I take it all!

20. Dezember 2018

I take it all in.

I take all those vibrant colours that have unfolded in front of me. I take the combination of patterns carried from the extravagant dresses. The amber sandy-soil contrasting the blonde hay-yellow dried up vegetation and the remaining bright greens refusing to surrender to the weathers desire and the sun’s power. The lime-to-chartreuse chameleon walking between the leafs of the Bissap plant, changing his vivid green tones to make us belief he is just another leaf, an extension of the branch. I take all the sunrises and sunsets; the colours that danced to the wind. The pastel tones and the neon brights. How the shapes of the clouds were sculptured by the blow of the wind. How like a hollow cotton filament, they absorbed the different colours that the sun-rays offered to share, and how these dyes were passed on from cloud to cloud until these last eventually vanished as well. How the shades in the sky swayed in harmony to the melody of the breeze and bowed as a sign of courtesy as the sun made its way to the horizon’s end. Never the same show. Always a different broadcast of colours improvising a performance by the impulse of the moment, giving its spectators a different feeling every time. I take with me how the light of the first sun rays announcing the arrival of the sun, turned the black into a first dark denim and then light blue sky changing within seconds the navy indigo admiral coats. And from there melting and mingling into a fuzzy line of softer shades of yellow and orange and green. And then, how all of the sudden some neon fuscia and flaming tangarine were reflected on the clouds by the first rays taking a head start to announce the majestic entrance of the sun; the moment we are all waiting for. How all around seemed still, expecting the grand appearance of that sphere that gives life to Earth. How as the light of the sky pushes the darkness away, the glimmering of the stars starts to fade away, until puff, they were gone. The excitement of that very first burning crimson glimpse, the intensity of the sun coming up and peeking from behind the horizon.  That fiery orange circular sphere, with a vivid bumblebee yellow strap in the middle comes up within less than 3 minutes, to remind us how fast the planet turns. And how you can still stare at if for a few minutes before it unleashes its rays and blinds you away. I take the caress of the first sun ray gently touching my skin.  How that thin golden fabric passed tenderly over the entire valley awakening softly those who were still asleep. I’ll take the glare of the stars looking down at me, and how the more I stared at them, they appeared to be making pirouettes, giving me the visual illusion that they were moving around. I even had the impression more than once that one winked back at me. I take in the thousands of hundreds white butterflies feeling the air. I take the blue sky and the ocean mirroring it, reflecting the same colour back to the universe and fooling the observer by creating a blurry line in the horizon puzzling us onto where the ocean limits ends and the sky begins. Or the sea surface making its own interpretation of the colours, blinded by the UV-lights, and playing with the wide spectrum from the colour prism, deciding to wear turquoise and sapphire, or peacock, and Aegean, passing by emerald jade tones. Changing to whatever  suited him best, according to his mood at the different time of the day.

I’ll take the sounds. The roar of the waves and the clashing into the rocks, the rattlesnake sound of the wind passing through the dry leafs still hanging in the trees, the whisper of the air-stream pushing the sandy dust away. I take the pounding djembé and its vibrations feeling up my lungs. How the hammering corrected the beat of my pulsations until my cardiac rhythm adjusted to its pace.  The sound of Bana’s laughter; the grumble of my ventilator throwing 35° C air at me vociferously, trying to trick me into thinking that his job is supposed to cool me down. I’ll hear the sound of the gooses until late at night, forbidding me to fall asleep before they do. I take in the quicking of the birds; four or five melodies can be heard at once, as the morning glory arrives. The crispy of the too dry vegetation and the crunchy sound of the red rocky crumbly dried up soil under my feet as I walked through the small trails taking me to the now naked Baobab tree, which seems to greet me with his branches always wide open. I take with me Dakar’s flamboyant streets, the never ending traffic clatters, speakers out loud reaching too-high-pitch-decibels to which my ears have a hard time getting used to. I take the moan of the daily love-making session of the happiest turtle couple. I take the Koranic chants from the Mosques, the Gamou and the taxi radios and the ringtones. The raucous night crawl of the lizards on the palm roof and the mice playing in Almut’s book shelve. The gobbling frying oil, bubbling and crisping anything that dared to dive in it. I take in the piercing ring that stayed in my ears long after dancing to the last song played at the Phare de Mamelles. I take the annoying buzzing of the mosquito that got tangled into my mosquito net leading to restless nights, and the cry of the goats sounding like little babies screaming in despair. I take the music at the Baptism and during the taxi drives. The sound of neck crack when Bernard fix it, and my uncontrollable laughter afterwards. The conversations that kept on turning the volume higher and higher and stopping right before it became shouting— just to be heard, to find their place within the general decorum. I take with me the sound of Wolof which I was not able to master. I take whole heartedly the thrown at me “Namunalas”.

