Oct 26 – Champs au Senegal

I got to hold a newborn baby today! She was shivering in my arms even though she was wrapped up in a pile of blankets. Fatou, the matron who did the delivery, introduced me to the baby’s two grandmothers who had been waiting in another room while their daughter was giving birth. One asked me in Serer what my name was and I responded, Rachel! Fatou then told me they were going to name the baby after me.

At first I couldn’t tell if they were being serious or not but then I remembered that in Senegalese culture, a newborn is given several names during the first few days after birth. Their real name isn’t given until about a week later. This is to trick any spirits who may want to take the newborn away and to keep the identity of the secret, all to ensure the baby survives and remains on earth.

My two host brothers prepping the donkey cart

After lunch I went with my brothers on a donkey cart and headed to the fields. Being on a donkey cart made me feel like I was in a town parade. Every time we passed a hut house, all the people gathered together would look up and yell, ‘Eh! Toubab!’ They’d wave and then crack up laughing that I was riding on a donkey cart – and to top it off – headed to the fields.

Just some scenery of the country

The countryside is very flat, dry, and brown. Sparse areas of brush and trees dot the landscape. But even so, it’s incredibly beautiful. You can do a 360 and all you’d see are the open fields, baobab trees here and there, with the horizon so far in the distance and yet so close to your fingertips. The sun beats down but it gives everything around you a shimmer of life. The wind rustles the knee-high grass. Birds I can’t recognize fly by and their singing echos in the wind. Time seems to have slowed down. It is truly, breathtaking. You see nature in it’s raw form, untainted by modernity. My brothers thought it was funny how I was so awed by everything I saw – because to them – this, was the reality of their workplace. Not a place of beauty.

Right now, they were cultivating peanuts and green beans. Peanuts are the most commonly cultivated crop in Senegal. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sell for very much. I was told a 50 lb rice sack full of peanuts would be sold for $1 or less. I remember one day, I was craving some peanuts bad, and I asked my host sister if she knew of a place that I could go and buy some. The next thing I knew, she went to the back of the house, came back with her hands full of raw peanuts and said to me, ‘Am!’ (which is ‘take!’ or ‘have!’ in Wolof). Then I was told that no one in the village buys peanuts because it’s literally grown everywhere. So, if you are a peanut lover, come visit rural Senegal and you can eat peanuts till you drop! No joke.

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