Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Degguma Anglais (I Don't Speak English)

Several weeks ago, this incident would've been awkward. But today I was highly amused.

I went to a fruit stand near my house to buy some clementines, but it was a different man working. I greeted him and asked for mille franc ($2) de clementines. He said "Lan?" (What?"), and I repeated myself, and he said, "Anglais? Degumma anglais?" I found this hysterical because I was speaking French, but it was odd because a lot of Senegalese don't know the Wolof money system - I don't blame them, it's confusing!

Here's how to ask for 1,000CFA in Wolof:
derem = 5 CFA
temeer = 100 derem
naar = 2
2 times 100 derem= 200
200 derem times 5= 1,000 cfa (naari temeer)

Even though I could have told the man I wasn't speaking English, it wouldn't have done any good. Thank goodness for the patience of our Wolof teacher in our learning the money.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Need You

Sixteen Cities released a new album today, and I was pumped. I got up early enough this morning to be able to download the whole thing and listen to the tracks in order before class. The album as a whole is amazing and I strongly recommend it (think Fee+The Afters). The song "I Need You" jumped out at me for today.

Sometimes I only focus
On the places that I go
I forget why
I get in such a hurry
That it all gets kinda blurry
As it goes by

I try
To keep my head above
The noise
That's drowning out your voice

I need you
bring your peace
I need you
To quiet me
Remind this heart that you are enough
I need you
To bring new life
And break through
The walls inside
Remind this heart that you are enoughh

This life can be distracting
And I end up just reacting
'Til I break down
I lose sight of what I'm after
When I'm looking for an answer
So I reach out
'Cause I
Can't do this on my own
So I
Rely on you alone

On you alone

I need you
To bring your peace
I need you to quiet me
Remind this heart that you are enough
I need you
To bring new life
And break through
The walls inside
Remind this heart that you are enough
Lord, you're enough

You're the air I need
Without you I can't breathe
So give me eyes to see
Your hand is holding me

(Yes, I can hear you, calling out to me)

I need you
To bring your peace
And I need you
To quiet me
Remind this heart that you are enough
I need you
To bring new life
And break through
The walls inside
Remind this heart that you are enough
I need you

(In the chaos, in the storm)
I need you
(In the battle, in the war)
I need you
(In the chaos, in the storm)
I need you

Today, this song served as a little bit of a reality check. I had a moment today where I just felt so awesome and self-sufficient. I knew where to go to grab a quick lunch between work and class, and an alternative when that place was closed. While at work, I realized I wanted ice cream, and I knew how to figure out what time I needed to get to the ice cream store at in order to be on time for class, and invite friends in on the plan. It was when I got back to school and heard this song again that I realized, "I really can't do anything on my own. It's the Lord who's given me this knowledge and this comfort; He is my source and my dwelling place"

On the K-LOVE Morning Show's facebook page, there was a quote from a Ugandan pastor, explaining why, if given the choice, he'd live in Uganda over America, "Because in America you know where your next meal is coming from. You have jobs. You have money. In Uganda, you may not know where your next meal comes from. You have little money. You have nothing to depend on but God. And I would rather have my children rely on God more than I would want them to be distracted by everything else." That's a pretty strong recognition of the Lord as our ultimate source.

It is God who arms me with strength,
And makes my way perfect. Psalm 18:32

The Lord is my portion. Psalm 119:57a

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency in everything, may abound to every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

Now thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and reveals through us the sweet aroma of his knowledge in every place. 2 Corinthians 2:14

…neither be you grieved; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-Jireh, the LORD is my provider. As it is said to this day, “In the LORD’s mountain it will be provided.” Genesis 22:14

Niyu Ma! (Greet Me!)

Until today, I'd never heard this phrase outside of a classroom. Because greetings are so important, I always imagined that if someone had to tell me to greet him, I would be a little embarrassed.

Today, as I was headed to Partners, I ran into a little girl; I said "bonjour, ca va?" and when all I got was a giggle, I kept walking. But then she said "Toubab! Niyu ma" I went back to her, where I shook her tiny hand and greeted her properly in Wolof. She also discontinued her practice of calling me toubab, and asked my name, to which I replied Aida. She thought this was great and asked my last name, and I said Samb. This is my Wolof name; I'm named for one of my aunts. I could not figure out what she said was her name, but we talked a little bit more, and as we did some of her friends (siblings?) also came to be greeted by the toubab. They were all highly amused by the whole event, and it got me smiling as well, especially if I asked them if they knew how to dance. That really fired them up!

I don't know how I'm going to walk down a street without saying "Ca va, na nga def, or assalaa malekum" It's a way to feel more connected to the world around you. Everyone smiles and returns your greeting as if they knew you. Love it!

Monday, February 27, 2012


Translation = grapefruit, and is the title of this post only because it's fun to say, and I wanted my mom to know that after all these years I have finally come to like this fruit.

Senegal, for now, remains in peace. Wade and Sall are looking at a run off election around mid-March. No one seems to be too angsty about it. With 14 candidates running, it was bound to happen. It was Wade, and anyone but Wade split 13 ways. I can't help but recall a lengthy ongoing discussion with my FYI (Adams vs Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800) about the failures of the two-party system. Here, we have an example of the failures of the get-10,000-signatures-and-you-can-run-for-president system.

And for all my blog readers who aren't also stalking my facebook pictures, here's a few from a sunset stroll earlier this weekend. Everyone enjoying the photos owes my sister Jessica a tremendous thank you for buying me my first ever camera and teaching me how to use it.