I take the smells. The smell of the just made mint tea. The scent of the Jasmin-like aroma that welcomed me on my first night, as we were driving through a dark road from the airport to what would be my house for the coming months. The perfume of the salty ocean. The stink of trash that turned my stomach upside down driving by the Corniche late at night. The smell of the just fried baigné from Abata. The fragrance of the disinfectant after I just finished cleaning my room. The smell of oil that gripped to my skin and cloths and followed me all over after long hours helping Abata with her fatayas. The fresh scent from my soap after I finished showering. I take the smell of frying fish, of the wet soil after a hard rain, of the popular peanuts found on every table, of the steamed rice. I take the smell of the red Moroccan wine at the Phare des Mamelles during those windy nights, the aroma from the Café Touba. I take the intoxicating smell of cigarettes feeling up my lungs -no one seems to notice that from now and then it is good to swallow some “fresh air”. I take the heavy air, finding it hard to go through the thin tunnels of my respiratory system from Dakar’s pollution. I take the smell of the old dusty, self-patched up taxis who have been given a fifth, sixth, seventh life, carrying that unpleasant odour caused from the accumulation of humidity and experiences from the previous lives; each taxi (ride) was a different journey.  I take the “pacholi” fragrance making me dizzy. The whiff that awaited for me behind my house’s door after work,  the smells left behind in the garage that had become the arena, the playing ground of the Ostriches and gooses from the house owner.  I take the aroma of that mid-night croissant from la Brioche Dorée. I take the smell of the alcohol gel in my hands and the sweaty smell of others, of myself from a hot day. I take the stinky smell from the gym who lacked aeration, scrubbing and washing, who appeared to never have seen a broom. I take the penetrating smell of the mosquito repellent, that I inhaled one too many times. The smell of the oil used by Aissas during the massage, how it made me doze and enter this not asleep yet not awaken, conscious sate.

I take the too often itchy sensation left after the long queue of flirty mosquitoes came to kiss my skin over and over again. I take the spiky feeling in my legs after walking through a field, where the haham clung onto my pants. I’ll take the tingling in my feet from the sand that found its way through my shoes and followed me the entire day. I’ll take the cold wind that without permission trespassed the boundaries of my cloths and made its way to my bones at the top of Le Phare des Mamelle.  And the hot dry air from Toubab Dialaw that brushed my skin, and tried to persuade with its whisper as it made its way through the minuscule cracks of the now desiccated first layer of my epidermis, to change skins just as the snakes do. I take the oily feeling in my lips after eating a tieboudiene, a gombo sauce, a fataya. I take the sandy sensation in my teeth, as I bit into a delicious millet bread. I take in the drops of sweat tickling me, slowly making its way down my arms, as I tried to work. The feeling of numbness the first days caused by the heat to which my body was not yet used to. The feeling I have been knocked out by the heat wave. The heavy stomach after I ate something my body refused to assimilate. Or the battlefield in my digestive system as it tried to fight back the arrival of the new army of bacteria to which my body’s ecosystem had no prepared antibodies. I will take the blood shed on the second class, when my too fragile skin lost the battle against the hard leather skin of my drum, and the aching of my index finger turning at the conjunction red lila then purple blue, after beating the corners of the djembé to pull the sound off. I take the short spike under the sole of my foot when I stepped barefoot over a haham and whose thorn broke through my skin. The sandy soil warming up as the sun irradiated more intensely over the ground heating the sole of my shoes. I take the rough scratchy thin rug that left my elbows red and irritated, from the gym class, a rug that had received liters of sweat, and who had been stepped by all the dirty shoes and no one ever had taken the time or consideration to clean. That rug withheld an ecosystem on its own. I take the texture of the hollow volcanic rocks, and the smooth but uneven bumpy surface of the Baobab tree.

