Saturday, May 23, 2009

Morocco: Week 1

Morocco is a significantly more beautiful place than Senegal. It makes Senegal look like a landfill. Ok, not Senegal, just Dakar. I mean, there are actual trees here! And flowers! Can you believe it? I also saw rain for the first time since leaving the states this morning. I had a dream about it last night. I cannot wait to see my first summer thunderstorm in South Carolina. Mostly, I have been hanging out with my friend Zineb, and her friends and kids. I met her on an airplane on the way to Senegal, and she gave me her email address, and said come to Morocco. So here I am. Can't pass up a free place to stay. I could live here. One of my favorite places is the vegetable market. We went this morning and my mouth watered at all the fresh fruits and vegetables. And no, this wasn't like the Fresh Market where they say "Fresh from Nicaragua!" This was really fresh! There were so many colors. I loved it. I have pictures, but can't upload them right now. And all the spices and olives! Oh goodness. Moroccans do food right. I have had so many incredible food dishes. And yes, I have been eating chicken, mainly cause I didn't want to be a hassle, and how can I miss out on such wonderful food? I fully intend to learn how to make several of these dishes before I leave. Hopefully I get the chance. And the tea! Delicious. Tea is served all the time. And it is a nice sweet mint green tea...or something like that. I am going to learn how to make that, too! How could anyone eat frozen, packaged, or canned vegetables? Gross. I mean, unfortunately, it's just cheaper. It's sad but true. At least there are farmers' markets in the states. What else? We went to Casablanca, just to say I have been there. It is not a pretty place. The mosque, however, is beautiful. We walked around the outside and will be taking a tour on Tuesday. It is the 3rd largest mosque in the world. The 4th largest is in Senegal, and it, too, is beautiful. The mosaics of that mosque were made in Morocco! Go figure. They know beauty. I also went to a hammam. It is a bath house of sorts. They have them for men and women, and most people go once a week. You go, get down in your underwear, and an old woman scrubs you with gooey soap, and sometimes washes your hair. She scrubs you pretty hard, to the point of pain. But I have now had 4 months of Senegalese dirt scrubbed off me. It was pretty cool. I am staying in Mohammedia, 30 minutes outside of Casablanca. It is a beautiful town. Rather like California, very beach town. Ton of colors and palm trees. They even have a section called California. They have delicious bakeries everywhere. Mille Feuille cakes are the most amazing thing. Especially the chocolate ones. That's about it so far. My favorite thing? FOOD! And greenery. And the family I am staying with is wonderful. We are going to the desert next weekend! And then Marrakech and Fes on my own. Both beautiful cities I hear. We are also going to set up some private belly dancing lessons for this week. Awesome. We are going to Rabat, where the king lives, on Monday. So, it has been a pretty fun time. I can't believe I will be in South Carolina in two weeks. It has been awhile.

Friday, May 15, 2009

So, I finished my project and my presentation and now I am 11 hours away from leaving to go to Morocco. I have so much to write about my last week, but I am so tired, and will hopefully get a chance to do that tomorrow. In the mean time, here is a video of my performance.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Kora Kora Kora