Lord, I have loved the habitation of Your house,
And the place where Your glory dwells. Psalm 26:8

And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. Acts 3:16

Of Poetry and Proverbs

A winner has not yet been determined, and it is likely there will be a runoff election between incumbent Wade and Macky Sall. I cleaned my room for this first time in quite awhile, and re organized things to make everything easier. Now that I'm busier with classes, spending time with friends and family, and Partners, it is important to keep home life solid. And then I read.

I read a book of poetry my sister's teacher loaned me (I traded him Memoirs of a Geisha); from a Ugandan poet. Told first through an Acoli wife, and then he westernized husband, it speaks volumes of post colonial struggles with modernization and tradition.

"If my husband insists
What exact time
He should have morning tea
And breakfast,
When exactly to have coffee
And the exact time
For taking the family
photograph -
Lunch-time, tea time,
And supper time -
I must first look at the sun,
The cock must crow
To remind me."

"My husband says
I am useless
Because I waste time,
He quarrels
Because, he says,
I am never punctual.
He says he has no time to waste.
He tells me
Time is money."

Anyone who's heard me discuss "Dakar time" knows that the concept of time is much different here. There was a quote in the introduction to the book that says, "Europeans have watches. Africans have time". It is very appropriate.

And now, a Wolof lesson. I really enjoyed the proverbs we read, and I want to post some of my favorites.

Koo xaar ca la mu gene begg doff-a la fay fekk:If you wait for someone with what he loves most, it's a fool that you will see come.

Am bukki yombene waaye buy xalama jafe: It is easy to capture a hyena, but not one that plays the guitar.

Nit la mu jef la du la mu wax: A man is measured by what he does, not what he says.

Ku amul kilife jinne di sa kilife: One who rejects the normal authority (family, society) falls under the authority of the devil.

Bo gisee lef lefa tax, boo gissee yapp, raba dee: If you see something, there is another thing that is its cause. If you see meat, there is the death of an animal.

Def la nga man, wax la nga xam, boo tedee nelaw: Do only what we can, say only what we know, we sleep peacefully.

Addina Kenda ndo la: The worldly life, it's a journey passed together.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Quiet Day at Home

Well, polls are about to close here, and then we'll be playing the waiting game. There were some counts of cheating reported - Wade stuffing envelopes with his card in hopes someone would neglect to see it, put their vote in, and thus nullify the entire ballot - but things have been calm overall. My family has a lot of neighborhood pride, saying that Mermoz is where the sophisticated people live.

I've actually enjoyed the quiet day at home, cleaning up in the kitchen area, actually doing my homework: prepping my presentation on Une Si Longue Lettre and French schools, writing my Maimouna reaction (2 pages and two weeks to do it in...), reading about Lebanese entrepreneurs in Senegal, gathering information on traditional religions before Islam and Christianity (our prof is supposed to give me stuff, but I'm not sure I believe him. Plus, I found a fascinating article on conversion so it was fun). I took extra time in Leviticus, Psalm 25, and Acts today, and chatted with my friends over facebook about conference and life in general.

I attempted to share music with my younger host sister, but she did not appreciate it. At least she's honest! Though most of my music is Christian, I tried to share Dixie Chicks, Dashboard Confessional, Taylor Swift (my older sister said she was a good singer), Mat Kearney, One Direction, and Boys Like Girls (she almost liked that), Owl City, Sugarland, The Band Perry, and Becca Richter with no success. Oh well. That's my life as a Jesus hipster, I guess.

For those of you who do enjoy my musical stylings, here's my current playlist:
You Are Good - Nichole Nordeman
Rise - Kari Jobe
C.S. Lewis Song - Brooke Fraser
Love Song for a Savior - Jars of Clay
Love Came Down -Kari Jobe (I don't care who wrote it, most songs are better when sung by her)
What Joy (Psalm 146) - Generation Church
Savior to Me (Sing Glory) - Karrie Roberts
It is Well with my Soul - Hillsong
Rebel - Lecrae
Where the Love Lasts Forever - Hillsong
Jesus Paid it All - Christian Stanfill
Ouvre les Yeux de mon Coeur - Paul Baloche
Boasting - Lecrae
You Love Me Anyway - Sidewalk Prophets

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Xiim Attaya (Making Tea)

This morning, I'd planned on a day spent chilling at home. Then Djibi showed up at my house saying we could go to the beach and make attaya. It seemed quiet enough, so we went.

He loves Adele, and sang "Someone Like You" as we walked over. He was surprised when I said I didn't like Rihanna, but he said he appreciated that, as she's gotten so vulgar these days. We spent a lot of time chatting, as making attaya is a lengthy process. He loves music and said that if he could track down a guitar, he'd love for me to teach him some chords. It's also interesting, because his grandmother is Catholic and he went to Catholic schools when he was younger. He loves adventuring, and told me some wild stories.

Djibi is also the first young Senegalese man with whom I have been honest when asked if I had a boyfriend. I wanted to be honest with him because he has been so genuinely kind and welcoming, and I feel as though he actually respects me. We talked about relationships and he and I agreed it's important to take things seriously - not for a few weeks or months, but for the long haul. When he asked me why I didn't have a boyfriend, I said it was because I have too many adventures I want to have on my own first, and he said that I had good reasoning.

Then, he made me try to xiim attaya, using a rock as a plate on which to put the glasses. It was tricky with the wind, and I did not do a very good job, though he humored me. I WILL figure it out one day. Attaya, he told me, is a big part of teranga - Senegalese hospitality. It is less about the actual tea than the time spent making it with others. Nit nitay garabam, remember? (A person is another person's remedy).

The attaya glasses. Small, but this tea is loaded with caffeine and sugar. Angeline's brother says the tea we drink in America is for old people. Also, it's traditionally served in 3 rounds: slightly bitter, minty, and incredibly sweet.

