School and the Strikes

We’ve been seeing a lot of Connie, a Peace Corp volunteer in Joal, recently. She introduced us to her neighbour, Samba, who is a Batik and tie-dye artist. He’s set up an art club for 5eme students (year 8s) in another school here. Julia and I have been to the first two classes and really enjoyed it. He was speaking to them about the philosophy behind art and got everyone to draw their perception of art and explain it to the group afterwards. In our art club yesterday, we did colour mixing with paints, then got them to paint their hands and make prints. With the English club in the primary school, we sang ‘I Can Sing a Rainbow’ and taught them the colours. On St. David’s Day, we planned to do a Welsh-themed English club in the middle school, I was going to bake Welsh cakes, downloaded the national anthem and some other tunes, etc. but then the competition actually started! So we scrapped those plans and had the first round of the ELA (English Lovers’ Awards) with 5emes competing. My two classes were against each other, and both did really well. In our IT class the following week, we got students to make posters about it and review the match. One of the English teachers, Mr Yade suggested that Julia and I take over classes that haven’t had lessons in two months, due to their teachers being on strike. I thought this was a really good idea and have offered to help out, considering it’s March and there is still no teaching in the lycee. However, it’s up to those who are on strike. I really hope they agree to let us teach! The week before, we did a debate with the English club on whether Wade was too old to be president. The students came up with some really good arguements. Wade didn’t manage to get enough votes to remain in power, so there will be more elections on the 25th March. It was originally going to be the 18th, but they have postponed them, the government are doing everything they can to stay in power. The other day Marieme announced that she was Abdoulaye Wade, then changed her mind and called herself Macky Sall, (his competitor who Aicha is supporting). Because of the elections, lots of our friends have come back to Joal from university in Dakar and Saint Louis, which is nice. One of the downsides to Joal is that there is no university here, so people our age aren’t here all the time. Julia is doing her community report for Project Trust on politics, and she’s got some really good interviews for it so far in French and Wolof. We managed to go to schools where people were voting and take some photos as well. I plan to do a book for my community project, and as I was cycling home from school I looked over at a stall with some books in to see if any would be suitable and fell off my bike, breaking the peddle at the same time. So embarrassing. On a completely different note, Julia and I found a Zara in Mbour! We were way too excited, plus it was surprisingly cheap, so both got some leggings and a top.

Amadou took me to a naming ceremony a while back and I had a good chat with Madame Sow, another English teacher. She was telling me about how she converted from Christianity to Islam before she got married. Her name used to be Marie Anne, but she changed it to Mariama. I asked her whether her parents minded about her converting, and she said that as long as she practiced properly whatever religion she was, they were okay with it. Three sisters before her did the same thing. She told me that it wasn’t due to her husband being a Muslim that she converted, but I wonder if she had fallen in love with a Christian she would have done the same thing. Amadou said that his marriage to Aicha was arranged. He said he was reluctant at first, as they had never met before, but he prayed to Allah to ask for guidance and accepted to please his father.

After the naming ceremony, Julia and I decided to buy some chickens. I went to one of the teachers houses and waited for over an hour for his second wife to arrive home, as she had the keys. I continuously forget how slow everything is here. Due to me being away for so long, Julia had to prepare Thiebudiene alone, and the girl who was meant to help her never showed up. She forgot a crucial ingredient; salt. The Senegalese love their sugar and salt. We need more practice cooking the dishes on our own though, so we know that we can make them alright without help. Anyway, finally Madame Fall II arrived a picked out two chickens, before calling over a passerby to slit their throats. I then had to pluck and gut them (not sure if you use gut when talking about meat and not fish but oh well) whilst Julia finished cooking the Thieb. We’ve got a new maid again, who Aicha fired after about a week, but she’s back to work now promising to stop lazing about the house and start cleaning. Aicha came home twice to find me doing the washing up and was not happy.

I’ve started giving our neighbour, Awa, English lessons and she’s been teaching me Wolof. It takes me a ridiculously long time to put phrases together so the dialogue is pretty broken up at the moment, but hopefully after another five months I’ll get there…

Last weekend, we went to Kaolack, finally! Felt bad about not going back there for such a long time, but it was really nice to see everyone. The food seemed better, we were able to communicate with Mama more, as we can speak / understand more Wolof and we got to see characters such as Omar from the shop again. Went clubbing on the Saturday night and felt slightly out of place as I forgot how much of an effort people make here getting dressed up, but still managed to dance until about 5am and get back in time to hear the kids already awake and reciting the Qur’an. We got introduced to some of Conor and Babs’ friends, ‘Ass’ and ‘Hass’. At first I thought they were both called ‘Ass’, which is bizarre enough, then asked if it was short for ‘Assane’ and he said, ‘no, no, it’s just Ass’. How unfortunate. We plan to go back to Kaolack in Easter on our way to the Gambia.

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