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!