If you look closely, you can see the mint just added to the pot, as the sugar gets dumped in.

This is the "xiim" part. I found that rock, which was as helpful as I was with the xiim.

Attaya on the rocks. How perfect ;)

And Djibi, the master of teranga

Here's some tea quotes for you:

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.
C.S. Lewis

What would the world do without tea?-- how did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea
Sir Sidney Smith (1771-1845)

There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea
Bernard-Paul Heroux

Here, we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you becmoe a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything-even die.
Haji Ali, Korphe Village Chief, Karakoram Mountains, Pakistan
Three Cups of Tea Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Drink your tea slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis on which the world
earth revolves - slowly, evenly,
without rushing toward the future.

Thich Nat Hahn

There is a subtle charm in the taste of tea which makes it irresistible and capable of idealism. Western humorists were not slow to mingle the fragrance of their thoughts with its aroma. It has not the arrogance of wine, the self-consciousness of coffee, nor the simpering innocence of cocoa.
Kakuzo Okakura

If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.
Japanese Proverb

Don't hurry. When making tea you have only time. Let tea be a refuge, a genuine change of pace. Brewing your tea is part of drinking it and drinking is part of your life. Let the tea gently stimulate you to reflect on how the smallest part touches and is touched by the infinite.
Joel, David, and Karl Shapira

Qu'est-ce que c'est, chez moi? (What's my home?)

I've thought about this a lot, since going to college, and even more since being here. Waukesha is where I grew up, where my family is. Beloit is where I've spent the majority of the last few years, and where I find my soul family. Conesus, NY and Colorado Springs hold my far-away family in Christ. And now, my home is here, in Dakar, Senegal. Everyone loves asking me what I most love about Senegal, and it's honestly everything. It's just a completely different way of living, and it amazes me. Is it possible for all of these places to be home? As my GOV friends say, "Home is where your toothbrush is", and I have to agree.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Oh The Things We Say Before Election Day

Me: I just realized; on any given day we're speaking 3 different languages
Val: Maybe that's why we're so tired

Me: Djibi sent me such a nice text
Angeline: Make out with him.

Addie: I don't know how you feel about cheesecake but I love sausage toes

Me: Lunch looked like rotten pumpkin guts, but tasted like the definition of delicious.

In other news, it's election time. We may have accidentally run into that Wade (current president) rally on the VDN the US Embassy sent an email about, but it was far enough down that we weren't affected. We just saw a lot of people, many wearing yellow shirts. We've been advised to stay in this weekend, and classes Monday have been canceled; everyone is anxious to see what will happen come Sunday (voting is from 8am-6pm, which is 2am- noon Wisconsin time).

We had a fascinating lecture by an economist/political analyst who helped us to understand and reflect on why this is a big deal. We were all glad that he mentioned that none of the candidates seem to be campaigning on the issues, and that what happens here in Senegal will set a precedence for Africa as a whole. This is the first "violent" election since 1988, but it is definitely the worst. But consider that when the US was this old, I'm pretty sure people were still dueling each other.

It is so surreal to be here, living through this. I honestly think I've been given the average political nerd's dream life. 4 years ago, almost to the day, I saw now President Obama speak at a rally in my hometown; my parents told me they had no problem with me missing school because it was the chance to live history (whatever you think about his politics, he is the first African American president, and it was about time). And now, here I am, witnessing a completely different country as it faces its own monumental place in time. I, like the rest of Senegal, Africa, and even much of the world, am waiting anxiously to see what's next. And of course, praying, everyone is praying. I've heard Inshallah (God willing) more times this week than any other, referring usually to plans for early next week.

So, in a country where peace is part of the standard salutations, I'm signing off. Jamm ag jamm

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Que Les Anges Te Protegent

Je te souhaite une bonne nuit, et que les anges te protegent.
(I wish you a good night, and may the angels protect you)

This was a text sent to me by a Senegalese friend, and made me incredibly happy. He's Muslim, but just in case I haven't plugged this book enough in the past, God can absolutely speak through non-believers. It was a true blessing for me tonight, and I'm very thankful for it.

The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them. Psalm 34:7

Click here for more information on Islam and angels; I was curious so I looked some things up.

Ceebujeen and God's Grace

Ceebujeen (fish rice) is the national dish of Senegal, and it is delicious. It doesn't sound extraordinary, but it is, and if you've had it, you know. A varied diet is not a primary concern for most Senegalese, and thus, in the near 7 weeks I've been here, I'd say it's a solid estimate if I say I've had it 20-25 times, including today.

After lunch today, I was thinking about how delicious ceebujeen is (neex na looooool), and how I thought I'd get sick of it. Nope, not yet. In fact, it seems to get more delicious every time. I was trying to figure out how that was possible. I eat it almost every other day, and it tastes just as delicious, or even more, than the very first time.

And so it is with God's grace. The Christian life cannot be boring, despite the fact we live it every day, because every day we spend in Christ's presence is sweeter, every adventure greater, and every taste that much more pleasing.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2 Peter 3:8

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Enseignes Moi, Eternel (Teach Me, Lord)

Yesterday, two of the students from Lewis and Clark College were blatantly incredibly rude to me, adding on to the little annoyances that have been ongoing since the start. Today, I was completely ignored by numerous students, and it was really getting on my nerves.

I took advantage of our 4 hour lunch break to seek the Lord and pray about this, to lift my burdens up to Him. I was instantly convicted of my awful attitude. I have absolutely no right if I am trying to be like my Savior. How many times did I ignore Him? How often do I outright disrespect Him? Everything that they have done to me, so I have done to Jesus. It was a rude awakening to my own hypocrisy and lack of compassion, and also to the immense grandeur of His.