The past four weeks of my life have been defined by the kora. I chose to study this instrument for my Independent Study Project. I took lessons 4 times a week for two hours each lesson and practiced everyday. I probably practiced kora more in the past 4 weeks than I have practiced my violin in the past 4 years. Truth! I need to change that. But anyway, I have learned so much and I cannot even begin to explain it. I had to fit everything into a little paper...well not too little, but there was just so much stuff I have learned, it was hard to get it together. I met musicians, interviewed and talked to different kora players, found some really incredible music, and learned to play the kora. The title of my paper is "From Griot to Toubab: The Evolution of Kora in Dakar." Toubab, being the term they use to refer to white people and griot the storytelling historians who specialize in music and dance. The kora was originally created and used only by the griots, and now has branched out into other areas of music. Some griots believe it should only be used by griots and cannot be understood by non-griots, but I have also talked to others who believe different. My kora teacher is a non-griot, but he most amazing musician. His teacher is a griot and believes that the spread of this instrument is like an honor to griots and the instrument itself. It is good that people want to use this instrument to spread music. I have so much other stuff about the kora rolling around in my brain, that I could better describe it to you if you asked me sometime. I just wrote a huge paper, I am kind of done writing for awhile. But you are welcome to read it, if you want it, just let me know. I can float it around cyberspace for all. It was nice to not have any classes for that four weeks and to be on my own doing my own thing. Especially because my best friend here left early, I was already feeling on my own and not really into being at school everyday with people who are really nice and wonderful, but I had not made an especially strong connection with. But I am glad I had Courtney for the time she was here! The only thing left to do is practice practice practice my kora for my presentation and performance Sunday morning. I will hopefully be able to post a video of it soon afterward, or sometime next week so everyone can see how awesome I am. Or how nervous I get and messed up my playing is. Then we go to a beach resort to finish up the rest of the presentations, which is basically just like vacation, or extreme boredom. But I am going to take a bunch of books, and hopefully there will be a market to buy the small things I have been meaning to buy all semester, but haven't. Next Saturday at 6am I am leaving for Morocco. I will hopefully be able to write when I am there, but I intend on leaving my computer at my school in Dakar, since I have to spend one night there anyway before coming back to the states. Luckily I get to leave a bunch of my stuff at school, locked up and safe, so I don't have to take it to Morocco. I definitely have stuff that would be completely unnecessary for my trip, and it will be nice not to have to lug it around. I am also going to try and ferry to Spain and explore for probably about 5 days. I am excited about this trip, and I think all the burnt out feelings I have about being in Senegal will be replaced by excitement and happiness about being in a new place. Luckily it is just for three weeks, not over three months, so there won't be time to feel burnt out again. I am relieved and content about being done with the project and almost done with this semester. Hopefully my nerves won't kill me during my performance. I will be home before I know it, happily and sadly at the same time. Traveling is fun, and I really have loved living in a different culture, as hard as it was sometimes. I hope I am not stuck in the US for too long when I get back. But I'll always come back to see my mama and the rest of my wonderful family. Gotta love them. The pictures are me at my kora teacher's house with my kora, my teacher's niece, and my teacher

Monday, April 6, 2009

Keur Sadaro

This last week we had our second and last village stay in Senegal. We went to Keur Sadaro to stay with different Wolof families. I was in a village with one other girl from our group. We had a great time getting to know our family members and hanging out with our homestay sisters. During the day, we helped some with the cooking and the cleaning. Sometimes we drank ataaya (tea) with mint leaves (nana) and it was absolutely delicious. At night we hung out with the older siblings and danced and tried talking in Wolof with them. It was impossible. But I know a few things in Wolof. As always, I got completely attached to the kids in the village. They were wonderful. We got to carry the baby of the campement on our back. He was absolutely adorable, and his mom was my favorite woman there. She was the 2nd wife of my village stay father. Our younger sisters put henna on our fingertips and a big circle in the middle of our palms. Apparently that is how they do henna here. It is called fudeen. They also braided our hair into small braids. It was fun. Our last night, the girls dressed us up in boubous and took us to a village party for all the students. We danced with our families and had a great time. I was so sorry to leave, as usual. As a parting gift, my village stay dad's second wife gave me a sack of boiled eggs. It is an odd gift for an American, but I really appreciated it. The 4 days we spent there went by so fast. I was definitely sorry to leave. Before we got to the village, we visited Le Lac Rose: The pink lake. It is super salty and they get a lot of salt out of it. It was pretty cool, but I can't remember why it's pink. C'est dommage quoi.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Batik Workshop

This past week we had four days of batik. Some artists came from the Village des Arts to show us different types of batik and help us make our own. Batik originated in Indonesia and has spread throughout the world. We got a t-shirt and two different types of fabrics to work with. Batik is using melted wax to make designs on fabric. Some people use stamps, others just paint. There are a few different techniques. After finishing with the wax, there were several buckets of dye to choose from. After the dye dries, the artists would put our pieces in boiling water to melt off the wax. Then, the product is finished! It was a fun experience, because I have always wanted to learn how, and what better place to learn something like that than Senegal?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Kora Class

