Since I started this blog a little over a year and a half ago, the Fatou story is by far the most popular story. This story garnered the most feedback, the most commentary, the most views, and the most controversy ! Without further ado, let’s get into the sequel and find out what happened after that fateful day between Fatou and her husband, Ibrahima.
Shortly after Ibrahima’s death that morning, the kids started to wake up. My oldest, Chiekh, came into my room and found his father laying on the bed, with a sheet over his body. He took one look in my eyes and quickly understood the situation.
Cheikh: What happened?!
Fatou: I woke up and found him like this.
Cheikh: How is that possible? You didn’t feel him struggling or anything?
Fatou: Son, don’t pester me with questions. Ñio ko guissando (we are both seeing it as is).
Fatou starts folding clothes that were sprawled across the bed. She didn’t seem concerned at all about the corpse in their presence.
Cheikh: What do we do now?
Cheikh notices that his mom was not as frantic as he would expect her to be. Despite all the havoc his father wreaked upon their lives, she was still a devout wife, which he could never understand. She stops folding clothes and sits upright on the bed, her chewing stick nonchalantly hanging from her lips.
Cheikh: Mom, what is going on?
Fatou: Son, don’t bother. No one is going to ask questions, his health was already deteriorating.
Cheikh: How can you be so sure?
Fatou start thinking back to the pieces she laid down leading up to this event. She planned this over a two-month period.
Every time your aunt Rama gave me money for food for us to eat, I made sure to go without, putting a little bit away towards savings to buy the poison.
Every time I went by the neighborhood Imam, I asked for prayers concerning “Ibrahima’s worsening condition” and insisted no one could visit or Ibrahima would get mad at me for publicizing his “illness.”
Every day, I added a sedative in his food to make him lethargic. Any time someone would come over, he’d be slumped over in a chair or in the bedroom. I figured since he didn’t work and laid around the house anyway, it would not be hard to convince people outside the house that he was sick.
Penda [Fatou’s best friend]: Ay yaw, mome daal nii rek? (Wow, he’s still sick? He hasn’t gotten any better?)
Fatou: Bilay, mome daal nii rek, he just sits here or lays in the room all day. I’m treating him but it’s not getting much better.
Penda: Have you taken him to the hospital?
Fatou: You know how he is about the hospital. Besides, he does not want anyone feeling pity for him.
Penda: Ndeyesan. May Allah heal him, for your sake and the children.
The final time your father forced himself on me was the straw that broke the camel’s back – I decided to proceed with my plan of poisoning him.
Fatou’s face was cold as she explained her journey. For weeks, people stopped by casually and saw Ibrahima sedated and Fatou led them on a journey to believe he was on his way out naturally.
Fatou: Nobody is going to ask for an autopsy.
Cheikh looks at his mother, feeling chills stream down his spine. He could not decide if she was a true victim of this situation or a cold-blooded, calculating killer.
Note: This is part 3 of the Adama & Balla story. The prequels can be found under the “Inspired Stories” tab. The first part is called “Adama” and the second part is called “Balla.” Happy reading!
**At the Ndiaye residence**
Adama: I said, who the hell is this, Balla?
Balla stuttered while attempting to come up with an answer. How would he be able to explain that he went and married someone else out of spite? Especially having just had a conversation with Adama’s father…
Balla: Baby, listen. I can explain.
Adama: Well, you better get to it before I catch a case.
Nogaye: Wow, so you really didn’t tell her?
Balla: I was going to but I was waiting for the right moment.
Adama: Give me back my suitcase, you son of a bitch!
Balla: Ada, please wait. Let me explain.
Adama: There’s nothing to explain here. It’s crystal clear what’s going on.
Nogaye: Balla, what exactly are you trying to explain? No long explanation is needed, just tell her point blank. I’m his wife too!
Adama: Don’t talk to me.
Adama was fuming. At this point, she would have rather continued with Balla’s silent treatment than confront this reality. She couldn’t even move her feet to either enter the house or go back to her father’s. She broke down.
