Katie Kocyan, MPH
Oct. 10, 2012
The past couple mornings have been quite calm and relaxing. While Gaby, Angel, and Charles have been going to observations in the morning, the rest of the team has had time to work on things and relax before the unnoticeable morning weather led to an awareness of humidity and eye-squinting sun rays. Today has been pretty much a day of rest, and also one of the hottest days I have felt here. But that changed in the afternoon when rain swept through our area bringing cool air with it. Today has also been a good example of the importance of community here in Senegal, especially in village life.
We have finally gotten used to greeting people in the street everyday, shaking their hands, and sometimes stopping to have conversations of nodding, laughing, and exchanging the same words over again. We had a successful ‘conversation’ about our names with two elderly men sitting by the side of the road. We each have Senegalese names and when we go around saying hello we often get asked our names. The elderly men ask our last names, and sometimes they will let you know if they approve of the name you are associated with. (There are friendly rivalries here between family names, resulting in banter, similarly to sports as illustrated by the way Andrew teases Charles about the Cardinals beating the Washington Nationals). They approved of mine and Angel’s, but when Gaby says her name people often give a disapproval by shaking their head, giving a frown, or giving a hand motion coming from the mouth (as if throwing up), which is what one of the elderly men did today. He was clearly disgusted by her name and mentioned that her family eats beans, but we all got a good laugh out of that one.
Today we also passed the village Chief, who sits right across where we stay, and we greeted him as always. However, today we found out that the Chief was not happy with us greeting him. We passed him earlier during the day sitting outside across from where we come out and we yelled our greetings over to him and our responses. On our way back, we had one of the Peace Corps volunteers with us who spoke his language, and that is when we found out that when we saw him earlier he was not happy with us- we said our greetings from a distance of about 15 feet. It was nice of him to want us to come close to greet him and shake his hand, and that is due to the community here being so remarkable. Even though we do not speak the language here, we are still able to communicate and somewhat understand each other because the community allows it to be that way. It’s a very friendly and open place. Life in America is very busy and goes by fast, but here people take time for themselves and each other, this will make it hard getting back into the fast-paced American life upon our return.