Saturday, March 31, 2012
From our first day in Senegal, we knew about the rural visit. We had been told that we'd be given a contact and some money, and we'd have to make our own way there. This visit was supposed to be two weeks ago, but when we asked for more information we were told it had been moved to after spring break. We were given choices of activities and locations. I chose Palmarin Ngallo, for traditional music.
Well the closer we got the more we came to terms with the fact that this wasn't the rural visit we'd expected. We ended up taking sept places with the Lewis and Clark girls to an auberge in Sokone. We had been told the visit was lasting until Sunday, they until Saturday. One of the girls wanted to be back for her nephew's baptism, and there was a lot of discussion over return day. Beloit girls, I'm proud of you for your "no expectations" attitude and immense flexibility. Way to be on Dakar time.
There was a point when we first got there where I was just confused and stressed and frustrated and began pouring out my heart like water before the Lord, and I got a verse that said, "The Lord has done what he purposed; he has carried out his word" (Lamentations 2:17a) which was immensely comforting.
With that out of the way, and plans out the window, I had no idea what I'd be doing or where I'd be staying. Since music wasn't a choice, I was given traditional education of children, and sent to live with a Serreer family. If I wanted to give you an idea of what my weekend was really like, I'd type this in a language you don't speak. That's right, I don't speak Serreer and they don't speak French. Luckily Serreer and Wolof are really similar, and most people speak some Wolof, so we were able to communicate.
My family lived in an open area, with cats, chickens, goats, and dogs running around, along with all the children and their friends. It was difficult to tell whom was related to whom. I asked to help with the laundry being folded by my younger sister and was relegated to towels. I really failed at the marble game my brothers were playing, and it was quickly realized I had a gift of calming Matisse (<2), the water child. In traditional beliefs, there are "water children" who anger easily and must be appeased because if they get too upset they can just drift away and disappear (die). My family was impressed that I recognized she was a water child. They asked if I wanted to take her back to Dakar, then America, and then come home next year; but only if America had ceeb :)
Children are generally not coddled and learn very early to do work. Even my young sisters (ages 6-11) did laundry, helped with cooking, cleaning, and taking care of younger siblings.
I also realized I'd been given a status of which I was completely unworthy when I was called over by my host mother (Maam) to eat. This put me at the status of an old, wise person who was deeply valued and respected. The children ate by themselves, and my aunt ate with my uncle. We had couscous with fish.
As we sat and talked - Maam pulled her chair up to mine and said, Kay waxtaan (come discuss), night fell. Since my phone was in my room, I had no concept of time. My family started asking me if I was tired and wanted to go to bed, so I assumed it was pretty late. I went to my room and it was 8:43pm. Duped. Oh well, I fell asleep just after 9 and slept straight through to almost 7. I got up and was greeted with a handshake and assalaam alekum, nellow nga bu bax by just about every member of the household. Someone went out and got me a breakfast of bread, butter and coffee which is what I'm used to. Assaly made sure she said goodbye before heading to school.
Babaccar, my sophomore in high school brother, was the only family member that spoke French, however he had no interest in translation. A woman was brought to the house by Maam to ask me how long I'd be there and why I was there. It never ceases to amaze me how unconcerned people are about these things. In the US, you generally ask these questions before you agree to take someone in. I didn't really know exactly why I was there so I accepted the given answer of learning about tradition. We said goodbye to the woman, and Maam told me to grab my notebook and camera.
We went around the village together, meeting basically everyone who lived there. Several people invited us in and wanted me to interview them so I did. Most of these people spoke French which made things much easier. They even told me that Maam was a widow, and some more about how difficult life was. One man actually works in Dakar but has his family in Sokone that he visits on the weekends. Another woman talked about the unreliability of the sea for economic means.