Adama [sobbing]: How could you do this to me? You miserable imbecile! All this time, I thought you were just taking some time to think and come back to your senses. Ndekete yooo yangui def sa affair you salte yi sama guinaw. Yallah nala sama akh dal! [Instead, you’ve been plotting this dirty shit behind my back. I hope karma gets you!] How long have we even been married for you to do something like this? What happened to telling each other everything and having trust at the foundation of our relationship? You’ve reneged on everything we’ve ever talked about. You traitor!
Adama became uncontrollable. She went on and on between tears and sniffles. Balla and Nogaye watched but with very different emotions. Balla was embarrassed and regretful for what he had done. It was simply out of anger and spite. Nogaye, on the other hand, was smirking and relishing in the fact that she had made such an impact.
Nogaye: No need to cry, sweetheart. I’m not here to compete with you; you’re not competition for me. You better accept the fact that your husband isn’t just yours anymore.
Balla: Shut up, Nogaye! How could you say something so insensitive. Adama is my awo [first wife].
Adama straightened up as she heard Balla and Nogaye go back and forth. She stopped crying and decided it was now or never to take a stance on this new situation.
Adama: Balla, I said put my suitcase down NOW!
Balla: Ada, let’s all just go inside so we can talk this through.
Adama: Last time, it was my brother that came over here. Let me be clear that you do not want my father to drive up here. Put. My. Suitcase. Down. And don’t make me repeat myself again.
Balla gently put the suitcase down and reached for Adama’s hand.
Balla: Baby, I am so sorry for this. I don’t even know what got into me. I wasn’t thinking straight and I should have communicated with you more. Please don’t leave me, I need you. I’ll fix this, I promise. Please stay.
At this point, Nogaye was getting worked up.
Nogaye: What do you mean you weren’t thinking straight?! You think it’s just that easy huh, to use me when you need me and toss me to the side when you don’t want me anymore? MAN UP! You made your bed…
Balla: Nogaye, go inside now.
Nogaye: Nopal nala. Mais lenn nala ko khamal, yabbo ma sakh benn yonn. Mangui lay khaar si biir. [Whatever. But I will tell you one thing, you know damn well who you’re dealing with. I’ll be waiting for you inside.]
Balla: Ada, talk to me please.
Adama: Get your hands off of me.
**Adama’s monologue (part 2)**
Adama: I don’t know why they say jigéén soppal te bul wóólu [woman, admire but never trust]. It’s men who we should be weary of. How can someone be so dull and dense? You were never going to treat me with respect. One incident and you search elsewhere. Was I just going to spend my life with a traitor? Was I going to build a family with someone who can just betray me at the blink of an eye … and not even say anything? Balla, I don’t know what I did to deserve this but just know yours is coming. I gave you my everything and you took more and more in return. Did you even get goosebumps at the thought of being with someone else? This random lady is in our home and you gave her that access. How could you? I don’t know what’s going to happen but just know any respect and love I had for you is gone. You disgust me.
Balla stood with his head bowed, not knowing what to say in return.
Adama: I’m leaving. Please don’t call me or come to my father’s house unless it’s to dissolve this marriage.
Balla: Ada, please don’t say that. I can take Nogaye somewhere else – you don’t have to live together. Better yet, I’ll divorce her. Whatever you want, just tell me!
Adama: I didn’t think I could hate you anymore than I did 5 minutes ago yet you proved me wrong. Are you crazy? You think people are just dispensable huh?
Balla: No, no I’m just saying your happiness is my priority.
Adama: You should have thought about that before you went and did this. Like I said, I’ll be at my dad’s house. Don’t call me. If you have anything you need to say, call my dad. Tchhiiippp!
Adama sucked her teeth as she picked up her suitcase and walked out of the building. Outside, she stood, her eyes tearing up. She thought to herself “how am I supposed to go back to my parents’ house again” She already knew what her mother would say: taaru jigéén moy seuy [a woman’s beauty lies in her being married]. Her mother would never support her decision to divorce Balla. She felt stuck as she thought of where she could go in the meantime.
