August 30, 2010

Rama-Don't get it.

I have reached the half way point in Ramadan, alhamdulillah (Arabic phrase meaning "Praise God" that can and should be used in any and all situations)

I decided at the beginning of Ramadan that I wanted to try and observe the fast for the experience of it and solidarity reasons. I figured Ramadan was just a buffed up version of Lent, of which I have had many years of training, and over a million people around the world are doing it. How hard could it be?

Here's the one unambiguous rule:
No eating or DRINKING while the sun is up.

I ignore the no drinking water. I tried it for a day and vetoed living in the desert with dehydration hallucinations for a month. So, I started by only half observing the fast. Still, food is the cornerstone to my positive, approachable personality. If I am late for a meal I get a little cranky. So, going from sun up to sun down with our eating is intense.

The routine of the day begins with the call of the mosque at around 4:30 am, signaling the women to wake up and start preparing the morning porridge. The next call is around 5:30, telling everyone to wake up and eat the milk and cous-cous porridge. Then the final morning call around sunrise, to make sure you've finished eating for the day. After a short crawl out of bed to sleepily stuff porridge in my face, I go back to bed until a more respectable hour like 8.

The morning is "productive" time. The heat doesn't make you want to weep pure salt tears yet and you have a little energy from your early morning porridge. So, this is when chores are done, laundry by hand, sweeping the sand courtyard, filling the water pots for the children to drink, going to market, and gardening.

My garden is awesome, by the way. I extend a challenge to anyone interested in "La Guerre de Jardin". Your improved variety seeded garden vs my desert miracle. I secretly ate the most delicious, breaking Ramadan, self grown watermelon in my bathroom. If only my spinach and carrots would sprout...

Around noon life stops. It's to hot to do anything and the early morning porridge calories are gone. Now it's time to sprawl around in the shade. Suggested activities include napping, watching leaves, talking about how hot it is, talking about how hungry you are. I have done lots of Ramadan reading. One of main topics of conversation in the village is the difficulty of fasting. I have gotten mad street credit for my fasting.

Around 6 the women start to prepare the break fast and dinner. The mosque calls around 7:30 to signal that we can break the fast. Breaking fast is deliciously patron. I pack my gurggling stomach with cold water, bissap juice, dates, coffee, yogurt and bread with a different daily spread. It is a break fast feast.

Everyone that fasted heads to the mosque, leaving me and the children (kids, nursing mothers, sick and elderly aren't required to fast) to do yoga. The family returns and we eat a giant delicious dinner around 10:30. Immediately after which I pass out, half food coma half sleepies.

It's an odd feast-famine cycle that has made me gorge myself both in the morning and at night, both cases followed by sleep. The time in between is filled my very minimal activity. Very odd existence.

Last Thursday I found the one Catholic in my village. I now go to his house everyday for lunch, Hallelujah. RamaDONE.

August 12, 2010


Special thanks go out to the fabulous Eva and Ellen, young girls from the missionary family living in Linguere, for my wonderful mail. It truly brightened my life!!

An American in Senegal cooking Italian food = World Peace

Today marks the first day of RamaDEATH, my spelling might be slightly off, the Muslim month long fast. You wake around 5am for coffee and bread then don't eat or drink anything until 7 when fast is broken. My plan is to try and follow the fast, or at least my version. I'm not going to eat while the sun is out; however, I have no intention of going without water. We'll see how long i make it. It's only be Ramadan for a few hours and I am already hungry...

Before Ramadan I wanted to cook a tobab, Wolof word for white person, meal for my family. I chose spaghetti. A classic, tasty and above all easy meal to prepare over a fire or gas. I went to the market in the morning to wrangle up the supplies. Having never cooked a meal for a family of 15 before I had no idea the quantities of supplies to get. I told my market lady friend that I was making dinner and the next thing I know she was sending children to fetch me cloves of garlic, onions and delicious MSG seasoning cubes. Shopping for kilos of onions and sacks of meat made easy!

When I returned to Barkedji I brought a soccer ball for my brother. I gave it to him with the stipulation that he had to "pay me" for it by helping me cook dinner for the family. My reasoning is because everyday I watch the girls of Senegal cook, clean, study, and try to squeeze in time to be a kid; all while the boys lay around playing caps. By no means do I aim to change the culture, but I do and will continue to do things to show how amazing the females of Senegal are.

Things were going wonderfully. Myself and 5 of my siblings (three of whom are boys) were chopping onions. I was feeling pretty proud of my cross-gender sensitization work. Then my uncle scolded the boys saying "Boys don't chop onions. Go watch the soccer game." Oh...Take two.

The end product was no where near Mike Albright's slow roasted, savory spaghetti, but sitting around the bowl with my family giggling as we awkwardly slop spaghetti around with our hands, made the experience rich delicious.

A burrito bowl is next on the menu.

BTW my camera is broken, so I apologize for the lack of visual aid. I'll do my best to paint pictures with my words.

August 02, 2010

single emo tear.

I just returned to my region after three weeks of In Service Training. As I have almost been in Senegal for 5 months, I feel I am getting pretty good at the art of Senegalese indirect communication. You be the judge:

As I mentioned I just got "home" after being gone for at least three weeks. This is a photo of our mail cubbyholes. Guess which one is mine.
That is all. I will write another post after I piece together my broken heart with the stickers sent in a letter to my friend.