while i was eating breakfast, jamm rekk caught a mouse in fatou's hut and came bounding into my hut with the thing squirming in her mouth and then she bit down on his head with a loud crunch and then proceeded to consume the whole damn thing. gross. and bloodless. (how?? does she swallow it whole??)
anyway, friday was the ngente for the new baby and it was so much fun and personally significant for me because i was so incredibly glad and thankful to be here. i felt so much affection for my family and my village and i really felt like i was a part of the community -- or at least a part of life here. the ngente the baptism service that happens a week after a baby is born. it is during this day that the baby is presented to the public and given his/her name and the mother is celebrated.
JC, shelley, and joel all came out for the ngente, which gave the party a nice boost with their toubab presence. it also helped me out a lot by making things exxtra fun and also, haveing guests helped me appreciate my village and gave me a good snese of my establishment here. plus, it's just always fun to have guests, particularly when they are your good friends.
the day started out with waking up early and an excited mamasou helped me sweep my yard and get ready for my guests. i then sat in fatou's hut and held the neene while she cleaned her hut and got ready for her big day. it was nice, i feel like she is my friend now and we can talk to a certain extent. we had fun making fun of the kids and joking about the problems i have with my husband (the other baby, dame).
people started rolling in -- the first group being aram's family from wenenday. i really like her dad and her brother; her dad was the one who gave me pedro as a gift and he immediately asked about how my chicken was. they were also delighted to see jamm rekk as aram's dad is one of hte first senegalese i've ever seen/met who actually keeps cats intentionally and makes sure that they are fed and taken care of. there's even a cat in his compound that he pets and lets hang out in his hut. i was very happy to see them.
some of the "boys club" men showed up -- the big dogs in the community -- and they were ushered into my hut. i sat with them and we talked and they were happy that i remembered their names and were impressed with how my wolof has improved. i was happy to be able to say more than greetings and to break gender roles for the moment and be a part of the boy's club.
talla arranged a charette for me to go into birkelane with a guy named babacar and aas and mamasou came along for the ride. originally, just aas was going to go but mamasou secretly asked me if she could go too and was tickled when i asked talla if she could come. she and aas yammered away on the ride up there and their excitement got me really excited too. when we got to birkelane, shelley was already there chatting with thiam and mamcoumba in the butig and shortly after, JC and joel showed up.
we gathered ourselves up on the charette and headed out but were delayed for a while because babacar had to buy ice. i got a little impatient because i had left my hut open and with loads of people in it. i didn't really think that anybody would take anything but it still made me a little anxious. just as i thought that we were heading back to my village, we stopped by another person's house where we bought a huge loads of ice and were given yummy bouye radis (frozen baobab juice). i was a little annoyed and frustrated, but then i realized i was in my american-new-york state of mind about time and getting things done and had forgotten that here, an errand is never just an errand, it becomes a string of other errands and reasons to visit and greet others. as soon as i remembered that, i was able to relax and enjoy the process of going home.
finally we headed back and mamasou held my hand and chattered away. she really treats me like i'm her older sister and i was filled with much appreciate for her as i explained to joel how much of a help she has been in my months of adjusting to life here. at one point as i sang her praises, he was like, "you really love her, huh?" and i realized that i really do and that i've never had the experience of being a big sister before and iw as so glad that i've been given the chance to be one to such a bight and sweet and vivacious little girl.
we when got to my compound (3 hours after i had left) there were loads of people at the ngente and the party was in full swing. we went to fatou's hut to greet her and all the women in there and she was all decked out in her fine new clothes and jewelry. the hug was super crowded but us four toubabs squeezed ourselves in a presented fatou with our gifts. jamm rekk also wedged her way in and managed to get herself stepped on by joel but she merely yelped and bit him back. i had bought two little outfits for the baby, JC had bought him a little hat, shelley gave diapers (which i joked about being the best gift since the baby already had a reputation for peeing on me), and joel was real pimp and gave 2 mille. the baby was then passed around and were told that his named had been decided -- fallou ka. i was told though that had he been a girl, he would have been named after me. oh well, as JC said, "beneen yoon, beneen doom" (another time, another baby.)
we then left to shower and change into our complets. in anticipating the new baby, i had gotten my complet made specifically for this ngente when i was in thies and the day before, mamasou had helped me iron it. JC, shelley, and i were dressed in our senegalese best and went back to fatou's hut to present ourselves and were greeted with exclamations of how pretty we were (despite my personally feeling quite ridiculous in this garb) and we then took a bunch of pictures with fatou and fallou. he is a cute baby and i am going to have so much fun with my new baby brother -- just as soon as he gets over his fragile state and i am not so terrified of dropping him or inadvertently squishing his soft spot.
after a while we left and greeted the women cooking lunch and the men sitting around playing cards and made our way back to my hut. shelley had bought some balloons for the kids and we had a great time blowing them up and taking pictures. we were served lunch which was totally delicious -- ceeb and fresh goat and cabbage. since we were toubabs, we were given our own bowl (which we all felt rather guilty about) and some prime pieces of meat. we stuffed ourselves silly and then spent the rest of the afternoon hiding from the heat and hanging out. periodically people came by to greet and talk and i congratulated myself on knowing lots of their names and having become integrated enough in knowing all the social etiquettes of inviting people in to sit and asking about their families and villages. ngentes always involve a lot of sitting around and we all felt very well adjusted to life here in the sense that we knew how to do nothing -- JC even passed out on my bed and took a good nap (a common site at ngentes in finely dressed women assed out on their hosts' beds, so JC was really well integrated). i left a few times to greet others and hang out and toss around children and every time i did, i felt so happy to be here and proud of my lovely family and compound.