Adama sat in the back of the taxi and thought about how her life changed so quickly over the last few months. She went from being a bright student, close to getting her diploma, to putting her education on hold to get married, to being on the verge of a divorce. “Should I just stay with him?” she thought to herself. “But that would make me a coward. No, it would actually make me brave for not settling. What about all the people who didn’t think this marriage would last? How about those who were cheering us on. God, this is so embarrassing.”
Adama was at a loss for words and ideas. She knew sooner or later, she’d have to make a decision. For now, she simply drove to her friend Khady’s house. As the taxi pulled up, Adama sees a man coming out of Khady’s apartment with Khady right behind him. She sees Khady kiss the man on his cheek before hugging goodbye. As the man exits the home, Adama’s jaw dropped as she recognized the man. It was none other than Diop, her father. Staring at him in disbelief, Adama dropped her suitcase. Diop gasped as he realizes he’d just been caught. Khady runs back into the house and latches the door shut.
Adama: Papa!? That’s going on here?
Diop: Ada, princess, I can explain.
Unfortunately, those words had lost weight in the eyes of Adama. Yet another betrayal. Where would she turn for help now?
Binette: Okay. Let’s talk in a bit. Adji is over here so I’ll call you back, yeah?
Djibril: Okay sweetheart. Talk soon.
Binette:I haven’t been able to come clean about it. He’s been extra sweet to me lately because I’ve just been so disconnected. I really just need some time to digest everything before I do something I’ll regret.
Adji: But you can’t hide this for long. You know the world is small and word gets around faster than you think.
Binette: That’s what I’m worried about. I want to tell him on my own time.
Adji: Unfortunately, you’re not operating on your own time. What’s done is done.
Binette: You know, for being my best friend, you’re not really helping me feel better.
Adji: I can’t lie honey. I can’t help it… I’m sorry. How can I help?
Binette: What should I do, seriously?
Adji: If it were me, I’d tell him myself sooner rather than later. Before he hears it from anyone else.
Binette: That would be a catastrophe.
Adji: Domou ndeye [my sister], let me ask you and please don’t be upset with me when I do.
Adji: Why did you do it?
Binette: Adji, I can lie to everyone but you. To be honest, I’m just tired of waiting. It’s been 7 years and I have not been happy at all. At all.
Adji: Okay but you’ve waited this long. What changed?
Binette: I don’t know when the wait will end. It’s hard waiting for something you don’t know when it’s going to end. I got fed up.
Adji: Did you talk to Djibril about it?
Binette: I have tried multiple times. My sentiments are always dismissed with “mougnal” or “yallah baakh na.”
Adji: This situation is complicated. I would still just advise you to tell him directly. Be sincere.
Binette: How do I tell him that I’m pregnant by somebody else, Adji? How?
Adji: Doyna waar deh [it’s crazy for sure].
Binette: What’s that noise?
Adji: What noise?
Binette looked down and realized her phone never hung up the call with Djibril.
**An open letter to my baby sister (who’s not much of a baby anymore)**
I want to share some life lessons with you today. Not because I know it all. And certainly not because I have got this life figured out. But because I want to shed some light on a few things so you can have a few more things in your toolbox as you figure out what life is FOR YOU.
I’ll start there – FOR YOU. Everything I am saying in this letter is just s preface to what’s really out there. We’re barely scratching the surface girl because let me tell you, it’s hard and will only get harder the older you grow. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer or live a “hard” life. It just means you have to figure out how to live your life the way that works for you, without stepping on others’ toes or your own. I’m going to give you a few secrets I’ve learned along the way that have worked FOR ME. Reflect on them and see how they apply, or don’t apply, TO YOU.