I embrace the feeling of happiness and relieve I felt every Friday as I saw the Phare. The symbolism and romantic connotations of a lighthouse appeared to work its magic on me. I squeeze in the feeling when I danced into the night, looking at the moon wearing that silver gown. That feeling of the last wave I took on the first surf class; freedom. I take the feeling of the last surf day, where I was able to smoothly surf every wave, almost effortlessly.  But then leaving all my energy and strength as I swam to get back before the breaking line. The feeling of being underwater and having no choice but to surrender to the waves force. Those big waves that turned into a spinning washing machine and made me turn and swirl. And that feeling during those the long minutes, calmly waiting for a wave to come, having nothing but the immensity of the horizon in front of me, serenity, genuine happiness. I will take in the welcoming and friendly faces, the amazing hospitality (Senegal the land of Taranga). I take in all wholeheartedly the humanity and human warmth the Senegalese have shared with me. I hold onto the wide open spirituality and understanding of going beyond the limits of religion felt in these grounds. I take in the kindness and generosity. I take in that exited and enthusiasm I felt in my djembé classes, when after trying and trying, and feeling frustrated at times but persevering, I could finally play the beats. How I felt one with the sound, once I was able to do it. How I had to focus to not think on the sound, looking at the buildings. How I needed to prove my teacher he was wrong, I could do it, and that anger gave me that „push“ to play better. This has been probably the most challenging thing I have done in quite some time. It is an amazing feeling to see how once the sounds get registered in the cellular memory, it plays by itself. I take that sensation of tranquillity influenced by the meditation and the spread of energies from the group dynamic that came with it during the meditation retreat. I take the sequels of that retreat that followed me during the next days as I gazed at the stars laying on the red mattress I used to cover the rough rocky grounds behind my room, where no artificial light could obtrude the elegant glim of the starts, or at least gave me that impression. And the genuine happiness and calmness that the sunrises offered me, wishing that every being feeling the subtle sunrays would be filled with love. I take that fidgety feeling of mine, wanting to snap all the „meditators“ out of their meditation, because they were missing out on a beautiful spectacle. I wanted to shout at them “hey open your eyes, look up what you are about to miss”, but having to keep on the 18H silence agreement, and convincing myself that we all meditate and find that peacefulness in different ways. And finally settling down, and enjoying the over all splendour of the scene: the sun rising and about 10 people sitting in that mediation position all around between bushes, on rocks, against the baobab; all looking calm and at ease, with a discrete smile traced on their faces. I take that happy-nostalgic feeling of the last night dancing at the Phare where the “trashy-commercial” music metamorphosed into an sophisticated and innovative mixture of tunes, notes, rhythms which were orchestrated by the refined combination of the beats of the djembé and the melodies of the Sax as the dj mixed his songs. A majestic creation. That feeling of enjoying the moment, of not wanting the night to end, of knowing it eventually would, so you had to enjoy every second to its highest degree of intensity. I take in the serenity look on peoples faces during the meditation weekend. I take in that nice feeling, of having had the chance to say some beautiful goodbyes that settled the anxiousness or uneasiness that always comes with farewells. A nice closure.

I take in the tastes. The newly found love for ditach, the acid and delicious tamarind sauce, the stinging of the sometimes overdoses of hot pepper on the plate. The refreshing lemon squeeze on my food or minty tang from the nana added to my water during the filed working days. The bissap-green sauce adding flavour and texture to the rice, the too sweet red-bissap juice. The ginger-juice love at first sight and the tingle it left on my tongue and throat. The taste of the salty water in my mouth from the ocean. I take that bitter and honey taste from this date-looking fruit that I ate on our way back to Thiès after Tivouaone. I take the taste of the baobab seed pain de seinge, of the moringa on my porridge in the morning. The taste of the different oat meals I made, and how happy I was to eat something my body recognized and assimilated well. How incredibly grateful I was to Richy who had brought me in all those goodies for my beloved breakfast that I could not give up, and then from Marlis. A wonderful start into my day. I take in my repeated simple 2 -ingredient meals, all what I could do in my “magic pot”.  I take the knife’s effortless and nonchalant indifference to slice in half the tender- butter-like texture of the carrot, eggplant, navé, cabbage, or any vegetable for that matter; that had been swimming for hours in the sauce, and whose structure had been so softened and whose fibres had been so broken down, that vitamins could no longer find any grip to hold on to. They had given up and had all been dissolved by the too hot, too long, bubbly bath. And just as we cream our body after taking a bath, the vegetables all underwent an extra special coverture of reddish palm oil, just in case the (literally) 3 cups of oil put in the sauce was not enough. The vegetables painlessly melted as they entered the first doors of the digestive system, forbidden to present themselves to the gustative palates buds in our mouths. The only way to tell them apart was not from their now homogenized taste, but by the visual shape –and at times colour— they were allowed to keep to conserve somewhat their identity. The only one to rebel was the “bitter eggplant” refusing to surrender completely to the bubbly bath and keeping tight its bitter components, to stand out; only to find itself standing alone at the end of the meal. It seems no one likes this taste here, but they can’t help but add it on every meal, perhaps scared to make him feel left out from the fun in the vegetable Jacuzzi. The trained manioc who had certainly being doing push ups undergrown tried as well to stand out by its somewhat fit texture. And most of the times although weakened, maintained its muscled fibres and expected to receive a longer tooth massage than its previous colleagues. I take the syrup-high–sugar-concentration mint tea, that had a hard time slimming its way down my throat. I take the delicious aroma of the naturally sweetened honey taste of the kinkéliba leaf tea.

