Monday, January 23, 2012

Senegalese Etiquette Lunch

12:00 - Introductions:  How to greet by asking the same questions repeatedly and always answering with ‘Peace’
Brief round table discussion on how to turn down marriage proposals effectively and how not to be offended by an obvious disregard for your opinion on the matter
12:20 - Sitting:  The art of sitting on hard surfaces for long periods of time without much conversation and without falling asleep
2:00 - Eating:  Practice eating in groups of 10 around one bowl as efficiently and quickly as possible
           *Only the oldest male at each bowl is allowed a spoon
            *Remember, for that extra classy kick, keep your left thumb on the rim of the bowl!
2:10 - Tea:  How to make tea
-          Water to sugar ratios
-          Foam making contest
-          Slurp!  Slurp!  Slurp!
4:10 - Money: How to politely decline indirect requests for monetary help  immediately followed by a session on saying no when people ask you to give them money
4:30 - Departure:  You are free to leave, if you come from far away, please inquire about reimbursement  for tickets home

Better Huts and Gardens: Senegal

Nestled between the bustling city of Tambacounda and the metropolitan Kedegou lies the quaint jaxanke and bambara village of Madjaly.  Full of traditional hard working Senegalese farmers, this area could be counted as one of the most productive peanut basins in the world.  Visit in April to enjoy freshly grown, sun ripened mangoes of the popular Sierra Lion variety.  As you stroll down one of Madjaly’s neeme lined boulevards, listening to donkeys braying, goats coughing, and children screaming, you might notice the posh hut sitting at the end of the Traore compound.  Made with cement bricks and painted with modern designs, it will first intrigue you, but this is just an appetizer of the wonders that await inside.  Upon entering you will immediately feel welcomed into the thoughtfully designed space.  The front door is not actually at the front of the hut, but off to the side.  This ingenuitive placement affords the inhabitant some privacy from the commotion of the compound, allowing one some extra quite to sleep soundly through the night and discouraging little children from entering the room.  Second you will notice that there is a 2 meter tall screen door to protect and allow a nice breeze to enter the room.  Inside are traditional raised relief designs carved onto the wall, painted a bold purple to further the sleek modern yet fused with tradition vibe, which permeates the hut.  A smooth cement bed lies in the corner, inviting weary travelers to sleep soundly knowing no mice are living underneath their tired heads.  Sometimes the charm comes from the quality of the craftsmanship and attention to detail.  Walls are tall and even, cement coated their entire length to the ceiling.  Corners are square and lines are straight.  Extra care was even taken in the construction of the roof, by lining it with plastic to keep the leaks at bay during the battering storms of the rainy season.  A second screen door was installed in the back to ensure maximum circulation with minimum pests.
This hut’s combined beauty and functionality makes it one of Peace Corps’ most desired places to live.  Be careful, if you move in you may just never want to leave.