Be kind: That goes for others and for yourself. There’s a lot of ugly in this world and sometimes, we just have to stop, humble ourselves, and realize we don’t know the full story for anything! When faced with the option to be hard, be soft. This won’t always be easy – and sometimes, it actually may seem impossible. But try. Try to put yourself in the shoes of others and see if you can’t change your perspective. That goes for you too. Be kind and patient with yourself.
Stand up for yourself: Life is full of bullies. People. Work. School. Family. Circumstances. Situations. Obstacles. There will always be something to make you pause and think “am I good enough”? But don’t let that deter you from going after what you want. Stand up and show up for yourself. Go after what you want!
Have respect: for everyone.
Be smart: If there is anything I’ve learned in this life, it’s that you are free to do what you want, but you are not free from the consequences of your actions. Every. single. thing you do has consequences. Take the time to analyze situations and weigh out the pros and cons. Make smart decisions and be ready to confront the outcomes they yield. Don’t be naive, and especially don’t forget to take accountability for your actions.
No one owes you anything: This may be hard to accept or believe but it’s true. The good news is that most people are well-intended and aren’t set out to make your life miserable. But not everyone. Remember the bullies? Yeah, get comfortable with that and don’t take everything seriously. At the end of the day, you owe yourself the happiness, success, respect, and whatever else you desire, that you think you deserve.
Have a plan: Life will throw many things at you. Have a plan. A plan that is structured and realistic but also responsive. Not everything will always go according to plan but a guide is always good. Follow your dreams.
Family first: Ironic that I say family first yet it’s the last statement. It’s intentional. I am putting this at the bottom so it’s fresh in your memory as you finish off this letter. I am not sure about other families but the one you’ve got, yeah, it’s a good one. Not perfect but they love you and want the best for you. Even when the lesson may seem hard and the test may seem impossible, the final grade is always an A. Remember that.
I can ramble on and on about life lessons but the bottom line is…well, I’m your big sister so I can always send more via text message or over a phone call! And that’s exactly the point I want to drive home. Use me, and others who have been a positive addition to your life, as much or as little as you’d like as you figure out what you want your life to look like. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and be quick to recognize what isn’t going well and aim to fix it.
The truth is, none of us really know what’s going on. We’re figuring it out day by day. Don’t let the Internet fool you. There is no filter for life. No song you can really add to set the mood. And certainly not enough scrolling in the world to make bad things go away. But you can tag your loved ones to go on the journey with you, slide in the DMs of those who will give you sound advice to overcome anything, and best of all, pin the beautiful moments you’ll take into adulthood with you so you can reflect, and hopefully, be proud of the life you’ve built.
One of my favorite quotes is from a book called Reclaim Your Heart by Yasmin Mogahed. It goes: How do we become strong, without being hard, and remain soft, without being weak? While not easy, I try to make this my goal in life. I recommend the book, it’s available online 🙂
I feel like I just laid my head down no more than an hour ago! I swear that alarm clock races with my sanity sometimes.
It was time to get up and prepare a meal before sunrise. Ramadan had begun and it was going to be a long month of waking up early and preparing the household for extended days of not eating, not drinking, and not jumping down each other’s throats. In order for this to happen, the suhoor has to be hefty! I go into the bathroom first to make wudu (ablution) before going into the kitchen to prepare today’s meal.
My kids (including my husband, yes he’s my child too) love vermicelle so I thought why not start this blessed month off with one of their favorite meals! I steamed a batch just before bed so all I would have to do is cook the onion sauce it goes with and warm up the chicken. I’m not the biggest fan of reheating food but during Ramadan, when you’re rushing against time, you have no choice! I’d need to wake up at 2AM to prepare a meal for 5AM and that’s just not realistic considering we go to bed around 1AM. Oh, and did I mention the challenge that is waking up my family for suhoor? Just wait for it.
With the chicken warming up in the oven, I chop up a few onions and quickly marinate it before setting it on the stove to simmer. It’s 5:05 at this point. I move to set the table. I lay everything out, including my favorite part, the dates. I set out utensils, fruits that I prepared the night before, and plenty of water. As the onions simmered away, I began the journey to waking up my children.