Just wanted to add this picture of my favorite child of the Peul Bande people. Abdou. This week we had our music and dance workshops. We divided up based on our choices, and I, of course, chose kora. We had two hours a day in the afternoons for the past 4 days. There were 6 of us playing. Our teacher, as you may have seen below in the video I posted is named Edouard. He was very amusing and an excellent kora player. After these lessons, I am now sure that I want to study the kora. I will take private lessons with Edouard and hopefully go to a village to study kora with some of the griots, and of course I will have to visit the kids of Peul Bande. The griots are the traditional kora players, and it is passed down through the males. The kora has been taken and used in modern mbalaax music, which is what Edouard plays. I am so excited to get started with my lessons! Next week, we have the batik workshop, which I am also excited about. Then, another village trip. Time is going by so fast here, I can't believe it! Soon enough, I will be in Morocco, and then home!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Kedougou: The Peul Bande Experience

Finally, I have something truly worth writing about. This past week I spent in a remote village a good 16 or so hour bus ride away from Dakar. On American roads it may have taken 5 hours...but alas, the bush has no such thing and it was quite a bumpy ride in our big tour bus. We arrived late and went straight to bed in our little huts/hotel. We went on a excursion to a huge waterfall that was about 2 hours or so 4X4 ride away. Now those roads were extremely bumpy. It was a twenty minute walk from the compound which felt good on my legs because they have not had much work out lately. The waterfall was beautiful and I stood under it for a good 30 minutes, loving the water. It was freezing. Probably the coldest thing I have experienced since being in this heat. We left the next day for our separate villages. Three other girls went with me to the Peul Bande village. Instantly when we got off the bus, little girls grabbed our hands to lead us to where we were to be staying. It was wonderful. They gave us a mini tour and showed us the small village school. We taught them hand-clapping games, slaps, the hokie pokie, and ring around the rosie. They loved every minute of it. They taught us soem of their songs as well as the girls' dancing game which involves clapping and taking turns dancing in the middle of the circle. My favorite part of this village was the children. They were wonderful. At age 7, they begin going to school. Some liked to show off their writing skills in my notebook. A few of the older girls knew some french, but other than that, only the men spoke french. The girls also loved braiding our hair. My scalp got pretty sore though. Everywhere we went, the kids wanted to hold our hands and be next to us. Some of the other students lost a little patience, but I was ok with it. We helped the women pound millet some, shell peanuts, but mostly we observed everything. They milked cows, got water from the well, washed clothes and dishes, and cooked. The women were really funny and smiled a lot. It was very different from my family in Dakar. Much better. I felt a lot more welcome. We lived with the chief and his 3 or 4 wives and their children and one of the sons had two wives. It was really interesting being in a polygamous society, but it seemed perfectly natural in the context. The food was unbelievable. We had the same meals everyday but they were all wonderful. For breakfast we had a sort of corn hot cereal with brui in it (fruit of the baobob tree). For lunch we had rice with peanut sauce, called maffe. And for supper we had cous cous and vegetable sauce. It was so good! I ate so much more than I normally do in Dakar. I find that to be a little odd, considering villages tend to be poorer. But no, it was so wonderful! I cannot describe how amazing it was to be in the village. While it was 100 degrees, and sweltering hot during the night, it was still the best atmosphere I have been in so far. I will have to go back to visit for at least a couple days before leaving Senegal. I fell in love with all those children and cannot imagine never seeing them again! After the village stay, we stayed in Kedougou for a couple more days. We went to the market where I bought some fabric and shea butter. We also went on a hike to a Beddik village. It was hot, and it was a steep hike, but it really hit me how out of shape I am getting to be. Luckily, I am beginning to swim again tomorrow. The bus ride back took 18 hours and two flat tires. I am impressed by the driver and the vehicle to make it across the bush. It is just a tour bush, not a 4X4. My Dakar family welcomed me and my host mother was pleased that I brought her shea butter. Though I still am not sure how to function in that family, at least I have somewhere to sleep at night. This week we have workshops. I am doing the kora workshop! I am excited, because after this, I will know for sure what my independent study project will be: which will probably be an intensive study of the kora. I will have to work in a visit to the village to study with some griots and visit Peul Bande. I cannot imagine staying in Dakar for the entire ISP period. After the kora workshops, we have batiking workshops and then another village stay and visit to St. Louis. I cannot wait!