My prayer is this:

Teach me, Lord, to have Your grace towards these girls. In the same way in which You have welcomed me without response, let me do the same for them. Teach me to show them compassion, and to continue to be the light and love of Christ. Even when it's difficult, even when I don't want to, make me. Because You have come to save us, and only You know the names in the book of life. No matter what they do or don't do to me, let me be an ambassador for Your grace and kindness. Because You are strong, You are faithful, and You are good, always good. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Le Carême

This is the French word for "Lent", which starts today. It's a season of preparation - preparing ourself to regard the cross with a deeper sense of awe and wonder than ever before.

On a break from class today, Debbie, Addie and I went to the roof to share a brief meditation on Lent. We read Matthew 4:1-11, the temptation of Jesus, and prayed together. When I started talking how I feel about the encounter with the person of Christ, I started tearing up. I was so swept away by the presence of the Lord. It was such a simple celebration, but incredibly powerful. We were on a rooftop in Senegal, and it was grace that had brought us to this place.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bon Voyage

Here are some pictures of the famous Josh and Adeline, and their professor of international development, Leah Macmillan.

Sadly, Josh and Adeline leave for Thies tomorrow. It's been so wonderful to get to know them and have chats. I was blessed to be able to pray for them, and will continue to do so.

Every time I pray for them, I get a sense of excitement for the work the Lord has prepared for them there, and I can't wait to hear about it! Even though I'm sad to see them go, I am grateful for the opportunities God has provided for all of us.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Points de Grâces

Today in our Islam class we talked about how Muslims get to Paradise. In their life, sings are minus points and good things (deeds, praying on time, etc) are plus. There is a secret positive number needed to get into Paradise, and the points are the "Points de Grâces" and they are what save you from hell.

I don't think it was any coincidence my morning devotionals included Ephesians 2, with its infamous grace verse. God's standards are simply too high - He requires perfection; there's no way we could ever do enough good things to "cancel out" our sins because even one sin is too many (Romans 6:23, James 2:10). Further, since Muslims don't know what the secret number is, they face death with fear and uncertainty; they don't know if they will be in heaven or hell. But Jesus conquered the grave (See also Romans 8). He holds the keys, with which He set the captives free.

So then, there are not points of grace to be earned, but rather a sole point of grace: Calvary.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Christ and Him Crucified

For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:2 (KJV)

I have developed over the past year or two the practice of being aware of what my first thought of the day is. Sometimes it's song lyrics (yesterday it was "Be Unto Your Name"), or the remnants of a dream. Other times it's excitement over something I'm doing that day, or a reminder of some kind, or simple thoughts of gratitude. Occasionally it's "where am I?" or "how much more could I sleep?"

Today, it was this verse. This is what happens when you listen to Eric Ludy before bed, I suppose. It's an interesting verse for my time here, not only because of the fact that the country is mostly Muslim, but also because of what we've been taught it means to grow. We are told to question everything, to learn all we can, to explore, to try new things. I'm not saying that's bad, but when it comes to spiritual life, in a sense, it is.

I definitely think we should ask questions about our faith, I'm not saying we shouldn't. But who are we asking? Are we asking the world around us, or are we asking the Author an Perfector of our faith? All of life that we know is a result of Christ and him crucified. Curiously enough, this verse was also followed by a song: Liberty by Shane and Shane, which sings lyrics inspired by Galatians 5 and says, "For freedom You've set me free, and yes I am free indeed. You rewrote my name, unshackled my shame, You opened my eyes to see that I am free"

What I understand from these two pieces is that in the knowledge of Christ and him crucified, we find freedom, freedom to take in the beauty of the world around us, yet with the knowledge it is nothing compared to the glory of God.

In Senegal, I find myself in awe of a new place, a new way of life, one that must be put in the context of Christ and him crucified. Because as we've established in our Dakar in Transition class, one can only learn in comparison to what he already knows. To know only Christ and him crucified is to walk in him and to see what he wants us to know from the life he's leading us in.

Peeking Peking Pikine

Josh and Adeline's professor, Leah, arrived yesterday and has the goal of seeing what further opportunities there will be for her students in the future. When I went to the office this morning, I was expecting to be there all day, but instead I tagged along to visit a ministry partner in Pikine, on the outskirts of Dakar. They have a clinic, where they also hand out medicines and they offer literacy courses and vocational training for women in catering and tailoring. There is also a small church that meets on Sundays with about 9-12 people. It's so encouraging to see ministries meeting people where they are. By filling real, day to day needs, they are able to minister to those who would otherwise be skeptical about a Christian organization. But they see that these Christians care about them and want them to succeed in life, and then, in theory, the begin to see that we are motivated by the love of Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of mankind.

It was also fun talking to Leah about her first experiences here - she had ceebujeen for the first time and learned a little Wolof. It's strange how things are so comfortable here for me. I remember being full of questions and excitement, and wondering when we were going to figure things out. I had a blast being able to help Leah with some of her questions, and was thankful to be a part of her experience. I took her, Josh, and Adeline to "My Ice Cream" and showed them around the Baobab Center. They let me be part of their filming and invited me to come visit at Tyndale sometime :) Their international development program sounds really great, and I'm praying things will work out for future students.

Oh, and nutella ice cream happened. Yup.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Explaining Religions

I had a tricky conversation today with my older sister. I'd say she's the least devout person in the family. This is how it went.

