Christmas Holidays

Before I start talking about my travels, I’m just going to update you on the last few days in Joal before we set off.

I had a nice long chat with Amadou about weddings and customs before going to his neices’ double wedding reception in Dakar. He said that when people get married in Senegal, the man chooses whether it will be a polygamous or monogomous arrangement. Apparently most people go for polygamy, because if you choose monogomy, you can never change your mind, even if you divorce and remarry, unless you want your wife to sue you! Amadou chose polygamy, which is a bit of a shock, as now he’s pretty content in his marriage to his cousin, Aicha. However, he said that when he was young, he fantasized about having four wives. One British, one Asian, one American and one African. For Muslims, it is the man who must pay for everything to do with the family and house, and if the woman has money, she can do whatever she wants with it, either use it for the family or just buy things for herself.

It’s all getting a bit heated now with the elections coming up. We’ve seen a few demonstrations and riots in Dakar already. The US Congress wrote a letter to President Wade asking him not to run again, but he is paying no notice to it. Funnily enough, Youssou N’dour is running for president, despite previously saying that he didn’t want to get too involved in politics. For those of you that don’t know, he is the biggest celebrity here in Senegal and brought about the mbalax drumming movement. Due to the government not paying most of the teachers here, there are still strikes! I went into the Lycee today to observe two classes with Mr. Ba and if I find a text to do a comprehension on, I can teach one of them on Saturday morning. It will be my first class in the Lycee, finally! Julia and I asked to have more classes in the middle school, because of the amount of strikes in the Lycee, but I was turned down. The Principal said that two classes in the middle school was enough. As Julia only had one German class, she’s taken on an English one as well, for beginners, so now we both have two classes. I’m hoping to get another two in the Lycee eventually. The English club starts next week in the middle school as well, so that should be fun.

We had our first session of the art club this year, yesterday, and Marieme, Babo and Mouhammed came along too. Marieme was a bit of a nightmare, crying and clinging on to Julia for most of the class. But the rest of them managed to do some good still life drawing, despite her wails.

In my last lesson before the holidays, I taught the class ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ complete with actions. It went pretty well! However, for one of my final lessons, Madame Diodio / Ndiaye, (as I’ve recently discovered, Diodio or Jojo is her nickname) wasn’t there and the students kept trying to get me to cancel the class. They were being really disruptive, grabbing my arms and shouting in my face. I realised a serious disapline talk was in order. I got one of the students to pretend to be the Principal and walk into the room. I went up to him, demonstrating what they were doing to me and asked whether this was okay. I told them that just because I was young and a toubab, it didn’t mean that I wasn’t their teacher, and they should respect me in the same way that they respect their other teachers. Afterwards they clapped! Fingers crossed I won’t be having any problems like those again…

I observed a 4eme English test, where students had to write a paragraph about their favourite musicians. Some of my favourite quotes include:

‘I like Gaston in my heart. GASTON FOREVER.’

‘He have lot of money. Drives a nice car.’

‘Titi is very famous, I am glad of her. I kiss you Titi, you are my favourite artist song.’

‘Pape Diouf is a grand musical.’

‘Dear Jay Z, Jay Z is my favourite artist in the world and if I see he is singing, I will very happy. Best wishes, write soon.’

‘Nobody doesn’t know Celine Dione because singe in a sing of the new generation.’

‘Vivienne is very happy.’

‘Akon is beautiful and rich. He is a handsome boy. He is a gentle man.’


‘Titi is a nice girl, she’s happy on the mbalax. She is the pretty woman of Senegal.’

‘Carlos di is singing the ‘rap’ I can him with there heat because he is a nice boy.’

‘Bob Marley is djameka. He is the ‘rastamen’ he speak espangol, almand and cryol who is president of vemoa. I love very good Bop Marley.’

‘Vraiment il me plait beaucoup.’

I did some maths questions with Binta, who’s basically become our new maid, which is great 🙂 they were just simple adding and subtracting, but it took her ages. You don’t realise how much you really learn at school until you see people like her and the adults in our Wolof class, learning to read, write and do basic calculations.

