Monday, December 17, 2007

no electricity = over thinking

an interesting day in several respects, ranging from the superficial to more abstract realizations and "epiphanies."

superficial first:
1) luma (market) day in birkelane. more importantly, the luma before tabaski, so it was kind of nuts and moreover, SHEEP EVERYWHERE. tabaski is the "day of sacrifice," commemorating when abraham was tested by God (genesis 22). God told abraham to sacrifice isaac, his beloved son, as a test of his commitment. abraham was just about to do so when God was all "HOLD THE PHONE, IT WAS JUST A TEST" and there was a ram tangled up in the bushes for abraham to sacrifice instead. anyhow, tabaski celebrates that so everyone and their mom buys a ram and we will have a huge day of ram slaughtering in our nice new clothes and weaves (holidays here seem to always involve new clothes and weaves). back to the point, i've never seen so many freakin' sheep in my life. i should have gotten a picture but i didn't but there is always next year, inshallah.

2) i was recognized TWICE on separate occasions today in the market from that damn peace corps skit that was on RTS-1 that i performed in at swear-in.

3) for tabaski i bought the "henna" stuff that the women put on their feet and hands because i thought it would be fun and i just want to fit in. this "henna" isn't like the stuff in india, fyi. also, rumor has it that there might be rat poison in the black dye to give it its color. hmm. if i don't die from the rat poison, pictures will definitely be taken to document this.

"deeper" things:
1) what a friend i have in JC. in this case, not jesus christ (well, i always have a friend in jesus christ) but jean-camille (here, penda). i am glad that we can meet every sunday at the luma. getting to bitch and moan about how frustrating things have been for me helped immensely and i feel relieved. as silly as it is, i think i just needed somebody to agree with me and my frustrations and to legitimize how i was feeling and the acknowledgment that yeah, this is damn hard and i am allowed to feel like crap sometimes. moreover, JC said at some point "you are too hard on yourself." this is definitely not the first time i've heard those words said to me; many wise people (as well as unwise...) have told me this: my parents, leanne, sister peggy, professor sandis, all my trainers at the peace corps training center so and maybe it is about time that i listen and take it into account. i wonder why i am like this but more importantly: WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT AND HOW CAN I CHANGE?

2) being in birkelane and a lively environment again was invigorating. village life and its simplicity can really eat at my patience and makes me crave diversity and noise and fast-paced life and while birkelane is 1/100,000,000th what NYC is, it gives me a jolt of that craziness i miss. i don't feel so trapped and i get to dictate where i go and when and just being able to talk to so many people and go from conversation to conversation, i feel a little more like myself and in control (control freak!) of my situation. i often feel helpless in the village -- both because i am and also because talla can treat me like i am incapable. he is entirely well-intentioned but i think a) my lack of language skills gives the impression that i can't do anything and b) he has no inkling of what my life was like in the states. i've tried to explain to him that before i came here i lived by myself in a gigantic city and traveled by myself but i think that his lack of knowledge of what is outside of western africa and the male-dominated/patriarchal culture here does not allow him to fully understand that (neither factors are really his fault). personal goal #7543: by the end of 2 years, show talla and all men i encounter and work with that i am just as good (if not better!) than any male out there.

3) because of today i was reinvigorated and determined to quit being such a baby and suck up my misery. as a consequence i was super chatty today and discovered that once i force people beyond the same old conversations, we can have decent talks and i can see that my wolof hasn't completely gone out the palanteer (window). it's still there, i just have to use it. i was chatty mchatterson today and surprised myself as to how motivated i was to talk and learn. everybody seemed very pleased by my efforts. now i just have to keep it up.

4) i give a certain amount of money to my family for my food and water expenses a month. its a bit too much considering that we garden most of our own vegetables (a good thing!) but at the same time, there are 13 of us here living on subsistence farming so i don't mind too much if that money goes towards family expenses such as books for the kids or new clothes because this is my family and how can i sit here with my pimp hut and nice things and an allowance that is more than sufficient in senegal while the rest of them squeeze into two huts and kids run around in clothes that are more than worn out (that's putting it nicely)? now, i really don't understand the dynamics of this family yet, particularly one that is polygamous and i don't want to pass judgement and i want to remain culturally sensitive but today was kind of confusing. because talla has two wives (fatou & aram), usually one goes to the market while the other stays at home (they take turns). today fatou returned with LOTS of really nice new clothes and ornaments for herself and the kids (the majority for the kids) for tabaski. i don't know if that money was hers or mine or maybe my money went to buying a sheep or maybe talla uses the money for my expenses only. plus, i have seen loads of women in the market making the same purchases for the holiday, so the money isn't really the issue. what did make me uneasy was that she had bought clothes for both sets of kids and had gotten really nice pretty dresses and outfits for her kids and nothing very nice or special for the other set of children. BUT THEN AGAIN, aram had been at the market last sunday when i went to kaolack so i never got to see what she brought back so who knows, maybe she got pimp clothes for her kids and plain clothes for the others last sunday so who am i really to make any suspicions until tabaski comes around and i see what everybody is wearing. i think i am still rather close-minded about this polygamy thing and i will probably remain this way as i personally don't really want to share my husband with anybody else -- and that's fine. what IS bad though is that i am still attaching my westernized negative stigma to polygamy -- that there is internal, unspoken (or maybe spoken) tension and competition between wives and that they will maliciously undercut each other or what not to win out. all the books and novels and movies have made me believe this and this is the first time that i am PERSONALLY experiencing polygamy in action and i want to understand how it works free of all the assumptions that books and media have made for me. basically, while i watched the scene unfold before me, i sensed myself making up a situation that may or may not exist based on preconceived notions of a system i don't condone when i really ought to just observe, hold my judgement, and then assess when i find out/experience/see what is REALLY going on.

anyway, it is late now and my parents just called me and i cried like a baby (my first time since getting here, other than when lamine passed away) and i feel a million times better and am ready to take on this week. thank god for them.

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