Guest blog post from one of our interns Samantha (Sami) Nandyal
...how wife-able I have become.
While reading this, keep in mind that the person who wrote these words formerly cooked eggs in the microwave and was content with having popcorn for dinner. Start saving up for engagement rings, boys, because she's now a changed woman. Some mornings, I head across the street to the market with Senebou or Niyah. There, we peruse the stalls sprawled for several blocks, covered in fruit, veggies, fish, and meat. I greet both strangers and friends, and when their faces light up upon realizing that this toubab is trying to speak Wolof, it puts a skip in my step. I hold the bucket as Senebou makes purchases and tosses the goods in. With a full bucket and a parcel of beignet's in hand that Niyah's mother gifted me from her stand, we head back home for breakfast. A few times now, I have helped in the kitchen hut to prepare lunch for the compound, in hopes that I would learn how to make the delicious dishes we eat every day for lunch. Unfortunately, it is much more complicated than microwave meals so I haven't retained much information. There is a lot of cutting, peeling, mashing, stirring, boiling, straining, and waiting involved. I do know that. I am just content to sit in the calm company of the women, brushing up on my Wolof, and asking incessantly "Li lan la, what is this?" to every strange item that is place in my hand to peel. When lunch time arrives, we set up the hut in two circles of stools, and place the big bowls in the centers, calling the crowds to "Kaay ann! Come eat lunch!"
Furthermore, every other night, with the assistance of Beyonce, Frank, and Chance, I cook a meal for my little Senegalese/Canadian/American family. Yes, it normally includes grains, vegetables. fruit, proteins, cheese, and all the fixings. And yes, cheese is a food group.
...the gifts my dog friend has bestowed upon me.
I am in a very complicated relationship with a dog named PupPup. Although he displays all the unsavory dog characteristics that push me to be a cat lover, he is very handsome and has lately been following me around everywhere, making me feel like the queen my mama raised me to be. He lays at my feet, protects me through the night, and occasionally nudges me endearingly with his head. But there is a reason he is feared by almost all that know his bark. He hates with a fiery passion, smells fear, and forgives no one. My skin is no stranger to his teeth, but that is not the point of this story: One breezy morning not too long ago, my roof yoga flow was interrupted by an eager Alfred, insisting that I come with him immediately. "Kaay, kaay! Am naa cado! Come! I have a gift!" Alfred and I love to annoy each other, so I could sense he was up to no good and I ignored him and continued to deepen my pigeon pose. "Demal. Di naa nio ci kanam. Go away, i'll come later." He continued to insist, so I begrudgingly peeled myself off my mat and let myself be pulled across the compound in the direction of the main house. During this time, I let my mind wonder as to the nature of this gift Alfred had for me. Could someone have come to visit me? Maybe my mom? No Sami, don't entertain these tantalizing thoughts. We reached the house and I waited as Alfred fumbled with the notoriously tricky lock. Five long minutes later, the door swung open to reveal...a gargantuan poop the size of a basketball hemisphere laying neatly in front of the door to my bedroom. PupPup had struck again. After choking from the stench and slapping up Alfred a little bit, I returned to my yoga session to meditate on how to improve this dog-human relationship that was clearly suffering.
...how nothing phases me anymore.
My mind and body was drained from tossing and turning in the heat of a rainy season night. The electricity had failed to rescue me from my woman-made pool of sweat through the blades of a silent fan, leaving me grumpy and craving one thing: Cafe Touba, the Starbucks of Senegal for the price of a (insert something that costs 10 cents here). It is delicious, readily available, and served in a signature orange plastic cup. I have the fortune of living right behind the best Cafe Touba spot in Malika, served hot by my friend Labott & company. As I headed out with Alfred to meet with a tailor we know, I forked over a coin for a cup of liquid love. I hadn't taken but one sip and walked but one block, when I greeted a man working on the roof of a building we were passing. We exchanged a few more loud greetings, and then he yelled down to me "Maay ma Cafe Touba, give me your coffee!" I raised my glass to him, offering a sip, not at all expecting him to JUMP down off the roof and come running to me. I laughed, surprised, handing him the cup, and he turned away and walked off with the whole thing without another word. I turned to Alfred and shrugged. He chuckled, slapped me on the back, and welcomed me to Senegal. A few blocks later, after a nice conversation with some new friends, I had another cup of Cafe Touba in my possession. I chugged it in 30 seconds flat, and Alfred found my caution hilarious. After the meeting, a few songs with some cute kids, and an errand, we began the walk home. "Muy tool. be careful" Alfred said as a horse drawn cart rode up behind us. As it passed, the man with the reins offered us a ride to the main road and casually pulled us up. We hopped off the bumpy metro at our stop, and stepped onto the compound. The super normal errand run had come to an end. If any of this had ever happened in Cincinnati, well, it wouldn't have. I love Senegal.
