Friday, February 27, 2009

School Days

So I've finally gotten an internship here. I use the word "internship" loosely, though. Let me tell you about it.

I had plenty of time to be there by 10, because my maman practically drags me out of bed if I'm not up by 8:30 or so. I walked to Fann, which is about a 30-minute walk from my house and caught a car rapide. A car rapide, just so you know, is a beat-up yellow and blue mini bus, wildly decorated that acts as a bus. It only costs 100CFA (about 20 cents) and will drop you off anywhere on it's route. It is packed to the roof with people. I was in the car rapide for probably a half-hour, jumped off (literally) at la Grande Mosquee, walked past the mosque and through a market, turned left at the pharmacy with the giant milk advertisement and walked until I saw the electronics shop with the sign for English classes. About 2 yards after that, I turned left into a barely visible alleyway between two shacks. A couple more turns and I'm in a kind of courtyard in the midst of what can only be described as a shantytown. Take the first left and I am in an open space full of laundry hung out to dry, children playing and goats just hanging out. Incidentally, this is the classroom. There is a row of desks and benches facing two chalkboards hung on the side of a building.

This is where I teach French and Math to four students who range in age from 6 or 7 to my age. They are at this particular school, l'Ecole de la Rue, because they work or beg or take care of their families during most of the day, so they only have time to come to 3 hours of class each day.

Their French is very lacking, and of course my Wolof is nearly useless, so it is an interesting endeavor, but they all try really hard and genuinely want to be there, which makes up for the language barrier a little.

Today I tried for class participation (which is a totally foreign concept here). Our reading was about boxing, so I tried to get them to act out simple phrases like "I box Seni's face. Seni boxes my face. Ah, no! I box Seni's face." They understood very little, but were, at least, very entertained. :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

So I wrote this about my church a while ago, but then the internet stopped working so I couldn't post it and I forgot about it...

I picked the Protestant church over the Catholic church because the Protestants have more written down. In fact, they have everything written down-- just not everyone has all of the words. There are two things you'd actually need for the service to make sense: the Liturgie book and the hymnal. The hymnals are available by the front door, except there definitely aren't enough for everyone to have one. The Liturgies just exist. I don't know where they come from-- they definitely aren't handed out, but some people (usually the older people) just have them. As far as I can tell, the name of the game is to get there early enough to get a hymnal and to sit next to someone with a Liturgie. So far, I have managed this successfully once.

The fun thing, though, is that even though like half of us have hymnals, everyone sings, claps and dances. This makes things interesting for me. I can keep up as far as singing goes, but I can hardly clap on 2 and 4 at home. Rhythm, here, is much more complicated than that. I entertain the entire choir, I think, by my super-concentrated efforts to clap and step in time. I use up more mental energy for the 2 hours I'm in church than the entire week I'm in class!

And that's another thing --my only major complaint about this church-- the service is 2 to 2-1/2 hours long without Communion! The one time we did have Communion, we also had a Baptism and the service was 3-1/2 hours long! This would almost work if the Senegalese weren't such party animals. They leave to go clubbing at like midnight and then come back at like 5 in the morning, as the dawn call to prayer is ringing. This does not work if you then sleep until 10 and rush to 10:30 church and then have to stay solidly awake for a service that lasts 2-1/2 hours in a language you'd understand if you could pay attention long enough to make it through a sentence... You get my point.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Grand Magal de Touba

So forgive me for not having written in a while, but internet is spotty over here and I haven't had much luck accessing it in the past couple of weeks. As it is, it took me a good half an hour to get to this site today. So this weekend is a big holiday for Senegal-- and no, it's not Valentine's Day or President's Day. As we speak, millions of people from all over Senegal are taking any means of transport possible to get to the city of Touba for the Grand Magal, or Great Pilgrimage. Now, if you're coming from Dakar, this is an especially fun adventure as Dakar is on a peninsula and there is only one "road" in and out of the city. It can take 4 hours to get through during rush hour on a regular day, never mind when the entire city is leaving for the weekend.

I am enjoying the Magal, because it means that the religious chanting which is practically constant on normal days is even moreso now. I fell asleep last night to religious chanting. It's a beautiful thing.

The Grand Magal is important for the Mouride sect of Islam, which is most of Senegal's Muslim population. If you've heard of the Mourides before though, it probably has nothing to do with religion. They are also rather famous (especially with the New York police) for counterfitting. This makes Touba, which is entirely run by the Mourides (separately from the rest of Senegal), a very busy economic center.

Other interesting things about Touba:
  • Within the city limits, women must cover their hair, wear skirts down to their ankles and wear shirts with long sleeves.
  • There are no hotels in Touba, because they are considered dens of iniquity.
  • There is one restaurant in Touba. They must make tons of money.
  • The Mosque at Touba is one of the few mosques in Senegal that non-Muslims can enter.