Amy: How was church?
Me: It was good, thank you?
Amy: What did you retain; what was the lesson?
Me: After praying and worship, we studied that Bible and talked about continuing to grow in the Lord.
Amy, after a moment of reflection: That's good, very good. Which church?
Me: Eglise Evangelique
Amy: Do you know Jehovah's Witness? They have churches here.
Me: Yes, but that's not me.
Ami: Why not?
Me, choosing just one aspect in order to simplify the conversation: They don't believe Jesus rose from the dead.
Amy: Ohhh, I see. What about Catholics, what do they believe about that?
Me: The same as me, that He rose from the dead.
Amy: So Catholics and Protestants, they're almost the same?
Me, not wanting to go into the many, many ways they differ: No, not at all. Catholics pray to saints, and also to Mary. They also have different views on the afterlife.
Amy: Hmmm Ok.

So it was a pretty fun afternoon at the Samb household. It's a unique challenge to try to describe my own faith to people who have such a limited view of Christianity, but I always enjoy the conversations.

Deedeet, Degg Laa Tuuti!

One of my Senegalese friends keeps telling everyone else I speak good Wolof, which is not really true. No, I only speak a little! (ps that's the translation of the title of this post)

Today, I was planning on going to the beach to sit quietly by myself, but of course I forgot that's rarely a possibility. As soon as I sat down, my phone started ringing and I saw a friend waving from the rocks. He and his friends were just about to start making attaya and they invited me over. How could I resist? We had so much fun chatting. Djibi learned that I play guitar and said he'd find one for me to borrow so I could sing for him sometime. I got really nervous/shy about that! He asked me who my favorite American singer was. I said Kari Jobe, even though I knew he'd have no idea, and I played him a song. He agreed that she had a beautiful voice.

5 rounds of the sugary caffeine loaded tea, and several hours later, we climbed further up on the rocks for a good view of the setting sun. Djibi leaned over and said, "Ca, c'est le grandeur de Dieu" (This, this is the majesty of God). I shared with him Psaume 8:2 (Psalm 8:1; in the French Bible they count the description of the psalm as a separate verse) and he said, "Oui, exactement"

And so, as I understand a little Wolof, I understand even less of God's glory, and the grace that has brought me to this place. But really. How on earth did I get this blessing? Every day gets better and better.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

6 Weeks in Senegal

Time has flown by; it simultaneously feels like I just got here and that I've been here forever. (It only took me 6 weeks to remember that my e-reader is synced with my laptop so even though it's not here I still have all the books.) The fact that I will eventually leave got a little too real for comfort today, when two girls were sent home a week earlier than planned. Last night, their program coordinator at Kalamazoo College called to inform them they'd be leaving the country in 26 hours due to concerns over the elections the day after their scheduled departure. They came running in the the Baobab Center this morning and said to Debbie and I, "We are so glad you're here!!! We're leaving tonight" We were shocked and felt so bad for them. I can't imagine what that must feel like - to think you have another week, and to have it taken away just like that.

Their sudden and unexpected departure shook up the Beloit girls in a big way. We realized we only have 6 more Wolof classes, plus the bonus one where we make ceebujeen and attaya. On March 6th, I will have been here for a greater number of days than I have remaining. In two months, the Lewis and Clark students leave. I've been ripping off the pages from my schedule as they pass, and it already feels lighter.

It seems appropriate that we really lived it up today. As the Kalamazoo girls gave the details, I showed them the What Makes You Beautiful dance. We met up with others and got ice cream from an awesome store nearby (a little too nearby...I had tiramisu and kinder, which is a kind of candy bar here). We went to the tailor to pick up clothes we'd had made. Addie, Debbie, Val, and I went to the beach to do some reading, which we kind of did. I finished our book and then proceeded to distract everyone by doing leaps and handstands and front flips, prompting a Senegalese man to tell me I did nice choreography. We split a pizza.

I noticed a million little things today that dripped of the finding of a new self: I drank cafe touba (I'm learning to tolerate sweet coffee) and chatted with my tailor friend this morning. I unapologetically danced in front of people I sort of know, and Debbie and I also had a tobyMac sing along, followed by jamming to Lecrae and Fee. I wrote an entire paragraph in my journal in Wolof. I danced along the beach and didn't care who laughed. I laid on the beach without worrying about the sand that found its way to my backpack, my ears, my get the point. I went out of my way to greet a neighbor because I know she appreciates it. I went to the boutique and got my change from this morning without nerves. Though given a utensil at dinner, I used my hand to pull the meat off the bones. I talked to my host dad about faith. I read my Bible in the living room. I jokingly played off Mamy's comments from last night about me being an instigator for the M-23 protests, and said I'd heard there were manifestations going on and I just had to be there.

6 weeks ago, this is what I looked forward to: to things being easier, simpler, more natural. I can only imagine where I'll be in another 6 weeks, or really even 6 days. In 6 hours though, I'll be asleep. Enjoy the photos.

I love this silly/awkward photo of us looking at the tourist photo opp mosque:

Angeline hates that she's standing next to Debbie here, but it's cute. We're checking out the colonial architecture headed out towards Rufisque.

The beach! La plage! Geej-bi! Liztowne, I hope you don't mind if your slideshow presentation has a few hundred beach pics in it.

And then I read Maimouna. It was one of those happy/sad/beautiful books that was perfect for today.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Degg naa...lan? (I understand...what?)

Learning Wolof has been a wonderful, frustrating process. I don't remember learning French very well, and I certainly don't remember learning English. I was getting really frustrated with myself and the conditional if/then clauses we were working on, and then I realized something. I've been studying Wolof for about 6 weeks. I didn't learn those tenses in French until I was in my 3rd year of language study! We're going quickly; it's ok to struggle a little bit.