I take the smile of the nurse that looked after me in the hospital. And the goofy comments of one of the doctors trying to make me laugh. I take the hugs and kisses from Bana, the morning handshakes with my colleagues, the image of Abata making her fatayas with lots of energy and intention. I take the white smile of mon petit Solei. Idi’s friendly face running towards me to jump into my open arms waiting to hug him and lift him up. Like a recording, I will play the video of my Gym classes in my head, in particular the first one. The first impression, feeling intimidated and pushing my chest high to overcome that feeling and pretend only to myself that I was part of this group. Specially after receiving the comment: “je crois que tu es perdu” as soon as I stepped in the CENAPS (sports center) grounds. I, surrounded by huge muscular gorillas, feeling like a tiny white fly thinking to myself: “oh may, I don’t know if Ill be able to keep up with them”. To my surprise, the training was doing aerobics. I will take the shouting, the intensity of all of the counting, as if we were at a military training camp and the seriousness with which it was taken. And how despite their fit appearance, some could not make it the whole way to the end of the training. The surplus in muscle was lacking in condition. At some point, I could not help but laugh, at how amazing this moment was. I cherish and never want to forget this mental video. I take in all heartedly the smiles and laughter shared with the SOS athletes, our non-verbal communication and signs of affection.  I take in the “Costa Rica, Costarita, Cos, Cosmos, Cosmetik, Ginar” nicknames I was given. I take in Drummer’s white and bright smile piercing through the dark sky, illuminating the dance floor and feeling the air with his djembé-produced sonic waves that made every one dance. Literally, his smile was all you could see from his face. I take the image of the monkey that came to watch me take my breakfast.  I take the strip of images of the first impressions as I walked down the plane. I never want to forget how I felt on those first moments. Getting off the plane. Not knowing who/what to expect. Getting on the pick-up truck. Looking out the window. Within 10 mins of the drive, a big truck with a Ferrari-complex, breaks our pick-up’s side mirror. Not even noticing what had happened, he kept on racing way too fast for its design and for these white sandy no light roads, as he finally made a corner and diapered into the night. The moment the car stopped in front of my house-to-be for the coming months. That feeling of: ok, this is it! The first impression of Abou. Of my room. I take the the uncountable different experiences from the taxi drives and the sept-places: the friendly, the old, the interviewer, the tamaxarit, the one that made a bus drive out of the taxi ride picking up people along the way, the one with thumbtack to hold the roof, the one with what seemed bullet wholes all over the taxi for extra ventilation, the one that wanted to charge extra because he had AC, the drive where the 7-places became a 9-places sardine cane, the flirt could not miss, the one that wanted to save the toll-money and whose alternative road had been closed took us for a 3 hour ride looking to avoid the tools, the one that took me down at another stop, the ride with the dentist who offered me mandarins to thank me for carrying his huge luggage all the way to Dakar, the 7-places with the comedian, the one where I felt asleep on the woman’s shoulder, the one where the taxi owner ignored the cars cough and kept on abusing his power over the engine, until the car gave a last cough and refused to make an extra step, the one where the 7-places was hiding from the police and to keep its undercover took an alternative route through a small sandy dusty road in the middle of nowhere… every ride was a different adventure. I take the cartoon-like image of the silhouette of a small children running in the beach at dawn, with the waves clashing behind his back. I take the lizard’s up and down head movement as I played the djembé, where my hands seem to play on their own and all I could do was focus on that small being. Several times I had to stop, I couldn’t help but laugh at loud. It was amazing! I take in the peaceful looking face of the blonde-vivid-blue-eyed-with-nervous-expressions-woman while she was meditating. All of the sudden she had a subtle and delicate smile drawn upon her face. The jitters from her demeanor and shaky voice had vanished away. She seemed at ease, serene, present. The sunset light coming from a diagonal was carving the outline of her entire silhouette with soft yet shinny yellow tenors. She seemed enlightened in the most literal use of the word. I was obviously not able to meditate, but that image filled me with all the peacefulness that meditation was not able to achieve. So I keep that.

I take all the faces, Abou-du-telephone, Papis, Mour, Adamah, Edou tuti kin, Sally, Rocaya, Faby, Abila, El Hage, El Hage Jr, Dominique, Isham, Diana, Wil, the thin-long“Dancer” waiter, the smiley waitress, Marcus, Bachir, Memo, the regulars at the musician’s table, the french military, the martinican dancing goddess, my working collegues: Ndao, Pa jao, Gay, Fatim, Nabu, Rugy, Sherbs, Simeeeeaon, Clement, Mati, Amina, Moussa, Noel, Oussman, Masayer, Fai, Mariama, Malik, Max, Abou Bibeye, Dado, Ousmann, Assane, Djibril. all the members of the Gueye Family Ouseinu Aztou, Nar, Mimi, Abata, Binetta, Tintin, Sofia, Nefy Malik, Ciaba, Bana-Chacala, Soho la petite-danseuse, Balay. Aztou, Idi, Abou Nanas older brother and mother, my friend from the boutique, my trainer, and the gyms “owner”, the SOS team, the face of Azdous mother… all those faces I saw, all those shinny smiles or intensity in their eyes, the ones that were part and helped me create this unforgettable experience…

I’ll remember the amazing, the breath-taking, the astonishment, the surprising, the good and the not too good, the overwhelming, the frustrations, the irritations, the desperation, the feeling I could burst into a tantrum in any second and holding it all back, the uneasy and the challenges, when my heart made back-flips, when my stomach curled, when my spinal cord seemed to receive electric shots. They are part of the experience. Sensations, reminds that we are not robots, that we are a life. Moments where I had to face myself and my limits. And do it again. And again. Where I grew. Where I learned. Where I defied myself. The moments I thought I would snap, the short-lived but intense grumpy moments that flooded my body and made my blood boil. The laugh and let go. The acceptance I had no control. The day I was caught in the hasty magical trick where the streets of Thiès mutated into newly formed rivers, as I was making my way home. I got caught under the pouring rain and before I could count to 10, I was soaking wet, as if I had dived into a pool. I broke into laughter watching at myself and the scenario. The first goofy laughter quickly turned into a frantic one at the realization of the sensations I was feeling under my flip-flop-bare-feet all the way to my knees. The sandy gooey mud-tawny-colored water, making no discrimination and carrying along all the different types of artifacts it found across its way, all the plastic, organic material, and God know what. My hysterical feeling of wanting to escape, to tele-transported elsewhere but knowing I still had 500mts to go before I could reach home. The smell of eau de javel, and the frictional weird sensation left after washing my feet with it.  I will remember the sleepless nights of the first days, where I could not wait for the morning to knock on my door and be able to get out of that twitchy bed, that felt itchy from head to tow, where the mosquitoes did a feasting out of my blood and the heat kept on getting under my skin. I will remember the dismay at the amount of food that gets wasted, a whole plate that could have fed another 8 people, just like in Asia, by over adding rice or noodles, in quantities no one could eat. Food waste like in the rest of the world I guess. I will remember my heart aching at the sight of trash everywhere, anywhere, specially on the beach that seemed to have become a trash deposit. And somewhere a small silver lightning, that little spark of faith that at least someone has a little consciousness left, when I saw one of the local surf teachers trying to collect the overwhelming amount of plastic bags swimming around us. That uneasy feeling of swimming between plastic, perturbed me and made me want to get out. The repugnant smell of oil spread on the ocean’s surface. The difference in perception of hygiene with which I had a really hard time to cope with. And I am still not used. I will remember the realization that we work in different wavelengths, the difference in expectations, in deliverables… Understanding how the inputs we were exposed to growing up influences the ways in which we react, the attitudes we project. I will remember now looking back, and finally be able to laugh at my self, at how frustrated and grumpy I felt after hand-cleaning all my towels and bed sheets, to have them taken down from the drying line by the goose— who together with the chickens— decided to make a prank by stepping and pooping all over it.  I did not find amusing at all! Just to have to breath in and out, and clean them once again. I will remember how I wanted to jump out of my body when we were trying to meditate, my anxious and fast-forward inner tempus cannot cope to well with sitting static for more than a few minutes. How this made me reflect upon myself and why perhaps, this is part of the reason I had a hard time adjusting to the rhythm of this internship. I will remember the unpleasant encounter with some men. I will remember the not so good moments, because in many ways they are lessons, about myself, about where my limits are, about being resourceful, about understanding, about tolerance, about gratefulness, about adaptation, about how one comes all self confident -even overconfident at times- and at times curls back into a baby’s pose and wishes’ to be back into one’s mothers arms. How to step out of those moments. About how I react and respond to certain things, about understanding what shapes other people, about reflecting on societies, on attitudes, on values, on cultures and languages and their role in shaping people. This experience made me think, reflect and question everything I encountered. Life has been in charged of showing me a different face, a different angle to things I held as truths.  To shut me up and make me swallow my words once more. Or to back up some of my personal beliefs and convictions, and proved me I was not that wrong. There are no good or bad experiences, there are just experiences to learn from. So I take it all in! I take the amazing to fill my soul, and remember the lessons to make me grow.

All in all, it has been an amazing, vibrant, colourful cultural exchange. I do not want to forget anything. Not the marvelous parts nor the not so good parts. I want to remember it all. I thank Agrecol e.V. and Agrecol Afrique, particularly to Matthias, Assane and Djibril who gave me the opportunity to come, and who created the conditions and gave me the scenario for me to improvise with my scripts; the stage for me to perform on its grounds. Special thanks to Abou for showing me around, and Abou Bibeye from Sahel Vert for being such a great host and allowing me to come to Toubab Dialaw. Another big thanks to my incredible djembé teacher whose classes I was always excitedly and with a children’s enthusiasm looking forward to. And who offered me his friendship. And a big thanks to my Senegalese family: the Gueye family, who took care of me when I was ill, whose doors were always opened, who treated me and made me feel part of the family, like another Gueye sister, who I have dearly come to love. My heart is filled with colourful moments, mental pictures, sensations, tastes, textures, smells, sounds, faces. It has renewed my convictions to try to make this world a better one, within the extend I can reach, because we live in a beautiful planet called Earth filled with extraordinary people. I leave Senegal with renewed energy taking with me some of the good vibes found on this grounds.


I am already starting to miss it. And this is a good sign. It means that a part of me stays here, just as I am taking a little part of Senegal with me. I will miss the part of me that stayed here, and I will be missed by the little part of Senegal I am taking with me. This is what exchange is all about.

But as Zinedine Zidane did, one should know when is the right time to leave. This is my time to say bye. For now. And it feels right.

All I can say is, Namunala Senegal.



11. Dezember 2018

In Senegal, the Islam is the most widespread religion. However, under the Islam, there are many different spiritual guides with particular philosophies, rituals or ways of living.

My neighbours, the Gueye Family follow and celebrate the Gamou of Tivaouane. This, I was told, is somewhat the equivalent for Christmas to us. I am not sure one can make that assumption, because I don’t think we really understand what each other’s celebration entitles even if I tried several times to be explained what exactly this celebration is. What there is in common is that there is a lot of food.

But basically, each spiritual guide has its own festivity and a city to which people gather.

This is how it went. I arrived to a full house of kids running around, each room (living rooms, sleeping rooms, entrance) were filled with people, mostly women, dressed in their most colorful dresses. The front house which was a large area had undergone some changes, it had metamorphosed into a big tent with mattes covering the floor for whoever wanted to come and take a nap or rest, protected from the sun, but still feeling the heat of the day. We were accompanied for the 4 days I was there, by a-non-stop at- the-maximum-volume loudspeakers spreading to its widest lengths of waves the songs of Koranic prayers. It was very loud. And there was a never ending traffic jam throughout the entire 4 days, like an infinite snake whose color change, you see her move slowly, but you never get to see her face or her tail end. People would sit down on plastic chairs in front of the street to see the show of cars, one behind the other, occasional small insignificant accidents because a motorcycle thought he could outsmart the rest, and as the night fell in, it would turn into a show of red and white lights.

I had been taken a few days before to get braids to prepare and make myself pretty for the Gamou. My neighbour Abata had typical Senegalese dresses tailored for me. They were a little to tight, but there was no time to make any changes.

I was told that this last 10 days,  a preparation of 10 day prayers (although they pray anyways 5 times a day every day..?! But I guess it must be a different prayer). So during those 10 days, the people living in Tivouaone welcome people at their place and give them food to the family and friends that go all the way to that city. The „big celebration“ start on Saturday evening. The house I was at, hosted more than 60 people for dinner.


Everyone had a role. Food was cooked in a back field by 5 men who were in charged of the cooking in huge pots. The (usually older) women would help to chop the onions, but their main task was to distribute the food on the plates. The younger women, and some of the young men, we were en charged of distributing the plates around the house for all the people to eat. To distribute the drinks (water an cans) and at the end baskets with fruits for desert. And at the end, to collect the plates again, and clean up the eating area. The kids were in charged of helping collect the trash.

Sunday and Monday, the house hosted even more people. Throughout the entire day people came and leave, they were all offered fruits and drinks. And then over 100 people came for lunch and dinner. Two cows were killed for the occasion.

People, where the women outnumbered men by far, sat all day in smaller groups just hanging out, eating, talking sleeping, in every corner of the house.

The family members and close friends, we stayed the night there. So each room and living room, and hallway were covered with mattresses. Kids slept on spread out mattresses in living rooms or hallways, some slept on the living rooms or hallways couches. The eldery slept on the available beds, but shared the room with other family members. I was sharing the room with two of the big sisters of the Gueye family sleeping on the bed, the other sister and her daughter on a mattress, and I on another mattress. It was like a huge sleep over.

