Not all of the students will have an opportunity to spend time in rural Senegal while they are here. A few get to visit rural areas along with their Thiés host families, and some will be in rural areas for their service assignments. But we thought it important that everyone get a glimpse of village life and Adama (our local coordinator) and Fulgence (one of our French teachers) thought that their village would do nicely. And they were right! In a smallish village it is not easy, of course, to find a place for 20 extra people to sleep (and hang all those mosquito nets) or to cook for and feed all of us. We agreed with Adama that perhaps we could do something that everyone in the village would enjoy together. We would provide the food and music for everyone to be able to eat and dance together on Saturday afternoon/evening. It was still a LOT of work — especially for the women there — but all of the cooking was done together with much laughter and carry-on (with students pitching in to help), the food was grand, and the music and dancing was enjoyed by all.
For you cooks who can appreciate quantity, they cooked 150 kg (330 lbs!) of rice and used about 10 gallons of cooking oil. We don’t know how many people actually ate together — it would be culturally inappropriate and probably impossible anyway to count — but we know there were at least 200 small children around! Fish were scaled and stuffed with a spicy mix that was pounded up before being fried in hot oil. Lots of onions and veggies needed to be peeled and chopped and boiled. All that rice had to be cleaned and rinsed. And seven fires built and seven huge pots heated up and filled with all this goodness. Every time another women would come in to help there needed to be a break for dancing and welcome. And there was plenty of opportunity to talk together and make new friends.
The students messed with the kids, helped with the preparations and everyone danced regardless of … umm … ability. Even those of us who are seriously movement-impaired were able to provide considerable amusement to all the watchers. And of course there were speeches to be presented and translated with thanks and blessings, including one from the 102 year old patriarch of the village. The local six-drum corps was joined by singers and a guitar – note the lead singer in his Goshen College tee-shirt.
When night fell and the musicians and dancers returned to their homes, we had some supper together before heading to sleep. The women had one room to themselves and folks had cleared out two large rooms for the lads across the compound with mattresses or mats to sleep on. Some stayed up and watched the star and talked for awhile. Everyone was pretty tired and slept well. The village is so much quieter than the constant noise of the city.
In the morning we had breakfast, then back on the bus for the short (half-hour) drive back to our lives in Thiés and the new week ahead of us. We are already half way through the study term!