Then we went and visited the sea port and I saw the fish being caught, sorted, and grilled. Our last stop was a Koranic school, which was very interesting. The room with the youngest children seemed like chaos, with a lot of little voices yelling in Arabic. The next room with middle/high school aged children had each of them taking turns at recitations. Then there was another room with middle/high school aged students that I was invited in to. I was given a stool, and once I sat down, they all stood up and sang me a song in Arabic. The cheikh described what they do in Wolof, and Babaccar translated. I got more out of what the cheikh said than what Babaccar told me.
We left the school and were told my tam tam teacher was waiting back at the house. A music lesson had been arranged. This was incredibly awkward as all my neighbors came over for this and my teacher decided not to use any words to teach me this little drum. So I mostly just awkwardly tried to copy him, and my younger siblings clapped and danced along. Val came over with her host sister and tried her hand. After nearly two hours of this bizarre experience, we had attaya and then lunch, which was ceebujen. Val, her sister and I ate alone, and it was delicious. Then I was invited to Val's, so off we went.
On our way there, some of the people I'd met earlier called out to me, "Aida, Aida" (my Senegalese name) and Val's sister found it hilarious. When we got to Val's, we were told it was lunch time...again. Suur naa! But it was delicious, kind of a lamb stew with rice. We were both accused of not eating, though I tell you, I had eaten A LOT. Then we were told to rest and just chilled in Val's room. We were given third lunch (yes THIRD) and were stuffed to capacity, and made a trip to the squatty potty.
We were later collected and brought to a village for dancing. It's not embarrassing if everyone does it was our motto. Besides Yuza, we learned a Sereer dance that involved "sweeping" and "doing the laundry" Laughter abounded and we left sweaty and happy.
When I got home, I was still full from my 3 lunches so I told my family I'd already eaten dinner. I was then directed to a place to fill a bucket with water, and to my "bathroom". This bathroom was really just a semi-open area attached to my room. There were 2 1/2 walls, pretty low, and no ceiling. And a dirt floor, which makes washing your feet a totally lost cause. But I really did feel better if not actually cleaner after my shower. I sat out with the family, and they got my phone number because they were going to miss me so much, especially the young ones. My aunt is pregnant and said if she has a girl, she'll name her Aida for me. I didn't get bedtime duped this time.
I woke up to pack and prepare and found Val at my house. We were getting ready for breakfast when someone from the auberge came to pick us up. Oh well. My family gave me fabric as a parting gift so that I could make something out of it and remember them every time I wore it. I was very moved by this gesture. The Seen family has a piece of my heart forever.
We took breakfast at the auberge (including mango jam - YUM) and said our farewells. Everyone looked happy. We took a bus home to Dakar that mysteriously took almost two hours longer than the trip there. I went home and I've been resting ever since...more about that later.
But it was a successful trip, especially once we shed our expectations :)
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
With my pending journey, I thought it might be nice to give some clementines, so I bought a kilo and a half on my way home. I gave one to my friend and neighbor, and she was very touched. She told me thank you in 2 different languages almost a dozen times! She also told me a Wolof proverb that I'd learned, that basically says that for whatever you give, God will bless you. Then it was time to come home. My aunt and namesake was visiting, though without the children. Amy was distracted by my fulaar and tunic and didn't even notice the bag in my hands, just telling me how African-pretty I looked. But then I pulled out a clementine and handed it too her, and went around to my sisters, mother, and aunt, as Amy and the rest talked about how nice and thoughtful I was, especially because clementines are so good for women (they read a lot of French health magazines and clementines are the "it" fruit right now).
Besides the cliche gift of giving, I was given gifts today too. Because I'm going to be gone, we had my favorite meals for lunch and dinner: soupacandja this afternoon, and lamb soup tonight. I'm pretty sure no one else likes the soup that much because they all eat a little and get up, but I love it and everyone has noticed. Neex na looooool!
In the book Not a Fan, Kyle Idleman asks, "When is the last time you allowed Jesus to mess with your schedule?" That is a convicting question for us, especially those who live by the watch, the schedule, and the calendar. What would it be like to wake up every day and say, "Lord, here are my plans. I give them up in exchange for Yours, for Your ways are higher than mine"?
