Wednesday, December 23, 2009

homestay assignment

I've just received notice from Joanne Picard, the Dean of International Studies at Mount Holyoke and the one of the supreme coordinators of this program, about my homestay.  I will be living with Famille Touré, headed by Papa, a retired government worker, and Maman, the director of a boarding school.  They have seven children, five of whom live with them--Tidiane (34), who works as a consultant, and his wife, Mberi; Ousmane (29), who works at the boarding school; Djim (27) who works in computer technology; Fana (23) who's a student and Aicha (20) who is also a student.  (This is terrific.  They can help me with my French and Wolof homework, and maybe I can help them with their English work.)  They all live together in Mermoz, a wealthy neighborhood in Dakar (check out the map of the city below).  The description of Famille Touré that Ms. Picard provided says that they are all "very kind and used to host American students."

I will be the baby of the family!  Most of the other homestay families also have adult children, and experience with foreign students.  Several have maids that take care of the house.  Mermoz is, as I said, one of Dakar's wealthiest neighborhoods.

I should also add that it is commonplace--perfectly normal--for children to live with their parents until they get married.  In the case of young men, they often live with their parents until they have enough money to marry, because they must be able to afford a bridewealth (money paid to the family of the bride, in order to compensate for the loss of a daughter--or, if you're more cynical, to buy her).

Earlier today, a friend of the family called, named Anne.  Anne is an older woman--bright, kind, and curious.  She was very excited for me and the opportunities that young people get to have "these days," but she was a little worried that I might be staying in a thatched hut.  I explained that Dakar is one of the most Westernized cities in one of the most Westernized countries in Africa--as well as being thoroughly cosmopolitan, tolerant, and hospitable--and that I would be staying with an upper-middle class family.  Anne was relieved.

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