moving on in cordoba, spain

My ears perk as the familiar words of the Islamic call to prayer reverberate down a tangled street of Cordoba. I walk faster so I can stand beneath the awning of the giftshop where the call is emanating from. The call is so much sweeter and melodious than the one I had grown used to in Senegal. I instinctively reached for my iPhone to grab a recording to play for Baba Weliba (my Senegalese father). But, with the last Allahu Akbar I remember that this isn’t a vacation, and that I’m not going back home to Senegal. I won’t be… read this post

so this is awa

africa, child, kid, playing, senegal, peace corps,

Meet my youngest Senegalese sister, Awa. Likes: bubbles, dancing, hanging out in my room, her imaginary friend “Fatou” and bathing in big tubs (called benoirs). Dislikes: shoes, beans, bananas, and getting her hair braided. Superhuman power: squealing/yelling in a high pitch voice (imagine Elmo’s voice—now take it 4 octaves higher). Disclaimer: The contents of this blog are mine alone and do not represent the positions or views of the U.S. Government or the U.S. Peace Corps.

shit my senegalese dad says

senegalese, dad, father, african, peace corps, family

Meet my Senegalese Dad, Weliba. He is a husband (multiple times), teacher, and father to countless children. He speaks mumbled Pulaar infused with French. He also insists on beginning each of our interactions with the phrase “Rokia, my daughter” and what comes after is usually highly amusing. Dad: Rokia, my daughter, why don’t you do sport? (He means “exercise”) Me: Because I don’t want to. Dad: But it is necessary. Some day you may need to defend yourself. You know, like from an attacker. Dad: Rokia, my daughter, I noticed you slept with your door open last night. You must… read this post

so this is mama

senegal, child, kid, girl, little girl, senegalese

So after a long and difficult transition–I’ll spare you the details as they involve a lot of boring Peace Corps logistics and me turning into a slight alcoholic for 3 months– I have moved in with a new host family in Kedougou. Life is good. I drink a little bit less. And my crazy level has stabilized–at least for now. Also, I have a new last name now. You can call me Rokia Diallo. I’m sure I will be writing about my new family often, I’ll begin by introducing you to my little sister, Mama. She is my bestie and… read this post

cry baby

jaxanke, pulaar, peace corps, kedougou, volunteer, senegal, west africa

I have the unique experience of being the eighth Peace Corps volunteer living with my Senegalese family. As a rule, village sites in Senegal have volunteers for six years (which means three different volunteers live with the family) before the site is closed and volunteers are placed elsewhere. Cities however are an exception to this rule. There is no exact cycle of volunteers in the cities, and APCDs (Associate Peace Corps Directors) can choose to place volunteers in a city for as long as they deem necessary. Thus, my family has been hosting volunteers for over a decade. It is… read this post

rokia no suusi

centipede, insect, africa, peace corps, senegal, west africa

Rokia (that’s me!) is brave. It‘s official, my life here in Senegal has come full circle. With a strange reversal of roles, I was reminded of how far I have come, and how much has changed during my short time here… Yesterday afternoon I was hanging out in the compound with my family when my oldest sister, Hãr, runs out of the douche (shower area)–half naked and screaming. I jump to my feet and ask her what was wrong. She replied “gilngii!” “gilngii inder douche”. I was confused. I was pretty sure a gilngii was a centipede. But I was… read this post

new shoe

shoes, senegal, peace corps, africa, flip flops

My shoe broke today. Serendipitously it broke as I tripped into my neighborhood boutique (the Senegalese equivalent of a general store). Since I didn’t want to walk back to my house with one bare foot, I decided to buy a pair of cheap Chinese manufactured (read–low quality) flip flops. Since just one of my shoes broke, I only replaced the one broken shoe with a new shoe, instead of putting on both new shoes. And I walked home with one new flip flop and one old flip flop. I never realized that my neighbors and family were so observant. During… read this post

mango season

mangos, senegal, fruit, africa, peace corps

Every morning I open my front door to a neat pile of fresh yellow-green mangos on my front step.  Almost like breakfast-in-bed, Senegalese style. My youngest brother, Abibou and nephew, Jiby (both around 12 years old) are harboring huge crushes on me, and have been in competition for my attention for the past few months.  For awhile they would fight over who would get to pull my water from the well, or find a plastic chair for me to sit in, or who could keep the small kids away from me when I am reading.  But last week, they saw… read this post

drinking from the africa cup

tv, television, marina, soap opera, senegal, africa, west africa, peace corps

We interrupt your regular programming to bring you the Africa Cup of Nations… The women in my household have been cranky over the past couple of weeks.  Their favorite soap opera Marina (a Mexican telenovela dubbed in French) was bumped from its primetime slot by the Africa Cup football (soccer) matches. Every afternoon and every evening all the men (and a couple young girls) gather around my family’s tiny TV to watch and cheer on their favorite team (Senegal didn’t qualify, so everyone picked different teams).  And it wasn’t just my family.  Every single household in Kedougou brought out their… read this post

fanta

kids, senegal, peace corps, africa, west africa

It is really hard to be an “adult” here. What I mean by that is, I struggle with my limited language skills and constant cultural blunders to fit in with adults. The first hour is usually fine. We can talk about America or Senegal or my job, but beyond that there really isn’t much more I can say. The result of this is that I spend a lot of time with the “kids”. And the person I spend the most time with is my 8-year old niece, Fanta. Fanta is the daughter of my oldest sister, Hãr (remember the brave… read this post