This blog reflects my personal ideas and does not represent any position of the US government or the Peace Corps.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

New Additions!

Wow, just had quite an eventful week back at my homestay! The rains have now stopped in the Thies region of Senegal and the weather has turned hot and windy…soon the long awaited cool season should arrive (though I’m starting to believe this cool season may be a myth). Due to the change in weather, upon arrival in my homestay this past Sunday, I opened my room to be pleasantly greeted by moving walls and windows. According to my homestay mother, the end of the rainy season brings hoards of small beetles that hatch out of the specific species of tree within our family compound. During the nighttime these beetles venture out of this tree and into nearby enclosures…aka my room and the shower. Not to worry, my aunt and father did a wonderful job of sweeping out buckets and buckets of them and chucking them outside. Every night a few hundred seem to return, but my bed is tightly wrapped in a mosquito net so that I can sleep soundly.
            In addition to welcoming new bugs into the family compound, my aunt has just welcomed a new baby girl! The Thursday before my arrival, my aunt went to the hospital to have her baby. After the birth, here in Senegal, the baby is kept fairly secretively in a room for 24 hours a day for one week. Only women are allowed to come visit and give small gifts like soap, but this is all a very private event. Also, during this week, the baby is not named. On the seventh day, everyone gathers to hold a gigantic naming ceremony, known here as an “ngeente.” Thus, this past Thursday, the other three trainees and I got a chance to experience a traditional naming ceremony.
            The day before the naming ceremony, the father of the new baby went into the city of Thies to buy a live male sheep (which costs approximately $100). The sheep was kept in the courtyard for the night, happily alerting me of its presence hourly. The morning of the ceremony was very hectic…all the women of my household were busied with cleaning up the compound for the impending crowd. At about ten in the morning, people started streaming in. Mats were laid out on the ground for men and children but most women/girls over the age of 5 were still working by bringing bowls and plastic chairs from nearby compounds and beginning the cooking process. The women did not partake in much of the actual ceremony portion as they were in charge of cooking. The ceremony itself was very short, though slightly traumatizing for the toubabs. At about 11, the still unnamed baby finally emerged from the room to be placed in the middle of a circle of old, important men. Just as we were watching this, the live sheep was lead directly behind us. The circle of men said prayers over the baby and, as I was told later, actually announced the name of the baby at this time. As you may imagine, we were all largely distracted by the sheep slaughtering occurring a few feet from us. I refused to partake in the viewing portion of this, but still failed to catch the new name…Say Mbaye. After this, the crowd dispersed and the rest of the day was filled with cooking sheep, rice and onions for everyone in the village. In the evening, a crowd of women dressed up in traditional clothing and came over to give lost of gifts to the new mother (primarily soap, fabric and money). The party quickly dispersed at night fall when the beetles returned.
            Other than this exciting ceremony, we are all continuing to learn Wolof, which is getting better and better each day. I am in love with my family here and will be extremely sad to leave them in a couple of weeks. I'm working on uploading a ton of family photos but the internet connection is a bit tough...till then!

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