So This Is Home

Today has been set aside for getting to know the family compound and how things are done here. This family compound is the home of Monjara’s family; we are living with Jolla people and Wolof is not their language. Here as elsewhere in the world, the extended family still lives under one roof, or in this case in one compound. I am not sure who all of the folks are yet. Monjara, the gracious matriarch; her daughter Yaseem our hostess and cultural anthropology guide; Zuzu (Augustine) who is a nephew and his wife who keeps a watchful eye on our safety and is our DJ ,with a huge Boom Box and complete collection of reggae and African music. There are others who visit and spend the night—all are welcome.

The compound consists of:

A garden where food is grown for family consumption;

An outhouse with 2 showers—one for men and one for women;

A large main living quarters with several bedrooms; this is Monjara’s and Yaseem’s house;

4-5 small bedrooms in a row;

An outdoor cooking shed;

An indoor kitchen with a stove, refrigerator and freezer –most of the cooking is done on a free-standing burner;

Our section consists of 3 bungalows with 2 of us in each one.  They are very nice! There are 2 windows with fabric curtains and a door to close if you wish. Why close and lock this door—our windows are open and we are just stuck in our city living minds; everyone is family here, with our best wishes at heart.  Plus the bats are no big deal and stay outside.  We have mattresses on the floor, upon which we put our own sleeping bags, with mosquito nets over them.  We have one light source with the latest environmental light bulbs. Each bungalow has a plastic chamber pot;

An outdoor shower and #1 for our section only;

The well.  All of the water used on the compound is drawn from the well; and

There are 3 goats, 2 dogs, and numerous chickens running around; plus birds in the day and bats at night.

What is a day on the compound like?

The house wakes at close to 6:00 a.m. and it is till pitch black. The animals are let out of their confines, the ground of the compound is swept with brooms to remove any leaves or debris; water is drawn with which to water all of the plants;  the well water is put on the stove is boiled in preparation for a warm morning bucket showers. Other chores are done and our breakfast is placed on the table in our bungalow section. Or breakfast is pretty much like continental breakfast—hot water for coffee or tea, fresh French-type bread with butter and cheese, all kinds of jelly and jams; the fruits are fresh!!!! Papaya, oranges, mandarins.  We brought our own cereals and oatmeals, dried fruits and nuts and teas.

We arise at about 8:00 am.  We awake with a plan in mind for getting to the outhouse. Makeda and I have made good use of the chamber pot during the night.  It is one thing getting down to the ground to sleep on the floor on a mattress when your are  awake, but getting up in the  pitch black dark, flashlight in one hands searching for the chamber pot is another.  You know how we tell our clients not to sit straight up all at once but to roll to their side before getting up? That is pretty much my way of getting up from my bed. And getting down to bed is like the old dog circling its mat at night. Bad knees, old bladder, and the floor is so much lower now than it used to be.

We each draw own well water and take either a cold or warm shower.  I love drawing the water from the well!!!!!!  We straighten our rooms and settle in for breakfast together. We eat and plan our day at the clinic.  Yaseem joins us to discuss what we would like for lunch (about 2:30) and dinner (about 7:30/ 8:00). She will bring us lunch to the clinic. Her core muscles are so strong and her posture so perfect, she carries our lunch on her head the 1  1/2 miles to the clinic.  Sometimes she joins us her for lunch and helps with language translations.

Lunch and dinner can consist of: rice or couscous; fish with an onion sauce; lentils with vegetables (carrots, potatoes, cassava, and eggplant) a red sauce or palm oil sauce; salad with lettuce and tomatoes, onions, hard boiled eggs and bread and fruit. I beg for byysop (hibiscus with ginger drink) and Makeda begs for “Super Konja” something with okra (my most hated food and hard to find this time of year in Casamance). The diet of Senegal is a starch based diet, with a high sugar consumption; it helps explains its very high rate of diabetes and high blood pressure.

We head off to the clinic around 9:30 am.  While we are gone Yaseem cleans out rooms and washes any dirty clothes… I want to be her best friend!!!!!

On our slow nights we return home from the clinic around 6:00 pm.   We relax, take a cold shower, and eat dinner.  Then it is talk some and go the bed, awaiting the call from the clinic. We are on call after that and when the clinic calls and there is someone in labor, we put our clothes back on and head there as fast as possible down the road.  Some nights we do not return home until 1:00 am or later.  Zuzu has kept the compound gate unlocked and is dozing in a chair outside, waiting to make sure we get in safely (what a wonderful man).