And I've seen God working through this, and answering my cries for help. At Partners, no one expects me to speak Wolof, so it's a lot less intimidating than with ACI staff, random people on the street, or even my host family. I feel a lot more confident there, and it's easy to practice. My supervisor and I had a conversation during which I confirmed that I was going to Eglise Evangelique this Sunday, and he invited me to lunch with the other interns and their professor after the service. We wished each other good evenings and said we'd see each other then. All in Wolof. It felt so good!

It's no surprise that some of my verses this morning were:
Then Moses said to the Lord, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." So the Lord said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say" Exodus 4:10-12

I feel very much like Moses when it comes to Wolof. Often I understand what someone else says, but I don't know how to vocalize a response. Or it takes me a long time. But God is so faithful, and able to provide in every way. My little Wolof successes are His way of saying, "I am with your mouth; I am teaching you what to say"


Ana Addie (Where's Addie)?

Oh how we love our dear Addie, whose habit of being on Dakar time has prompted our professors to ask, "Ana Addie?" on a regular basis.

Speaking of classes, we definitely go to them. Maybe not every day, but we do generally have about 6 hours a day. Although, the homework is minimal it feels like less.

T/Th (Some Wednesdays) 5-7: Islam in Senegal with Babaccar. I am the teacher's pet for sure, which makes sense because I'm a religious studies major and is ironic because I'm very muchso Christian. Last night, Babaccar was walking out with Val and I and he jokingly said that he and I were going to pray at the mosque; then he said I wasn't allowed. I want to have so many discussions with him all day long.

W/Th/F 11-1: Wolof with Ismaela. He rocks. We share many jokes and laugh a lot. It's possible we're also learning Wolof. Men na am nungi jang Wolof itam.

T/Th 9-11: Dakar in Transition. I like Ibou Diallo, our prof, but mostly outside of class. I've had some really interesting chats with him, despite being relatively indifferent about the class. We go on field trips around Dakar, which are enjoyable, if not a tad confusing (example: we got lost on Sunday afternoon trying to go home).

T 11-1:30, Th 9-11: Gender and Politics in Literature with the beautiful and wise Adama. She's fascinating, but is really into monologuing. Her class bears an uncanny resemblance to those of the 82 year old French professor we left back at Beloit.

F 9-11: Peoples and Cultures, aka Anthro. This class confuses me a little, though Angeline is in love (she did admit today was quite dull though). It seems scattered and unorganized; our teacher had to ask us where we left off last week. I'm not sure exactly what the learning goals are, but I liked last week when we discussed Senghor, negritude, and African thought. I also love the reading we were given today on Wolof proverbs. There's hope.

Note the absence of class on Monday, Friday afternoons, some Wednesday afternoons, and from lunchtime til 5. Not to worry, Partners International is filling that time quite nicely for me. I'm keeping an hours log there too, just for the record:

6/2 9-1
8/2 2:45-4:45
9/2 2:30-4:50
13/2 8:45-1:15, 3-6
14/2 2:50-4:50
15/2 2:45-4:45
17/2 2:45-5:15

Although I'm there a lot, it's completely by choice. Not only is this the most flexible job I've ever had, it's also the most relaxed. Josh and I like to talk American politics and discuss his own political ambitions (President of Kenya 2027) while, ahem or in lieu of, working. The other day we, along with Aidilene, were discussing the Marabouts and talibes (students of the Khoran who are often mistreated and forced to beg) and what the appropriate reaction is as Christians. I'm going to miss those two when they leave for Thies next week!

Everything I do reminds me of God's faithfulness, and to be thankful for His abundant blessings of hope, grace, joy and peace.

Ana Addie? Dinaa dem ko gis leggi (I'm going to see her now)! Really, it's true. It's Friday afternoon Beloit toubab bonding time, unofficially instated as of last week.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

La Différence

This is not one of those the American church is so weak compared to the church in _________ (you fill in the blank with whatever country you want) posts. Even if it were, I criticized the American church before I ever went abroad (Radical by David Platt is a great book). Instead, this is a call to stand up and be proud about what you believe.

One of my Senegalese friends was texting me and asking what I was up to today. I had said that after lunch I was headed to my internship for a Bible study and prayer meeting. He said something to the effect of, "Oh so you actually practice" and I said, "Yes, of course I do. The Lord is my everything" He responded:

"La différence qu'il y a entre toi et les autres américaines que j'ai connu est que toi t'es une croyante et sache que seul la foi en Dieu peut aider une personne a prendre bien soin de sa vie"

"The difference between you and the other Americans that I've known is that you are a believer and know that only faith in God can help someone take good care of his life"

This, despite the fact that he's known many other American students, including some from my college last year. He's told me about a lot of other friends he's made while they were here, but he said that I'm the first one he's met who's actually practicing.

That's pathetic. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it's the truth. How many people think that Christianity is an unimportant faith because of the number of people who profess it, but don't make it important in their lives? How are we ever going to show them the greatness of being in Christ if we don't exemplify it ourselves?

If that's not a call to action, I don't know what is. Hudson Taylor once said, "If Jesus isn't Lord of all, than He isn't Lord at all". You cannot be halfway. There is no "almost" in God's book. To be a Christian without "practicing" is to be a Christian without Christ, and that simply does not exist.

Please enjoy this spoken word called "Almost Saved" I know it's close to 7 minutes, but I love it, and there's some convicting truth in there that needs to be heard. It feels more like 2 minutes to me, really.