Monday, February 9, 2009

First Weekend and Class

This was my first weekend in Senegal with my host family. I went to a Sabaar which had a lot of drummers and there was dancing. They had a guy limbo under fire and spit fire. Then I shared a cab home with two other people and we got totally lost. I felt a little stupid, but now I definitely know where I live. I helped cook the most well known dish, cebujen, by cutting up a bunch of vegetables. Cebujen is basically fish, veggies, and rice, with a red sauce on it. I spent the rest of the day talking to my "brother" practicing my french. We also made Senegalese tea which is very sugary and strong. Yesterday was our first day of class, and I am glad to have some kind of schedule now. We had a demonstration on Friday of music and dance and we will be having workshops on music and dance next week. I really want to do the workshop on the kora. I hope to spend the four weeks of the independent study project doing an intensive study on playing the kora. I am really excited about that. I think the only thing that I will have trouble with is eating and sleeping. I don't eat a whole lot, since I am a vegetarian, mainly just bread and lettuce, although lunch we have more options. My family eats supper after 10 at night which is ridiculous for me, because I am ready to go to bed by then. They all stay up really late and they are so noisy. Luckily I have an ipod that works here or else I would never sleep. I haven't communicated a whole lot with my family, they mainly just speak in Wolof unless they are addressing me directly. I generally spend most of my time at home playing with the grandchildren. My homestay "parents" have around 8 children and I think 6 or 7 live with us right now and then there are 6 grandchildren and a cousin who lives there sometimes. I really enjoy the kids a lot. Yesterday we played on the roof where they also keep a goat. I can't wait for our workshops on music and dance. After that we have our first village excursion. It is so wonderful here and I am having the best time!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tongue-Tied and Exhausted

It has been exhausting. I still do not have my bag, but am going back yet again to the airport tonight. I feel like going to the airport every night makes me miss a lot of the getting to know people time. I also come back late and exhausted and disappointed every time. I met my homestay father yesterday. It was very strange and awkward but he seemed nice and has a lot of kids, older than me, and some with children. I think that most live with him. I move in tomorrow. I feel that the only thing I can say properly is "oui." Today was our first day in downtown Dakar. It was so overwhelming. I have had very little experience in big cities, and this seemed pretty big to me. It was also my second taxi ride ever. We had to kind out a lot of information about the area we were in and also ask a bunch of other questions. We were in groups of three. We mostly talked to security guards and they were all very helpful and nice to us and our Wolof greetings impressed them. If we stood still for one moment we were swarmed with street sellers and begging children, called Talibe. Some people would follow us for blocks. It gets really annoying, and you just have to walk swiftly and with a purpose. We ate at a small restaurant and it was nice to get away from the street for awhile. I am still not sure what I am going to do about this eating situation. All they had at the restaurant was meat with rice. I just ate leftover rice from other people's meals. I could not read the menu either, so that did not help either. I just need to remember to ask for du riz naturel (without meat). I am also afraid of not getting any vegetables. Vegetables are not popular here. Tomorrow we have our first french class and an introduction the the different arts and music that we have the option of studying. I am excited to get started. I think that once I move in with my homestay, I will have more of a chance to practice speaking and then I will be more comfortable speaking in class as well. Tonight, people might be going dancing or getting together to do something, but I will be at the airport. Hopefully, all will go well and I will be able to change my clothes and wash my hair before leaving the hotel and going to my homestay where there may not be hot water and things that I may be used to. Though, it is not that big a deal for me not to have regular American comforts. I find it rather exciting. I'll be so glad to start getting integrated into my family and starting classes. No pictures yet, but tomorrow I will definitely get out my camera for the artists and musicians.

