Archive for February, 2008

A Point of Interest

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

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.


Tuesday, February 5th, 2008



I could sit in the tailor’s shop all day and watch people sew. I can’t say my hands don’t ache to steal a machine while I’m at it, but it’s nothing a good knitting project can’t fix.

It is a very good thing that I have this happy power, or I’d never pass my ICRP…

What’ve you got against cardboard boxes??

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Spontaneous laughter is embarrassing. Unfortunately, it is also a condition of which I am extreme prone. For example, right now in the middle of this crowded cybercafé while I read all the responses to my previous post. At least I’m not laughing at Absolutely Nothing, like I usually am. It’s terribly awkward and unfortunate.

The other day I cracked myself up in my courtyard, and laughed helplessly against the wall for about five minutes before I could explain that I was laughing at my mother’s response to my threat that I might live in a cardboard box outside the library. (For reference, all she did was make a disclaimer that I would NOT, in fact, be living in a box. Funny?? Uhm, not really.) My family already thinks I’m weird enough.

Actually, in a funny contrast to my last post, my family calls me jigéen (girl/woman) fairly frequently. The context of this is that I have good “womanly skills” and/or would “make a good wife”. There are many possible political explanations of this statement, but I’ll leave it at one comment for now.

My family is well-educated, particularly for Sénégal. There are at least three doctors in the family, and everyone gets a higher education. There is a daughter living in the states, and many of the grandchildren aspire to studying there through exchange programs. My mother has hosted students for more than ten years. Through pursuit of education and spending time with students, they have a better understanding of Western culture than many (example: Taxi Driver).

They also have a broader idea of the meaning of “women’s roles”. When my family makes this type of statement they do not mean for a moment that being a “good wife” should be a woman’s only aspiration in life. It is a comment on basic cultural values and an approval of my interest in fiber arts, personal values, and pursuit of education.

Does it send shivers of righteous indignation down my spine just the same?? Uhm, YES. After a Western feminist upbringing, you never *quite* get used to it.

A Typical Taxi Ride in the Streets of Dakar

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008


Originally uploaded by mouse.courtois

M: Asalaa Maalekuum – Hello
TD: Maalekuum Salaam – Hello
M: Na nga def? – How are you?
TD: Man ngiy fii. – I am here.
M: Man ngiy dem Point E; Piscine Olympique – I’m going to Point E, to the Olympic swimming pool.
*insert bargaining here*
TD: Fan nga jog̩? РWhere do you come from?
M: Amerik la jogé. Man ngiy jàng ci Universite Cheick Anta Diop. Yàgg naa fii juroomi weer. – The U.S. I study at the University here. I’ve been here for five months.
TD: Amerik wàlla Sénégal lan moo gen? – Which country is better?
M: J’aime les deux!! – I like them both!! (Notice the lapse in my Wolof. It was bound to come soon…at this point he continues in Wolof, and although I understood what he said I do not know how to say it myself. I continue mainly in French.)
TD: That’s not what I said. I said gen!!
M: Gen?? As in sortir (to go out)? Or as in preference?? What is gen?
TD repeats himself, but changes the sentence.
M: I said I like them both.
TD: If you’re going to speak Wolof you should understand what’s being said.
M: And how will I learn if I don’t practice what I know? Tell me what you said.
TD: I said *same thing*
M: Dégguma. – I don’t understand.
TD: Well then you should ask me what I said!!
M: I did!!
TD: Don’t you want to know what I said?
M: Fine. What did you say?
TD: It’s a body part.
M: Oh. (I think I see where this is going…)
TD: You know, like arm, or head, or ear, or eye…
M: *pause*
TD: Only men have it.
M: You’re not polite, so I’m changing the subject. How was your day?
TD: Are you married?
M: (switching back to Wolof) Yes I am, my husband lives in the states.
TD: Is he Sénégalese?
M: No.
TD: You need a Sénégalese husband. Marry me.
M: One husband is more than enough.
TD: No, you should have two husbands. It’s better that way.
M: No, I don’t think so. My husband pleases me.
TD: Do you have children?
M: No. Not yet.
TD: Why not?
M: (back to French) We’re students. We need to finish school.
TD: Has your husband not had relations with you?
M: You’re very rude.
TD: I’m not rude, I’m trying to help you learn Wolof. Has he? I could please you sexually.
M: No, you couldn’t please me if you tried. My husband is better than you. You watch too many telenovelas (soap operas with white people eating each others faces on beaches/other public places), and those are not life. You need to learn to respect women. You cannot speak to us like this, what would your mother say?
TD: *giggle giggle*
M: Yeah, okay fine. Have a nice day. RESPECT WOMEN.

So, what do you think?? Believe it or not, the whole thing happened in surprisingly good spirits. I would like to proudly call attention to my personal growth in the last five months that I was able to have a civilized discussion with this man, to hopefully teach him something (which I hope I did, although it does not turn up in this conversation) and to leave without wanting to hang myself in the shower.


Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

Swallowtail, unblocked

I suppose I’ve been in a knitting slump, although I was not aware of it until I finally decided to work on something other than the Azalea Shawl. I’d made a few socks, but my brain was getting tired. Finally, I pulled out some laceweight and cast on.

Two days was easily enough to make Swallowtail. It was like a cold shower, which sounds fantastic about now. Have I mentioned that it’s getting hot again??

The only problem is that I used a US 3, and I’m not sure it’s quite large enough. Not for my host mother, anyhow. I’ll see what happens with blocking, I suppose. In the time since I have started another shawl. It’s about halfway done, but I’ll save it for tomorrow.

*cough cough still can’t figure out how to post multiple photos from flickr and too lazy to edit later*

And the housing search continues.


Friday, February 1st, 2008

(Added Later-Please note that this tree is an elephant) 

Uhm, no. I refuse to allow it. It’s…November!! November sounds good.

February is probably my least favorite month. I don’t care how many days it has. You can argue quantitatively as much as you darned well please, but February is by far the longest month of the year. It can’t decide whether to be January or March, so it just hangs there in limbo until the end of time until someone higher power finally notices that the record is skipping and sets it right. Lazily.

On the other hand, I paid three dollars today for a handful of strawberries. *Strawberries!* I didn’t know they existed here, but there I was minding my own business when I very nearly tripped over them. I was afraid that they might disappear if I didn’t do something with them quickly, and I decided that the safest place to store them was in my belly. That way no one can take them away from me or tell me that it was just a dream.