Musing

May. 2nd, 2010 09:03 pm
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Something very deeply buried in me was stirred by seeing Baaba Maal on Thursday. I posted to facebook that I was feeling homesick, and was somewhat surprised when my relatives in Los Angeles responded, offering warmth and support. I am not homesick for Los Angeles; I'm homesick for the Gorgol. It has made me think about the nature of home.

When I was first driven from Nouakchott to Boghe, about three days in to my Peace Corps service, I was deeply spooked by the road. The Sahara is utterly unlike the Mojave or the Anza-Borrego or any of the other deserts I'd been familiar with in the U.S. I found that the only way I could keep the strangeness at bay was to listen to music, which became my strategy from then on. But somewhere in the middle of my second year, my tape player broke, and I was left without music for the entire eight-hour ride from Kaedi (the capital of the Gorgol) to Nouakchott. I didn't mind it. I wasn't shaken by the quality of the desert. When I tried to explain this to our Country Director shortly thereafter, she said, "It's become your home." That shocked me a bit, but she was right.

Life here is totally different from life in the RIM. Some of the differences are good. Still, there were ways in which a lot of soft touches were put on a hard life, and we don't have those softnesses here. You wouldn't pass someone on the street without saying hello, even if you didn't know them. You could negotiate terms when buying food; if you didn't have the cash on hand, you could promise to pay later, or you could eat at a total stranger's house. No one ever ate in front of anyone else without offering them food. There was tea everywhere. The bank employees would hand it around while you were waiting in line. People understood relationships. After 9/11/01, we were offered free phone calls home by total strangers, and vendors would try to give us discounts while telling us that the people who attacked our countries were not "real" Muslims, that God doesn't want to hurt people.

I made a lifetime friend over less than four days. I'm serious; I met her four days before I left the country, and we are still friends. She saw me off at the airport. This was not an unusual time period for making friends.

No one went to bed without eating if anyone had food at all, and no one needed to worry about not having a place to sleep. Ever. Your friends were lifetime friends, and there was absolutely nothing you could do to make them abandon you.

On a completely unrelated note went browsing for our wedding registry today. It was odd, but fun. I am very anxious that there be a good spread of things: things we need for every day, as well as for fancy occasions, and things that my grandmother (and younger/poorer friends and family) can buy for not much money and still feel that they've gotten us something good that will last us a lifetime. (I was really glad that my cousin had registered for a Pyrex set when I was in grad school; I had no time for original or artistic ideas, and no money, so I'm trying to be sensitive to those things.) It was wild to sit there picking out stainless steel silverware and good serving platters, even looking at china patterns. I felt so... domestic! Which, I suppose, I really am. Favorite hobbies include: cooking, gardening, reading. :-)
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Yesterday evening at around 5 p.m., as I was grading student speaking exercises, a friend of mine from PC-RIM called to tell me that he had bought a ticket for me to go see Baaba Maal with him the same evening. I was unhappy and disappointed, because everyone who could have subbed for my 6:40-8:40 class had left.

I finished grading papers and was well into teaching the class (it being about 7 p.m.) when one of my coworkers came in and told me his students hadn't shown, and he'd be willing to take over for me. I all but bolted out of the classroom, called my friend, and an hour later I was at GW's Lisner Auditorium and Baaba Maal was onstage.

He started with a couple of low-key numbers that made me cry. I try to forget, a lot of the time, how much the Fuuta is part of me - the language, the people, the way of seeing the world, have all played a major role in my life. I try to forget because I can't go back at the moment, and it's very painful.

Then the lively music started, and people began to stand and clap and rush the stage. In a moment, I joined them. I stayed up there for two hours. I was brought onstage twice - once by my friend A.B., who had come separately and found me during the dancing, and once by one of the drummers. I didn't stop smiling for two hours.

Afterwards, we waited by the stage door for him to come out - a group of Haalpulaarebe, three of my Peace Corps friends (all Hassaniya/French speakers, not Pulaar speakers), the husband of one of them (a Wolof speaker), and me, the oddity who speaks Pulaar. I made friends with the Haalpulaarebe and an American man named Fred. The band started to come out one by one and greet and talk to us. We took pictures; some people got autographs; I got to speak lots of Pulaar. Then Baaba Maal himself came out, and we got to greet him and speak with him a bit (he does have the world's softest hands) and he looked at me in particular in a startled way and said, in Pulaar, "Your Pulaar is really clean!" (This means good or proficient.) We took photos. It was fun, fun, fun to be a groupie. We talked some more to the band members and a nice couple (husband Haalpulaar, wife white American) who had driven down from Pittsburg. One of the techs was from Thies, which is where one of my favorite Senegalese singers/groups (Masane - pronounced maasaanay - is the singer, Waflash is the group) comes from. I've been looking for CDs of theirs for years; the pirated cassette I have is warpy. The man offered to send me one. He shares my admiration for Masane.

I got home at 12:30 a.m. and spent the next hour being giddy and giggly in [livejournal.com profile] papertigers's general direction. It was an exceptional evening.

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debboamerik

January 2011

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