Sunday, November 12, 2006

Least Favorite Thing: Blogger Beta

First off, the new blogger beta sucks.

I switched over like the obliging sheep that I am, because they asked. Why not update, said I? New is better, no?

No. Worse. New is worse.

I wrote my post last night at 10 pm, and was racing to finish, post, and shower before going out for the evening. Couldn’t not post. NaBloPoMo. Not going to give up now.

But the blogger beta kept telling me it was unable to process my request, try again later.

There is no later. Today was ending and tomorrow would be too late.

Frantic, I hit publish again and again. And again, again, again, and again. Apparently. Because today when I checked my blog, there were at least six postings of last night’s entry, all neatly in a row.


Anyway, that’s fixed now. Let’s hope BloBeta gets its act together equally.


Habeela asks:

Two questions in one: what is favorite and least favorite thing about living in Senegal?

These are always the hardest questions. And I might have a completely different answer tomorrow or three days ago or next year.

Least favorite is easier. Rose and I have a running tally of pet peeves, and they take turns being my least favorite things.

People who speak terrible French telling me, in French, I should really “make an effort” to speak a little French. You know, since I live in a francophone country.

People asking me if I can cook rice and telling me that NOW I could finally get a Senegalese husband.

People testing my Wolof with the same inane script, “how are you”, “what’s your name”, and then telling me, in the most condescending fashion, “ahh, you can speak Wolof really well!”

People testing my Wolof by saying something insanely complicated and fast, and then saying, “You don’t understand a thing!”

But those are just little things. For once, I’ll try to go a bit deeper.

Gonna have to resort to another spider story.

Before the enormous spiders of my doom (ESOMD™) appeared, there was a little spider. A jumping spider. Holding its ground between me and my apartment.

I had just come home and tromped up the steps with my key out ready to burst inside, dump all of my stuff, and collapse into a cold shower. Or plant myself under a fan and not move for the duration. Of the hot season.

But there, right on the doorframe, was an ugly, hairy little spider. And before my very eyes, it leaped—LEAPED, I tell you—from one wall to the other.

I don’t need to tell you the inherent danger in such a beast. I could be standing meters away and still be at risk of an assault. Not. Good.

I stood in front of the door for a minute or two, trying to figure out how to resolve this situation.

Had I been living in DC still, I’d probably have had to move. No other solution really. The spider had the high ground. Key be damned, there was no way to get into the apartment.

Here in Senegal, however, there was hope.

I turned right back down the stairs, walked over to Naw’s shop, and swallowed my (tiny remainder of) pride.

“I need help,” I said, and explained the standoff at my front door.

Giggling uncontrollably, he nevertheless stood immediately and agreed to come to my rescue. He called to one of the boys sitting around the shop to mind things and that he’d be back in a minute, and marched with me back up my stairs.

The spider was hiding in the doorframe, but we found it. And it hopped a few times, but Naw was quicker, and soon the spider no longer had any high ground. Except maybe moral high ground.

And Naw, through his tears of laughter, said, “If you’re afraid of that, you must also be afraid of flies.”

And then he went back to work.

The point of this story is not that spiders are my least favorite thing about Senegal. Nor is it that Naw is my favorite thing.

It’s about community here, and the way people are seemingly endlessly willing to go out of their way for you.

Badji and Matar come miles out of their way to run at a snail’s pace with me on a nearly daily basis. And hardly blink an eye when I have to cancel at the last minute because of guests, exhaustion, or poor planning.

Marie-Suzanne called me the other day to tell me she was making ngalax, and that she’d save me some until I could come over.

I get invitations to every holiday from every friend.

The shopkeeper near my old house yelled with welcome when I came back for a visit.

I lived in the same apartment in DC for nearly three years, and I never once met any of the people who lived on my floor.

Here, there is no anonymity. People know you, remember you, and keep track of what you’re up to. Because you live in their community and so are a part of their lives.

It’s nice. (Mostly.)

Least favorite.

There is no anonymity here.

Heh. That was cheap.

Okay, Rose covered sort of the same topic in a recent posting, and wrote about it much more thoughtfully and insightfully than I will.

But basically, I find it very tiring to be white all the time.

When I lived in France, there were days that I could pass as French, at least until I opened my mouth. If I walked down the street, got on a subway, sat in a café, I could do it without a big neon sign over my head flashing: DIFFERENT.

Of course, I was a foreigner, and spoke with an accent, and had to adapt to differences of culture and cuisine and all the rest. And I revel in that. It’s why I love living in foreign countries.

But at least there, it was vaguely possible to have encounters that did not have, at their core, the fact that I wan’t French. It was vaguely possible, when I was tired of celebrating the differences, to blend.

Here, not so much. I’m a toubab, I will always be a toubab. I could live in Senegal for the rest of my life, learn to speak every local language, and dance sabar like a pro. I will still be a toubab. And the fact that I could do those things would still be somewhat comical.

I don’t want to change who I am. And having black skin wouldn’t change my American-ness.

But it would be a relief, if, just sometimes, I could take off the toubab costume, and just be a person on the bus, instead of a white person on the bus.


Blogger Habeela said...

Great answers! The Middle East is similar in that the best thing about it is the community but it does get tiring to stick out all the time. Thankfully Jordan doesn't have the spider problem. I think I'd die!

2:11 PM  
Blogger c said...

how did you end up living in Senegal? what do you do there for a living? and what exactly is ngalax again??

(found you through NaBloPoMo)

2:18 PM  
Blogger c said...

oh, and if those questions are answered in previous posts, point me to the archives and you can move on to answering other's questions... ;)

2:23 PM  
Blogger angela said...

On the nablopomo trail. A really enjoyable read. Thanks for sharing and I'm not just saying that!
The Blogger Beta thing? I haven't changed yet(waiting till December)
but the same thing happened to me.
I'll be back

1:38 PM  

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