street, and I said “Il fait assez froid” (it’s kind of cold) when it dropped below 75 this afternoon.

PPS Someone might have to come drag me home. Besides the whole me not wanting to leave, my little brothers and sister may not let me. Baraboo (7) is especially sneaky and bossy. But if you can get Ibou (10) on your side, you might be successful.

Baal ma (I’m sorry/excuse me)

[You are about to be hit with a wave of blog posts that have been written in my notebook and I hadn’t made them a priority to type up.]

This phrase has proven to be incredibly useful here, especially when accompanied by “degumma wolof bu baax” (I don’t understand Wolof very well) Since I am in Senegal where Wolof is the language on the street, it just feels right to apologize for my lack of knowledge. The Senegalese really value helping their neighbors, and this includes linguistically. It’s not uncommon for someone to speak at least some of three or more languages. So when all I have is French (and English), I think it’s good to apologize.

I have also been on the other side of this phrase. The other day, a man came up to me speaking rapid fire Wolof. I caught less than 5% of what he needed. So I said “baal ma, degumma Wolof bu baax” and he replied, “baal ma, baal ma, baal ma, jamm ag jamm” A simple apology can go a very long way. Sometimes I’ll even say, Baal ma, degumma Wolof bu baax, mais degg naa francais bu baax (Sorry, I don’t speak Wolof very well, but I do speak French well). Offering a solution is a nice way to facilitate communication, make friends and show respect.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Suma Xarit (My friend)

In case you're wondering how to pronounce that second word, in Wolof, you pronounce the X kind of like h, but a little more throaty.

Anyway, last night on the way home from school, I met someone who looked about my age. it's customary to greet everyone, and since he realized I spoke French pretty well, he asked if I had time to talk a moment more. When I said "mangi dem" (I'm leaving), we said goodbye and he said that I was his friend and that I should remember him next time, because he would certainly remember his American friend Kate.

Again, this morning, I decided to take a walk to a new neighborhood (I brought a map!) and someone invited me to sit down and have coffee with him. I sat and talked for maybe 20 minutes. Then, as I was almost to school (I was still early), someone selling fruit with a friend (or brother, I'm not sure) and he called me his friend, and he even helped me learn something in Wolof.

It is so easy to make friends here, and even if you don't know someone yet, you may someday. There are separate words for I don't know and I don't know yet, and the distinction is more important here than in the US.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:

If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Eccl 4:9-12

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

La religion dans la famille (religion in the family)

I love getting to do a homestay. Love.

Being a religious studies major, many things fascinate me. The biggest at home is that the children (13, 20, 25+?) all have to be told, usually several times to pray. It doesn't seem like they don't want to, more that's it's not of personal importance. In the US, it's reversed. Young children are reminded to pray, and by the teens (if not sooner), kids usually choose for themselves, and assuming they choose to follow a religion, they dictate their own prayer life. Maybe it's the element of choice. People here don't stop being Muslim the way people in other places stop being Christian, etc.

I know for me, the day I made that personal commitment to Jesus, I wanted to spend time with Him. It's of utmost importance to me, so it's interesting to see religion as more of a routine. That's not to say beliefs are not sincere; it has more to say about the characters of the Christian God and Allah.

I'm proud to serve the God of deep, pure sacrificial love.

Ba bennen yoon (until next time)

(Ps. Every day English becomes less natural. My journals are almost entirely French. Today, there was more Wolof than English! So, what I'm saying is, bear with me. Things might get interesting)

Nit nitay garabam (a person is another person's remedy)

This phrase expresses the communal nature in Senegal. It's why it's important to greet everyone, not just the ones you know. It's the reason there are no public restrooms; you can just walk in to anyone's home. People spend time together here.

This is a lesson I believe God has been teaching me over the past year or so. I talked not long ago about learning to really enjoy time spent together with others. It says in Genesis that "it is not good for man to be alone". And although most Senegalese people are Muslim, I'm sure that's one thing from the Bible that they can certainly agree with.

It reminds me of a phrase from South Africa: a person is a person through other people. I spent nearly an hour talking about friends and family with my host sister (6). The concept of friend isn't really used so much when you live with people, like I live with my friends at school. So as I pointed out pictures, I said they were brothers and sisters. She said, "Tu as une grande famille. C'est bon" (you have a big family. That's good).

To be alone is a miserable thing here. It can be hard for the toubabs to understand, but it's a way of life.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mangi Fii Rekk

One of the other girls from my school said she was feeling a bit homesick. I tried to think if there were anything that I'd been missing-food, luxuries, people. And I really hadn't been having those feelings for anything at all. Sure, I like those things and people back home and it will be nice to play my guitar and drive around with my sister, but right now, I must borrow a phrase from the Senegalese: mangi fii rekk.

