Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Petit a petit, l'oiseau fait son nid.***

*** Means, little by little the bird builds it's nest.

My first year of French class, in sixth grade, we learned a new proverb every week. This is the first one we learned (and the only one I remember, at least at this moment).

I hate it when other people throw in words from another language, as if you’re just supposed to know what they mean. Or else to make them look smart. I don’t know why I feel compelled to do it when I’m some place where they speak French, but I can’t seem to stop. I just like words--the shape of them and the rhythm. It's the same as when I use "y'all" or "dude" (which, rest assured sounds equally foreign coming out of my mouth). That sounded like a better reason in my head.

Anyway, today (meaning yesterday, now that I'm posting this) was a good day. I have a cell phone, which makes me feel connected to the world. Of course nobody has the phone number, and nobody needs to call me, and I hardly know anybody here, but. But!

And! Buying the cell phone! Triumph, I tell you. Of course, I probably still would be wandering the streets, too afraid to walk into a store, if it weren’t for Michelle.

Here’s a glimpse of Naomi, the Intrepid World Traveler. I have finished my first Wolof lesson, which had been scheduled from 11 am to 1. Fantastic. And actually, it went quite well. My French is starting to come back to me (especially as I start to relax a little—I lose the ability to form coherent sentences in English when I’m nervous or shy, so forget about it in French), and the lesson was conducted almost entirely in French. Which, before it started, I was wondering about, and had thought would make things difficult. But of course, I’m learning simple concepts in Wolof (What’s your name? How are you?) which I know how to say very well, thank you very much, in French, so it wasn’t confusing at all.

Okay, right, back to my story.

It’s one o’clock, and the lesson has been a raging success. I’ve packed away my lesson book, and marched myself back to my favorite cyber (i.e. the only one I’ve been to so far) and sit myself down at a computer to send off the last few bits of my Peace Corps acceptance materials (yeah, really). An hour later, I’m done with all my email, and I’m ready to grab some lunch before meeting Michelle at 2:30.

There’s a man selling fruit and nuts and other items right outside the cyber, so I quickly buy a banana. Success! But then I want something a little more substantial. Does it occur to me to walk back into the neighborhood behind the cyber, on which I’ve seen many a little bread stand? Ahh non. Instead I wander stupidly around the two blocks of main road nearby, where the only things I see are more fruit stands and barbershops. Does it occur to me to ask somebody if there’s some place to go? Does it occur to me to go back to ask at the Baobab center, where I had my Wolof lesson (a block away), which is an alleged cultural center and a resource for exchange students? Mais, bien sur que non. (I know, I did it again with the French.)

I see a Mobil station on the corner, with a convenience store. I scoff. Clearly I can do better than this. Clearly I can find something to eat. I am Naomi, Intrepid World Traveler.

I wander for about 3 minutes more, and then I go into the Mobil station. And what do I buy? Cookies.

I bought cookies for lunch.

NOT a raging success.

I went back to the Baobab Center to wait for Michelle, feeling a little chagrined. But the cookies were tasty.

So like I said, if it weren’t for Michelle, I’d probably still be wandering the streets with no cell phone. Or I’d have gotten home hours ago, having eaten nothing but cookies and a banana, and hid under my covers for a nice defensive nap.

Instead, we went to a lovely little restaurant for a real lunch, and chatted for hours about journalism (she wants to be a journalist, too) and traveling and whatever else. And we ran into, and chatted with, two of her friends from another University program.

Afterwards, we went to a little store she knew of to buy the phone. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough Senegalese cash to buy it. (Remember how my ATM card isn’t working? And how people don’t really accept credit cards here? And how finding a bank that will change money isn’t the world’s easiest task?) But the guy didn’t want to lose his sale. So when I asked him where I could change money, he ran off to see what he could figure out. And then he grabbed the phone, told us to follow him, and took us to a little newsstand/snack shop around the corner, where the guy gave me a better exchange rate than I’d found downtown, and even sold me a SIM card for the phone.

Unqualified victory.

So now I’ve made plans to head out of town on Thursday to visit the Peace Corps dude I’m interviewing for my story (should be an adventure, but he gave me very detailed directions, so I think I should be okay. And if I have a problem, I can call him on my CELL PHONE!)

And I’ve called another freelance journalist who I’m hoping to meet up with sometime this week.

Petit a petit... Yeah, I'll shut up. But just wait until I start throwing in the Wolof. THAT will get annoying.


Blogger jeanne said...

Qui est cette Michelle??!?! (I almost wrote Ou. but that would be so wrong.)

This is like reading national geo: the story behind the story! You are doing great!

10:33 AM  
Blogger Scooter said...

Congratulations on starting to put out roots. Now, the question is how to you find/create stories to sell?

11:12 AM  
Anonymous g said...

You sound like you're doing really well! Congrats on the many small victories.

I know how hard it can be to be in a new environment. As an anthropologist, I have taken many a "defensive nap." (Love that phrase, by the way). Hang in there...and keep us updated! :)

11:19 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Hello Miss Naomi!

It was so wonderful to meet up with yesterday, and so much fun to read about our adventures on your blog. Plus, I feel sort of celebrity-ish, and that's a new one for me. I'm volunteering at that peace corps thing Saturday morning. Also, you should come to our fete Saturday night: music, grilled fish, good people. Plus, (I wanted to tell you this yesterday), you're going to have to come have dinner soon with my families.

Lots of love and luck!


12:44 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

I'm having a great time reading about your adventure. I spent 2 weeks (with a group of 23) in India earlier this year and felt very out of place. How brave of you to move away and adventure out on your own.

3:24 PM  
Blogger a.maria said...

omg how fun. to make you feel better, this quasi-reminds me of the time i spent wandering around some store in mexico, too nervous to ask the people for help, because my spanish was so bad, only later to go back with friends and find that they spoke perfect english.


anyway. loving the updates. and TOTALLY keep dropping the french.. just, ya know, translate for us non-french-speakers!

(and how did you meet michelle?!)

4:21 PM  
Blogger David said...

a good day indeed.

6:29 PM  

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