Life in the Village

Mbolo Ali Sidy

A wonderful place to live.  It is relatively small – the count inside the med hut says 1250 people.  There is a med hut, yes.  There is a tailor shop, a little shop to buy buckets and not much else, a metal-worker’s shop, about 5 boutiques (little shops to buy everything from sugar and onions to flip-flops), an elementary school, a big clay oven where the village baker bakes the village’s bread, and some empty dry fields around the village, but not many.  We are on the main Route National, which is convenient for traveling – you simply stand on the side of the road and hail down a bus or car to go anywhere.  The closest village to the East is about 3k and to the West about 2k.

A day in Mbolo Ali Sidy

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I wake up early, but only as early as everyone else as the call to prayer begins around 6:15am.  I run along the Route National about every morning as the sun rises, greeting the boutique owners on the way back as they open up shop for the day.  I either run East or West, whichever I feel like. Do some yoga.  I take a bucket bath in my bathroom (I have my own).  Then I greet everyone in the family.  I get my coffee (one scoop NesCafe instant, 4 scoops sugar) and 1/2 loaf of bread and eat it on the bamboo raised bed frames outside in the courtyard.  The kids leave for school.  I clean my bathroom and sweep my room and patio (very important, the moms get on you if these things are not done every day).  Then I go with my mothers or brothers to water the family’s orchard just outside of the village.  We water for about an hour, collect jujubes (actually a real desert fruit) and animal fodder and go home, carrying the huge piles of fodder on our heads.  Greet everyone along the way home.  Have a snack: either sweet yogurt rice porridge or leftovers from dinner the night before.  Then I rest, read, study Pulaar with Baaba, or go out and about to greet people.  Then lunch.  Lunch is an occasion at our house.  Our house is a lunch meeting place where many men from the community come to eat and chat and pray together.  Every so often the kids who study the Koraan at the Mosque eat lunch at our house too.  Every man who meets here for lunch brings a huge bowl of whatever food his house made, so they end up having 4 or 5 bowls per group of 5 people or so.  These bowls are huge!  We (women) eat from one and there are at least 9 of us.  Lunch is either spiced rice and fish with veggies, or white rice with fish and some kind of sauce.  All of these are delicious.  The women eat first while the men are praying at the Mosque.  Then the men all come back and eat for a while, then relax and chat while the women clean up or crochet or watch TV.  This whole lunch process takes from around 1pm until the second afternoon call to prayer around 4pm when the men leave to the Mosque again or back to work and the women leave to water their plots in the women’s garden.  I join them in the women’s garden or go to the family’s field with the boys to water or go out and greet (and check to see if my clothes are finished at the tailor’s shop).  Then around dark I head home, practically being dragged by the little girls of my house, chanting ‘come home, come home’.  At sunset, everyone is in the house praying.  This is my time to get a little reading done or organize my things or thoughts.  The children all ‘study’ with their friends inside where there is electricity.  I hang out with some of my moms.  I actually have 6 mothers and two almost three fathers, haha.  I have my Baaba (village chief) who has four wives.  His two brothers also live in our compounds and they both have one wife.  One of his brothers, though, works in Gabon, so he’s not actually here, but his wife and children are.  And then also in the compound is another house with three women whose husbands work in Dakar (this is very common) but they live here with their kids.  One of those women calls me her wife, which, to people in this country, is hilarious.  On most weekdays, all of the kids watch a French-dubbed Spanish soap opera called Sacrifice de Femme: Anna Bella.  It’s great bonding.  I don’t know French, so they explain things in Pulaar, but I don’t always understand that either, but it doesn’t matter!  It’s hilarious.  Then dinner: either spicy rice porridge with fish in oil, cous cous with leaf sauce and ground fish, or the sweet rice yogurt pudding.  Or sometimes beans!  Speaking to other volunteers around the country, I eat exceptionally well.  People down south don’t get much protein, not having fish nearby and beans being more expensive than rice.  My family is pretty well off, so just having enough food to eat as well as leftovers for the next day is pretty unusual.  Another girl in a nearby village told me in their lunch bowl every day they sometimes have one potato in the rice to be split between the 9 or so people at the bowl.  I am very lucky.  After dinner, we listen to the radio and the kids study and hang out.  I sleep outside unless it is ‘too cold’ and I am instructed to sleep indoors.

My family is wonderful.  They are helpful and gracious and very aware of my needs and conscious of my whereabouts.  They have done an exceptional job of making me feel right at home.  They let me help with things when I want, they invite me with them when they go places, when I have difficult days with my Pulaar, they remind me that I need to take it slow.  Everything comes with time.  I could not be more appreciative of them.  I am so happy where I am.

Care package wishlist:

Air fresheners

Good pens

Dried fruit, candy, snacks

Time or Cosmo/fashion magazines

Protein powder or chia seeds

No more tissues, I’m set, thanks!

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