We had an early Christmas meal in Joal with the family before heading to Dakar for the wedding. Julia and I went with Amadou to purchase two chickens for the roast. This involved going to a kind of chicken farm in someone’s backyard and selecting two live chickens, which were then beheaded before our eyes. I called it, ‘tutti Tabaski’ (tutti means little in Wolof). Binta helped us pluck them after that and Julia prepared a sauce, whilst I cooked the vegetables. Initially we put the veg in the oven to roast, then cooked it for a bit outside on the furnace and after that fried the potatoes as well. Not quite sure why I decided changing methods so much would be a good idea but they tasted good! We also made brownies, served with Senegalese Ardo vanilla yoghurt and lemon and chocolate cookies. Some friends from the neighbourhood came round and we all exchanged gifts. I put up paper snowflakes on the tree outside, but had to take down the snowmen, because Amadou reminded me that Muslims couldn’t have images that were (like) humans hanging up, as they were seen as false idols.

Marieme’s preschool had a Christmas fete. We got to watch a nativity play, the kids getting given presents (Marieme was at the front, out of her seat, ready and waiting!) and ate lots of fataya and donuts. We met an American Peace Corp volunteer called Connie, who apparently has a project with street children that we’d like to get involved in.

So, on to the travels!

The wedding in Dakar was great. We spent the day before making hundreds of donuts and watching a huge cow being slaughtered (worse than Tabaski). The reception involved a lot of pink ribbons and sparkly dresses. ‘My Heart Will Go On’ was playing, as it has done in all the weddings I’ve been to in Senegal so far. The guests were seated in rows facing the couples and the bridesmaids and groomsmen walked down the isle to join them. They danced, then we all danced and gave presents to the brides. There was a long queue of guests waiting to have their pictures taken with them. We left Dakar the next day, (Christmas morning!) and got a sept-places to Saly to meet the other volunteers and Lottie’s family. Saly had more toubabs than I’d seen anywhere else in Senegal. There was a pool right next to the house that Lottie’s family rented, and it was a two minute walk from a beautiful beach. There was a washing machine, oven and a hot shower in the house, which I didn’t realise how much I’d missed. Lottie’s family cooked us a roast chicken dinner and we had croisants and papaya for breakfast. We played Uno, Charades, 20 questions, watched Love Actually and Bridget Jones. It all felt very Christmasy. Lottie’s brothers and father got Senegalese trousers and her mum got a boubou from SJ. It was nice going back to using toliet paper, eating in restaurants and feeling like tourists for a few weeks, but we definitely missed our host family.

We went clubbing once in Saly, but the club was pretty much empty. It was a lot more fun going out in Ziguinshor and meeting all of Lottie and SJ’s friends from the English club. We definitely want to go back to Ziguinshor in the summer and hopefully visit Cap Skiring too. We ended up going to Kafontine for New Years instead of Cap, so we could see the Abene music festival. The hostel we stayed at was quite remote, so it involved a friend of Lottie and SJ’s host to drive us around a bit. It was right next to the beach and a river, and was absolutely beautiful (I’ll upload some photos soon – still waiting for a new laptop cable!) We set off some fireworks on the beach and met a nice Swedish family and some people from the Gambia. The friend of Lottie and SJ’s host took us to his house and served us dinner. It was all a bit surreal at this point, as we were slightly confused as to why we were eating dinner with a random family and not at a festival or in a club on New Year’s Eve… We ended up missing all the music acts and just caught a few bonfires before heading back to the hostel. It was a bizarre night, but we had fun anyway.

We absolutely loved Ziguinshor and the girls have such a great project. They’re about to start teaching English in a hospital and an orphanage and they have a Saturday project teaching street children, an English club, a Girls’ club and two Lycee classes. Unfortunately, some of the projects they’re able to do are more difficult to set up in Joal, as it’s a much smaller town and Amadou described the people as far less cooperative. We went to two English club meetings and helped with two of the girls’ classes as well. The students all seemed really enthusiastic and had a very good standard of English.

Julia and I spent two days in Dakar before coming home. We went to the Ile de Goree on Friday and had a tour from a man called Badou, who Lottie and SJ met when they went there. We visited the slavery museum and Julia tried out some sand painting. The giraffe she made ended up being given to a lovely old Italian man who we met their. He took us for coffee, bissap juice and to an Italian import shop in Dakar where he got us pasta and sauce. He seemed very sad when we couldn’t join him for dinner as well, but we already had plans to meet Aicha’s nephew, Maky. On our second day in Dakar we went to the market with Oumou, and then embarked upon an extremely long sept-places journey home.

Now that I’m back, I’ve started marking my classes end of term exams. So far the highest mark is 19/20 and the lowest, 3/20. Got about 16 papers left to check now, out of 120…

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