You know you might be too comfortable with bugs when you see an ant lingering between the bristles of your toothbrush at the end of a long day, and you shrug, apply toothpaste, and commence brushing. Signed, the world's most questionable vegetarian.
...medical school in Malika.
As my friends began their medical school journeys back in the States, so did I. However, instead of UCCOM's critically acclaimed architecture, we had a cute, little lunch hut. Instead of a degree after four years, we had a certificate after 2 weeks. Instead of plastic CPR mannequins, we had wooden ones made by the guys on the compound, Dave the nurse, and yours truly. Instead of Dr. Lieberman delivering lecture after lecture, we had an awesome Canadian nurse instruct in English, Abdoulaye translate into Wolof, and Jessica throw in some French terms when there was confusion. It was a beautiful mess, but the participants were so engaged and aware of the importance of learning first response protocol. My role was as an assistant to Nurse Dave, as well as a "medical model" for demonstrations. But really, I was just grateful to learn all this stuff alongside the participants. This pre-med graduate finally knows some "med", imagine that. My first aid knowledge was almost put to the test, too. One afternoon, I fully believed that my friend had gotten stuck in a closed garage with the car running. With a lot of screaming and grunting to get the door open, I ran through the CPR steps in my head, prepared to break some Alfred-ribs. After the fumes had dispersed and there was no Alfred to be seen inside the garage, I collapsed on a bench, relieved but still ready to break his ribs for a different reason.
...when my goosebumps came out of hibernation.
Although we were three hours behind schedule and the sun had already set, I breathed a sigh of contentment as the ferry to Goree Island pulled away from the Dakar dock. I was in the company of two friends and five new friends, all a little bit disappointed by our late departure. I had heard so much about the beauty of Goree Island, the striking colors and views, and it's haunting history. Because it was now 8PM, I wouldn't be able to visit the museum or see colors of any sort, but I would soon experience a beauty that only a full moon can produce. The night was cool (for the hot season, at least), the ocean water was shimmering, and the island appeared on the horizon, quiet and dark. We climbed off board, grabbed a drink at an empty restaurant, and wandered through the eerily silent town up to the island summit. At the top, I walked to the edge of an outlook and gasped. To my left, the ocean, dark and endless. To my right, the lights of the sleepless capital. Glowing down on all of it, the radiant moon. As one should do in all beautiful places, we sang a song and headed back down through town, stopping at a Tangana stand where I bought a hot egg. Upon finding an empty beach, the temptation was too great to resist so we ran into the dark waves, splashing and screaming like the middle school-ers we are. A few hours went by and I found myself sitting on the edge of a walkway, the waves crashing onto the rocks below me, and the wind whipping past my damp hair. Then it happened. I felt it. Like timid dandelions, my goosebumps came out to experience Africa with me. The rare feeling of "cold" was welcomed at first, but I quickly grew weary of it. My West African friends had been shivering for far longer than my toubab self. Queue a full out sprint to catch the last ferry off the island, a movie-worthy jump onto the moving boat, a crowded taxi ride, and I was back in my bed, exhausted and happily sweating.
...my completed nest.
As a dog does when she turns in circles several times before laying down, I have too found a comfortable niche to rest in. At the end of the hall in the main house, there is a tiny room that moved into for the time being. The bed is pressed up against a window that overlooks the wood shop, one wall is full of books placed on cute, built in shelves, a standing wardrobe is sandwiched between the wall and the bed, a gourd-shell lamp hangs from the ceiling, and the floor space is just big enough to allow the door to open almost all the way. It's a perfect home for me, my fan, and my mosquito net. Also, it's not big enough for PupPup to lay down in, so that's a perk as well. The little bird has found her nest.
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