Wolof World

Julia and I have attended a few meetings at the CEM since being back in Joal. The first of which did not go to well. Amadou told us that if we got bored, it would be fine for us to leave anytime. The meeting was to talk about the past year, results, the new term, etc. We understood a fair bit of what they were saying (it was all in French) but the Principal spoke very fast and it went on for a long time. So, we made our excuses and left just before midday, having been there since nine. I did feel a bit guilty that we didn’t stay for longer, as the teachers said they were having lunch there, but we thought it wouldn’t be too much of a problem. However, when we got home, Amadou asked why we were back so early and it turned out that when he told us we could leave before it finished, he was joking. I explained this to the teacher I was shadowing, Madame Diodio, and she said not to worry, as the meeting didn’t finish until six! The meeting we went to more recently was a lot more successful. It was just with the other English teachers at the CEM, to discuss the curriculum and the English club, which we’re looking forward to getting started with.

The other day, I decided to cut open my pillow and take out some of the stuffing to make it softer. By doing so, I discovered that it was stuffed with hundreds of strips of plastic, bizarre. After a while my bed was pretty much covered in plastic, so I sewed up the pillowcase, shoved the plastic into a carrier bag and left it outside the house. As I think I mentioned before, people in Senegal just tend to leave rubbish outside… Later that night, Aicha called me and asked what on earth all that rubbish was by the side of the house. It turned out that the kids who live nearby had ripped open the carrier bag and thrown the little bits of plastic everywhere. I then had to go outside with a torch and scramble around, picking up the stuffing from my pillow. It was an evening full of entertainment to say the least.

We went for dinner at Herr Fall’s house recently. I picked up a fair amount of the conversation he had in German with Julia somehow. Mouhammed, Herr Fall’s three-year-old son, came to sit by us ‘because he loves me’ I was told. I said that he could be my ‘petit ami’. We ate pasta with spicy tomato sauce and cheese omelet then had ataya with his sisters after, which was lovely. I also had some ataya with the carpenters that work near our house, but Amadou said that I shouldn’t do it again, in case they spike my drink. Apparently this is how one of his sisters ended up pregnant.

We’ve finally been to watch a basketball practice. All the players were really tall and fast. Julia hasn’t started playing yet, but I think she intends to soon. I spoke to the coach Robert about joining the choir and he said to come along to the church on Sunday and introduce myself. I went at midday to avoid the mass, but couldn’t find Robert. It was very crowded, full of people eating and drinking and a DJ blasting out music, which did not seem very religious. Everyone was really friendly, and Victor (a doctor who Julia’s done some work with) introduced us to the choirmaster. He said that there were two choirs, the Petit Choral and the Grand Choral. I attempted to go to a rehearsal with the Petit Choral, but due to a mass, it was cancelled. I was unaware of this and ended up standing outside the church for a while with people praying. After one of the prayers, they started shaking hands with each other, so I just went along with it. When the mass finished, I met one of Amadou’s students, Marie Jeanne, who invited me to the Grand Choral the following day. I really enjoyed the choir and had the chance to sing in Wolof, Serer, another African language beginning with ‘T’ I think, Latin and French. Everyone sang at a high standard and the girl sat next to me, a third year English student at university in Dakar, helped me out with some of the pronunciation and tunes, as they went pretty fast. I haven’t sung in a choir since being in Howell’s and I’ve really missed it. Unfortunately, it ended at ten and I wasn’t home until twenty to eleven, so Amadou told me that I have to go to the Petit Choral instead. I guess he feels like a protective father figure towards Julia and I, and doesn’t want either of us walking home alone in the dark. The next choir practice is on Tuesday, so hopefully the Petit Choral will be just as good as the other one.

It’s watermelon season at the moment, so we’ve been eating a lot of them and papaya. Julia and I have nailed carrying them on our heads, much to the amusement of our neighbours. I told Amadou that one of his students charged us 300CFA (roughly 40p) for a melon and he replied, ‘I will kill him! They cost 200!’

After living in Joal for over a month, we eventually visited Fadiouth. It’s such a sweet little village. Rumour has it that there are witches there, but we didn’t come across any, just quite a few Toubabs and locals trying to sell us things. There are lots of stalls with crafts and souvenirs, some of which had prices up in Euros. We crossed a second bridge to get to the joint Muslim-Christian cemetery. The Christian graves had large white crosses with plastic flowers and sometimes photos, whereas the Muslim graves (in a separate area) had very small dark signs pressed into the ground for headstones.

