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Cat Calling in Senegal

Adjusting to Senegalese culture and society has been an exciting (albeit sometimes scary) endeavor. Just yesterday, we had our first real homestay experience where we had a “day stay”.

We said goodbye to our fellow bridge year friends and spent the whole day with a single family in Mouit in the hopes to improve our Wolof as well as to become more comfortable with being independent in Senegal.

I spent the day learning about  various arts: making Domma Da, brewing Atai, and tailoring Senegalese clothing.

All the while, I would point at things and ask “li lan la?” (“what is this?”) in order to improve my Wolof vocab.

At one point, I pointed to a cat and asked my homestay mother “li lan la?” even though I knew already that a cat is “moos”. I was surprised when she said “No, not moos. Woondoo.”

To my confusion she explained that “Woondoo” is the village word for cat.

“Why would you have two words for cat?”

She shook her head and started calling out “Moos! Moos! Moos!” In a high pitch.

It was like magic. Literally 6 cats came out of every crack and crevice of the compound and made a beeline straight for us.

She stopped calling then and said: “Woondoo!”

All of the cats suddenly stopped in their tracks and looked around as if they just left a trance. She said “we don’t want the cats coming around all the time so they are Woondoo.”

I was dumbfounded. My homestay mom laughed at the shock on my face, shaking her head and saying “Toubab” (“foreigner”).

If this experience has taught me anything, it is that there is much I do not know. As a proud Toubab, I look forward to the year ahead and can’t wait for the unexpected stories and lessons that will come out of it.