Pictures from Senegal

Wednesday, March 2

Family Bio

Peace Corps Volunteers in Senegal are assigned to live in host families as a means of protection, integration, and cultural experience. All gripes aside, my family is pretty great and I’d like to tell you a bit about each one of them.

Samba (Badji) Ndaw Birthday 21 May 1962. My host father’s family hails from Touba, one of the holiest cities in Islamic Senegal. He’s a typical Wolof. For work, he’s a quality control manager at the chemical processing plant at the mining factory of Mboro. He’s high enough in the food chain to secure our family a house in the manager’s neighborhood where water and power are supplied free from the factory. Thanks, Dad. His lifelong dream of owning his own car came true in the fall of 2009. He bought a used car, that broke down shortly after, and we are now on our 3rd family car: a 1999 BMW. He also loves computers and when can’t surf the internet, he enjoys playing solitaire while watching soccer on TV. He dreams of owning farming land with drip irrigation and a small house so that he can spend time there to “get away from the noise of the kids.” He already has the land, but the rest is forever in progress.

Ndiaye Anna Ba Birthday 16 January 1972. My host mother was born in Mboro. She went to school in Thies, then University in Dakar, but moved back to become a director and teacher at a private preschool in Mboro. A decent of Pulaars (with a Catholic name-sake grandmother in the mix), her ancestors hail from the north of Senegal. She’s overweight, but on a diet that’s working (or else Dad will get a 2nd wife). She’s recently taken up walking for exercise and has just learned how to drive… so that she can drive herself to the track. Her voice and personality are bigger than she is, but I suspect her heart is too. She’s rarely needs to leave the house to be social because everyone seems to come to her! Appliances are her passion. If it can cook, fry, cool, juice, cut or otherwise use electricity to make life easier she’ll try it. She once bought a microwave because she learned how fast it could heat/ cook things only to hide it in my room for months before talking Samba into giving her the money to buy it. Her second passion is ornamental plants and trees… our backyard is beautiful.

Insa (Ma’Issa) Badji Birthday 21 March 1992. The first son born to Anna, adapted as a member of the family by Samba before his first birthday. He spent the first years of his life at Grandma’s while mom finished studying at University. His father lives elsewhere in Mboro, they have a minimal relationship. He dreams of joining the Senegalese Army where he can receive medical training so that after his service he can be a doctor. Once, he tried to explain menstrual cycles to me but I had flash backs of health class and left. For his birthday, he asks me for condoms. Its emotional things make Issa uncomfortable, and the need for a hug straight up boggles his mind. He speaks enough English to understand me when I go slowly.

Chiek (Pape) Ba Birthday 30 September 1994. The nephew of my mom, he was kicked out of school in Thies for being a “bad boy,” and is most likely to ask you for something, whine when you don’t give it to him, and act hurt when call him out on his behavior. He’s known for asking his mother for something Anna is already in the process of acquiring for him… so that he can have two. His mother lives and works in Mauritania. Pape is frequently in charge of making Senegalese tea for the household at night and feeding the sheep. To continue his bad boy image, he sings American rap songs which have prompted numerous discussions of why the “n” word shouldn’t be used. He’s the only member of the family that doesn’t seem to mind giving me a daily hug or ask about “weird” American things. He loves to be photo graphed just as much as he wants to be your friend on Facebook.

Ibrahima (Seidene) Ndaw Birthday 19 December 1998. The first son of Samba and second of Anna, he is always getting in trouble for his grades. Though he isn’t dumb by any means, he’d just rather be doing something else… like watch TV. Seidene loves music videos. His favorite channel is the MTV-esque station playing a constant stream of French, Senegalese, and American top videos. He’s always singing the hottest song where the words are correct or no (it’s time of my life, not wife! Geez, have you even seen Dirty Dancing???). He acts like I have cooties (I probably do) when I try to give him a hug after long trips away and his friends will seriously make fun of him when I say hi passing them on the street. He’s the only member of the family that calls me “Alys.”

Alioune (Pa) Ndaw Birthday 22 September 2002. The youngest in his class and considered the smartest offspring by my mother, I initially thought of Pa as suffering from middle child syndrome. Now days he doesn’t have trouble making his own headlines in our household. He spent most of last summer in Dakar with an uncle whilst undergoing major orthodontic surgery to correct his awkward teeth. Luckily his goofy smile remains. He uses his own small learning computer to play games and takes Karate classes. His French isn’t all that good, so we don’t have much to talk about.

Ababacar (Baba) Ndaw Birthday 2 April 2006. The favorite of my predecessor. I’m sure he was cute when younger but now that I’m here he’s solidly immersed himself in a terrible post-toddler stage. His hobbies include getting the youngest brother to say inappropriate or bad words, teaching him how to spit, and generally testing the boundaries and limits of every other member of the house hold. “Scapegoat” may not be a part of his vocabulary just yet, but that doesn’t mean he’s unfamiliar with the concept. He’s a brilliant blame passer. He also enjoys Karate class and fake boxing. Baba is a devil in the making with an adorable smile.

Saliou Ndaw Birthday April 20 2008. The youngest and my favorite… for the time being. Saliou is learning Wolof, French and potty training at the same time. I’m slowly adding to his English vocabulary. He enjoys exactly all the same activities as his brother Baba, but especially enjoys riding a bike, rolling a ball or tire, or playing learning games on the computer. He does not like sharing. He’s fully aware that screaming annoys everyone in the house so he’s in a phase of doing so to get what he wants. Aside from the normal kid stuff, he has an unusual calm about him. He can be content to listen to soothing music on my mp3 player or attempting a yoga position or two with me. If he doesn’t understand what you’re saying, he’ll stare at you with the blankest look you’ve ever seen. What? He’s got a knack for blocking out pain as he got circumcised and 2nd degree burns on this foot from boiling porridge- all the in the same day!- yet doesn’t remember any of it.

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