talla came in and had bought us ice and tea so we had two luxuries: ice cold water and attaya (senegalese style tea). he tried to teach me the art of tea making and i think we bonded a little, definitely a good thing for building our sometimes strained relationship.
when the sun had lowered itself a bit and the head started to make its exit, i took my guests out for a walk around the village and the valley. JC lives in a small village as well but shelley lives in what i would call an almost-town and joel is an urban volunteer so i was made quite aware of how tiny my village is and how quickly we made our way through it. every now and then i am hit with the disbelief that i once lived in the greatest city in the world and now live in this tiny village of 280 people -- there were that many people living on two floors of my apartment building in new york! crazy.
after our walk, we were sweaty and gross so we showered and changed our of our complets. usually women change into something nicer but as i had nothing but my one complet, i changed in my "best" village clothes which are terribly ratty at this point and rags in comparison to the beautiful clothes the women had changed into.
when we were dressed and emerged from my hut, everybody was assembled in a circle in the compound and the sabaar started. the women in my village can dance and drum like no other and they were pumped to show off their skills. the drumming was terribly addictive and there were shouts and laughter and yelling and i found myself cracking up with them and hollering in the same manner as they do when the women scandalously pulled up their skirts at the end of their dance ("oooh-waaaay!". cafe touba had been passed around and i wished so badly that there was alcohol in it because days before i had made the stupid promise of dancing in the sabaar. i do NOT know how to dance senegalese style but there was absolutely no way of getting out of this one and my heart was pounding in anticipation of the moment i would make an ass out of myself in front of my village (not like i haven't been doing just that for the past 4 months).
i guess the beat got to my head because a woman came up to me urging me to dance for the 4th or 5th time and i felt myself handing dame (who had been sitting on my lap) over ("jelal! "jel ko!" = "take! take him!") and entering the circle. JC joined me and we attempted some semblance of senegalese dance and all the women yelled and hollered and cheered. it was done and over with and turned out to be loads of fun and the women were absolutely delighted and came over yelling to me "yow, men nga fecc! men nga!" ("you, you can dance, you can!") having realized that it wasn't as daunting as it seemed, i "danced" a few more times but spent more time watching and clapping and almost dying of laughter when aram, in her fury of dancing, lost her skirt (right in front of joel, i might add) and then her sexy skirt (worn under the skirt and shown only to husbands or revealed during dancing). shelley was convinced to dance and the 3 of us were officially the best toubabs they had ever met (for some, we're the only ones...)
the dancing dissipated as people trickled out for dinner and there was tranquility in the compound that hadn't existed all day. we had dinner, which was again super good, and then thinking the day was pretty much over, started to get ready for be. i was still kind of wired from the day so joel and i went to go walk around. a large group of kids had assembled in the compound and were singing -- i thought that they were practicing koranic recitation, which i have heard them do other nights in the village, so joel and i went outside the compound, not wanting our conversation to be disruptive.
we had just wandered out when a gaggle of little girls approached us. they were very cute -- from 5-8 years old and dressed in complets -- and they were hopping around and dancing, mimicking what they had seen their mothers perform earlier. they tittered in excitement when they saw me and asked me to dance, so i did and they squealed in excitement. joel showed them some of his moves too and they just about exploded. there was no way he and i were going to go on our walk now because the girls would not leave us alone so we walked back to the front of the compound where this is a log for sitting. he and i sat down and they started to arrange themselves in order from tallest to shortest in a half circle in front of us -- the older girls bossing and pushing the little ones who fell out of line. then they started to clap and sing a little rhythmic song and each girl had her turn to enter the circle and hop around and dance. it was one of the cutest things i have ever seen.
a bunch of people came over and urged us to back into the compound and what i had thought was koranic recitation had turned into another dance circle. this time the beat was slower and the boys were dancing and there was singing. the kids bounced around in the outskirts and i danced with them -- attempting some of their moves and showing them a few of my own american-influenced moves. the singing and clapping and dancing continues for quite sometime under the full moon and it was really quite beautiful and i couldn't fully grasp the reality of the fact that this was my life and that this is where i belonged. i danced once in the circle when fatou joined, but otherwise stayed on the outside with the kids until i proclaimed "fecc naa ba sonn!" ("i've danced until i'm tired!") and sat down with fatou and watched the party.
by then it was around midnight -- the latest i've ever been up at site (as there is no electricity) and was totally beat so i finally retired into my hut. JC and shelley were asleep by then so joel and i sat in my yard and talked about our childhood antics and other fond memories of the past while the party throbbed on outside (i don't know how jc and shelley could fall asleep with all the noise). the night was brisk and the full moon made everything several shades of blue and everything seemed just about near perfect. i fell asleep exhausted but utterly happy -- happy that i live in such a great village, happy that i am still here, happy that i have good senegalese and american friends, and happy that this new little life was born and that i could be here to help celebrate it.
of course, more pictures at flickr (although apparently i've run into the limits of my free acount, so maybe you can't see them all...)