The Fembaade

Trip Start Mar 15, 2005
Trip End Apr 01, 2007

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Flag of Senegal  ,
Monday, October 24, 2005

No, 'Fembaade' has nothing to do with the Pulaar feminist movement..

Lots of news to share this time around, i'll try to get it all down as short-windedly as possible.

the most recent adventure:
I have been friends with Fatou and Moussa (the brother of my host dad and his wife) since they and there three kids moved to Kolda shortly after I did. Fatou was pregnant when they first got to town and I was constantly practicing my Pulaar humor by telling her that i was going to take her baby with me in my backpack when i returned to the US. (but only if she could promise it wouldnt cry, and it wasnt ugly). When i left town for training in september I told her to make sure she didnt deliver before i returned. she kept her word. One week ago today a baby girl was born in her single room hut about 500 yards from my doorstep. And today, was the 'Denabo' or 'Fembaade', which literally means 'to shave'. It is the Senegalese equivalent of a baptism, where the baby receives the blessing of the village elders, gets his/her head shaved, and also receives a name.
The Fembaade was held at my compound.
I got up early to drink my liter and a half of water in preparation for another day of fasting (Day 19!), then showered (aka poured water over my head from a bucket)and made my way to the main entrance of our compound.
All of the ladies were gathering inside the main hut where Fatou and the baby were waiting for the ceremony to begin. The men were gathering outside in chairs and on several mats that had been set out on the ground. When everyone had arrived, the ladies prepared a small bowl with three mango leaves and three kola nuts covered in water. Someone sent one of the older children running to the nearest boutique to buy some soap and a razor. Water from the small bowl was used to moisten the baby's head and one of the elder women began to shave. When it was complete,Alpha (my host dad) came into the hut and bent over the baby to whisper her name into each of her ears. Its custom for the baby to be the first one to know..before the village elder announces it to the crowd. The person who tells the baby is usually a respected male relative or friend of the family.
Once the baby had been given her name the men outside prepared a hole in the ground to catch the blood of the ram they were about to slaughter. Being a guest, and a toubako, i was able to take part in both the male and female 'roles' during the process. The ram was slaughtered and the eldest male stood to say a prayer as the ram was dying. After the prayer he yelled out: This baby's name is Miamouna Jenny Balde!
(for those of you who weren't aware, my Senegalese name is Miamouna Balde). It was a great honor, Moussa and Fatou had chosen to name their baby after me. Its a common practice in Pulaar culture to name a baby after someone currently in your life/the life of the baby. When a baby is named after you it becomes your 'tokora'. I would say it's the Christian equivalent of a 'God parent'.
Since we are still in the month of Ramadan, the feast will wait until this evening when the sun goes down. My mouth will be watering all day.

On to my second adventure:
A couple days ago my counterpart, Mamadou Seck explained that his friend, who was also a Ceerno (mystical man) would be in town, and would be willing to do a psychic reading..of sorts, for me. It would only cost me 300 cfa (little more than 50 cents). What the heck, why not..right?
So i did as i was instructed..took my three 100 piece silver coins in my right hand and whispered my 'hajjo' (business) to them. Then, without touching them directly Seck put them into his pocket. That night he gave them to the Ceerno to sleep on. (my pulaar isnt good enough to decipher whether that was literal or not..i like to think so)
The next morning (i was unfortunately late, so missed it) the Ceerno arrived at the garden. He had dreamed about my 'hajjo' and explained to Seck what he had seen, and gave me my prescription.
When i arrived i was told the following:
To protect the health of my father, who could possibly be facing some medical issue i had to do the following.. buy something white: a piece of paper, a bird, an egg..if i chose the egg i needed to leave it in the middle of a four-way intersection. If i chose one of the other items i was to find an old man who was neither too tall, or too short and who had skin that was lighter than average and give it to him.

He also dreamed that I had so much luck that it would be a burden at times to carry.
To ensure my own 'arsike' (luck/destiny) i was to cook 'lakh' a delicious sweet Senegalese dish, and give it to three virgins.
I actually dont know how to make lakh, so my arsike has not yet been for the health of my father..(Pa, dont worry, Ive got you covered!)

Ceernos are such an interesting part of the culture. They are responsible for teaching the children the Koran, for leading prayer on Holy day, and then many of them take on the role of local healer. The prescriptions they come up with usually involve some form of charity to others, and food. Many of them also make talisman upon request. The process works in much the same way as my mini fortune. You have a meeting with the Ceerno where you explain what it is you want to be protected against..or what you want to do (sometimes people try to set curses on others) and then he shuts himself into a room for one to several days. He prepares the talisman in privacy and its true meaning stays between the person who carries it, wears it, hangs it in their house, etc, and him.

Ok..for now,im signing off! I have included some pictures in a previous update that i did not send out a reminder for..if you're interested, hit the previous travel log to check them out.

-jenny (Miamouna Jenny Balde)
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