Wednesday, April 11, 2007

being culturally integrated..

The Cultural training here in Thies is constantly throwing out key words like "integration" patience, observation, flexibility, etc. We have heard hours of examples of what it means to be integrated, how to integrate, how NOT to integrate, how better to integrate etc. I have never felt like it would be a problem for me because I know that I can laugh easily, be friendly, communicate (in french for the time being) and be open to opposition. But through all this training they have never been able to express how incredibly rewarding it feels when you know you are truly integrate. I have several examples I simply must share:

The other day walking back from the center after a long hard day of training, I was not anticipating my walk home to fuel me....but it did. That 45 minute sweaty, sandy walk that I have come to love and look forward to fueled me. I realized that I finally knew my way home well enough to stop paying attention to my route, the weather was cooling off so I was sweating less profusely than normal, Braiden and I stopped into our favorite "cafe" (a soda/candy/general boutique where the owner lets us sit as long as we want in teh two plastic lawn chairs she keeps in the back as we sip on slightly chilled fantas), we greeted her and she brought her passport to show us. She was trying to go back to the states for her 4th visit and was denied by a grumpy and terribly unfair employee at the US embassy. She was thrilled to see us and clearly surprised that we had remembered her story and purposefully stopped by to see if she was going to go back and try again. It really is true how important greetings are. Braiden and I have officially made a friend in her. AND she is Pulaar to boot so when I get better I will be able to practice with her. Now if only that annoying guy that hangs around her store would stop hanging out there when we come around....

I passed by two women at a road stand selling donuts. They were so nice and talked to me and were impressed with how friendly i was with them. I know I have made a connection there. It feels so good to know people in the neighborhood.

But the biggest triumph of all happened upon coming home. My sister Diarra told me that our other sister, Aminata (the one who lives in dakar...same dad, different wife) wants me to be one of her bridesmaids in her wedding at the end of this month! I was truly honored. Speechless really. In fact, even though she told me in french, it took me a few minutes to respond. Just feeling so included and accepted and comfortable feels tremendous. Needless to say i accepted and the four of us (another sister and a cousin) have a date to the fabric market to buy matching cloth for our grande boo boos (name of the traditional clothing) is scheduled for sometime next week i think.
I cannot wait. Fingers crossed that they choose blue and not pink (those are the choices). While I am honored to throw down the several mille that it will cost to have our outfits made, I am secretly hoping that I will not be clad head to toe in bright pink. But there are certainly worse things in this world...

In any case, I cannot wait for the wedding. It was only just this weekend that her boyfriend came to the house with his uncle and cousin and sat down with my dad and mom and asked for her hand in marriage. What a great night to have been home. The men discussing the importance of fidelity in the living room, while my 4 sisters and i giggled in the dark, outside trying to listen at the windows adn dreaming up the wedding day.
Here I guess engagements do not last very long. Aminata is already 31 (because she went to school adn wanted to be on her own and start her hair salon before marriage) and just wants to have it be very simple and get it done quickly.
This week her fiancee's mother is going to call to set a date adn then the family will bring by a lot of money to pay for the marriage. I am still unclear what the money is for other than the ceremony. I just cannot wait to be a part of it!

In case you all coulnd't tell, I am in a great mood today. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that anticipation of site placements are in teh air, the weather has cooled off significantly today (my bedroom was actually down to 79 degrees last night! i had to use a sheet AND a blanket! thrilling), and all the trainees are planning a trip to the beach this weekend. Inshallah!

Here's to maintaining this optimism as long as possible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's so wonderful that you get to be so involved in these peoples' lives. You sure are making some incredible stories to tell! Who doesn't love being a bridesmaid!!!! Can't wait to see pictures....