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The Importance of Greetings 

Photo by Sidonie Emerande

Greetings from Temanto Samba, our last homestay community of the program. Before we came to Temanto Samba we engaged in Pulaar language lessons during which we were taught basic greetings. We learned that for many questions, one can simply respond with the phrase “Jam Tan” which translates literally as “Peace Only.” Once we arrived in the southern town of Kolda, I started to hear people saying Jam Tan all around me.

The morning before we left Kolda, we had the students go to the market on their own to buy vegetables and buckets for all the host families in Temanto Samba. I also went to the market to buy some kola seeds which we would also provide to the host families as a gift.

When I was at the market, I looked around and did not immediately see where to purchase kola seeds. A salesman, selling dresses, approached me and I greeted him in Pulaar. He kept continued speaking to me, but because I did not understand, I simply responded with “Jam Tan” and a smile. In an effort to help me he ended up showing me where I could buy the kola seeds. Along the way, a woman (I would later come to find out her name was Aissat Ouba) greeted me and asked me in French what I was looking for. She then took over, bringing me to three different places and helped me bargain for the goods. She then invited me to come to the stand where she works selling spices with her daughter. I found myself amazed at how welcoming and receptive people were to me, even with just my few words of Pular.

We left Kolda to head to the homestay community of Temanto Samba. Along the way, we stopped at a tangana, which literally means “hot” but also is a term to refer to local restaurants which sell local food such as bread stuffed with meat, potatoes, eggs, peas or beans. When we arrived in the village, we were welcomed mostly by a crowd of children and mothers who looked very excited to see us. Our students were warmly led to their new homes by their host siblings and mothers. When the students had left left, I wondered where the fathers were. It turns out that they were in the fields at the time of our arrival, but they made sure to each come to greet the instructors at our program house when they returned from the fields. As I helped to give my earlier purchased kola seeds as a gift, I also practiced my newly learned phrase of respect: to each family “Te Dungal ma.”I loved seeing how important greetings are in this community, as everyone made sure to take time to properly greet one another before moving on to any logistical conversations.

The longer I am here in Senegal, the more I realize that greetings are already a great way to socialize with people – even with only limited language skills! Here in Temanto Samba, people really take sincere time to exchange greetings and I find myself hearing “Jam Tan” multiple times in each exchange. When in doubt, “Jam Tan”!

I can totally confirm what Edith Wharton said: “One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.”