Sunday, March 8, 2009

country mouse, big city

i'm currently in kaolack working on a mural project that tayo asked me to do for international women's day. i took the opportunity to invite ma'asou to come with me and see what city life is like, what i do in kaolack, and also to possibliy instill in her some sense of how there's a bigger world outside of the village and that she is totally capable of being a part of it if she chooses.

she was very excited for this trip and had her hair braided and a new complet (pants!) made for the occasion. she was very cute and endearing...but what also scares me is that the more i look at her, the more she is becoming a little lady and growing up quite rapidly. it also means that i don't have that much time before she becomes marriage material and stuck in a situation that stunts her potential to become something great. she's like 9 or 10 now so she has 6-7 years left before she gets claimed by some stinky old dude for a wife.

anyway, we left for kaolack on sunday, passing through the market to pick up an ndaa (a clay pot made to cool and store water) for shelley. it was a lot heavier than i expected it would be and it made me sweat when i had to carry it from outside of the garage to karim's, where i was meeting with tayo to buy paints for the mural. from the moment we got fof the car in kaolack, ma'asou was shocked by how many cars, motos, and people were there. i kind of forgot about her and how this all must've been totally ne to her and walked quickly through the city with her gripping onto my nalgene with wide eyes. my hugest error was trying to cross a street while cars were approaching. the city in my skittered in between cars and ma'asou was terrified yelling, "AISSATOU, A CAR'S COMINGGGG!!" and got stuck in the middle of it all and like, straight out of cartoon, was spun like a top by the whizzing cars. oops. from that point on i slowed down a bit and remembered that i had wiht me a little girl who was experiencing a gazillion new things at the same time.

we got to karim's and i bought her a coke. she was intrigued by the television, the glass door refrigerator, and thought karim's assistant was a volunteer because he's not black (he's moroccan). the her coke somewhat erupted and fizzed over and her face had a look of pure terror and what the hell is happening?! i realized it was probably her first carbonated drink but didn't even try to explain what just happened. i figured i'd let her mull over that one...much because i don't even know if i can explain carbonation in english.

tayo showed up and drank the rest of her coke because she didn't want any more (much to my surprise, as i thought she would like it) and then we headed out to buy paint. we sped through the market and i had to call out to tayo to slow down a bit because she was almost aimlessly walking, unaware or unsure of how to dodge motos and squeeze herself between the hordes of walking people. eventually i had to physically guide her around by the shoulders and i could feel how tense her little body was.

we took care of the paint business and grabbed a direct cab to the peace corps house. she seemed relieved to be able to view the city from the confines of a car. when we got to the house there was a ton of poeple there, which was a little shocking to me, as i was not expecting it. i had a meeting to attend so sarah lent me her computer and we put on whale rider for her to watch, even though it was in english. she was intrigued for a while but then grew bored. i gave her an animal picture book and paper and crayons. this occupied her while we discussed the latrine project (a kaolack regional stratgey attempt to get latrines in all of our villages).

afterwards, tayo, me, kari, and matt had to prerecord the radio show that was to be played in conjunction with international women's day. ma'asou joined us and giggled at the plot and our attempts to speak wolof. it took us a lot longer than we expected it to and she would up passing out for a nap while my stomach grumbled for lunch. when she finally woke up we headed downtown again to get lunch. it was 4pm by now. i held her hand as we walked to the restaurant and she jumped every time a moto honked and whizzed by us. at lunch she sat awkwardly at the table on the chair. i realized she's probably ever sta at a table for a meal before. i had to get up and push her chair in for her. when we went to go wash our hands she forgot her shoes. my poor little country mouse.

i got her a fanta. she made a face of disgust when she drank it. it finally made sense to me that she probably doesn't like carbonated drinks, especially because these were her first fizzy drinks. but i ordered us a half cicken, fries, and salad to share and she ate to her heart's content. it was seriously a case of eyes bigger than the stomach -- she just ate and ate. i don't think she's ever had so muhc chicken to herself before and while i was happy to provide the food, there was the sad realization that while we in the village aren't starving, there is a serious lack of nutrition and fulfillment in the food.

speaking of which, while we were eating (and she was learning to eat with a fork and knife), she told me about the jackal that everybody had seen the day before. it turns out that it had attacked a goat and eaten a huge chunk out of the goat but it lived on and staggered around a while birds pecked at its wound until it was finally killed by somebody in the village. that morning i had eaten goat for breakfast and was so thrilled with it and touched that they had made me meat for brekafast, probably because i was going to miss the big holiday of gamou (the prophet's birthday) by being in kaolack. jus tturns out that i'm at the bottom of the food chain.

after dinner we went to tayo's house where she was spending the night and where i figured she could feel a little comfortable again after hanging out with me and other english speakers all day. wrong. tayo's house, first and foremost, is HUGE and filled with the best senegalese luxury. it's two stories and plush. it is also run by a woman, a matriarch, who also rents out a bunch of toher rooms and small buildings within the compound. it's practically a mansion of sorts and it was PACKED with people, especially because tomorrow would be gamou. there were tvs blaring, phones ringing, people running arond everywhere, and vats of food being prepared for the next day. i was even a bit overwhelmed by it all. when people asked her name she could barely squeak it out -- world's away from the loud, bossy, vivacious girl she is in the village.

i spent a good hour being grilled by these men who lived there, lounging around with their zippers undone, watching tv and insisting on how i don't physically look american (which i argued until they sucuumbed) and pounding me with questions that i was determined to answer with full confidance and authority because i knew they were playing their stupid seneagelse male game with me. ma'asou's eyes were glued to the huge flat screen tv that had a soccer game on.

around 7 we headed out to work on the mural. we had obtained a projector and to save ourselves lots of time were going to project the images on the wall and trace them with charcoal. it was a little worrisome at first because we didn't have enough extension cords for everything to work out but eventually we fiddled around enough and adjusted our plans so that it was possible. ma'asou was thrilled when the projector finally came on and threw images on the wall. a bunch of others were as well and we got ourselves a small audience as i charcoaled imagies on the decrepit wall.

when i was done we went back to tayo's and i found myself incredibly exhausted from the day of traveling, meetings, murals, talking, and baby sitting. i also figured ma'asou was exhausted so i elft her at tayo's and went back to the PC house. i'd decided on having her stay at a senegalese house for her own comfort and mine. i felt a little bad at first, almost as if i was abandoning her but then, it was probably the first time she's ever been completely on her own and i thought the taste of independence would be good for her. when i left her she still had a look of shock and overwhelm on her face, but we had introduced her to some family members who promised to care for her, including a sweet girl of around the same age named juli.

tomorrow we start painting the mural. ma'asou will help out. the day after tomorrow she will go home. i'm tired. this is a new experience for the both of us -- her first experience in the big city, my first as a big sister.

No comments: