For my rural stay, I was welcomed into the Sarr family for one week. Their village of Mar Lodj is located on the 150km2 island Mar Lodj in the Sine-Saloum delta. The second half of the week, I killed a chicken [WARNING graphic image], got cornrows, and drove a chariot across the island. My journal is uploaded here (continued from Part 1).
Wednesday | Nov 7, 2012
9h | Saw the children off to school after a breakfast of organic raw milk over organic couscous made from grown-on-site millet and wild baobab leaves. Really.
15h | Normal day so far (water-fetching, dishwashing, shadesitting). The women work so hard here. Lidi asked me what I wanted to eat for lunch and I responded “ceebujën blanc” in hopes of reducing oil intake and increasing vegetable intake. We went to go buy vegetables and though she included a section of squash from their garden, I failed on the oil front.
21h30 | I’ve been raving this whole semester about killing an animal because my 2-year vegan stint had me thinking about meeting my meat. Rural stay was a good place, logistically, to kill a chicken in this mostly-Muslim country.
I killed the chicken at around 5:30 today. It was disturbingly undisturbing. We bought it and I carried it all the way back to our campement. Lamine and I joked that it was Bébé Poulet because I was holding it like a baby. I tried to feel guilty, even give it a name, Neige/Snowy to make the murder feel real. But the chicken just looked like food the whole time.
Daoda taught me to kill the chicken in the traditional way. I dug a hole in the ground to collect the blood, stepped on the chicken’s wings and feet, said “Allah hu ak bar,” spit on the knife, and sawed away. What I was doing was actually sacrilegious since females aren’t allowed to kill according to Islam. The knife was dull and I didn’t cut all the way through at first, poor thing. Breaking the neck was easy. After I defeathered it, it really looked like meat. The smell wasn’t even bad – it just smelled like chicken, not death and dissections.
At 6:00 I milked a cow. The stream was smaller than I imagined. I’d imagined a faucet, and this was the tiniest of squirt guns, like a pinprick in a bag. I drank the milk warm, even though I could see brown stuff floating around from the dirty bottle in which we’d collected it.
23h | The stars are especially clear tonight. There are so many they look like acne.
I’m not the only family member who falls asleep outside on the mat. Apparently it’s a communal sleep mat.
The rural life isn’t as idyllic as it seems. For example, Lamine, who is quickly becoming my favorite brother because he takes me everywhere and shows me things, works in Fimla as a solderer and comes back to his family’s house during harvest time. And I think his index finger broke and healed without a splint because it’s not straight.
I miss holding bébé poulet against my side.
Thursday | November 8, 2012
9h | I woke up so late this morning. Sleep quality has been so poor.
According to one of the Sarr’s resourcefully-made rice bag shade-makers, some of the rice here is from South America. I’d thought it was all from Southeast Asia.
12h | I just had organic yogurt/curdled milk mixed with sugar. It tasted like sweet, creamy cream cheese.
20h | Sat for 6 hours straight getting my hair braided into a cornrow mowhawk. The braids are so tight and my head hurts so much.
22h | NO MORE MARRIAGE JOKES
Friday | Nov 9, 2012
4h (?) | There is absolutely no respect for sleep here. My sister just roused me to tell me that she has diarrhea thanks to eating too much piment yesterday. This knowledge is worsened by the fact that there is a bathroom directly attached to our room that does not have a door. And I’m sweating and itching and my braids are killing me.
10h | I just met a 60ish-year-old toubab from Alaska. She’s a little bit crazy. Her adopted Peruvian son died and she decided to go to Italy, and then to Senegal 2 years ago when she ran out of money. She’s suffered broken ribs, etc. at the hands of the Senegalese, and 3 months in jail for illegally camping by the river. My sister tells me that the woman drinks alcohol all day and does “tous les choses avec les garçons” – that she is a prostitute. Children throw rocks at her because their parents dislike her. And yet Kaya, this woman, hasn’t tried to integrate herself either. She doesn’t greet them, and she hasn’t tried to learn Serere. She has no money to leave but she says she’s happy because she’s with her son every day in spirit.
Ass says people are coming to fix all of the broken solar panels tomorrow.
14h | Went to the sandy riverbanks with the French tourists staying with my family. I left early and walked back alone. Somehow I remembered the way back.
15h | The problem with eating spicy foods with your hands is that they burn long after you’re finished eating.
My braids hurt a little less. They are pretty convenient for keeping your hair out of your face.
21h | For some reason I got to sit at the men’s table (eating mat)! They eat scarily fast. This was my favorite meal yet: couscous with boiled fish. If only every meal could be so healthy!
At around 5, Ass and I had gone to visit the other students staying in other villages on the island. Samantha’s sister served us a special tea/juice made of bissap, buoye, basil, and sugar.
I got to drive the chariot back home. Imagine flying past silhouettes of palm trees and baobabs under a scattering of stars, surrounded by the dark night, with all the spaces filled with the rising and falling waves of insect chirps. And a few insects themselves hurtling into your face every once in awhile. Magical.
When I got back, the children I’d bonded with so well over this past week crowded around to hug me. What a beautiful welcome home.
On Saturday November 10th, I traveled back home. The voyage went smoothly despite seven of us smushing into a row built for four. Took the requisite post-journey shower and was amazed to feel like I was returning home to Dakar.