Monday, February 2, 2009


I have arrived in Senegal. The plane rides were long and I had a bad cold which makes it all the more worse. On my flight from Charlotte to NY, I sat next to a woman from Morocco with a young boy on her lap. He was the most beautiful child. We ended up talking most of the way and her inviting me to visit her in Morocco and stay with her while I am in Africa. If there were a way to get there I would definitely go. She said she has a beautiful home and farm and a lot of friends who speak french and would help me speak. Sounds great. I met up with the other students at the JFK airport. They are all friendly and even though I had a hard time socializing with them, feeling so awful, they were nice about it and made sure I was doing ok. We arrived around 9:30 pm here and four of our bags did not make it, including mine. But we are going to pick them up tonight. We had a welcome at our hotel and some pizza and went to bed. I have a roommate from NY, though we are completely different, I am enjoying getting to know her. I think I am a lot different from most of the other students, but it is fun getting to know them and appreciate the differences. They are all just so nice. We move into our homestays on Friday. I live close to another student who is from California, so we will ride together to and from school. I had hoped to be within walking distance, but at least I will be close to another student. I know orientation is necessary, but I am so ready to start classes! I know it is going to be a lot of work, but I am ready to learn. I just had my first meal here. It was delicious. There are three vegetarians, so at least I am not the only one. I also had bissap juice, which is hibiscus and mint and a lot of sugar. Now we are going to have more orientation. Classes start next week!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Leaving On A Jet Plane

I have two more days in America, then I am off to Africa...FINALLY! I feel like I have been here for too long waiting for this to happen. It sucked a lot of the excitement out of me. I am just ready to be there and in a new routine. I am going to Senegal for the SIT: Arts and Culture program. I think that this program was made just for me, because it is perfect. Intensive Language Study: French FREN 2000-3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours Intensive Language Study: Wolof WOLO 1000 / 2 credits / 30 class hours Arts and Culture Seminar AFRS 3000 / 6 credits / 90 class hours An interdisciplinary course conducted primarily in French with required readings. Lectures and discussions generally include: Senegalese Culture and Society: Role of Islam in Senegalese life; poverty and development; general history of Senegal from the slave trade to the present; gender, law, and civil society in Senegal; history and heritage of Saint-Louis; the place of Saint-Louis in Senegalese literature; health and development; political economy of Senegal; Senegalese cinema and theater. Arts and Culture: Workshops in traditional and modern Senegalese dance and djembe. Choice of additional workshops in batik, ceramics, bronze sculpture, sand painting, or glass painting. Musical training in traditional Senegalese instruments such as the kora, tama, and djembe. Educational Excursions: The program includes field visits to Gorée Island, Saint-Louis, eastern Senegal, and the Petite Côte. Rural Visit: To afford direct knowledge of rural life, participants live for five days in two different rural settings. Village conditions are basic, frequently with no electricity or running water, and provide an invaluable opportunity to learn from rural Senegalese. Field Study Seminar ANTH 3500 / 2 credits / 30 class hours Independent Study Project ISPR 3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours Conducted in Dakar or, with program approval, in another location appropriate to the project. Sample topic areas: ethnomusicology and study of traditional instruments; role of dance in the ceremonies of the Sereer; social meaning of traditional dress in modern Senegal; industrial and traditional fabric dying and design; griots (musicians, historians, royal advisors); Senegalese film as a cultural statement; the work of the Sorano National Theater; the artists of Gorée Island; cultural identity and religion; the talking drum; women and craft production; contemporary Senegalese music. Homestay: Six weeks in Dakar and two five-day rural homestays. Other accommodations during the program include guest houses, educational institutions, or small hotels. This will be the experience of a lifetime. I am excited and open to learning everything I can. This is just what I need to finish out my last year at Guilford when I return, with a more relaxed, refreshed, and good attitude. I am going to be a different person when I get back; the person I want to be and was meant to be. I will miss some of my closest friends...and maybe my family...but this is what I was meant to do and this is what I need to do. I will try to keep in touch and keep posting on this thing when I can, so all of you can be jealous of the fun I am having. In the meantime, I have final preparations to do, and my last contra dance to go to. See you all in May!