When I first arrived, I was tired, jittery, and incredibly nervous. Aysha greeted me at the door--I remember thinking that she was so pretty--and led me in to talk with Maman Toure (me with my stuttering French, her with eternal patience). Maman gave me my Senegalese name (it's Daba, by the way) and told me that I was welcome, and that I should consider this house to be my house. I think it was Ousmane who carried my incredibly heavy bag up to my room, and then it was Fana showed me my closet, my bathroom, and my bed. In about an hour, I had moved in, but only technically. I became a part of the family over the next few months: eating dinner in the courtyard, watching TV in the salon, doing laundry on the terrace. I now know how to unlock the door and where to leave my laundry and what it sounds like when Fatou is setting out the table and plastic chairs for dinner (I listen for that). I'm tuned into the people, and the house that is now my home. On the endless weekend afternoons, my favorite thing to do is to make tea for them all--carrying it around to all the rooms, collecting the glasses, and getting their smiles when they know that, yes, it was me who made it this time. After growing up as an (almost) only child, it's a strange miracle to have so many siblings in my house.
My sisters: Aysha and Fana
Me and my sisters talk about guys and about shopping and about all those differences between America and Senegal. We watch TV together and eat dinner together and sometimes I pull some mbalax moves to make them laugh. They invite me to come to the store, to go on a walk with them--just for the company, and just to get me out of the house and into the wider Dakar world. Aysha is dramatic and bubbly; Fana, an excellent storyteller and a hard worker. (And I have two other sisters, Adji and "Mama," professional who have married and moved out to their husbands' homes.)
My brothers: Ousmane, Tidiane, Djim
Me and my brothers talk about Obama and Senegalese politics. We make tea and eat dinner together. They are all busy, ambitious, and accomplished--working at the school, or in computer networking. They will live together in the house after they are married (not anytime soon, it seems); the unfinished third floor will become their apartments.
Maman Toure, wearing the shawl Mom gave to her
Maman has raised seven children to adulthood, earned her Master's, traveled to France, and started her own school. Now she welcomes American students into her home, saying that all children in the world are really the children of all the mothers in the world.
Papa has worked as a minister in the Senegalese government and has visited more placed in the United States than I have. He's retired, but still welcomes friends and former dignitaries into the house to discuss current events and to do research. He likes his tea very light (the third boil), with plenty of mint, and with diabetic sugar.
Okay, sorry for the brief post, but I've really got to get back to work. I have two major research papers due next week and a Peace Conference that I have been chosen to go to on May 12 - 13. Classes end the 14th, and I get a few days to sit on the beach and drink tea before I board a plane headed back to the States. Leaving behind one family for another gives one all kinds of sweet and sad feelings, but I'll have to deal with those in my diary before I even hope to present them in a blog post.