Here I am, fourth blog in, and I forgot to write about one of the most important parts of my stay: the host family!
I live in a neighborhood about 1.2 miles from school called Sacre Coeur 3 with an older couple (they're about 65-70) and their 16-year-old maid. The couple own the entire apartment complex, so they reside on the bottom floor and rent the rest out to students. (Side note: last night, my host mom joked, "This building is filled with toubabs!" Toubab is the Wolof term for white people). I'm the eighth exchange student they've hosted; I believe they take one in each semester to have a new face to talk to.
Yaay, my host mom, is undeniably the cornerstone of the house. My host dad once said that she was the sun and the rest of the home revolves around her. She's very religious, going to the mosque multiple times per day. Cleaning, cooking, and errands are all done under her watchful eye. And when she's not supervising the maid's activities, she plays the socialite by visiting and chatting on her cell phone. At first I thought she was a bit reserved and brisk, but after a week I discovered that she is, in actuality, an outgoing and boisterous woman. Example: her side project is creating a telephone directory for all her friends and family. It's huge. As for the briskness, it's just how Senegalese mothers communicate. If they suggest something or give advice, it sounds like they are scolding, but it's just their way of guiding.
Pa Joe is the typical scholar. He studied at the Sorbonne and has worked in Washington DC and Dakar. He doesn't leave the house much, as he needs a walker to move around, but he keeps busy by reading, watching the news, and debating with and correcting the French grammar of whichever foreign exchange student is currently living with them. His sense of humor is typical of the Senegalese. For example, last night he jokingly tried to marry me off to Yaay's cousin (who's only 35 and unmarried). He laughed in pride at his joke when I refused.
Mari, the maid, is a true sweetiepie. She's only in my house until she returns to high school in the Sine Saloum region of Senegal in October. I have never seen anyone work as hard as she does. From 7 am to 11 pm she's on the go, washing clothes, cleaning dishes, sweeping, folding, cooking, etc. etc. She works all day, seven days a week, with Saturday night to Monday morning off every other week. Sereer, a native Senegalese tongue, was her first language, and she later learned both Wolof and French. Now she's taking English classes in high school. At first she comes across as quiet, but after I spoke with her a little bit, helped her with some chores, and shared my lollipops with her, she's always ready for a chat. Currently, I've been teaching her random English words while she helps me with Wolof and French vocabulary.