Tuesday, May 18, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...

  • The neckline of women's boubous: Traditional Senegal wear for women has a neckline with a soft curve that slips off the shoulder frequently and perfectly frames their elegant faces and hear wrapped in pulars of the same fabric.
  • Bissap, juice and sauce: Bissap juice is made out of hibiscus flowers, is a fantastic deep fuschia color and tastes amazing with the right amount of vanilla sugar. My father is from the ethnic group Balante, which also uses the leaves of the bissap plant to make a sauce that we eat with caldo, the traditional Balante rice and fish dish. Yum. Below is me on my birthday with a bissap juice cake- awesome!
  • Winter wear: Although it doesn't feel cold often to me, a popular item for men here is a knit hat that goes down to just above the ears complete with poof ball. There's also a surprising number of scarves.
  • Music and community: Music seems to run through the veins of Senegalese people. Community gatherings are often organized around the drums. In the arid north, the stringed insturments like the kora are used and their notes travel across the sand. In the Casamance at the south the forest requires strong djembe drums to call everyone. We learned djembe in Toubacouta, where the lead drummer had played so hard his hands were bleeding, second picture below. The last picture below is women in Sokone, the native village of the program director playing drums on calabase gourds, also used for preparing food and carrying water. They used a discarded shell casing on their fingers.

  • Waxataan and ataaya: Every afternoon, for some Senegalese, is an affair with friends and family, centered around a gas stove with a tiny teapot full of sugar, strongly Chinese green powder tea and other local tea leaves. Ataaya, or tea, is a respected tradition because making the tea is a repetitive process, usually there are three rounds from the same pot. They get progressively less strong, which I noted after my heart was beating quickly after drinking the first round. The tea isn't even the point of the get-together. Instead, it's to facilitate the discussion of anything and everything in raised voices or calm tones. In Wolof, ataaya is the noun and the verb- "To do tea" includes all of the above. Below is my host mother in the village outside Toubacouta where we stayed for a night.

  • Respect for elders: The most important status here comes from your age. Elders are respected and family roles are determined according to your age and place in line. My grandmother stayed with my family in Dakar and I appreciate that you are exposed and submit to those with more experience in the world more often than in the States. But seeing that the demographic makeup of much of Africa is so young now, this may be in flux.
  • Teranga: Senegalese are proud to be good hosts and they are indeed hosts to many foreigners, both from Africa and other continents. 50% of the migration in West Africa is to Senegal. My history teacher called it a "trampoline" for people to head to France, the US, or other places in Europe. I've found Senegalese people to be overwhelmingly welcoming, happy to have visitors, and willing to put up with annoying questions. Below is host family in Dakar.
  • Salutations-Repetitions: I wish that each of you could hear and understand the way in which the Senegalese traditionally greet one another. Greetings are of utmost importance and it is rude when you encounter anyone you know to not take the time to properly acknowledge them and anyone they're with. There is a sing-songy way that greetings are done that makes me smile whenever I hear it. It uses the repetition of the same phrases while the tone of the voices gets lower and lower. By the end of time in Senegal I had got the hang of the repetitions but couldn't match the song.
  • Baobabs and pain de singe: Who doesn't like baobabs? And their fruit makes such a unique tangy juice. They're all over Senegal! They really do feel ancient. Below is a picture I took looking out of a 500 year old baobab on the road to Saint Louis.

1 comment:

  1. This list of your favorite things is probably one of my favorite blog posts of yours. Ditto on the necklines of women's clothes, respect for elders, and the sing-songy way of greeting everyone. Makes me homesick.