Not having a good internet connection for the past 2 months has thrown off the cadence of the blog but I will try to summarize the most important points. It is going to be all over the place because having Internet good enough to upload a post is never guaranteed so I have tidbits that I’ve been writing for the last 10 weeks.
So I realized I hadn’t explained what the past few months looked like for me. The first 10 weeks make up what is referred to as pre-service training where you get intensive language classes (7-8 hours a day of Bambara). We are with a host family during our pre-service training. This is time to try to integrate and learn the culture and language as much as possible. Midway through we get to visit our site (the place where we will be living and working for the next 2 years) and we do a weeklong site visit.
I got REALLY lucky with my host family because the majority of them speak French and they’re super awesome and nice. I’m really going to miss them when I go to site =( Whenever I started feeling sad and missing my family back home I would just look around and feel happy and relieved that I feel comfortable with this family because my experience in Senegal was not always rainbows and sunshine. We had some nice moments but it doesn’t compare to how much I like this family. I really want to try to keep in contact with them during my 2 years here. It’s not gonna be easy but I’d like to visit them maybe once every 2 months.
My somogow (word in Bambara for members of your household) consists of my host dad Boubacar Traoure who is 75 which is a big deal here because you are respected the older you are and its rare to make it to 80. He was a veterinarian but now he has lost his eyesight. I love talking to him. He’s super nice to me and tells me that I’m smart =D He has 2 wives, Ma (I am named after her) and Mariam. There are about 4 other families there: Abdoulaye and his wife Fatoumata and their 3 daughters (this is the family I am closest to because they are hosting me), Amadou and Alima and their son, Salim and his wife Jene with their 3 kids and Tene who is divorced and has one child. There is another kid that I’m not sure who his parents are but for the most part I can place whose child is who.. this isn’t the case with other volunteer’s host families who have 10+ kids. In West Africa, the tradition is for the sons to remain in the home so basically all the brothers in the family live in the compound with their families and the sisters will stop by very often. In my family, they are living together for now because they all have small kids but I was talking to my host brother Abdoulaye and he said that they all have other houses. The brother that got married recently had to move out to a house next door because there was no more room for him there. Abdoulaye said that once his kids are older and they need more space they will probably move. This is probably not the case for most families but the family I’m living with is pretty well relative to other families.
One day, Abdoulaye’s sister came to visit and she started talking about her husband wanting a fourth wife. She said that she and the second wife know that their husband wants/is looking for a fourth wife but apparently the third one doesn’t know. Abdoulaye thought it was crazy. He said “How can he be looking for a fourth wife? He’s going to die young because taking care of 4 wives is hard work. How can he satisfy 4 women? It’s not easy.” Haha. I was cracking up at this. His sister said she doesn’t mind her husband having other wives because then she has time that she can travel. Apparently the husband has to spend 2 days with each wife.
This Friday marks the end of Pre-Service training and we will swear in as official volunteers!