Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ko Mutaaru Mbalo mbiete-mi (My name is Mutaaru Mbalo). Ko Galle Bocar Mbalo Kod-mi (I am staying that the home of Bocar Mbalo).

Where do I even start with my homestay description? I spent the last week with a Senegalese Pulaar family that speaks a language I started learning when I arrived at their house. I was literally dropped off by the Peace Corps bus and greeted in a language I barely understood any words of. I was immediately whole-heartedly welcomed and told to take a seat in front of the family compound next to the man of the house. I pulled out my family photos, and we went from there. Being an infant again was a frustrating but very rewarding experience. We used a lot of pointing and hand motions to communicate initially until I learned a few words and tried to remember them as I heard them a few more times. However I have been spending a great deal of time during homestay in language classes.

My typical day during homestay has consisted of:
7:30AM Wake up and take a bucket bath (Bucket of water + soap)
Breakfast of French bread and hot chocolate is brought to me in room by my sister (Muslims don't eat from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, so I keep to myself)
9:00AM Fulukunda class at my LCF (Language & Cultural Facilitator), Samba Kande's, Homestay
12:30PM My Senegalese mother makes us a lunch of white rice and leaf sauce (she hasn't been fasting on account of a recent illness)
4:00PM Either another language session at Samba's house or work in the garden we are setting up near the local school
7:00PM Time for another bucket bath after a long day in the Senegal heat
7:30PM Break fast with French bread, hot chocolate, tea, and juice at sundown with my Senegalese family while we watch TV including Indian Soap Operas dubbed in French, Wolof sitcoms, and American TV shows (like Law & Order) dubbed in French
9:15PM Have dinner by lamplight out of bowls distributed between the men, the boys, and the women respectively - Dinner always consists of rice and palm oil sauce with a few vegetables and fish - it's actually pretty tasty
11:00PM Sleep

My in between time is filled with a lot of hanging around with the family, especially my Senegalese father, and playing with my Senegalese siblings and kids from the neighborhood. I have 6 brothers - 2 are about my age or a bit older, 4 are definitely younger than me, and one that is much younger than me. I have two sisters - one is 10 and the other is 5.

It is amazing how patient everyone is. Here is a family I'm thrust into that, for the most part, I can't understand at all (some of them speak French, but they have only used it once or twice) and they continually are trying to teach me things, but their only hope is to use nonverbal communication. The integration I was worried might take some time has come quite easily.

One thing I might not ever get accustomed to is getting stared at and called "Toubab" (european) while walking down the street. Senegalese children treat a foreigner like you might expect an American child would treat a clown walking down the street. They yell out "Toubab" and call all of their friends to come see the "Touabab," and then each and every one of them wants to shake your hand - I have to leave 15 minutes early to get to class on time. On an encouraging note, however, there have been a few children from the area that, in only a week, have learned my Senegalese name (Mutaaru Mbalo) and call me that instead of Toubab.

Today is my second day back at the Thies training center, and tomorrow I head back to my homestay site. I'm not supposed to blog about exactly where I am, so if you are really interested in what city I'm located in, go ahead and e-mail me, and I can tell you real quick. Also, a few tips for contacting me: a normal American stamp won't work for sending letters, USPS flat-rate boxes are great for sending packages, and skype is great for cell phone calls.

I keep having to remind myself that I've only been here a couple of weeks and in my homestay one week, because it feels like months. I spend the next two weeks straight at my homestay site before coming back to the training center for more tech training. I might be able to get to an internet cafe, but this will likely be my last blog for a bit. Miss everyone. Hope you're doing well back in the states.

The view and opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not reflect the goals or intents of the US government, The Senegalese government or The Peace Corps. I alone am responsible for the content of this blog.


  1. Hey White Boy -Great pic of you and some of your "family". Put that new camera to more use!
    xxoo, debi

  2. Hi Curtis!
    I am loving your blog. Sorry it took me awhile to get on here- I am too old and it takes me time to figure out these things :)
    Glad to hear things are going so well thus far. Your family sounds very nice. Two concerns 1) You are going to get a big ego with all of these people wanting to shake your hand all the time 2) You are going to get very thin- how much food do you get when you say some rice?
    Love you,

  3. Hey Curtis!

    Sounds you're adjusting quite well. The family looks precious and makes me want to visit my home country even more!! Grinnell is Grinnell. nothing much is occuring here in the states, except that today Obama declared the end of the Iraq war (combat fighting I think). It's all over CNN. . . If US stamps dont work, then what stamps would work??

    Be safe and like Lisa pointed out, try to eat more rice if possible or you'll end up as skinny as these green tree barks I'm staring at! :)

    Be safe!

  4. Oops! I meant to insert "like" on the first sentence. :0

  5. Hey Curtis!! Great to hear you're doing well, your family seems awesome - glad they're so welcoming! Is it too early to send a car package or something? What would you want in it?

  6. also, by car package I meant care package, haha :)

  7. Hi Curtis,
    How are things going? Well tomorrow will be four weeks, not that I'm counting! I have written two letters to you but they are saved somewhere and nobody can find them.So I'll put more in this note. Has anyone fitted you for your Grand Boubou? Are you still in training at this location or moving on elsewhere? Are you eating enough? The whole family knows we fed you a lot before you left. We think of you often (plus 5) wondering what you are doing at that time. I'm glad I sent those family pictures with you so you you could show everyone. We need to figure out Skype? Just so I can see how healthy you are!!!!!!!!!!! Tell us about the weather. Take some more pictures.
    Hello to your Senegalese family and welcome to our family. LOVE YOU TAKE CARE BE SAFE

  8. Hi Curtis!
    I hope you post again soon and attach more pictures. I often wonder how you are doing! I also hope you are eating enough- has anyone mentioned that yet? ;) The note from your mom above reminds me I owe her a phone call :).
    Love you cuz!

  9. As Grandma would say "Oh for the gosh sakes" Curtis, O.K. it's been 28 days now since we heard from you. Hopefully soon or you're just going to have to get on that bike they we supposed to give you and high tail it to the nearest computer!!! Kathleen is doing well in field hockey, no bumps or bruises yet. Today is the game against New Trier though , same team that she had to have 12 stitches from last year.
    Grinnell beat Monmouth 17-15-- History in the making. This week Grinnell plays Lake Forest, won't be the same without you, but we'll put up the flag I made, oh and maybe your "55" poster Ha! I wore the sweater last Sat. you gave me.
    By the way Holly won the Hell's Kitchen season I think against the guy she was seeing on the show, Just fyi cause you missed the last show.
    Everyone is well. Hope all is well with you.
    Miss You Love You Be Safe
    Love, Mom

  10. Hi Curtis, You are on quite the adventure!! I have to go along with everyone else about how much you are eating knowing how much you can consume at one sitting! Do you get to work out? Fall is beautiful here this year...great football weather. How hot does it get there? Any Hearly shops there? Just kidding. Take care and know i think of you often. Love to you Ginny