The difference: "You were once arctic, but it's your warmness that is causing Him to spew you"

So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Revelation 3:16

Musings from Behind the Veil

Last night, I talked about the veiling of women, in relation to the Holy of holies “behind the veil”. I neglected to emphasize that here in Senegal, covering one’s hair is not as religiously associated as it is cultural. Many Christian women also cover their hair, though not as many as Muslim women. Today, I worked up the nerve to challenge my toubab status and wear a head covering. Call it a cross-cultural experiment if you will.

I was intrigued by the various reactions:

-Val’s friend told me I was African. Note, he didn’t say Muslim, demonstrating the cultural significance over the religious one.

-ACI staff outside the Baobab Center grinned approvingly and greeted me very enthusiastically.

-The group of Lewis and Clark girls that was there (about half their group) mostly looked at me like I was a freak. At least one appeared to be smirking. My numerous greetings went unreturned (although this has happened previously as well).

-The Beloit girls smiled, and seemed to brighten a bit.

-Angeline said that the purple was a good color for me. I liked this response because it didn’t in any way suggest what I was doing was bizarre or abnormal. It was as though I were just wearing a nice dress or other article of clothing.

-Addie also said to the four others, “you guys look beautiful”, in accordance with our color scheme. Again, it did not acknowledge anything out of the ordinary.

-Our Wolof professor said I was Senegalese, alxamdoolilay, and rafet na (which means that’s pretty/beautiful)

These reactions represented the embracing of cultural assimilation and experience, and the lack thereof.

What was important to the experiment for me, however, was how I felt. I was a little taken aback by the empowering effect. I felt truly and uniquely beautiful, in a way I never had before. It made me wonder if this is where part of the elegance, confidence and radiance of traditional (and even moderately/mildly traditional) Senegalese women comes from.

I tried to imagine my veiled self in the US. I think it’s sad that all I could imagine is judgment and misunderstanding. There’s a particular aspect of feminine grace demonstrated by making the choice (key word: choice) to veil or cover one’s hair. Don’t get me wrong, I also think there’s a particular sense of beauty and empowerment in the changing of and caring for one’s hair – a highlight, color, cut or style change can be equally confidence boosting in their own special ways. I think about these things daily - to wear a bun, a ponytail, braids, pigtails, a headband, barrettes, clips, straight, curly, long, short, a hat – so why not a veil or headscarf?

And oh yeah, there’s the fact that it’s insanely practical. There’s sand all over the place, and when it’s windy, it gets in your hair and that’s just unpleasant.

I want to clarify one more time that all these positive reactions are nullified when a woman is forced to veil, when she is unable to express herself in the manner she wants to. But when it comes to a choice, I can only say, don’t knock it til you try it!

(Sorry guys, this one doesn’t apply for you)

But here's a picture:

Dear Coffee

Listen, I think it's time we talk. I know you've always been there for me - after rounds of late nights and early mornings, after tough races, iced in the sweaty sun, and steamy on chilly winter days. Your bold flavor rarely lets me down, and always brightens my day. Whether black or in a latte or some sugary whole milk concoction for dessert, you're awesome. You've always been my favorite food/beverage item.

But I realized that I can live without you. Sure, you still bring me delight when I see you again, but we're moving to that just friends stage, I feel. It's true, I've met someone else. Mashed up avocado with melted in sugar on a fresh baguette has stolen my heart. You may say it's not going to last, and while you're probably right, I know you'll take me back. Don't consider it a break up; I fear we drifted apart quite some time ago. I still love you, and I always will. I'm just seeing what else is out there.

Love always,

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Behind the Veil

Being in Senegal, I often see veiled women. Some women wrap their hair, others the veil, and still others a combination. Two of my sisters don't cover their hair (one of them does to pray; I've never seen the other pray), and the other does during prayer, and for the most part in public but I've seen her leave the house with her hair uncovered, so I really don't know. My mom does, for sure, though she's most diligent during prayer and in public.

The question of veiling has been a topic of wide discussion in the last several years, especially with France's move in prohibiting veiling in schools. This has also been an ongoing conversation among the Beloit girls.

On the one hand, I see the point of anti-veil advocates. It's true; there are some women who would prefer not to cover, but are forced to for political/social/familial reasons. And that is an issue of rights. But there are a lot of women who simply want to cover their hair for themselves. They find their hair to be an attractive, unique, and even intimate part of themselves and they don't want to share that with everyone. That's something I think everyone can respect. For some reason, I find the white veils particularly beautiful. It's a combination of feminine grace, purity, and radiance, I think, that I find intriguing, alluring, and stunning all at once.

In our Islam in Senegal course, we talked about the Kaaba at Mecca, the holiest of sites where the most pure and holy would connect with God. Debbie sat next to me and wrote "Take me in to the holy of holies" and I wrote "Leviticus 16-17 & Hebrews 6-7; Christ enters into the Presence behind the veil" Seeing all these women every day, thinking about the rituals required to enter into a mosque, much less Mecca or even still the Kaaba, I find myself in further awe of Jesus' own holiness and purity, and the fact that He takes us with Him behind the veil to dwell forever in the presence of God. It seems my verse of the moment strikes again:

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20

I think about the law, both the law of the Old Testament, and the law of Islam - all the things that are "obligatoire", all the things that are "interdit", and the complexity of the rituals - and how, through the law, we are bound to fail. We would never be able to reach the Holy of holies on our own. Ever. But Jesus paid the price on the cross, taking our dark putrid lives with Him, and creating in us new hearts, new spirits, and new lives, bringing us forever into communion with God. And yes, I said forever. Jesus was and is the pure sacrificial Lamb, the Most High Priest who is able to atone for an entire people, not for a month or a
year, but for eternity.

for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. Hebrews 7:19

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. Hebrews 7: 25-28


Spicy and Spicier

My BCXC ladies will like this one...

