Welcome to a snippet of Mariatou Diallo’s life. Mariatou is the name I, Elizabeth, am borrowing for the next four days of our homestay in Temento Samba. It’s also my homestay sister’s name. I suspect I was named after her, because for the first hour of my visit she held my hand and attempted to teach me pulaar. Right now, I am sitting in the midst of a small circle of Senegalese kids, and they are putting my name to use. To my right is the littlest one, attempting to lift a chair twice his size over his head. The rest of the kids are girls between the ages of three and seven. I think they are trying to teach me a pulaar song, however without much success.
Village life encompasses me in an ever-widening circle. An elderly man is repairing a motorcycle with a gentle, well practiced hand. Occasionally, he looks up from the engine to ask me a question in French.
“Ça va?” Is it going?
“Ça va bien.” It’s going well.
Chicks chase to their mothers in streaks of fuzzy yellow, and kid goats buck their tiny hooves. Suddenly, the call to prayer splits the sound of bird calls. A women hauls her bucket back from the well. The children laugh in loud, high pitched gurgles, a stream flooding out of their bellies. I love that a little bug, or my halting pulaar, can start the flood.
Everyday life has slowed down here. I feel very calm, and even my everyday habits have become opportunities for reflection. At home, I’m always in a rush. Being in Senegal has forced me to take a step back from the bustle at home, and I have become more grateful for life’s simple things. My homestay sister is tugging my arm, and yelling, in her high pitched voice: “MAAAAAAAARYYYYYYYYY”. That name makes me smile. A rowdy game of monkey in the middle is erupting behind me. The sky looks so big here. I already miss Senegal.