The first round of running up the stairs to grab my baby boy, who inevitably wakes up from the noise, and daughter is usually successful. There’s one defeat as my older son says he hears me but wasn’t actually listening in the first place. I finish that round by stopping in my own bedroom to wake my husband up. He sits up, looks me in the eyes, and says “I’ll be right there” ever single time. It’s incredulous because it feels like a zombie talking to you. The second he’s done speaking, he rolls over and goes right back to sleep. I just roll my eyes and head back into the kitchen to check on whatever I was warming up and prepare for round 2.
My daughter wakes up to eat even though she doesn’t fast all day. Since she’s not 18 yet, she will fast half days in solidarity with everyone else. It’s also good practice as she gets older to get used to the fasting rhythms. My younger son is just there for company. The two men of the house are different stories. I send my daughter back upstairs to wake her brother up while I go get her father.
I use different tactics to wake him up, and since today I am in a good mood, I head straight for the bathroom in our bedroom and start making a lot of noise. When he wakes up, I tell him suhoor is over and everybody has gone back to bed. I’m just preparing to do the same. He jumps out of bed so fast, I couldn’t help but laugh. “Nieuwal kheud balaa heure bi diol, mo guen si yaw.”
As we sit down to eat, as a family, I can’t help but smile. It’s not easy waking up to prepare the meals when sleep is the only thing on my mind. Running up and down the stairs is not fun either. But I know Allah will repay all of us who take on these tasks for his sake. I know the blessings available to Muslims in the month of Ramadan far surpass the seemingly annoying things we go through. The hunger, the thirst, the lack of sleep, the migraines, etc…. nothing compares to the beauty that is Ramadan. It is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar – it’s also the month that the Quran was revealed to our beloved prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Every country observes this with a twist but the premise is the same: abstain from food, drink, sex, smoking, and all other forbidden acts from dawn to sunset (forbidden acts are still forbidden beyond the dawn to sunset limits). It’s a time for families to reconnect. It’s also a time to get closer to our creator and do some self-reflection. For many Muslims, it’s their favorite time of the year.
We’re going to finish eating here and prepare for the morning prayer. I’d like to wish you and your families RAMADAN MUBARAK. May Allah grant us a healthy, blessed month and may Allah grant us the honor to die as Muslims.
Standing in front of the mirror, Josephine buttoned up her shirt as she prepared for another day of work. She contemplated putting on makeup just so she wouldn’t stand out. She always seemed to attract attention whether she wanted to or not. If it wasn’t the doorman, it was a janitor. And if it wasn’t him, it was her own boss. Harassment seemed to be part of the job! She followed her usual routine – put on some makeup and grabbed her purse before stepping out for her morning shift. “Maybe today will be better” she thought to herself.
Doorman: Ms. Sane, welcome! Ravissante as always.
Josephine: [flatly] Good morning.
Doorman: Ooohh the cold shoulder again? Lighten up sweetheart!
Josephine quickly walked past him and went into the back office to grab a water before assuming her post. The hotel wasn’t the most well-known in Dakar but it wasn’t small either. They had quite the group of tourists come through on occasion and “premium guest service” was her boss’s slogan. Josephine picked up the “English for Everyone: Practice Book” her aunt living in the U.S. brought her as a gift the previous summer.
Tata Claudine: Keep your head down and work hard, Josephine. You have a bright future ahead of you. Don’t lose sight of that.
Josephine: Okay, Tata. I will do my best.
Tata Claudine: Now here, I brought you this book so you can keep practicing your English!
Josephine: Thank you! These days, that’s my biggest goal – to perfect my English. We have so many English speakers coming through the hotel and it’s frustrating when I can’t help them.
Tata Claudine: Well, the good news is English isn’t as hard as French to learn. It just takes a little practice to get the pronunciation right.
