Two weeks ago I started my travels by venturing to the Peace Corps house in the hottest region in Senegal, Tambacounda. Located about 8 hours east of Dakar, walking into the Tamba regional Peace Corps house with three other girls from my program was like walking into an alternate universe. It reminded me so much of frat houses that end up being trashed by 10 pm on a Saturday night-I quickly did not feel like I was not in Senegal anymore. Needless to say, there was a lot of partying and craziness that went on in that house for the two days I was there. Toward the end of one night when there was remnants of glowsticks all over the walls and ceilings, people were covered in dirt and glitter, and things were starting to be set on fire, one of the peace corps volunteers turned to me and said, "if you are wondering why we act like this every once in a while, just wait until you go to the village and you will understand."
My first image of the village I stayed in about an hour away from the Tamba Peace Corps house, was a huge woman standing in the middle of our compound (comprised of a few small huts) with no shirt on holding her precious baby named Mahney. However, being in Dakar where women on the bus whip out their breasts to breast feed, the lack of shirt did not make me as uneasy as much as the size of her breasts did. She had the most colossal size breasts I have ever seen. They stretched down to her waist and looked as though they had been inflated with air. At that moment, I knew it was going to be quite an interesting stay.
The village of Maleme Niani is relativley small (no electricy, no running water) and the main lanuage spoken is Mandinka. Like Wolof, Mandinka is an exceptionly friendly language that seems like it is just made up of mostly greetings. Walking somewhere in the village that was less than 10 minutes away ended up talking about an hour and a half just because of how many people my Peace Corps volunteer Josh, my friend Jerrika, and myself had to stop and talk to everyday. Josh's sector in the Peace Corps was agro-forestry so he worked with members of the village to help create individual gardens in peoples yards and elsewhere throughout the village. Throughout the afternoons it was so hot (over 110 in the shade) that most people in the village just laid outside under shade the entire day…which is how we spent most days-sleeping outside and waking up to a donkey, chicken, cat, goat or sheep in my face.
What surprised me most about Maleme Niani is how incredibly welcoming everyone was to me. Everyone wanted to stop and try to comunicate with me in french or wolof and invite me over for tea or a meal.
Village life is so slow that i didn’t know what to do with myself. After reading my Talk Dirty French book for the 500th time and journaling until my hands hurt, I tried to sit back and just observe. It sounds cliche but it was so facsinating to live in this environment that is so drastically different than mine in the states and very different from my life in Dakar, yet still being able to understand the same jokes and communicate with each other though we did not even speak the same language. One guy in the village told me that « we should all be able to live together, no matter what religion or race because in the end, we are all the same, we are all humans. »
All in all, it was a completely mind-blowing and life changing experience that I will never forget.
Favorite village moments :
Lying outside to sleep under the most amazing stars I have ever seen in my life
Taking a bucket shower outside in a straw fence under the stars
Talking about French, Senegalese and American politics with a man who lives in the village and sits Around and reads encyclapedia’s in english all day
Eating the best bread of my life (the village bread, called Tapalapa)
Bonding with my peace corps volunteer and his host family over the many many many cups of attaya