In Fadiouth, we bumped into some French doctors and nurses who were working for a charity called SAMBEN. We’ve met up with these doctors several times since. Their organization sends volunteers over for a week then a different group the week after and so on. Julia was especially keen to work with them, as she wants to do similar kind of work as a career. They stay in the Hotel Diamarek nearby, so we went to have brownies and ice cream with them (!) and discuss how we might help out. So far, we’ve visited the health centre a few times, Julia taking down the masses of babies before they had injections, and we noted down the names of patients coming in. Sylvie, a dermatologist who came the week after, told us about a project in Madagascar that she’s involved in. She’s been there many times on missions, where medical workers camp along rivers all over Madagascar, traveling around treating patients. They would also like help with English and French teaching in a private school there. Julia and I are both really interested in going and helping out with the work there. I would like to teach English in a summer camp in 2013 ideally. Sylvie’s asked us to get lots of people involved, so leave a comment if you’re interested at all!

I’ve had a few lessons of teaching now, two separate 5em classes (around 50 students in each, ages of 13-15 roughly). My first few lessons were on what musical instruments / sports they can or can’t play, grammar on ‘neither, either and so’ and I’ve planned lessons on modal verbs and the English school system in comparison with the French system that is used here. The students were initially pretty unresponsive, but gradually they became keener to answer questions, to a point were they were jumping off their seats, clicking and shouting ‘Misseees, Misseeees!’

Our plans for the Christmas holidays are nearly sorted, so we’re getting quite excited! School breaks up on the 22nd December and the wedding in Dakar is on the 24th. After that, we’re planning to meet up with the other volunteers and Lottie’s family in Saly then to Ziguinshor and Cap Skirring, which supposedly has the best beaches in West Africa and should be great for New Years.

I’ve just started Wolof classes in the primary school where Aicha teaches. There are Senegalese women learning to write and read, as well as Julia and I who want to focus more on speaking. The last two lessons we had were solving maths problems in Wolof. The basic sums I could do, but the problems on our first lesson were pretty complicated! We have another class later today. I have also observed a few of Amadou’s English lessons in the Lycee. In one of them, he made the students individually introduce themselves and write a bit about themselves and the school. Here are some examples of what the students wrote on the board:

‘My school have a night classes. The Lycee of L.S.S. have a bad terrain of basketball. We are sorry of that Lycee.’

‘I from Joal. I go to school of Lycee L.S. Senghor. My start classes in 2Lc. My English teacher tell me about learning a language, you tell: reading speaking learning.’

‘Lycee L.S.S is my school. She is a big school where we have many students. But this year we have started to learn very late because there are a new school who was building. We start an English lesson today and our English teacher tell we that if we want to learn a language we must reading speaking listening an writing.’

One of the other teachers told Julia and I that we should go dancing, as we’re here for ‘fact and fun’. In the CEM the other day I managed to skype Tom, another Project Trust volunteer who is teaching in China. It was 6:30pm with him and 10:30am over here. Apparently there were about twenty students crowded into his office shouting ‘beef noodles!’ But unfortunately I couldn’t see them as the webcam didn’t work.

Last Tuesday was my nineteenth birthday. Julia and I cycled to the beach, as we finally got our bikes fixed! We did some swimming and met one of Amadou’s ex-students, who is now studying English and Spanish in Dakar. It was slightly better than our last trip to the beach, where we were followed home by a desperate Gambian called Eleman who wanted a Toubab wife. For dinner, Aicha taught me to make fataya, but with eggs and onions instead of meat and fish. Julia made me pancakes and a lemon cake, ‘saphnasap!’ The whole family plus Binta our neighbour and Sophia all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ in French and those who could, in English. The kids had made me cards and I got some olives from Julia, a Senegalese necklace from Marieme, a rubber from Babo and pen from Mouhammed. Aicha and Amadou gave me some really cool trousers from Mbour. It was completely unexpected and so kind of them. Julia and I went to the Diamarek after dinner to meet the French doctors and I had my first drink in over two months. Julia is also paying for me to get my new boubou fitted at the tailor’s, it should be ready tomorrow night. I went to the post office and picked up two parcels from my parents, a letter from Charl back in Wales and card from the girls in Ziguinshor. It was a really lovely day. Anniversaire neex na!Amadou to his four year old daughter, Marieme, ‘Daara pas Dora’ which means, ‘You’re going to Qu’ranic school, not watching Dora the Explorer’.

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