Since we were so many, and we all need water there was a cistern that supplied the water. And because the pressure was low, for all the ones sleeping and showering on the second floor, we had to run up and down water basins.

It was quite a colorful, noisy extended weekend, filled with food, laughter, running up and down, people everywhere, hot-during-the -day-and-cold-at-night… all in all, very intense!

The way back, was also colorful and joyful, and hot, and slow. I had the chance to try what sellers around the road would sell: conny and another fruit which looks like a date but is bitter and sweet like honey, and one has to lick it because it has a big seed. The aunts were the loudest, singing the whole way, surprisingly enough it did not wake the baby who slept its way through. The songs  included the names of the children who would either coil or laugh, depending on their personalities.

We were finally, Tuesday afternoon, back to Thiès.

Calabasse de la Solidarité

6. Dezember 2018

On Tuesday, I went to Rugy’s regroupement des femmes: la calabasse de la solidarité, in Diobass. It is a super nice and well thought system way to help each other out and save money based on solidarity.

This is how it works: at the beginning of the meeting –which takes place once a week– as the participants come in, every woman puts her closed hand inside a covered calabasse (pumpkin) so that no one knows whether or not she put in money, and how much. Each participating puts inside according to their possibility of that week. Any late (15-20 mins tolerance) person attending the meeting also has to pay a 100XAF fee (as to encourage them to be on time).

The basic idea is to have a “savings fund” that is to solve concrete issues/emergencies related to one of the 3 areas: kids education, health and food security. So if that week a woman is having a hard time economically, and needs some money to resolve for instance buying medicines for her or someone in her family, or to buy food, or what ever, she can borrow between 5000 and 15000 XAF and has to pay them back in usually 2 weeks. If she is late to pay back, she has to pay an extra fee, only if it is well justified, and someone is in charged of investigating the facts.

As the fund becomes bigger, they divide the funds into the „saving funds for emergencies“ and another part that can be used to develop projects for the community. This second part of the funds can be use to organize events, or lending more money for a woman to start a business, or to start a project for kids, or to help pay/lend money for other issues like funerals, and baptisms or giving birth, amongst others. It appears to work pretty well in most cases.


The gathering starts and ends with a prayer. It was very nice, because at the start the woman said: “chaque un, prier à vôtre façon”, meaning, each pray in your own way. Acknowledging that all the participants may not share the same beliefs or way to practice their spirituality. It says a lot about their acceptance and tolerance to acknowledge that, and leave space for everyone to feel conformable to pray in their own way. Personally, I find it a beautiful way to start a meeting, taking a few minutes to spread „good vibes, feelings, energy, positive intentions“ name it what you want, each in their own way, but all together. Lovely!

That is something that I have noticed often from the Senegalese population. They are all very spiritual and practice their spirituality on daily basis. Religion, faith and God, is part of every day’s talks. Muslims stop their activities to make their 5 different prayers throughout the day, but you also see Christians taking out their rosaries or taking a few minutes in the morning when they come in to work, to pray.  I find their approach to talk about God and religion –which in many places has triggered the start of wars and persecutions– to be here handled in a very “healthy” way. Accepting the different beliefs, no one trying to say they way is better. Just a common acceptance that we all believe in God in our own way, and that is perfectly acceptable.


Back to the Calabasse…The Calabasse is organized as followed: there is a “dirigente” in charged of making people come to the meeting, organizing the time and place; the secretary who is in charged of writing what they call PV (process verbal) which is what was talked about during the meeting, and keeps record of who borrows what when; the treasury who keeps the money”, and the comité de discretion who are in charged of deciding whether or not to lend the money to a person that comes to them and wants to keep it a „secret“. As in many places, it is sometimes a delicate situation and people don’t feel comfortable asking for money or having the other know about economical issues, so they created this committee of discretion.

All the decision-making about the calabasse, how to manage it, which path it is taking, what should be done better, etc, is voted by all the participants. Everyone is encouraged to speak up their minds and share their experiences. In this case they apply the “celui qui tait, consait” (the one how keeps silent agrees). All have a say.

That day they talked about needing a leader, a better organization, having people be punctual, to sanction without being afraid to do it just because it is “family” or “friend”, otherwise it will not really work.

The participating women of this calabasse, are all women who work the land. They have tomatoes, bell peppers, bisspa, mais, chilli, gombo, eggplant, choux. Each has her piece of land, and her own cultivation she is responsible for. But they all pay together the gas for the water pumping system, water, and the seeds.