It means "I'm here only". In Senegal, it is important to greet everyone you know (and often people you don't know too). Not greeting someone is basically they don't have worth; they are an object (you wouldn't greet a bottle of water!) Mangi fii rekk is the response to the equivalent of "how's it going?" It means that you are taking that moment to spend time with them. Time spent together is highly valued here; upon meeting my host family, I put my things in my room and joined them (I have 3 sisters who live in the home. Amy works full time and is around 25 or 30; Zainab is a student my age (she's a granddaughter), and Assy is 13 (granddaughter). Tonight, my mom's (also Assy) married daughter, Aida came to visit. It was very fun to see the family in action.

Back to the point: in embracing Senegalese culture, it is impossible to be homesick, because we are only here. As Christians, with every place on earth that we find ourselves, we know that this is not our final home. It gives us the freedom to be fully there, wherever we are.

PS God has been teaching me so much already it's blowing my mind. The verses and insights I get are just incredible! I will have to expand more at some point.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

On Parle Quelle Langue? (What language are we speaking?)

Today, the rest of the Beloit crew (4 other girls) arrived, as well as a group from Franklin College. The FC people are only here for 2 weeks, and it's already clear we have different preparations and expectations. For example, none of them speak French, while for us, proficiency was a requirement to go on the program.

It's amazing the rate at which people can move between French and Wolof, and even the occasional English words. We all discussed how fascinating it is. People will even ask a question in one language and the response will be in another! I found myself doing the same in my journal, writing mostly in French, switching to English, throwing in the Wolof phrases. It's just a part of life here.

We went on a bit of a tour of downtown Dakar, leaving us anxious to start our "real" lives here. We're moving to host families tomorrow night, and I'm a little nervous, but mostly excited.

And the accompanying verses:
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice:

“ Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“ Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”
Revelation 5:11-13

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bed Nets and Jet Lag

I'm very spoiled right now with constant internet. This may change once I move in with my host family.

A friend of mine who travels overseas a lot said that if I could stay awake until nighttime, jet lag would be a non-issue. Easier said than done. I was given a lot of time to rest yesterday, and though I wouldn't feel tired, the more I laid down the less I wanted to get up. I was also fed a lot of really good food. And yes, somehow I did make it until about 9pm. That's very early, especially here, but I really hadn't slept and I wanted to be functional when the other students got here.

Getting the mosquito net situated was interesting. For some reason I had difficulty spreading it out in way that would be comfortable to lay under...not as simple as you might think. I found it a little challenging to fall asleep, even though I was so tired, because of the net and the noise outside my window. The mosque is not far from my building and there was a lot of singing/chanting last night. Early this morning, I heard the call to prayer. I wrote a lot in my journal yesterday about wanting to meet other Christians and hear their stories.

I got this verse this morning:
Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. Ezekiel 3:8

Man Dama Toubab (I'm a foreigner)

I still haven't slept since...well I don't really know when, so bear with me here.

Stepping off the plane was incredible. It honestly took my breath away, realizing how faithful God has been every step of the way. I could smell the ocean, and wow was that perfect. I made it through immigration/baggage/money changing/customs/finding my ride in a blend of English, French, and Wolof. I was given some time to rest, and I discovered that I could get on the internet. I sent messages to friends, and then just went to God in prayer.

I read things in the Bible like Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven (Lamentations 3:41) and in my French Bible, I read from Psalm 139, You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me (verses 2-3, 5). The verses from Psalm 139 are some of my favorite traveling verses. Some translations even say "You know my travels and my rest"

And when we took a taxi carrying water "home", and children pointed me out, calling me toubab, I started thinking. Without Jesus, we do not belong in God's kingdom. We are the outsiders, the foreigners, the ones who do not deserve to be there and don't even speak the language. But what Christ did was unite the world. No more are we strangers; we are friends, even family.

In my head, this all fits together somehow.

Anyway, I haven't really taken pictures yet, but I took one of the room I'm staying in right now. That door is to a private bathroom. There's also a t.v. (which I haven't turned on), a small refrigerator (which people keep giving me liters of water to put in it). I laughed because the mosquito net looks just like the princess canopy I always wanted :) Just 15 years too late.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

In His Hands

On Friday morning, around 8am, I'll be heading to the airport to embark on an incredible journey. A part of me is still in awe. The other is surprised and my own wonder. I've been planning this for over a year, when I started filling out my application for the program. Yes, despite the fact that I've been talking about Senegal for this long, it didn't feel real until recently. There were bursts of excitement at getting approved and buying plane tickets and learning Wolof, sure.

It was last week, though, when I picked up my anti-malaria pills that it all started to sink in. And all week I've woken up in the morning thinking, "I am going to be on the other side of the world in 6...5...4... days" And although this has bred some tremendous excitement, it's also fostered nerves.

So when a friend called to see if it would be a good time to have the gov team pray for me, I eagerly accepted. It reassured my comfort not only in the Lord's presence and provision, but in His plan. It just makes me so excited to be a part of it.

Just wanted to share this verse that I read that I think goes along with all my feelings quite well:

"For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me,” says the LORD. Jeremiah 39:18

I will trust Him