Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Yoff, Kids, and Mangoes

Jamm nga yendoo. I made a decision and joined the French Cultural Institute today. I've found this place to be a quiet oasis in the middle of this bustling metropolis. They also have a nice computer lab, which is appealing to me. :)
Dakar 2010
New pictures uploaded today... check them out if you want a better idea of some of what I am talking about!

While I could spend at least two paragraphs commenting on the heat of this sticky Tuesday, I want to write about my Monday, which was eye-opening to say the least. This post will be divided into three sections with pictures to follow... someday: Yoff, kids, and mangoes.

The Lonley Planet guide to Senegal (which has become our bible) says this about Yoff: "Yoff is Dakar's most independent zone, where the Lebou village ties and traditions continue to dominate life and even local governance; the community is self-administering, with no government officials, no police force, and, apparently, no crime. The Lebou of Yoff are nearly all members of the Layen, one of the brotherhoods that dominate life in Senegal. The Muslim faith of Yoff's residents strongly colors life in this community."

I was simply amazed by the people in Yoff. We were shown around the community by Ibrahim, our breakfast waiter on most mornings who tries his hardest to teach us Wolof. He brought us to the Layen Mausoleum, which was built in the 1950s to honor Saidi Limamou Laye, the founder of the brotherhood. The mausoleum was the most peaceful place we've been so far. It is gated on the beach next to the ocean:
From Dakar 2010
The halls of the mausoleum are the sand of the beach:
From Dakar 2010

The smell of incense and the muted silence of the inside of the structure made it truly feel like a sacred place. Many members of this brotherhood will make a pilgrimage to Yoff to see this place and I understand why. Everything about it made me feel calm and centered.
From Dakar 2010
I felt closer to my own spirituality there than I did at the Catholic cathedral last Sunday. I've been finding that I feel very connected to Islam and I have a lot of respect for those who practice this faith.

Afterwards, we went to the Khalif's home and were invited in. He is the current leader of the brotherhood. We met his wives and his eldest son (the next in line). This was kind of big deal and involved me kneeling in front of the Khalif and taking his hand.

I am not the type of lady who kneels in front of a man, but this seemed important. It was like meeting the equivalent of the pope in this brotherhood. Then I saw some business man take the Khalif's hand and slide a gold watch over his wrist. I left feeling honored to have met this man, but also confused because the Layen speak of equality between everyone, but their leader lives in a house filled with leather couches, air conditioning, and gold watches. As my student's would say, he was ballin'. There was a bit of a disconnect for me.

The disconnect that I speak of was lifted when I walked through the streets of Yoff and saw the way the community and its children operated. When we were at the mausoleum, music was broadcast over the loudspeakers. The streets became crowded with children of all ages carrying wire baskets. Believe it or not, they were going to clean the sand around the mausoleum. If you look at my pictures, you'll see that there is A LOT of sand. They just went up to the gate, took off their shoes, and started cleaning the sand from one corner of this immense space to the other. I can't imagine that most kids in the U.S. would be willing to put down their Wii remotes and clean sand around a holy place for the pure purpose of respect.

Afterwards, we hung out with Ibrahim in the street and the kids came up to us and just wanted to be around us. They were so sweet; I couldn't get enough of them. At one point in our visit, we got into a kind of sing-off. The kids would sing a song in French or Wolof and we would sing one back. Once again, music united people despite language barriers.
From Dakar 2010

What has really got me is that these kids are just living life. While we observed the village and masoleum, the kids were wrestling in the sand and joking around. They were play fighting and getting into silly arguments. They were turning away from us and putting their faces in their mother's leg because they were shy. Sometimes Westerners come in and want to fix everything in third world countries. While I admit that there are many, many hardships (mostly caused by the consequences of actions by westerners), I see most of these children just living and they don't think there is anything "wrong" with their lives. It was really powerful for me and I hope to hang with the kids of Yoff again.

Last, but certainly not least, MANGOES
Yesterday I ate the best piece of fruit I've ever had in my life. It was a mango as big as my head and it was amazing. The process of preparing this mango was quite the experience. Let me lay it out for you.

Katie, my roomie, and I were hungry for dinner, so we made the decision to cut up this mango. This has to be a cooperative decision because the process of preparing a mango takes a few minutes and you need two people. We washed our hands with bottled water and soap and then washed the mango the same way. Then, we took a knife and I peeled the mango into the sink. Katie then help a ziploc bag open while I diced the mango into the bag. There was so much meat on this thing that is was ridiculous... it filled the bag to the top! While I diced the mango, juice ran down my hands and arms. That has never happened while I cut a mango at home.
From Dakar 2010

If you were sitting outside of our hotel room while we ate this ridiculously juicy mango, you would have thought something mind blowing was happening in there. And something was. We were eating the best morsels of fruit I have ever had in my life. I will never taste anything the same in the U.S. If that means I have to come back here just to taste this mango, so be it.

Wow, all of that happened on a Monday. I will tell you about my language difficulties and our visit to the school for children with hearing and speaking disabilities tomorrow. AHHH! I am learning so much every day that I'm afraid I will forget something.

1 comment:

Joseph said...

I would murder a banana for a mango like that.

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