Heather in Senegal

Saturday, September 30, 2006

September 22
Yesterday afternoon my host mom, Neenee, asked or told me that today she would be having a group of boys over to pray in my hut. She was vague. Hoping that if I just followed the Senegalese way of politely agreeing to a date even when there is no intention to show up, I nodded and changed the subject. We have had issues with my hut and precisely who should be using the space. She thought that she would be able to continue napping in the livingroom as she had been doing before I came. She walked in and napped a few times, much to my silent chagrin. When she one day told me to open the hut so she could lay down I refused to do so, and a small fight ensued. She insisted that if I want to be Senegalese I must embrace the Senegalese way of sharing things and space, while I explained that as an American, or more specifically, as someone who is constantly called to, watched, and approached in public, I need a safe space of my own to keep me from losing my mind. She was angry, but for a long time she accepted this.
Although it had been my intention to be elsewhere, away from home, with my hut locked, at the prayer hour, I forgot, and five o'clock found me practicing violin in my bedroom. Neenee knocked on my window's door, and she told me the boys had arrived. While I packed up my violin, she moved my desk and chair into the corner of my livingroom. She set a bowl of food and a bowl of water where my desk had stood, and after the boys came in, she told me to exit. There were nine boys, ranging from 11 to 24 years old. Two of them live in my compound, and I recognized most of the others from the neighborhood.
The boys ate in silence while Neenee and I sat outside. She explained to me that she was doing "seduka" by hosting them. She never said why they had to be in my hut rather than in her batiment or on the cement under the shade structure where people often congregate, and I did not ask. Soon the boys beckoned us back into my hut. Neenee placed my hands in my lap, palms up, and instructed me to say, "amen," whenever the boys finished a phrase. There was chanted, alternating between one soloist, the group in unison, and the occasionally the group mouthed silently in unison. When they finished the prayers they brushed their hands over their faces and left. Neenee and I put my room back to how it had been, and then she poured the bucket of water on the floor in my doorways.


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