Just when I think it can't get any spicier, it does! The food, that is :)

Also, my family thinks I am awesome at buying fruit. Today, I got a full kilo worth of fruit for 200cfa less than it's supposed to cost. I didn't even bargain. I am also skilled at picking out the fruit, according to them. I think it's just that the fruit man is just amused by the touabab speaking Wolof and buying fruit at 9:30 at night and gives me his favor.

La Belle Cage

"Bien que la cage soit belle, c'est un cage non plus" (Even though it's a beautiful cage, it's a cage nonetheless). Our literature teacher said this today, and it reminded me of a video I'd watched earlier today, at

In it, Eric Ludy asks what gets us up in the morning, gold or God. Men and women throughout history have put their lives on the line for gold; which of us will be willing to give up the comforts of life for the Lord? Not to say that the Lord will ask you to; it's that you must be willing.

I find it ironic that we often hear people saying, "please just don't send me to Africa", etc, and that's exactly where I've been sent, yet I've given up few comforts. I'd originally listed things I'd given up, but found that it to be longer than what it feels like, and I didn't want to mislead anyone. Instead I'll say that I do have access to clean drinking water, electricity and even internet, delicious and plentiful food, wonderful friends and family, and a church home. Basic needs are more than met, as well as many things that are just nice to have. There are a few things that I miss, but I don't feel like I've sacrificed much at all. But it doesn't matter what I did or did not give up; it's the fact that the will was there - that I surrendered my original thoughts and hopes of a French study abroad and said, "here I am, send me"

And I've found freedom in the dwelling of the Lord; instead of being caged in by desires, my preferences. As nice as they were, I was still held captive by them if I refused to let them go. Senegal has been such a wonderful, freeing experience and a chance to learn more about the Lord and His people.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Although it was pretty un-celebrated here, there are a few points of note:

-My new walk to school friend wished me a happy Valentine's Day

-My ongoing friend sent me nice texts, even after I accidentally ignored him, and then realized it too late to turn around....

-The bakery I like had precious V-Day treats

-I wrote a blog post for apuregeneration about how Jesus is our ultimate valentine

-I explained the origins of the holiday to my family. I still don't think they get it.

This is my version of a Valentine's Day card, with toubab love from somewhere between Dakar and Rufisque

But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
Colossians 3:14

Monday, February 13, 2012

C'est moi, quelle joie!

Hi. That's me. I was so happy this morning when I went to work that I wanted to take a picture for the blog in hopes that my joy would radiate off the screen and multiply itself unto you.

Today I realized that not only is the bread for breakfast every day thing not bothering me as expected, I look forward to it. Because it's an experience. I wake up and ask Mamy if she passed the night in peace; she gives me money for the bread. I go to the Bitik and am greeted kindly, as I see this man twice a day. He searches for a good baguette for me and I bring it home to Mamy. Sometimes he doesn't have change, so I come back later. Mamy and I eat together before I head out.

This morning, I was wearing my new tunic, tailor-made by a friend from a fabric I bargained for and purchased myself. I got walked partway to work by a second-year university student from an island somewhere near Madagascar who was wearing an Angeline-approved man scarf, and told me I was nice instead of pretty and didn't ask for my phone number. Our Monday morning office prayer meeting focused on Psalm 27, which contains two of the verses that brought me to Senegal. I translated for Josh, who is just learning French. It was tricky because I felt like I was talking over people, but it felt good to be among God's people. I translated a performance review document from English to French so it can actually be used before getting Ethiopian food with Val and Debbie.

We ate a bunch of things we'd never had before and drank real pineapple juice with chunks of pineapple at the bottom. I paused at my desk to pray for a deeper experience of the Lord and asked His blessing on my work. I also typed a quick note on the IVCF facebook page of something I felt God speaking to me for everyone else. I went back to work and typed up a report from the Inter-Senegal mission, and noted that they had worked with Operation Smile to provide surgeries and medical care for children, and had also brought in a trained gynecologist to add to current staff. Also, several interns and medical students at the hospital got saved, as well as some of the patients, one of whom died about 6 weeks later.

I am so joyous over the work the Lord is doing!

I bid the office ba bennen, and headed home where I began to think about my day. It was certainly one of those amazing "why me?" days. The kind where you ask yourself why on earth you are the lucky one. Sometimes it really doesn't seem fair that I'm the one who passes by the little kids on the street begging for food and money and gets to go to an office, to school. Why is it that while I'm at school, there's a maid my age at home doing absolutely everything? Why do I have a surplus of the most incredible friends while others can't even find a single person to call friend? And why, why am I filled with this unreasonable joy, this awe and wonder at the fact that every day seems better than the last, when others I know struggle to make it through just today?

I have an answer for only the last question: Jesus, Lord of all.
For Christ love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 2 Corinthians 5:14

One thing I have desired of the Lord, that I will seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. Psalm 27:4

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. Psalm 27:6

You make known to me the paths of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Une Proverbe

"Tu ne peux pas faire d'omelette sans casser les oeuves"

You can't make an omelet without breaking the eggs.

Perhaps I just want eggs, but this stuck with me today after church. Something went off in my head. You can't get better if you're not first broken. It was so simple, but so profound.

You'd never think twice about breaking an egg in order to make a delicious omelet. It's just part of the process. You have to do it if you want to eat the tasty item. But when we're broken in order to become better, stronger, more interesting, we question why. We don't want to see our own cracks, we don't want them to be filled in a better way - we just want to be whole. We don't even mind being the same, we just don't want to be broken.

But if we never cracked an egg, we'd never have omelets. And omelets are yummy.