My recent turn-around
Trip Start Aug 30, 2009
13Trip End Apr 28, 2011
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Where I stayed
My swanky hut
For example, as I stated in an earlier entry, many people in Senegal find it appropriate to ask volunteers for any and everything a volunteer has that the Senegalese person does not. I am still not quite sure how this practice got started nor why many still find it acceptable to do; however, I have come to the conclusion that many people ask for things in a joking manner (which is still really annoying), but I can look past this
2nd Turn-around: the forever amusing and tireless joking of men: as many of you may (or may not?) know, the gender roles of men and women are clearly defined, and polygamy is common practice for many men. This is not to say that there are not exceptions to the rule, but the exceptions are very few and far between. I will explain a little about the lives of women in my village to better illustrate my point here. To put it simply, the women are amazing and I cannot imagine where this country would be without its women; I would venture to guess that it would be in far worse shape than it is now
The women do everything but have essentially no value in the family according to the men. Men tirelessly joke with me about taking 2nd, 3rd, and 4th wives; according to the Koran a man can only have 4 wives…because having 5 would be absurd? Additionally, they are forever asking why I am not married, would I like a Senegalese husband, etc. I actually have, on multiple occasions, had men tell me they were married and proceed to make some sort of proposal to me by either telling me they love me, or trying to bride me with how many cows they have (it’s hard to not laugh at this one when it happens). They simply don’t think it’s a big deal to take multiple wives, joke about taking multiple wives, or joke about someone else’s wife being their girlfriend
Doctor???...so I am not a doctor, but if you were to ask anyone in my village to let me cut them open right then and there I would venture to say that almost all of them would say yes. This I have realized from going around to compounds and discussing with people my role as a volunteer. I actually now find these conversations quite funny because number one, I will never operate on a fellow villager which I don’t think they believe, and number two, most of their requests are absolutely ridiculous. These things used to bother me because I could not comprehend why every day I was being asked for medicine, shots, and various other things to fix numerous ailments that my villagers are suffering from. In America, we are obsessed with knowing where medicine came from, is our doctor reputable, are we taking too many medications, are they over-prescribed, etc. However, the lack of medicine and adequate medical care in this country has caused the exact opposite thing to happen, a complete obsession with medicine whether they know what it does or whether it the right medicine for them
Greeting obsessed? Senegalese love to greet. There are a whole line of greetings for the various times of day in every language in the country that you have to know. Not greeting someone is considered rude and can get you into some big trouble. However, the line of greeting questions is not simply how are you, but also how is your mom, dad, siblings, health, heat, field, and various others. And a lot of the time they won’t just ask the question once, they can ask you how you are, how your health is, and how your family is 5x before they will stop…not exaggerating. I have seen two people spend around 4-5 minutes simply greeting each other before they ever got to the real reason that they were talking in the first place. I am still a bit hesitant when it comes to the extent of greetings at times, but now I am even offended when people don’t greet me, or when little kids ask for a gift but don’t first ask how I am doing with the heat (my favorite question since it is always hot and no one ever changes their answer to this question)
All of these crazy things are now a part of my life, and I don’t mind at all. I am used to being proposed to on a regular basis, not because I am a great person, but simply because every man in this country seems to want a “Toubab” wife whether they are terrible or not (that is merely not a problem for them). I greet like it’s my job, which it is at the moment. I repeatedly refuse to give people the secret medicines I have that will supposedly cure the blind and old. This is now my life. Many people say about Peace Corps volunteers that those who end up in Africa come out laughing because their lives are so ridiculous that if you don’t laugh you will go insane, and I believe it one hundred percent. I have never laughed so much at the absurdities of life, and I think I will certainly come out of this laughing.