Archive for the 'Grouchiness' Category

I have housing!!

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

It doesn’t even matter that my proxy didn’t show up to register me…I have an apartment!! Rather than employing my time in a desperate cycle of worrying about housing followed by berating myself for wasting my time worrying about housing, I am now free to grouch away at the Kalamazoo registrar who are not answering my e-mails. I kind of need them to clear me so that I can, you know, have classes when I come home…

If they never do that, am I free to stay here through the end of the year? *wink wink*

Marché

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

(Yikes!!

It is my mission to see these places before they destroy them.)

As of tomorrow, I have three weeks left to the day. I had my first frightening dream about going home this afternoon, while I was in the process of taking a 3.5 hour nap instead of taking care of any of the numerous required assignments I should be finishing. (Not to suggest for a moment that I didn’t procrastinate before, but Sénégal has put me into some terrible habits. Fortunately I’m still excellent at stressing myself out, so I should re-adjust to college life fairly easily.)

I exhausted myself this morning by going into town to search for gifts, and not finding a single thing. It’s not so much that I didn’t see anything that was appropriate gift material, but moreso that it’s hard to be treated as a tourist. I wish I had bought tourist-y gifts before I got to the point of understanding my surroundings.

Beaded jewelry, wooden statues of elephants (which don’t live in Sénégal, by the way), and all manner of other crazy things for which the Sénégalese generally have no use.

In this particular market, you are guaranteed to pick up a man who wants to lead you to his shop within the first five minutes. If you’re firm enough to shake him off, he is likely to call you racist. And then you find a new one thirty seconds later.

Lately I’ve been conversing with them in Wolof. They’re usually quite nice, and they don’t harrass you like some of the others. I enjoy the conversations, but the unpleasant side-effect is that you usually end up having to follow along all the way to their shop and/or get lost on some wild goose chase. I’m always firm about telling them that I’m not going to buy anything, but they never believe me. Even when I do plan to buy something, I NEVER do so in their presence. I always wait to shake them off.

There is one gratifying effect of the conversation route; I love hearing the words “she’s not a tourist” coming out of a vendor’s mouth. Alxamdulilaay.

A Point of Interest

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7226346.stm

So.  I wanted to post the link, because it’s kind of a big scandal around here.  Also, it made the international news which doesn’t happen every day.  Then I realized that I had no idea what I wanted to say alongside the article, and decided to post the link alone until I thought of something better.

The problem is that I still haven’t thought of anything better.  Part of the problem is that I don’t know too much about the issue in the first place.  It is an extremely marginalized corner of the culture.  You just don’t talk about it.  The rough extent of what I know?

-The word for homosexual is “goor jigéen”, translating literally as “boy girl” or “man woman”.

-Sénégal is a Muslim country.  Open homosexuality is not accepted, or even acknowledged.  Ask the general population and they’ll tell you that it does not exist; “it’s unnatural”.

-Political art is one area where there is public “acceptance” (for lack of a better term) of homosexuality, e.g. a popular singer who titles himself Goor Jigéen.

-Most gays are married with families, living “normal, socially acceptable lives”.

-Not all Sénégalese are prejudiced against them; they just don’t talk about it.

See?? That’s all I really.  It’s interesting, because Western culture resists too.  It has been the work of decades to change things to where they currently stand.

So what makes the difference?  Values.  It’s the effect of a uniformly religious society.  In a way, it’s the same old fight.  It’s not Islam that oppresses women (or in this case gay people), but the practice of interpreting the guidelines and values of Islam in ways that serve men (or hetereosexuals).  It’s taking rules intended to protect the prophet’s wives, and turning them around to control women in general. Placing men, like some half-deity, between women and god rather than using the structure of Islam to create equality.

It’s the failure of religions in general to change with the times.  A refusal to adapt and modify in order to accurately reflect how the world has changed; how a culture has changed.

I’m not saying that Sénégalese culture is “behind” in some way because it does not accept homosexuality while we are moving toward it.  Simply that is different from my own. It can be difficult to escape from thinking to myself that Sénégal has not had a gay revolution “yet”.  Perhaps someday there will be a social movement that changes these views, and perhaps not.  If so I, for one, can’t say what form that would take or what that would look like.

Urchin-Mouse

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

Okay fine, I was wrong. It’s “cold” now, at least during the night. I woke up at 6:30 AM and couldn’t sleep because I was cold with just a sheet. I got up for my sweater and towel, made a nest, and failed to warm up enough for a nap. I passed the time by unintentionally starting to write a story (mentally), but it wasn’t very good. My alarm finally went off at eight, and I crawled out from under my mosquito net and started the day. By midday it was hot, but I guess I can no longer complain.

This sea urchin pretty accurately describes how I felt about the whole ordeal, although it helped that we a) celebrated Hannukah and b) had to cancel a class. After a good nap things ought to be fluffy again-and tonight I’m going to ask for a blanket!!