Friday, January 30, 2009

Argument for Polygamy from a Very Educated Senegalese Woman

Okay, so in lieu of our regularly scheduled programming (regularly scheduled, who am I kidding-- only by Senegalese standards!) I am going to repeat what my Gender and Development professor said regarding polygamy. All of this was prefaced by a "Some very educated Senegalese women would say that..." which left me wondering if her husband was polygamous or if it really was just some women who think this and not her.

Anyway, she said that some professional Senegalese women who have their own projects and agendas prefer polygamy because it entails more freedom and less work. Senegalese women are expected to do everything for their spouses-- right down to cutting up their food. It's kind of like having a two-year-old and a husband, which is a lot of work if you're also, say a professor and researcher at the University. This way, a woman has a husband (women are generally not allowed to live on their own here, although it happens), but only has to wait on him hand and foot a couple of days a week. The rest of her time is her own.

This is a fabulous argument as far as I can tell as long as you're not actually in love with your husband. (Can you imagine the jealousy involved if all the wives were in love with the husband?)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just another day at school in Africa...

So, today I went to my cognitive psychology class (which was originally a clinical psych class, but it was changed because the prof decided clinical psychology was irrelevant). First we started out in a room marked "Library" and then they moved us to another room, both of which would have been condemned in the States. There were random broken electrical wires poking out of the wall, the fans are broken, covered in dust and hadn't been used in years, the windows were broken and the chalk board was so badly cleaned, you could hardly tell what the professor was writing. Like much of my life, it looked like a Unicef commercial.

Now, as a note, in Michigan, in a psychology class, there are a hundred women and two men-- and the two men are dating each other. Here, my psychology class had eight women-- and this is a lot. The women dress really conservatively, too, in academia-- I'm assuming so they'll be taken seriously. One was a nun (with a veil), one had a headscarf (which is actually not very common in Senegal), and others wore things that covered their hair.

Okay, so there was an hour of the prof talking and no one writing anything and then all of a sudden, everyone's writing! Apparently, the prof is dictating-- we don't get a book, he just spends an hour of our two-hour class dictating what we need to know. It was not pretty.

Then, all of a sudden, students burst into the classroom, shouting in Wolof. As the girl in the headscarf translated for me, we are striking. Well, striking doesn't involved just not going to school. People were barricading roads and threatening to throw rocks! I am fine, but I left as fast as I could!

Yep, just another day at school in Africa...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Dis moi les six premieres annees...

"Tell me the first six years of life and I will tell you the rest." On a local kindergarten/preschool/daycare wall.

Brownie points if anyone can tell me a similar quote attributed to Francis Xavier and what film series it was used in. :)

Got jinns?

"Medical Center: The Miracle"
Treatment for jinns, curses and the evil eye by the holy Koran and the medicine of the Prophet.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Say what?

So no one seems to be able to pronounce my name here. The "a" sound in Allie is impossible for Senegalese people to pronounce, so I have become Lahly, Arly or at best, Ali (like Mohammed Ali). My host father has given up and declared that he was going to give me the Senegalese name of Aysha. My little brother just calls me "ma toubab," which means "my foreigner." At this point, I pretty much respond to anything. :)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Marriage Proposals

I got at least 12 marriage proposals today-- at least, that was when I stopped counting. There were plenty more after that, and declarations of love and all that. I prefer the marriage proposals to the declarations of love, because at least the marriage proposals are honest-- they do want to get married, so they can get a visa to the U.S. For the Senegalese it is neither uncommon nor impolite to ask for something totally ridiculous and they expect to be turned down, but to me it's a shocker.


So for those of you who aren't on facebook, I have photos at For those of you who can see them on facebook, it's nothing new.

Monday, January 12, 2009

All the Lost Socks Go to Africa...

...And everything else does too. That car you totaled? It's been patched up with duct tape and glue and is being used here as un car, a sort of informal, cheaper taxi. The car that doesn't sell in the States? It's been sold here to the wealthy with the pathetically unrealistic advertizing line "Change cars every 3 years." The clothes you gave to Good Will? If the Americans didn't want it, it will be sent to Africa and labeled "the hottest clothes just in from America" and sold. Those books your school rejects (you know, the ones you mark "Very Bad Condition")? They're being used here as English text books.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Chew Once and Swallow: Advice for Eating in Africa

Don't get me wrong-- I love the food here. Rice and fish 24/7! (Except for breakfast when we get bread with chocolate spread and bad instant coffee.) I love it!!! But there are times when you're sitting there thinking "I don't know what this part of this animal is, but I think it's better not to ask..." To make matters worse, the Senegalese have this tendency to just identify things as "viande" which means "meat." So even if you ask, "So, um, what is this?" they will smile and answer "Du Viande!" So, as a guy who lived here last year advised us all, "There are some meals where you need to just chew once and swallow."

Anyway, I'm not complaining-- it's a fairly rare occurrence and I am sitting here typing in beautiful 80 degree weather. :)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Phone number!

Hey! Anyone with cheap international texting or calling can call me at 011-221-77-306-8534. I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Okay, so observation: Senegal is more homogenous than Sweden. I scared a small child last night because I was white. That was a new experience. New things I have learned: eating with your hands with only one hand, the Senegalese qccent is ridiculously difficult to understand. Got to go: nu dem which means we are going, to lIsle de Goree, where the slaves were kept to see the Slave House and to swim. Yay!

Nam nala to you all. That means I miss you.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I'm here!

So I am safely in Senegal. Sorry it's been a bit since I posted, but internet costs money most places here. Also, the keys on the computer are different, so it took forever to write and I got it wrong all the time. Now, I'm on my own computer in the school where there's WiFi. More later, breakfast has just been served. Just wanted to let you all know that I was here and safe!!!!!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

...and she's off!

So, me and my 96 lbs of baggage (not a metaphor) are off to Senegal. The plane for Atlanta leaves in an hour and I am safe and sound right next to the boarding gate. :) I look like a total American tourist in my tennis shoes and jeans with my passport around my neck, but what else can you wear in both 38 degree weather and 84 degree weather? (Yes, it is 84 degrees in Dakar right now. Jealous?) I am well equipped with a St. Christopher's medal for safe travels, but your prayers and/or good thoughts are always appreciated.

Okay, off I go into the wild blue yonder!