This meeting took over 4 hours. Because everyone had to tell/say something. An anecdote, a success story, what they liked and did not like about it, areas of improvement, etc. Others said how in other calabasse, they have collected over a million XAF, so they have reserved half as their “safe fund” and the other half to borrow money for projects/ start up business, kindergardens for the community, etc. Which was to encourage them to do the same, to always try to participate and donate something.

At the end of the session, a person is in charged of counting in front of everyone all the money collected that day. And added to what was left/accumulated from the last sessions. So all the participants know the total they have. It is all written down on school notebooks.

We finished with a prayer.



30. November 2018

This festivity takes place in mid-October, it is the Muslim’s new year. Women prepare couscous (Senegalese way— which is brown and smaller than the Moroccan one) with white beans and dates or raising, lots of palm oil and then meat and veggies prepared in a sauce. It is very good but very heavy to the stomach. The women of the family gather all together on that afternoon to prepare the dinner. I was invited to spend the evening with the Gueye Family; my neighbors. They cooked the couscous and the sauce on the rooftop terrace of their house. We all dressed up a little nicer and gathered around the pig plates and ate all together.

After dinner, the kids usually dress up as their opposite sex and go to the streets with “tam tams” (drums) and sing “tayebol, wolé” from house to house. The neighbors or house-owners usually give some coins to the children. This time around, the streets of the Dixième were filled with smaller to bigger groups of children dressed up, singing to the beat of the drums and dancing around. It is a similar tradition than to going for “trick or treat”, or singing Christmas carols from door to door… And of course I had to join in kid’s party – smiley


“Tayebol”, the song we sang, apparently comes from the talibis

The students of the Koran, were/are called talibis. They would eat, learn, shower, and sleep at the Master’s place for free, who would teach them the holy scriptures. In order to get lunch, they would go on the streets asking for food (or money), to collect it all together with the other students to prepare their meal. During the Tamxarit, one of the recommendations is to make offerings as part of the rituals and tradition of this celebration. So the talibis (students) would go and ask for offerings, so that they would collect on that day “enough” for them not to have to go so often to the streets begging for food for the coming months. Today, it has become a “party” were kids go to the streets and to the neighbors to collect some money and have some fun.



22. November 2018

On my first week in Thiès, I got to experience the Derby; is the “classical game” like a Madrid-Barcelona. It really seemed it was a Champions League game here at Thiès. Drums and music made the stadium vibrate. People screaming…. It was quite an atmosphere!

The soccer field is a sand field. There is “esplanade” on one side, and for the rest, people just sit down around the soccer field in plastic chairs to be rented for 100F. Sellers pass buy selling peanuts, tuba coffee (coffee with spices and A LOT of sugar), frozen juice in a plastic bag. The entry to the match costs 500 F. The kids and people that cannot afford the entrance fee climb up the walls, trees, or put bricks one on top of another and try to see the game from behind the walls.

This game is part of  a tournament, I was told, that started after their independence. During the 3 months of summer break (Jul-Oct), to keep the kids and young men busy and hopefully out of mischief. In Thiès there are 94 teams from different leagues (depending on the age group) from all the neighborhoods.  Most know each other from the neighborhoods, from school, from University. There are usually 4 games almost every evening starting at 16:00 (for the lower leagues) and the last game finishing at almost 1 am (the last game of the day is usually for the “best teams”).

It is a funny juxtaposition between the seriousness of the game and the passion from the fans, and the teasing going on between players and the followers (since they know each other). The public would scream and tease the players, even at times the referee. It is somehow very “familiar”, almost school-like-way the way the players and fans interact with one another .

At the end of the game, Abou –my friend and player of the AFC Dixième, one of the teams of the Derby— gave me his sports bag to carry when we got out of the stadium. I felt like a “water-boy” or in this case “water-girl”. I did not mind, I thought he was tired and he did not want to carry his bag. I just felt it was a funny position to be in, coming from a culture where it is usually the other way around that a “gentleman” carries the bags of girls, or at least carry their own bag and don’t give their bags for a girl to carry. I later on realized it was meant as a compliment. All the kids felt honored if they had the “honor” to carry their heroes bags, water bottle, or other belongings. That is how I should have felt. When I realized that, I couldn’t help but laugh. How funny and sweet.

As Abou walked into the street, everyone was commenting a pass he had made, as the big event of the night. And when he entered our neighborhood’s street, he was greeted by everyone as a hero. The whole scenario was very bright although the night was dark. It was delightful to experience how people celebrate these “small events”, which was actually THE event of the week. This joyful and celebration spirit was contagious. I also found myself with some type of glee from this atmosphere surrounding me. The streets of the Dixième were filled with cheerful people.

It was a very nice way to start my stay here in Senegal. A very warming and joyful first impression of the life in Thiès.

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