Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Visiting Binetou Tall's Family

There have been times throughout the last few weeks where I have wondered whether I am getting more from this experience than the students. Sunday was one of those days. All of us took part in family visits, which consisted of us getting paired up with a student from Mame Yelli Badiane, going to their house for the day, and just seeing what life is like. There was a student without a partner, so I paired up with her. Binetou's family was welcoming, accepting of the language difference, and very generous to me. They also let me help out around the house (after I insisted). It's hard to get people here to let you do anything because they are so hospitable. I spent a large portion of the day in the kitchen (insert your masochistic joke here). I had a blast and felt rejuvenated when I got back to our house at the end of the day. I love cooking and learning how to cook for a huge family on one propane tank with one pot was really fun. Binetou's brother was quite the photographer, so I'll let his pictures tell the story of the day. 
Binetou's sister and I cooking ceebu jen.
Using a mortar and pestle to get the seasoning ready.
Cooking a meal for about 14 people in one pot? Fun! The big container behind me with the gold can on top is where the family keeps water for cooking. The table next to it is where all of the kitchen dishes are kept. 
Rice, or jen... it's so good here. Short grain, sticky, and always perfectly done.
Getting ready to steam the rice... still using one pot. We soaked the rice in water, set the bowl on top of the pot, covered it, and let it steam.
Ceebu jen... a tomato, onion, pepper, and garlic base with okra, root vegetables, other veggies I don't know the name of yet, and fish.
Steaming the rice on top of the pot.
Binetou Tall... she's awesome. Great smile too.
Eating the fruits of our labor. Cooking in Senegal is very communal and so is eating. You'll notice that I had to wear a cloth on my lap because I can't eat with my hand without spilling something. 
Eating with a very serious expression because it was seriously delicious and I wanted to concentrate on getting the food into my mouth instead of onto my lap. See Binetou's mother's hand on the right? When you eat together, you get your own section of the bowl. Her mother kept putting more food in my section because I was a guest and she wanted me to keep eating. I gladly did it.

I wish I would have taken pictures of the eight delicious and juicy mangos we had for dessert, but we were too busy peeling and then eating them. Mangos do NOT taste the same in the U.S., no matter how ripe I try to get them.

Binetou's brother, Oumar, took lots of pictures of the family. Here they are:
I only spent a day there, but I already know that when I come back to Senegal, I will always have a family who will welcome me with open arms. My list of people I have to visit when I am in Senegal is getting longer and I like it, although at this rate I'll have to stay for at least three weeks to fit in all of these visits. I'm already making plans to come back here again (once I am more fluent in French). 

I am going to miss the Senegalese students when we leave on Friday. Tomorrow is our last day with them, so I'm going to go work on writing them something in Wolof. I'll share some of the many things they have given to me soon. It's hard to find words to talk about how much they have given me.

I would love to discuss some of our student's experiences during the home visits here, but I don't have a lot of positive things to say except that many of the students were well rested when they came back to the group at the end of the day. I decided a few days ago that you can't go into someone's head or heart and make them less negative and more open to new experiences. That helped me let go of some of my bitter feelings towards the entitlement that some American teenagers feel. It allowed me to build relationships with the Senegalese students. You never know what is going to happen in a situation until you're there and although I'm not 100% satisfied with how things on the American side have gone here, I'm 100% satisfied in how things have gone with Africulturban and Mame Yelli Badiane and I am looking forward to working with them in the future.   :)
Only a few more days and we'll be home. I am about three blog posts behind, so I'll probably write about a few of our experiences that I missed and then I'll start reflecting on the roller coaster ride that has been this trip. It might take awhile. 

I miss everyone, especially Nathan. I wish I could bring many of you here so that you could see the beauty (sometimes hidden) of this country and the people (never hidden). 

Peace and love,


Mr. Weber said...

My little sister (adopted) Jen looks comfortable and at home. It's been a pleasure to read these, and I don't want them to end though I'll be glad for you and Nate when you're home. I too, wish that we could find some way to get our students to open up their hearts and minds to a world outside the vapid and materialistic one that they actively choose to build around them. I know that if our kids had managed to stay awake during their visits, that they could have learned something meaningful. I think that we have to have high hopes and expectations for our kids though, otherwise they might come out having gained nothing at all, and I'm sure that they got at least something out of this.

do_it_ajen said...

I totally agree. Inside, I know that they have gained something. I was talking to the guy who started Africulturban about all of this and he said that maybe this trip is just the beginning and we won't see the gains until a lot later. I have to agree with him. Some of the kids have really gotten something from this though. I was talking to a student the other day and he said, "I touched the ocean, I rode a plane, today was my first time on a boat, I have friends in another country now... this is crazy!" I definitely know it's not a wash. :)

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