|Abdou in his home|
Car radios that work are tuned to loud music or talk shows. There seems to be a penchant towards playing music loudly, no matter how cheap or tinny the sound system is. One night at dinner the TV (which was only in the house for a few days) is tuned to a station playing music videos. Fina joins us, and brings her cell phone downstairs. Seemingly oblivious to the music that is already playing on the TV she begins playing a song on her phone and turns the sound up. Music blares from vendor stalls on the side of the road, and from TVs in convenience stores. One night we walk past a group of people watching TV out in the open, seated on folding chairs.
Our bodies are becoming used to the environment - some are having more luck than others. My roommates both get upset stomachs; first A is up all night running to the bathroom, the next night it's her sister who's ill, then it reverts back to A again. E has a bad reaction to her malaria pills because she takes one in the morning with breakfast just before dance class, and S gets sick from eating too much bread (she's allergic to wheat). I keep expecting it to be my turn, but my body has reacted well so far. I'm thankful for my gut of steel, or my luck of the draw, or whatever it is that's keeping everything in check. I've learned to use very little water when I bathe, and very little toilet paper (we had to bring our own). Our new-found habits are certainly more environmentally friendly, if not uncouth in western terms. I joke that my mother would be so proud of me -- eating on the floor, sticking my hand right into communal plates of food. Sleeping on the floor has gotten easier for me, but sitting cross-legged on the floor at dinner has gotten harder. I shift and squirm at mealtimes, moving from one side to the other. "What I wouldn't give for a table and chairs," I find myself saying to my roommates one night, just before drifting off to sleep.
The dancing is sublime, as I knew it would be. It's not until after our first class that I feel like myself in this new place, my sweat pushing out any inhibitions and doubts I might have had about making this trip. We practice our moves after dinner in the living room, Idy snapping his fingers to the beat and giving us notes on how to perfect our moves. We're due to have a recital at the end of our stay, in the courtyard of the Centre Culturel Blaise Senghor. We've watched other dance troupes practice there, moving with the grace and agility that comes from a lifetime of dancing. From time to time we're invited to participate, the dancers approach the perimeter of the room where we are generally seated, take us by the hand, and pull us into their dance. As with anything, if I don't think about what I look like while I'm dancing, I do just fine.
We venture out into the city as a group, touring the fish market, and an area known as the Village Artisanal where vendors have set up their wares in booths. If a vendor catches my eye they speak to me, and sometimes take me by the hand, walk me into their shop, show me their wares and tell me they'll give me a good price. Idy and Mustafah act as intermediaries for us, bartering and negotiating prices. I end up buying some fabric; two miniature buses made to look like the Touba buses -- Renault vans that have been colorfully painted and are used as public transportation; carved masks depicting the seven days of the week; and three hand painted signs -- two listing prices for haircuts, one listing prices for the treatment of various medical ailments. The highest price for a men's hair cut is listed next to the word "toubab" (white person). I get home before I realize that one of the panels on the medical ailments sign shows a man farting, painted lines emanating from his buttocks into a cloud that is surrounded by flies. Another shows a man vomiting, "look," I say to my roommates, "it's you!"
|toy Touba bus|
|Touba, public transportation|