Monday, July 2, 2007

A yeroba to remember

A “yeroba” to remember…

I know I have talked about my “jaye funday” (ahem…"well-proportioned rear end") before on my blog, but I feel like it has become such an important “ASS-et” (groan…I know) that it warrants its own entry. It’s almost comical how many times a day it comes up in conversation. And I don’t just mean the passing comments. Those I just expect. In fact even today, a kid driving a charet (horse or donkey drawn wagon like vehicle) who could have been no more than 14, greeted me as they sailed passed. But as soon as I was almost out of ear shot he called out to me “Eh! Toubak…yeroba maa ina moyyi!” (“Hey Toubak…nice ass!”) But it is not as derogatory as what we would be used to in the states. There I was alone on the road and I just busted out laughing. I just think it’s so funny that it’s such a big deal to people…and EVERYONE notices. Seriously, everyone. I’ll be passing by people and I’ll hear them mutter “hey, the toubak’s got a yeroba! Look at that?!” Hilarious.

It’s totally a conversation starter too. And it gives me an instant “in” when I can talk to people and laugh about it. This is my favorite example:

The other day after an exhausting workshop at the mayor’s office, I stopped in at a little boutique to buy some water sachets (bags of filtered water that are 20x cheaper than the filtered water that comes in plastic bottles). When I went it, I noticed three youngish men sitting outside of the shop and I knew that something was bound to come up. As I was paying for my water I heard one of them mutter something about “yeroba blah blah blah….” I whipped around and gave them a look like “don’t even try it. I understood you” and they started laughing. The store owner gave me a look like “oh boy, you’re in for it now. Good luck” and I left the store.

One of the men sitting there grabbed my wrist. This is pretty standard, and makes me nuts to no end, but thanks to a friend (you know who you are) I now know how to easily break away. So they started talkin’ to me about where I was from, what I was doing here etc. Then one of them was saying something about me NOT being a toubak, and he kept on insisting that I couldn’t possibly be a toubak “An wonaa toubak.” Confused, I asked him “ko wadi mi wonaa toubak?” (Why aren’t I a toubak?). His friends started busting up laughing and he just slyly pointed at his own backside. Teasingly feigning ignorance I pointed to my purse hanging at my hip. “What? Because of my bag?” He just kept pointing at his butt, but before he could try to explain I just cameback with… “OH! You mean my YEROBA?!…I know, I’m practically Senegalese!”

I don’t think I’ve ever made a stranger laugh so hard in my life. The three of them, the store owner, and a random passerby all just cracked up and almost fell out of their chairs.

Then we got into a discussion about how no toubaks have yerobas and it’s such a tragedy and they asked why I had one? And how that meant that I must not be a toubak, that my butt was too “nice/big” to not be Senegalese.

They just went on and on that they couldn’t believe that I knew that word. It’s so funny that people are so impressed and startled that I can bust out the slang term for bum. I mean I definitely won that interaction. And the one guys buddies just kept poking him and saying “see, the toubak knows the word for yeroba…she totally caught you!” They were laughing too hard to talk so each of them shook my hand laughing all the while, and I made my getaway.

And in case you’re wondering… yes, they did all gawk at my yeroba the whole time I was walking away.

Who knew that my bum would be such a good ice breaker? I mean maybe I should start telling incoming volunteers to work on getting a sizeable backend before they arrive and it will make cultural integration a breeze?!

The funny thing is though, I don’t necessarily understand why MINE gets so much attention. I mean there are plenty of volunteers with more sizeable rear ends than mine who don’t get harassed anywhere near as much as I do. Maybe I’m just an easy target and don’t mind talking about it. I dunno. But it really does endlessly entertain me.

Even my sisters bring it up everyday. Some days they think it’s looking too small and they worry that I’m losing weight, and some days they try to chide me into dancing for them when I’m walking away by yelling “yeroba amat amat” (essentially: “Dance big butt dance!”).

Sometimes people will call out to me and try to get my attention by yelling “Eh! Yeroba” instead of Toubak. To that I always whip around and say “Yeroba wonaa inde am!” (Yeroba is not my name.) Which again always makes them laugh and I can carry on my merry way.

It’s just an easy way to make people laugh. And I have found that more than anything else, even if my Pulaar is atrocious, if I don’t understand a single word they are saying to me, if I can smile and make a joke, or just make them laugh, then I make an instant friend. The Pulaar people are so jovial and always quick to laugh and smile. The key is to not let myself get so frustrated, or worn out, or discouraged that I can’t laugh it all off.

As I wrote before… “Peace Corps Volunteers in Africa come back laughing.” Every day I am learning how true that statement really is.

I think my yeroba deserves most of the credit.

1 comment:

wendy said...

You have all those millions of grands plies in second position to thank for that yeroba. dancers always have the nicest butts. I think I may start spreading that term around here. It's much nicer than "bubble butt."