Foreign countries seen from a distance: 2
New babies in the village: 2
Months it took me to figure out what the two-year-old girls say when they curse at each other: 9.5
Screaming matches between co-wives: 1
Minimum number of times the generator was run for the sole purpose of charging the family cellphone: 1
Minimum number of village animals killed and stolen: 2
Maggots squeezed out of Bandi’s snout: 1
Baths I was forced to give Bandi because he smelled like mildewed dead thing: 1
Ratio of days I’ve been in Senegal to days until my COS date: 370:421
Foreign countries: Mali and Mauritania, seen from the road to Bakel.
Two-year-olds’ profanity: Roughly translates as “Your mom’s private parts!!”
Screaming match: was, predictably, between Aissatu, Alahji’s first wife with whom he has three daughters, and Fanta, his second wife as of last August. During his visit from Spain, he was making a clear effort to give presents in equal quantities—two new mats, identical sets of new buckets, matching fuzzy cow print blankets—but I think it was inevitable that they’d find something to fight about.
One evening, seemingly out of nowhere, Aissatu and Fanta started yelling at each other from across the compound—I caught fragments about a radio, Alahji, Fanta’s room in the batiment, Alahji again—Fanta was brandishing a stick, and the rest of the family was trying to calm them. Alahji showed up, argued some, and then suddenly started hitting Aissatu, which sent all the men running to stop him. (For all the talk of hitting—threatening kids with twigs, “Who hit you?… Hit him!” and the ever-popular “I’ll hit you till you poop.”—actual physical aggression in my galle is rarely the kind that’s intended to cause real harm, and if it is other people quickly intervene.)
The screaming continued, Aissatu threw a walkman (the catalyst for the fight) on the ground, and a crowd had gathered by the time Alahji started hitting Aissatu again. Ami and Maymuna, their older daughters, started wailing, Hawa was trying to calm Fanta, Aissatu kept yelling, Alahji stormed off, Fanta was eventually coaxed away to her room… and finally it died down. Other than some silent tension the next morning, there didn’t seem to be any lasting effects; Alahji has returned to Spain, and life continues.
Bomel came up to me afterwards, asked me if I saw what happened when a man has two wives, and laughingly said that she didn’t think Mali (her husband) was going to get a second wife. I thought, Well, he hasn’t yet; a second wife is definitely a status symbol here, and I’m sure it’s just a matter of time and money until Mali catches up with his brothers.
Abducted animals: It’s been a relatively common occurrence for goats and sheep to disappear during the night. Thefts increase at this time of year because while many people have exhausted last year’s grain and profits, this year’s crops are just now being harvested.
The dog: now smells like shampooed, mildewed dead thing.
New photos and videos are up. Best of luck with last-minute packing to the new group headed to Senegal next week. And everybody in Texas/Louisiana, let me know you’ve survived Rita. Quit hogging the news already—you’re taking valuable BBC airtime away from cricket.