Monday, February 27, 2012

elections update...looks like Macky vs Wade

Official elections results will be announced this evening but all sources point to Makcy Sall and President Wade going head to head in the second round of elections to be held in March.  Despite his confident predictions, Wade did not end up getting the 50 percent of the votes that he needed in order to win outright without a run-off. In the newspaper I was reading this morning, it was reported that Wade accidentally left his voter card and ID at his local voting location, which seems rather embarrasing...luckily people know how to get it back to him.

 It will be interesting to see which of the other candidates will pledge their support for Sall or Wade.  Either way, the fact that Wade has not claimed a victory for this first round looks like it is going to make this week a lot more calm than it could have been!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

votons dans la paix...

Today is the big day!  Polls close tonight and the results get released early tomorrow morning!  My host brother was kind enough to give me his unused candidate cards from his vote today.  The way it works is you grab one card from each stack and then you put the one you want in an endvelope and that becomes your vote!  As you can see, Joe clearly did not vote for our dear President Wade (pictured in yellow in the bottom left).

Friday, February 24, 2012

cross-dressing in Dakar...such a surprise!

This Tuesday was Mardi Gras and Joe and I went to a party/community event organized by the church and our cousin Edward to celebrate the last day of festivities before lent.  It was a costume party and the entry fee was slightly cheaper if you dressed up.  Since Joe had decided not to dress up, I decided to do the same.  My host mom had mentioned an event where Joe and his buddies had cross-dressed when they were younger but I didn't make the connection between that event being part of Mardi Gras celebrations. Upon arriving at the event, however, I was quite blown away.  My cousin Edward was in a rare form Tuesday night, dressed in leggings, a miniskirt, and a stylish white coat complete with full makeup and a wig.  His friend Jacques, who normally is quite shy when he is over at our house, was wearing one of the tightest and shortest dresses I have seen in quite some time.  There was another man who came dressed in a full wedding gown, complete with a veil and incredibly high heels.  Not all of the costumes were of the cross-dressing variety, but they were certainly the majority.

I must say that Mardi Gras was one of my stranger experiences here in Dakar simply because of how unacceptable things like homosexuality and non-traditional gender expression/identity are here in Senegal.  That is not to say that cross-dressing necessarily has to be associated with such things, but it was just quite surprising to see an event like this in Dakar.  There was even a panel of judges at the end of the party (one of whom was the mayor of the cartier) to decide on the best outfit for the evening!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Y en a Marre

It looks like last night some people decided that President Wade is no longer "lui qui rassure" (he who reassures) as many of his posters and signs suggest.  Many of the young people responsible for the roadblocks and other actions against Wade's candidacy are part of the group called "y en a marre," which is short for "il y en a marre," meaning loosely, "we have had enough."  They're pretty creative in using all of the materials at their disposal to make it known that they are fed up with the present situation.  Since there are plenty of partially constructed and sometimes abandoned concrete buildings around, one can find all sorts of objects to use for road blockages.  Flooding sewers to block the autoroute (main highway into Dakar) is another strategy.  Large Wade signs like the one pictured above are also pretty effecive as barriers across busy streets.

Today is the 23rd of Febuary, which means that it is the anniversary of the M 23 movement last year that threatened to storm the National Assembly if they voted in favor of changing the constitution to allow for a vice president.  They celebrate their anniversary each month which fits quite well with the timing of the elections on the 26th.  Members of the M 23 and y en a marre in general have asked everyone to head to the place de l'independence today for a similar demonstration.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Surprise! I am now an official member of the choir at l'Eglise des Martyrs de L'Ouganda

After a rather interesting sequence of events I have now officially become a member of the choir at my host family's church, l'Eglise des Martyrs de L'Ouganda.  My host brother, Joe, is an active member of one of the eight choral groups that perform at the Catholic church's various services.  In fact, my first visit to the church was during a marriage where I ended up sitting in the tenor section of the choir with Joe.  That was rather bizarre, since I wasn't singing with them and clearly am not a tenor.  Anyways, many of Joe's good friends are fellow chorus members and so I have been getting to know a lot of them during these past weeks.  They make up the young adult choir, which includes men and women who are all in their 20s to early 30s. They found out I could read music and had some minimal piano skills and had been telling me I should come to their practices and play for them.  Then, last Sunday, there was a huge gathering/outdoor dance party/viewing of the final match for the Africa soccer cup that brought all 40ish members of the chorus to our house for the day.  (The photos below are from Sunday, and the one on the left includes my host brother, Joe). After getting to know some of them even better this Sunday, I made a promise to come to Tuesday's repetition. 


As I was leaving the house I grabbed a book to bring with me so that I could read during their actual practice (assuming that I was just going to play something before it all started and then watch/listen for the remainder of the session).  My host mom, however, stopped me before I could leave and told me to leave the book at home because I wouldn't need it.  I tend to just do what she says so I agreed and left with Joe, albeit a bit confused.

