Friday, August 27, 2010

How to Fill your Belly After Sunset ... and Why Babies Make Everything Okay

So, here we are, Day 17 of Ramadan. Ramadan, it turns out, is a pretty amazing endeavor on the part of the world's Islamic community. All around the world, for one whole month out of every 12, a billion and half Muslim people deprive themselves of food and water for the 16 sunlit hours of the day. That's a lot of people spending a lot of time fasting. To me, it's an amazing statistic, and one that I appreciate infinitely more having spent the last couple of weeks entrenched in this experience.

In solidarity with my community (to make a long story short), I've been joining them for the daytime fast. My host mother comes a-knockin' at my door around 4:45 am; sometimes I consent and stumble groggily to the communal bowl of lukewarm left-over dinner rice, but more often, I nibble on a Cliff bar or eat nothing at all and go on sleeping. And that's that, until 7:30 pm on the dot, at which point the village mosque - which has somehow acquired a car battery for its purposes - blares the evening Call to Prayer, AKA our signal to stuff our faces. In my family, we break our fasts with bread, homemade mayonnaise, dates, spiced coffee, and water ... lots and lots of water. It's really quite lovely, actually, and makes the whole Ramadan endeavor entirely worthwhile -- to sit with my family in that moment of dusk, bathed in that delightful orange glow that occurs only at that time of day, and together nourish our bodies after having collectively gone without.

Since it's the "rainy season" (the rain in these parts has been bit sparse), it's prime time for farming. Most of the men and many of the women in Ngaraff spend their mornings in the fields, and I've enjoyed accompanying my brothers or various neighbors out into the green pastures to plant or pull weeds or do whatever needs being done. When they're done with the morning tending of the fields, the people here tend to collapse under a tree until it's time to start roasting the coffee and thinking about breaking the fast. I can't quite bring myself to be totally out of commission for so many hours, so I've been busying myself with little tasks here and there -- composting, painting murals, experimenting with natural pesticides, as well as helping my mothers with all sorts of household tasks and doing research and preparation for projects that are in the works.

In other news, one of the women in the village, Ada Mbay, gave birth a couple of weeks ago. It's not the first baby born since my installation in Ngaraff, but I've been out of town for all the other baptisms. This time around, I made sure to be there for the baptism, and went a little crazy taking pictures not only of Ada's newborn baby girl but of all my other favorite little tykes in the village. So yes, the pictures are a bit of baby mania . . . are you surprised? These babies make me so gosh-darn happy.

My mom, breaking bread as she waits for the call to prayer.

Dieng ladies of all ages pitching in on laundry day.

Men returning from the fields as a big storm rolls in.

Mbase, Sidi, Ndene

This little guy decided to build his cocoon in my shirt overnight.

The thorn I extracted from DEEP within my little brother's toe.

Few PCVs are as proud of their murals as I am, but you all KNOW how desperately artistically challenged I am. Look at the detail! I painted this!

With my bros, heading back from a morning of working in the fields.

Brand new baby before her baptism. Her name is Sohla, named after the daughter of the other Bigue in the village!

With baby Sohla and her mama, Ada.

Pop Ibra.

Nayfatu is the most beautiful baby in Ngaraff, but also cries more than ANY of her peers. I call her "Joykat" -- joy, in Wolof, means to cry, and kat is the suffix they put on words to indicate profession. (a jangalekat, for example, is a teacher - jangale means "to teach.")

Nayfatu, in a rare happy moment.

Daba Ndieye is camera-shy.

Pop Diaw thinks mommy's funny.

How great is this picture??

Pop Ibra and big sister Aissatou.

Itty bitty baby girl! Ooooof, too adorable.

Saye also doesn't like the camera.

Does this make you laugh? It makes me laugh.

This is my life.

Aida Gaye and Pop Ibra are my two favorite babies.


  1. Love the teeny tiny braids on Nayfatu.

    Need me to send sun screen?

  2. Emily, I've been following your awesome adventure from afar, those babies are incredible.And there is so much sand. Congratulations on your courage and perseverance and photography skills. Keep it up and keep safe. Ben's dad Steve.
    I've never posted to a blog before, so I don't know if this will go through, I chose to comment as a google account whatever that is...

  3. Steve, Thank you so much for taking the time to check in!! Very astute observation with the sand -- there's more sand than I ever thought possible, and when I tell people the in America there's only sand at the beach, they just can't believe it.

    Congrats on figuring out the comment! My mom had some trouble too but you've both aced it, clearly! Hope you're enjoying the Minnesota autumn. :)

    Mama, no need for sunsceen. I have plenty; I'll slather it on.