Friday, February 4, 2011

Sand instead of snow, water-less pools, creepy Santa masks, and dancing to drumming – my second Christmas in Senegal

Here’s a recap of my second Christmas in Senegal:

I got a package from a friend soon after Thanksgiving that had some Christmas supplies: a small wooden Christmas tree, evergreen incense, and an advent calendar, complete with a chocolate for every day! I had to take a picture of the beautiful Christmas arrangement for my hut that I was able to make with these supplies:

This (kind of creepy) Santa mask that Jen bought in the Kaolack market for about 50 cents shows up throughout these photos.

I spent my second Christmas in Senegal in another PCV’s (Jen) village and nearby “campement” (i.e., rustic resort). I spent Christmas Eve morning baking goodies to bring (such as banana bread, cinnamon rolls, and cookies) and then we (several other PCVs and I) went to Jen’s village that afternoon. We (Cora, Emily, and Toby) met Jen, Peter, and Jenny at the nearby campement, which is run by a French couple, who were just getting ready to officially re-open for their busy season (Jen had talked to them ahead of time to let ask them if we could spend the day there, and they said it wouldn’t be a problem at all). There, we all had a beer and relaxed, enjoying the beautiful weather, flowering trees, and wondering if the pool would be magically filled that night so we could go swimming the next day.

When the sun was just starting to set, we left for Jen’s village, getting a ride for most of the way from her host family’s horse-pulled charette. On the way back we stopped at the boutique at the bigger village on the main road where Jen had bought the last of the ingredients her host mother would need to cook the Christmas dinner she was going to make for us (and the rest of their family). After we all took short showers (it’s chilly now at night, especially when you’re showering with well water, so we’ve all become very efficient when showering), we made cider, listened to music, and danced (with Jen’s zillions of host siblings) while we waited for dinner. Toby even played his drum a little, which the kids loved. (They have a similar tradition of playing drums here, though Toby’s drum is a little different from their style of drum.)

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Jen requested my (and several others’) favorite village dinner: millet with beans in a peanut-based sauce (without dried fish – that stuff totally ruins the meal). Then we hung out some more and went to bed (Cora, Emily, and I stayed with Jen while Toby and Peter walked the 10 minutes back to Peter’s village; Jenny had met us at the campement but decided just to go back to her own village for the night, which is a couple kilometers in the opposite direction from the campement).

The first thing we did the next morning ws go to the well to get water – the first time I’ve ever done that on Christmas morning. While it wasn’t tiring at all (the women at the well wouldn’t even let us pull the water ourselves, so all we had to do was carry the water back to Jen’s hut), it certainly wasn’t as exciting as opening up my stocking, which is the first thing I would do at home…it definitely makes me appreciate the conveniences that allow me to do that a lot more though!

After that, we had to get a picture next to the “Merry Christmas” note Jen had written the previous day on the blackboard outside the library hut that she built for her village.

By this time Toby and Peter had made their way over to Jen’s hut. (Toby in his brand new Christmas “bou-bou” that he got made just for this occasion.) So then it was breakfast time! Breakfast consisted of coffee (real American coffee – and a Christmas blend at that!) and cinnamon rolls. It was delicious!

On our way out to the campement, we got a picture of all of us next to the Merry Christmas note. (Cora made sure Obama was in the photo, too – can you find him?)

We decided to walk the dusty 7-8 km to the campement rather than getting a ride, which was actually quite pleasant, and on the way we saw the tracks of a snake, which was exciting.

Once at the campement, we got a couple bottles of wine and some Sprite, and brought out the rest of the treats for a late morning snack.

Due to complications we had an incomplete white elephant exchange, so Jen and Jenny opened up gifts.

After the short gift opening event, we played a dice game while listening to music and chatting. It was really fun and relaxing. Toby even whipped out his drum a couple times when the music fit.

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We had told the campement we wanted lunch, so they cooked a special meal for us: a small salad to start, and then steak or fish with fries, followed by an assortment of goodies for dessert (chilled bananas, cake, and cream puffs). While it’s not a traditional Christmas lunch (by my standards anyway), it was still delicious!

We were so full from lunch that we couldn’t do much but sit around and talk. I had brought my laptop and portable internet phone, so I plugged that into my computer and was able to Skype with my family. We got cut off numerous times because the connection wasn’t great, but I enjoyed being able to feel like I was part of my family’s Christmas even if I wasn’t there physically.

When the sun was starting to set, we left again, walking home again to try to work up an appetite for the chicken dinner we knew Jen’s mom was cooking for us. The sunset was beautiful that night.

Then we all took quick showers like the previous night, drank hot cider, and chatted while waiting for our chicken dinner, which involved tons of onions in an oily sauce, with village-style fries and village-style fried chicken. Despite all the oil, we cleaned out of the bowl!

Then, since Jen’s dad (the chief of the village and a very religious man) doesn’t allow drumming in his compound, we went to a neighbor’s compound so Toby could play his drum and the boys could dance (a few girls danced, too, but boys dance more to drumming while girls dance more to other music). Everyone loved it – and Toby was exhausted by the time they called it quits more than a half hour later!

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We wished each other Merry Christmas one more time and then hit the sack. We finished up the goodies the next morning, then all met in Peter’s village to get the basic bean sandwich and coffee for breakfast before hiking out to the main road to catch a car back to Kaolack. While I can truthfully say I am glad to be having these unique experiences, I am excited that I will be home next year for Christmas. Non-white Christmas’s just don’t seem like the real thing… :)

1 comment:

  1. Even though it isn't like how you usually celebrate Christmas, it sounded like a lot of fun. And you got to at least spend it with friends and other PVCs! Which is better... than alone :]

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