When we got to the church (a tad bit late as per usual) they already had a keyboard set up and Joe quickly ushered me over to the piano where my brother's friend Stan was already playing some of the partitions.  The director handed me the music and then told me to start giving the notes to the sopranos.  I then began to realize that my agreeing to come to their repetitions actually meant that I was joining the the piano player.

It has actually been pretty neat so far.  Most of the singers don't read music, so it does really help to have someone playing the notes along with them as they are committing the songs to memory. At the same time, they are all incredibly talented. The director has an especially phenomenal voice. The songs are also a lot more lively than the ones at Catholic mass back home.

At the end of the first practice the director had me talk about where I'm from/why I'm here in Senegal so those people who hadn't been hanging out with me and Joe were not confused as to why there was suddenly a random toubab showing up to their rehearsals.  In that mini-speech I mentioned that I was really a much better saxophone player than a piano player and that I hoped my limited skills in piano wouldn't be a problem.    They then immediately got into a discussion about how they might go about finding a saxophone for me to play.  I tried to tell them that that certainly wasn't necessary, and that I didn't think that many of their songs would really fit well with a saxophone.  I really hope that there will not be a saxophone waiting for me at mass this Saturday.

Our third practice is this evening and I am really glad to have the chance to be a part of the chorus.  It's a pretty neat experience that was certainly not what I expected to encounter during my time in Dakar.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Waly's wedding in Bambey

This weekend, one of our program directors here at the West African Research Center graciously invited the study abroad students to his wedding in Bambey, a village about three hours to the east of Dakar.  His name is Waly, and his wife, pictured above in white, is named Fatime.

Weddings traditionally take place at the home/church/mosque of the woman who is to be married, so we spent the day at Fatime's family home.  The actual ceremony and familial negotiations happened at the mosque while the majority of the wedding guests socialized at the house.  Then some of the men came back and spoke in wolof on behalf of the bride and the groom in front of the guests.  Two of my professors gave speeches for Waly, which was pretty neat to see.  The photo on the right is of Ousmane Sene, my African Lit professor.  The one on the left is a photo of the national dish, ceeb u jen, which was served for lunch!

unexpected lessons in wolof class

Wolof class is always interesting with our hilarious professor, Sidy. Today, we learned that repeating certain words in a phrase can mean that you are pretending to do something.  For example, the word “goór” means “man” in wolof.  If I said, “goórgoór lu nga” that would literally translate to me telling you that you are pretending to be a man.  I could similarly take the verb fàtte (to forget) and do the same thing—fàttefàtte lu means “pretending to forget.”   Considering how many people can sometimes get crammed into different forms of public transportation here in Dakar, it might be easy to pretend to forget to pay your bus fare.
However, the “goórgoór lu nga” expression (pretending to be a man) also has a non-literal translation, and is used to tell somebody that they are doing a very good job.  It serves as a compliment for a person of any gender. Consequently, “jigéenjigéen lu” (repetition of the word for woman) is not a nice thing to say to somebody.  It might translate to meaning that you are doing something particularly slowly, which is not very fair.
We have also run into other interesting uses of the words “goór” and “jigéen” in wolof class.  When we were first learning some of the basic vocabulary, our professor (shown above) wrote the following on the board,
goór = ?
jigéen = ?
goórjigéen = ?
We still haven’t quite figured out what the word goórjigéen really means.  When our professor gave us some examples of famous people that we could lable as goórjigéens he included people who identify as gay and others who identify as transsexual.  When we tried to explain to him that those weren’t the same, he was a little bit confused and we figured it was probably best to just forget the debate and continue with the lesson.
Each week, our professor gives us a password that we have to memorize.  If, at any point, we run into him at the research center, we have to give him the password in order to get around him.  We are allowed to give him an english mot de passe as well.  Our most recent choice was "my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard."  The password that he gave us this week was particularly difficult.  Our phrase is “lekkal lu la neex waaye sol al lu neex nit ñi,” which means, «eat what you want, but wear what pleases people. »  I think we can expect to apply the same principle to seuxality and many other topics here...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bus burning in Dakar

University students' response to the death of Mamadou Diop, reported to have been run over by a police car during the Tuesday evening riots.  Nobody seemed to have been hurt...protesters just had everyone get off the bus and then strategically burned it in the center of a really busy intersection.  By the time I saw it on my walk home it was no longer on fire, but traffic was backed up in multiple directions.

We have a mandatory meeting with the embassy today to talk about the security situation here in Dakar.  I'm a bit worried because I don't want them to say anything about cancelling the program.  The elections violence is certainly a concern but the type of protests and the way that the uprisings have manifested themselves don't make me overly concerned for my security here.