Heather in Senegal

Thursday, July 13, 2006

June 24 Saturday
Today I went to my first Peace Corps Girls Club meeting. Each of the six volunteers in attendance brought a girl age eight through twelve. When I told Neenee, my host mom, that I needed a girl, she suggested I go to some neighbors whom I often visit and ask if I might borrow their daughter, Jenabu, for the day. Jenabu’s parents were happy to oblige. When I went to pick her up this morning she was dressed better than I, wearing jeans embroiedered with flowers, a red blouse, and high heels. She was carrying a freshly pressed handkerchief. Even in a clean and ironed skirt and button down shirt I feel like a shlub next to the women of Senegal.
Jenabu smiled at me as if I was Santa Claus. It feels terrific to get such a reception from a cute ten year old. We had a fifteen minute walk to the regional house, and she held my hand through most of it. When I admitted I was lost, she gallently led the way and never seemed to fault me for the detour.
Jenny was already at the house with her girl. They had set up crayons and paper, so the four of us drew our houses and families until the others arrived. I focused on the house part of my drawing because I really do not know who is in my family. When all the girls and volunteers were finally at the house, Whitney served hot milk and bread. I took Jenabu to the house’s swing and pushed her and twisted her up in it. Then we all played frisbee.
The featured part of the club’s meeting was a short discussion on malaria, what causes it, who is most vulnerable to it, and how to avoid it. Allison found a small puddle of standing water, and as if it had been planted there specifically to be Exhibit A, it was rife with young swimming mosquitos. This was my first time seeing the babies. Yuck. The girls were shy about volunteering to answer questions, but when I whispered answers to Jenabu and then elbowed her in the ribs she was good about raising her hand. After the educational segment, the group made a moisturizing lotion out of household goods, and then the girls flipped through the house’s National Geographic and People magazines, drew, played on the swing, and made friends with each other. Every ten minutes or so Jenabu would catch my eye and flash me a huge smile.
As people began to go home, Jenabu told me she wanted to bath. She seemed clean enough to me, but I guess she wanted to smell fresh when she got home. After she took a shower and everyone else left, we played a few games of checkers. On our walk back to her house, as usual, people hollered, “Toubob!” at me. This lovely little girl squeezed my hand and called back, “My name is Jenabu, not Toubob!”


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