Guest blog post from one of our interns Samantha (Sami) Nandyal
Brand-spankin-new, wax, Senegalese outfit tailored lovingly for Sami curves by tailor extraordinaire, Fatu Boye. I had been anticipating this day for so long. A friend of ours was hosting a ngente for their grandchild, meaning that I would finally get to wear the outfit I had gotten tailored. Oh and I’d get to observe and participate in this colorful, exciting event for the second time. After a couple rounds of bissap attaaya tea (pregame, what what), prepared disappointingly by yours truly, the women of the house garbed up in our wax-print best. There was an air of excitement as we chatted, snapped photos, and headed out into the sandy Malika streets for the long walk there. At the home where the party was taking place, the men were sitting outside talking in a circle of chairs. Inside the compound, children were dancing in the courtyard to mbalax music provided by a live DJ. Greeting each of the women already seated, we sat together and watched as others arrived. The night that followed was one of delicious food, traditional ceremony, and lively dancing. Although I did dance a little bit off to the side, it was beyond enjoyable to watch my friends dance energetically until their clothes were drenched with sweat in the heavy heat. We walked back as a little family, dropping each member off at their respective homes, ending the night with more attaaya and rooftop conversation.
Before I stepped into the wound care section of the clinic, Nurse David handed me a pair of scrubs, nodding knowingly. “You’re going to need these.” The experience that followed will definitely be one I will speak of fondly (or horrifically) when I finally make it as a physician. I walked into the room and was greeted enthusiastically by two male nurses, Carlos and Cher. Once their excitement about my Wolof abilities had died down, I got to explaining that I had little to no experience, I can help if they need it, but I am here today just to learn. “Metti ul! Xoolal ak ci kanaam di nga def. It’s easy! Watch and later you will do it.” For about an hour, I watched in amazement as patient after patient entered the room, toting with them gruesome gashes, burns, and welts. In one 10ft by 10ft space, I watched the administrative tasks, in-take, patient care, and dismissal happen before my eyes. What lacked in hygiene and technology was made up for in efficiency. (This statement is very questionable. Please take with a grain of salt.) Before I knew it, I was chatting with patients while cleaning and bandaging wounds under the careful eye of Nurse Carlos. The bigger, more infection-prone wounds, I graciously passed on to the other nurse. Despite the fact that my presence was probably slowing the whole process down and what I was doing was definitely inching into the gray area of my moral code, I was on a high.
Flowy, patterned, blue and white pants
When I came to Senegal, I packed only a backpack and one suitcase, which was mostly full of donated medical supplies. It feels good to have few personal belongings, but my wardrobe is pretty limited. Normally, this is no problem. I could wear the same outfit three days in a row here in Malika, and it would not be out of the ordinary. When I am choosing what to wear to go into the big city, however, the limitations cause me to have to improvise. I had already worn my one “going out outfit” every time I went into Dakar, so this time I switched it up. My one pair of jeans. A white shirt. (How do I liven this up?) A pair of pants wrapped around my neck like a scarf. I admired my creation in the mirror. No one would ever notice! I hitched a ride from a friend into the next city over, and climbed aboard a big van that would take me into the city where I would have to find my way to a roundabout my friend would meet me at. My first solo adventure. Or so I thought. The guy who sat next to me on the van and I became fast friends, despite the fact we were so cramped together that we could barely turn our heads to talk. He was going to the same roundabout, so he accompanied me all the way until I was in the loving embrace of my former roommate and resident mother, Ndeye Diallo/JoAnne. We drank tea and caught up, enjoying each other’s company and the cool of her new home. She had recently bought a big. Stainless steel bowl, so we carried it into the street in search of some food to fill it. A woman with a tangana less than a block away obliged us, filling it with an abundance of red rice, vegetables, and fish for the equivalent of less than two dollars. Ndeye and I couldn’t even finish half of it, and she stored it away for dinner. We then hopped on a bus to the H.L.M. market, a bustling section of Dakar filled with every item you could ever dream of. We walked through the stalls, chatting with vendors, and searching for houseware items for Ndeye to use in her new apartment. Something caught my eye in a clothing vendor’s stall and I walked up to examine it, greeting and chatting with the people standing next to it. I managed to bargain the dress I was eyeing down from 5000 CFA to 2000 CFA (~ $10 to $4), but not before the vendor took the end of my “scarf” in his hands. Examining it with confusion, he looked into my eyes and asked “Lii lan la? What is this?” I confessed that they were pants, and suddenly the whole group was rolling in laughter. I couldn’t help but laugh too, but walked away with a damaged ego as well as a new dress. I’d like to think that through their laughter was a baseline appreciation for my creativity. I’m ballin’ on a budget. Ndeye and I explored a few different neighborhoods before parting ways, and I met with another friend for a drink before climbing into a taxi headed home. The driver sang me an original song, inserting my name “Coumba Cisse” into the mix. It was a beautiful end to my day. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t thrive whilst wearing two pairs of pants.
