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Laundry and a walk… what it means to have a homestay family

Today, a while after breakfast, I asked my homestay mother (Falou Diallo) if I could get my sack of dirty clothes washed. She said I could do so in the bathroom or upstairs, but I explained that I actually don’t know how to wash my clothes by hand, making the hand signals by taking my shirt and rubbing it in between my two hands and shrugging. Right now after writing that, mother walked into the room, said my name ( El Hadji), and held a green and white bag out towards me. I held my hands out, and out fell at least 12 almonds. Lord knows I hate almonds… I said thank you and took them with a smile, though. As soon as she turned the corner out of the door, I began swallowing each almond one by one with water as if I were taking pills. As I was saying, mother replied to me with confusion,” You don’t in America?” I said,” Yes, but with-“ and began making hand gestures representing a washer and drier by making huge boxes in the air with my fingers. She said, “ Yes you use machines.” I nodded and smiled awkwardly. She responded,” Okay I will do for you.” She quickly took the whole sack of dirty clothes from my hands and disappeared. Now I was initially hoping that she would show me how to wash my clothes by hand so that I could do so whenever I needed to outside of the homestay, but I really couldn’t complain. Before returning to my provided mattress I quickly yelled out, “thank you!” Within that minute my homestay brother, with whom mother decided I would share my name with, approached my room and asked, “are you ready?” I said yes, scrambling to put on my shoes, forgetting that while eating breakfast this morning he had asked if I wanted to take a walk with him sometime afterwards. Leaving my room somewhat ready to go, I had the feeling that I was missing something. I checked my pockets, really only checking for my money, and brushed the feeling away. This “walk” down a dirt road was mostly silent due to the language barrier between me and El Hadji (although he did speak a bit of English, but mostly only to ask me short randomized questions). We came to a stop at a small hut where about six men were bending, pounding, and melting metal together. El Hadji started speaking to some of the men in wolof while I greeted most men with the standard “asalam malekum”, directly translating to “peace only”, and sitting down at a provided chair. El Hadji comes and sits down next to me after finishing up a conversation, and explains that these men are his friends, and that they are making a window for his home. He then pulls out his phone and shows me a photo of, I guessed, somebody else’s window that he had taken a picture of and requested for his friends to make for him. He  then asks,”Do you want to see my home?” I say yes, and I follow him down the dirt road once again. We come to a turn and cross a street to a spot where taxis seem to be pulling in and out. He calls for one and we get in. When we get to his home, El Hadji hands the driver 1,000 CFA. The driver starts speaking loud and fast, but I couldn’t understand a thing. I hear El Hadji repeat the word “no” about three times, and surprisingly the driver grabs his arm. At that moment El Hadji sends a firm, booming,”No”. The driver smiles and says “okay, okay” and we get off. When we walked into his house, I realized that El Hadji was still working on this house; many workers out back laying cement bricks. After a tour through his kitchens, a bar, and his garage (which at this point in time were just big, empty rooms with dirt floors), he asks me if I like it. I said I did, and that wasn’t a lie. It was a very spacious home in a fairly quiet area, so I felt like I could just fill in the empty space with furniture and decorations, seeing the house in full before it was even finished. He asks if I’m ready to go back home, and I say yes. He walks us down more dirt road and we wait. Once we finally catch a taxi, we’re off. When we get to mother’s house, I climb up the stairs to the entrance to find her giving off happy, but nervous energy. “There you are”, she says with a breath of relief. She explains that she didn’t know where I was, so she notified Samba (one of my Dragons instructors) and that they had been looking for me for a while before El Hadji had confirmed that  I was with him. She said next time to just let her know if I leave the house, and I of course agreed, seeing her concern. I apologized, grabbed my water from my room, and plopped down on the couch in the living room where I am now.