Josephine: Tell me about it! Sometimes I will say something and the guest will just giggle. It’s so embarrassing.
Tata Claudine: Just keep practicing.
Josephine flipped through her book as she waited for the first rush of guests to come down for breakfast or check-in. Suddenly, she felt someone leaning over here.
Mohamed: What do you have there?
Josephine: Just an English practice book.
Josephine answered her boss while sliding away from him. He always leaned in a bit too close.
Mohamed: Ah, you’ll have to let me borrow that sometime.
Josephine ignored him. He had seen her with the book a million times and still had to make small talk.
Mohamed: When will you accept my invitation to dinner, Josephine? How many times do I have to ask you?
Josephine: And how many times do I have to say “no”?
Mohamed: You act as if I am disgusting. I’m a handsome man.
Josephine: I’d like to maintain a professional relationship, Mohamed. Please don’t make me repeat myself.
Mohamed put his hands up, laughing as he stepped back.
Mohamed: Calm down, I am just doing what I know we both want. You’re frontin’ and I know it. You’ll come around.
Josephine rolled her eyes and went back to her reading.
Mohamed: Oh and can you actually do your job and get off that book?
“Retaliation” Josephine thought to herself. Every time she rejected him, he found a way to restrict her in some way. There was nobody around at the hotel and he found a problem with her reading.
Mohamed walked past Djibril and Mounasse, Josephine’s colleagues, on his way back to the main office.
Mohamed: Same old, same old. She won’t cave.
Djibril: She’s hard-headed. That girl has serious issues.
Mounasse: Mo, she’s playing hard to get. She acts like she doesn’t like the attention.
Mohamed: It’s just a matter of time but I will get her.
They laughed about the situation. This was a daily thing for them.
Bana: You should really do something about him.
Bana sat next to Josephine and witnessed the harassment every day.
Josephine: What can I do? I feel like a broken record telling him no and it still doesn’t work. He’s gonna do it again tomorrow.
Bana: I just feel like there has to be someone above him you can tell.
Josephine: Do you know his boss?
Bana: I mean, no.
Bana: Tell him off. Something!
Josephine: And lose my job? Wakhal lenen [Tell me something else (sarcastically)].
Josephine felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. She needed a job to help her family out but she was getting increasingly frustrated with Mohamed’s advances. And all the other men around the hotel who didn’t know their place for that matter. She shrugged it off as a guest walked up to her.
Josephine: Bonjour, Monsieur. Bienvenue a La Terrasse. Comment puis-je vous aider?
Guest: Uh, I would like to check in. Do you speak English?
Josephine: Eh yes, Monsieur, I can help you. What is your name?
Josephine timidly helped the guest with her less-than-perfect English. She was getting better but there was still a long way to go. After helping him, she was relieved her next guest was a Wolof/French speaker.
Josephine: D’accord monsieur, votre chambre est la # 508. Tournez à droite dans ce couloir et prenez les ascenseurs. Utilisez la clé de votre chambre pour activer l’ascenseur. Si vous avez besoin de quelque chose, n’hésitez pas à composer le 0 sur le téléphone de votre chambre pour rejoindre la réception. Bon séjour et merci d’avoir choisi La Terrasse. [Okay Mister, your room is #508. Just take a right at this hallway and take the elevators. Use your room key to activate the elevator please. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to dial 0 on your room phone to reach reception. Have a nice stay and thank you for choosing La Terrasse.]
Josephine handed the guest his room key and nearly jumped when he grabbed her hand instead.
Guest: Quel numéro dois-je composer pour vous joindre? [What number do I dial to reach you?]
Josephine was in shock. She noticed his wedding band when he was filling out his guest intake form.
Josephine: Tegguil sa lokho (sternly) [Take your hand off of me].
Guest: Weuu yaw nii nguay wakhei ak clients yi? [Woah, is that how you treat your guests here]?