Broken strappy sandals
Aminata, an awesome friend I met in Comparative Physiology class, messaged me on Facebook saying she was in-country visiting family and I promptly invited her to come visit me in Malika. She claimed to only speak a little Wolof, but I watched in amazement as she chatted easily with everyone I introduced her to, winning the hearts of my friends (especially the guys). We spent the day catching up, talking about topics I missed greatly (my Wolof does not yet extend to social justice and global health topics quite yet), and took a relaxing walk to the beach accompanied by a starry-eyed Alfred. The walk was apparently too much for my sandals, and my recent Target purchase snapped under the pressure. I walked the rest of the way home wearing one shoes which caused several different passersby to ask “Ana sa dala? Where’s your shoe?” Although I was the hostess, Ami proved to be a pro in the kitchen and ended up cooking most of our dinner that night: grilled potatoes, pasta, and salad. I made the salad, okay? I also cut the mango. Not the “hostess with the mostest”, but definitely a hostess with some. Ami headed back to Dakar in the evening, leaving Alfred heartbroken and me excited about our upcoming plans to hang out in the city.
Repaired strappy sandals
There’s not much of a story here, except that I’ve made an awesome friend named Usman who has a shoe repair stall on the same street as my home. He fixed my sandal as we chatted, and I went back home with both my spirit and my sandal feeling connected. Suddenly, my heart dropped into my gut and I all but sprinted back to the stall, at the bewilderment of the many people I passed. I arrived, panting, and sheepishly placed the forgotten payment on his counter. “Fate naa. Baal ma. Dama dof! I forgot. Sorry, I’m crazy!” Usman just laughed and tried to give me the money back saying the first repair was a gift. Then I found a hedgehog.
Broken strappy sandals Part II: Birthday Edition
My name is Coumba Cisse, and I am a birthdayphobic. All my life, I have conveniently shared the birthday spotlight with my older sister whose DOB is the day after mine, so I’ve mostly been able to avoid its harsh light. I was actually looking forward to spending day 1 of year 22 yoga-ing, reflecting, and chatting like normal with my friends here who would be none the wiser. Unfortunately, and also fortunately, I got a proper birthday weekend that my friends at home would sign off on, with nods of approval. Saturday:skyped into my sister and I’s family birthday celebration with a full heart. It felt just like I was there, despite the fact my mother was not successful at holding back tears, bless her heart. Upon hanging up, I promptly came down with some fun food poisoning effects. Sunday: Bed and frequent trips to the bathroom. Also a quick cake break, kindly provided by Esther and my housemates Jessica and David. Queue one questionable decision later, and I found myself in a Dakar nightclub surrounded by new and less new friends, dancing to American throwbacks, salsa music, Senegalese hits, and the DJ’s shouts of “HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAMI”. Monday/B-day:Hottest day of the year, or so I am told. I chug 1.5 liters of water with ease while searching for a taxi in the heat. We arrive at Aminata’s aunt’s home, a breathtaking space at the top of an apartment building with an even more breathtaking view of the ocean, the city, and nearby islands. As we talked, they gave me a delicious chepp bu jinn/fish and rice meal equipped with mango and three different types of juice, just in case my palette got bored. Before I knew it, Ami and her cousins were re-entering the room carrying a cake and singing good ole “Happy Birthday”. I hadn’t managed to let the day slip under the radar, but I was beyond touched that Ami went out of her way to celebrate with me, let alone her family (and the cake was BOMB). Overwhelmed by gratitude, I laid on their cold tile floor reading messages from my family and friends and wondering what I ever did to deserve all of you (and the fact that my sandal had just broken for the second time). The day wrapped up with a trip to the (closed) zoo, a ride home from the friendliest taxi driver ever, and some drinks on the roof under the crescent moon.