Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Safe and sound in Dakar - Alhamdullah

Twenty seven hours of travel and three continents later, I've never been so happy to reach a place. And Dakar is a place you learn to love. Meaning, it's certainly not automatic. And maybe being home was the time I needed to fully appreciate this (my) dirty African city which I plan to call home for six more months (inshallah -- god willing). A common expression here is "alhamdullah" meaning thanks to god. It's written on most cars probably because traffic here is so crazy and you often fear for your life (I'm being dramatic -- sort of), so really you would give thanks to allah just to make it to your destination. I do. One also says "alhamdullah" in most conversations going something like this, -"How are you?" -"I am good. Alhamdullah."-"How's the family? Is anyone sick?" -"No, alhamdullah." So as I touched ground in Dakar, the Senegalse guy next to me uttered "alhamdullah," and I said, "y0, that's what I'm talking about. Alhamdullah.

A day in the life of this voyager -- three currencies!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Going home-home

When things begin to click and un-click is when it's hard to write, to document a place that suddenly I'm capable of living in seems as if I'll jinx it and go back to feeling lost. And when I'm here and not here is when I start to lose my way around the days and the balance of my thoughts. I'm going back to the States for 10 days, leaving this Wednesday--tomorrow. Meaning this weekend I will be spending in South Dakota, not in some Dakar night club drinking skunky Senegalese beer, but actually going home-home (because just one home is in Sacre Coeur 3). These last weeks feeling pulled between two worlds my home-home and my life here, which when put side by side seem completely foreign, and that's what I mean by spinning, just not knowing where I'm at from one moment to the next: One night last week I had such a vivid dream of having a conversation with my brother on the couch of my aunt's house. I remember the feeling between us and the way we were laughing and I remember smelling the food and hearing the sounds of a dinner being prepared. I woke up wondering if it'd really happened, but it's only because I've been thinking so much about it and there it was, in my dream. So I'm trying to brace myself for the extremes, which I can only hope that I have the strength and the will, but I have to because it's not for me, it's for my family, and that alone gives me peace.

Korite bi

I know why it's worth it to fast now: to break the fast. One long month of Ramadan and I was happy to see the people around me stuffing their faces in the middle of the day again, happy to see them going out at night, happy to see the streets filled again, and the night clubs grooving, and the the music playing. The flow is back in Dakar, and I was missing it. That was my fast, I selfishly conclude.

I woke up Korite morning feeling the holiday, like home on Thanksgiving or Christmas. I awoke and ate a big bowl of millet and yogurt with a few interspersed raisons. And then people started coming and going bringing dishes and asking forgiveness of the members of the family. My mom gave Zodiac and I a long speech about sharing the house with her, of being away from our families, of appreciation. Later in the day, about 3, we ate again, a big tasteful meal of chicken, fries, onion sauce, little pasta noodles, peas, and fresh carrots (y0!). The day was loungeful and easy, napping and reading, and just being, smiling contently, and with a full stomach. Evening time came and we all begin donning our boubous -- long, grand, flowing, dresses usually consisting of a sarong or skirt on the bottom and a large dress on the top. Then we took pictures and paraded around the neighborhood visiting the homes of the other American students. My maman practically insisted that I go out dancing (il faut dancer ce soir), and I didn't need much convincing. As a 'ported' my boubou out into the night I realized just how elegant and feminine and dignified I felt even in such a formless baggy outfit. I was expecting jeers and mocking when I stepped out--a toubab in traditional Senegalese dress who does she think she is? But instead, I found people smiling and appreciative and even the vendor at the nescafe stand was impressed enough to give us our midnight coffees for free. And that was Korite, bi.

My sister, Matou, and the brother of one of the American students who lives in my neighborhood.

My sister, Lala, and Mike, a point on my triangle.

My roommate (and sister!) Zodiac.

There's our crew.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Celebrating the end of Ramadan

I wanted to write a quick note to say I'll be out of "comish" for a few days since I'll be celebrating the end of Ramadan with my family. The event is called Korite and will apparently happen either tomorrow or Friday depending on if the moon disappears or tonight or tomorrow. I'm not sure exactly what happens on Korite because every time I ask someone in my family they just say, "We dress up." "Then what?" I ask. "We eat and people visit." From Islam class, I learned it's also the time when people seek forgiveness from their friends and family and that's probably where the visiting comes in. I should have a lot of good photos by the time the week is over since everyone has bought a new outfit, new shoes, new hats for the occasion, and will most certainly want to be photographed in it.

Donc, Bon Korite.

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