Monday, October 5, 2009

One of These Things Just Doesn’t Belong

This morning, I woke up to go to school as any other day. I went downstairs, boiled the water for my tea, and sat down to my baguette with apricot jam. I was already sweating, as usual, when I heard a long, deep baa, louder and clearer than normal. My family does have two sheep, but they live in shacks behind the house, and their bleating always creates a muffled reminder that they have not yet been consumed for dinner. However, this particular morning, the noise was closer than normal. My initial reaction was whether there was a goat in the house, but the voice of reason in my head refuted this thought, no, the goats live outside. But sure enough, as I finished my baguette, I looked behind me and there stood one of the family goats- looking directly at me, bleating, not five feet away. My host mother, trying to hold back laughter (I was legitimately laughing hysterically at this point), attempted to escort the goat out of the house, but he refused to leave, apparently finding the house to be extremely comfortable compared to his smelly shack. After a bit of a struggle, he was back outside in his natural habitat, but I was still chuckling at the fact that I just witnessed a goat break-in.
While this was a positive experience of animals being in places where they do not belong, one night last week, I was pleasantly eating dinner with my family when I came across a small, round, black bug crawling around in my food. Unfortunately, this was an especially awkward experience because we all eat out of the large bowl together but the bug was conveniently located in my section of the bowl. So, I could see it, but no one else in my family noticed and continued eating as normal. It is considered rude to not eat what you are served, so I felt obligated to eat what was in front of me, trying to deftly avoid my bug friend and all that it had touched.

Not related to animals or food, yesterday I went to Lac Rose with some other students on the program. This is a lake that at times is pink (rose means pink in French), due to the reaction of microorganisms that live in the lake with the sun. The salt content is also 10 times higher than that of the ocean, so people float. Unfortunately, because it is just the end of the rainy season, the lake was very much blue as it is now mostly filled with rainwater. However, later on in the dry season, the lake turns pink, which is quite a spectacle. It was still nice to get out of Dakar for a day to breathe some fresh, if salty, air.


  1. Hey Emma- Your blog is amazing (I forgot to bookmark it when your mom first sent the link, so I had only read the first few entries before today). Your ability to think through stuff you're experiencing so intensely is really impressive.

    Your story about the goat is very funny. Shortly after Judy and I got our goat, my parents (still married then) had a dinner party and had us bring the goat onto the porch for the guests to see. The goat promptly leapt into Aunt Bobbie's lap. She was wearing a white pants suit (this was the seventies).

    I wanted to tell you about something Solomon said last night. Joanna went to a meeting so I put Solomon to bed. When I put him in the crib, I said, "I love you, Mommy loves you, and Eli loves you." Solomon lifted his head off the mattress and said, "And Emma!" I laughed and told him that you loved him too.

    Now that I have this bookmarked, I look forward to reading the blog more often.
    Oh, yeah, I asked your mom, but she said she didn't know: does your host family know you're jewish?

    (Uncle) Harry

  2. Hi Emma,
    Reading your story definitely reminded me of our goats, especially the time that Naomi, the momma goat, had 2 kids. One died and one had to be bottle fed so he, Boaz, lived in my bedroom in a box so I could feed him a bottle. Guess all of these memories are entirely different then your experience since our goats were pets and not to be eaten. After reading Uncle Harry's comment - I also remembered the Aunt Bobbie incident.
    So, even though you all eat from 1 bowl, you each have your own section? That whole bug thing sounds pretty yucky. Maybe, everyone else also had a bug in their parts that no one else could see.
    Be well, Aunt Judy

  3. Hi! It is great to hear from you guys. The goat story was really funny, and I think a bonding moment between me and my host mom.

    Uncle Harry, my host family does know I'm Jewish. One of my first few days here, they asked me if I was Christian (that is assumed), and of course I told them, no, I'm Jewish. I think they found it a bit surprising as there are maybe 5 Senegalese Jews total (ok, that might be an exaggeration), but they accepted it and it proved to be a point of conversation between me and my brothers (especially discussing fasting during Ramadan, to which I brought up Yom Kippur). Religion is very important to them, but in an understated and accepting way, which I really appreciate.

    And Aunt Judy, in terms of eating out of the bowl, it is considered rude to take a piece of meat or vegetable from someone else's "section", which is really just an imaginary boundary that consists of the food in a sort of triangle in front of you. Usually, my host mom divides up the meat and places it in front of each person to eat, typically with her hands. We all share, but do not take from others, I guess you could say.

    I miss you all! And of course, tell Solomon I love him :-). I think about you guys all the time here. Being so far away has really made me appreciate what a great family I have!