I was thinking about this when I was returning home from school, earlier than usual. I was tired and a little crabby and just wanted to crawl back in bed. But I was stopped by Doudou, and wouldn't you know it, he was making attaya. He invited me to sit with him and I went against my instinct and personal desires and took a seat. I left about a half hour later, feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.
I returned home when God willed it.
Inshallah is worked into nearly every conversation, but I've noticed there are some cases where it is used more seriously (not that I think people don't mean it other times, but there are times when it is more of a necessity than just something everyone says). When I tell my mother I'm not coming home for lunch, for example, and I say I'll see her later in the evening she says, "Yes, Inshallah", or when I give a return date for a trip my friends and family says, "Yangi nibbi, inshallah".
It is good to consistently be reminded that we are not in control.
However, few of my Senegalese contacts have any idea about this village. My friends said that I was going to know more about Senegal than they do. Their only contribution was that Mbour isn't that far. I don't think anything will seem too far after Kedougou!
Then I tried talking to Mamy. She thought I was trying to say I was going to Toubab Diallo, a popular tourist destination. I then re-pronounced it and she asked if it was far. I said it was near Mbour and she said it would be a good trip.
Our DIT professor, Ibou Diallo told us it was very nice there, as it was right on the sea.
I'm looking forward to it, despite having few details about the trip, including an exact departure/return time. As hyper-organized as I am, it honestly doesn't bother me. I have this laissez-faire attitude that has come out during my time in Senegal. It will be interesting to see how much carries over into life in the US.
My house, though, is kind of outside - there's an open part - so it's kind of odd. It's like it's raining inside. The house is built for it though, and there's a drain on the floor.
The cool fresh rain, coupled with my jeans and sweater make me feel like I'm home in Wisconsin. But the fulaar doesn't lie :)
This is going to be one muddy day.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
I did not come to Senegal as a "missionary" in the traditional understanding of the word. I came as a student - in the classroom, but also of the culture as a whole. However, if you think I haven't been talking to people about faith in Jesus, you would be mistaken. I do work with Partners, for whom evangelism is very important. My church base here is evangelical, and I see the ways that God works through our worship in the neighborhood. I have friends and family here, and as it is common for the Senegalese to discuss religion, the Gospel has certainly come up. A lot. So again, I find myself a missionary in a sense, relying on the Lord and calling upon His name.
This is a really nice article from the Gospel Coalition, and these are some sweet quotes on missions.
If you really feel like reading, you could check out:
A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Eliot
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt
God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew, John and Elizabeth Sherill
Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson
A Man in Christ by Roger Steer (biography of Hudson Taylor)
No Sacrifice Too Great by Eileen Vincent (story of CT Studd
Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Eliot (life and testament of Jim Eliot)
A Mind for Missions by Paul Borthwick
Out of the Comfort Zone by George Verwer
Peace Child by Don Richardson
Let the Nations be Glad by John Piper
Reaching a Lost World, a YWAM Bible study
I'm probably forgetting a bunch of awesome books but this is what I've got off the top of my head. Check some of them out if you're so inclined. Any one of these is sure to challenge your worldview, but if you only have time for one and really want to hear some hard truth, I'd go with Radical. I decided to read it because one reviewer said he was so challenged by it, he didn't want to keep reading - it was just too hard. Out of the biographies, I can't even pick a favorite. You'll just have to see for yourself.
My family was kind enough not to send me on errands that required a stop to his boutique, and then I went on vacation and forgot about it.
Until last night, when I came home later than usually. Zeina said, "Um Kate, I have a little problem" I said, "What?"; I was very concerned. She said, "That boutiquer, he came here to ask me for your number"
Who does that? What makes someone think "wow I want to know that American so I'm going to go to her host family's house and ask them for her phone number"?! I barely even believe this is happening right now.
