It’s almost New Years here in Senegal and as I wait for the shower to get ready for a Senegalese adventure I thought I should write another entry. It’s extremely difficult for me to decide where I want to start with these, I also realized it might be more difficult than I thought to update because I’m not spending much time at home to do so and when I am home I’m trying to spend time and continue practicing my French with my family.
My family here has been amazing, I am one of the students with the most knowledge of French so Madame Ba (our faculty lead) made sure to pair me up with a family who speaks French at home. Usually if the head of household (mom) of the family is not educated and does not speak French Wolof is much more popular. Although my family communicates with each other in Wolof they can all speak to me in French, except one of my little sisters who is too young to attend school. I’ve been able to practice with my family and they say I speak French very well, one of my aunts even told me I have a very nice accent…I’m not sure if it was a true compliment or her just trying to make me feel better but regardless I know my accent will improve with time the more I listen to French.
I would name all the people in my family or at least give numbers but that’s extremely difficult to do. In Senegal one does not usually ask how many people live in a home because of the idea that the home is open to everyone. Given that it is open to all people constantly come in and out so as a foreigner I am not really sure who lives here. Also, in Senegal there is no word for cousin or other extensions of the family so many are referred to as my mom’s grandparent, her sister, brother or their children. Sometimes they’d even call multiple people their grandparent so it can get quite confusing. Also, names here are of course very different than those given in America so they are a bit more difficult for me to remember and I rather not spell them incorrectly. For this same reason, myself and the others on this trip or who come to Senegal to visit are given Senegalese names so the family can more easily remember their names. You also don’t your host family’s last name while here and because there are few last names it is a way for other Senegalese people to identify what ethnic group you are from.
Fortunately for visitors, Senegalese people do not create new names when children are born so many people tend to have the same name. Children are usually named with a name that already exists in the family, so a grandmother, grandfather, sister, etc. It is also believed that the child inherits something from the person they are named after. They also take this naming tradition very seriously, for example if someone insults Penda (Madame Ana’s daughter) her grandmother playfully takes offense because she states you are insulting her as well as they have the same name. So far within my family I have met 3 people with my mothers name (and let’s keep in mind it has only been 1 day at home). Receiving names differs greatly from America because the names meaning is based on the person you’re named after not an actual definition.
Another significant thing in Senegal is that within family/friends gender is not most important but age. You always respect your elder and if an elder walks in the room they always receive a seat. Younger siblings are also the ones to run the errands and whoever is older in the family can always ask a “favor” and it is expected they do it.
My youngest sister is a beautiful soul, I’m glad I was placed in a family with a child because she’s such a free spirit it has allowed me to open up tremendously. She always looks for me and loves for me to carry her when I’m home. She also loves selfies and making funny pictures at the camera as you can tell from the pictures I’ve posted. I was very hesitant about taking pictures but I’m glad to have found out one of my aunts loves taking pictures so I used that as my leeway in to start photographing my family so there are definitely more pictures of them to come!
Well it’s almost midnight and although people don’t start heading to clubs or bars until 1-2am I should probably start getting ready!
(This couldn’t post earlier)
Bonne nuit et bonne année!