Heather in Senegal

Monday, May 22, 2006

April 18
Today I woke feeling a little sick in the throat. I didn’t really think I had a fever, but the medical suitcase we were given contains a thermometer, so I decided to postpone my bucket bath by learning my temperature. After a few tries that yielded numbers like 95, 98, and 101, I gave the thermometer a vigorous shake, thinking to reset it and get a fresh start. It flew out of my hand and smashed on the floor. The mercury spread out into many little balls. If you roll one towards another, the two unite when they touch. I sat on the floor in my pajamas playing with my eventually big ball of mercury, experimenting with how it feels to touch mercury and how the substance reacts to being poked and prodded by other objects, until when shifting my position to retrieve the ball after one particularly forceful push, and I placed myself on top of a tiny sharp shard of the thermometer that has been stinging my thigh ever since.
However, language class went well today. When Nick, the source of my throat and glass problems, left class at my urging after spending the first thirty minutes looking worriedly into his hands after each loud cough to see what had emerged, I discovered that my language class has been one person too big. After Nick went to the sick-bay, I excelled. I am usually the slow student, still taking notes on one concept when Nick and Samba are beginning the next, which frequently leads to Samba waiting for me to answer questions that I never actually heard. But today, partially because he went at my pace, and partially because as the only person there to answer Samba’s questions I had to be on the ball for the whole class, I excelled. I think the demoralizing feeling of giving blank stares has been making me slower. Feeling today like I was doing well made me act smarter. Also, I used a little trick to gain some respect. Yesterday Samba began teaching the future tense. He covered the first class of verbs but didn’t have time reach the second and third. Last night I consulted the grammar book, and today I very nonchalantly spoke in the future tense using a second class verb with the correct suffix. Samba nearly fell over. He asked how I knew the verb structure. I replied in Fulakunnda it was because I am Senegalese.


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