Staff at the Baobab Center have explained to us that men here think women don't know what they want and that they will eventually say yes if you keep asking. It can be incredibly aggravating, being constantly asked for your number, or worse, your hand in marriage. My host mom even warned me against the Senegalese men, saying there was maybe half of a good one out of every ten. Being back in Dakar after the village has multiplied my annoyance with these daily interactions, as it didn't happen there. People didn't bother us and were just friendly.
However, I am fortunate to know a group of really awesome young men who help me maintain my faith that not everyone is awful. And my family rocks.
I told Zei to tell the boutiquer I was already married. She made sure I had a ring (I wear a purity ring on my left ring finger, so it's all good). We'll see if that's good enough.
Monday, March 26, 2012
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
forever and ever. Micah 4:5
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:11
but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. John 4: 14
Chapter 4: Dafa Tang For Real
People had told us it was hot. Nothing could have prepared us. There was no air flow in the case, and no fan like there was in Kedougou and it was hot. Around 3am, Angeline, Debbie and I realized we were all awake and quickly decided to go outside, despite the fact we were just in little shorts and bras. We were deliriously hot and dehydrated though, so out we went. We did realize we were the only ones there, and chatted about when Disney was still awesome (late 90s/early 2000s) and sang parts of the Freaky Friday soundtrack. We moved locations slightly, and put on shirts for the occasion. When workers started arriving, around 4:30, we went back in the case and attempted to sleep, which we did for a few hours before breakfast. We were served hot coffee and tea, which we only drank because there was water. The sept place came an hour early, but we didn't mind because we wanted to get back to Kedougou, where water and refreshments were plentiful. We were grateful to see Arouna again, and "Tony" our friendly supermarket worker. What happened next, though... "You're it, you're the ultimate. It's automatic I'm sure of it no lie, so don't even try to tell me that you're not the guy...you're it, you're the ultimate you"
Chapter 5: The Bus Leaves When?
After we were hydrated, the mission was to get bus tickets. But someone had told us the bus didn't leave today as we thought, and our bus line was going straight to voicemail. So Angeline and Val volunteered to see what was up. They ended up running all over town, to 3 different garages where they were finally told they could purchase tickets for 8am. Tomorrow. Debbie, Addie, and I were incredibly anxious and nervous so we ended up praying for them, the situation, and for God to guide us and to help us be grateful for His timing. Once that was settled, Addie and I went to get a refreshing lunch and chatted it up with Tony, which lifted our spirits. When we got back, Angeline, Val, and Debbie and explained we'd need rooms, and after lunch we were led to our luxury cases. We showered, and hung out enjoying the fan and the refuge. It turned out our bus issue wasn't so bad after all. Addie and I enjoyed walking around the village market; it was so different from Dakar in that people weren't constantly hassling us to buy things. We got back and planned another nice dinner and ice cream session, and prepared to leave. I slept well until 4 am, when I couldn't sleep anymore. When everyone else was up, we bought breakfast and snacks for the road, paid up (we had to wake someone up, even though we'd said we were leaving early) and headed to the bus stop. This bus was significantly more crowded, hot, and cramped than the first one. We also didn't leave for nearly 2 1/2 hours because they wanted it to be full. But we were so looking forward to Dakar. "This dry and desert land, I tell myself keep walking on. Hear something up ahead, your water falling like a song"O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:2
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Friday, March 16, 2012
and are acquainted with all my ways
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Neither life nor death
that can take me from
All that I Find
Here now in Your glory Lord
No Other powers or love
The Things of Now or to Come
There's nothing on earth
In this life
that could ever separate us lord
Your love is never ending
To your hands we Surrender
Where all our sins are washed away
Your grace beyond reason
has paid for our freedom
we're made alive in You
We run to Your throne
where we belong
Every heart will sing
That Jesus is Lord
Casting all else aside
for the Joy of our Christ
Let your glory fall
Our hearts filled with your fire