Every day, I wake up a 5 AM. I have to prep everything at home so I can be out with my husband. He’s a clando driver and drops me off on his way to picking up whoever his first client is that day. For me, it’s best when I catch the early commuters coming from – or to – Dakar so I can make the most sales. I sell mangoes. I have been doing it for almost 8 years and it is my “soutoura.” I don’t ask anybody for anything. I work and bring what I make to the house. My husband does the same and we live a modest, but honest life.
Fallou: Have a good day today, sweetheart.
Codou: You too, cherie!
People laugh at my husband and I for maintaining our youthful spirits! We rarely call each other by our names, pet names only, even when we’re arguing – that’s a rule! I met him when I was 23 (I’m 46 now) and we’ve been inseparable since. Our families didn’t particularly like each other but we didn’t care. We knew it was just a matter of time but they would eventually support our decision to get married. He’s 2 years older than me and my sister tried to convince me he wasn’t “old older enough” for me.
Codou: How much older should he be?
Mada: At least 5 years! Men are immature and he needs to be more established so he can provide for you.
Codou: Hmm, okay. I hear you.
Mada: I don’t need you to hear me. I need you to do what I’m telling you. Let this go before you get deeper in. He doesn’t even have a steady job… what’s he going to do for you?
Codou: Maybe you can get a boyfriend first and then tell me how to pick ’em. Haha! Guenal si souniou diguantei [stay out of our relationship].
My mom had her own concerns but she wasn’t as crude about it as my sister. My dad is my friend so he stepped in to defend me.
Yacine: Codou, have you really stopped to think about what you want to do? Garap boula soutoul doula may kerr [if a tree is not taller than you, it cannot provide you shade].
Codou: I know what you’re worried about but he is ambitious! As long as I’ve known him, he’s never been jobless. Okay, maybe he doesn’t have the most glamorous of jobs but we have time ahead of us! Don’t complicate this please.
Alhadji Modou: Yacine, you know she’s always been hard-headed but never stupid. Listen to the girl.
Codou: Thank you, Papa! I’m not a little girl anymore. Trust my judgment on this.
Yacine: Hmm, wakhou mak dafay goudei rek mais dou fanane alleu [It might be long time but you’ll eventually see what I’m telling you. An elder’s word might be late but never lost].
Alhadji Modou: Don’t say that, Yacine. Your prayers hit her directly so just pray for her.
I knew they all wanted what was best for me but at the end of the day, the happiness I feel when I’m with him is indescribable. So I didn’t care what anybody had to say around me. I had my mind made up. We got married.
The first couple of years in our marriage was tough – much like our dating experience. Just trying to make it work. We’ve tried all kinds of jobs – I’ve been a maid, a vendor at the local market, even a laundry woman for a few families. He’s always done odd jobs here and there on top of being a taxi driver to provide for us. About 5 years ago, he saved up enough to get a small car that he owns and has been driving clando ever since. This allowed him to have more freedom and make his own schedules instead of paying commission to any boss.
We have 3 beautiful children. Serigne Modou is 15, Sokhna is 11, and Anta is 10 (she was a surprise HA). They are children of love. We can’t provide them the material world and that will forever leave a gap in my heart. As a parent, you want to provide them every comfort of life. But, and this is a big BUT, we have provided them with a good education and a strong base. No matter where they end up in life, they will be successful. In today’s society, success has a narrow definition but there’s so much more to it. It’s important to remember that. Fallou and I have inculcated a strong moral code within each of them and that alone is priceless. My mom always has a little reservation left given that she was “right” about how he couldn’t provide me the material world either. I don’t see our relationship as a failure for a split second. He’s been the best husband and father anyone could pray for and that’s enough for me.
I could mushy on and on about my family and my background but I think when you see me in action, at work, you’ll get a clearer picture of who is Codou! Follow me!
Codou: Sokhna si, lo waxx si mango yi? [Sir, how about some mangoes?]
Buyer: They’re beautiful. Niata [How much]?
Codou: Dieuleul ma defal la prix bou baakh. [Take what you want and I’ll give you a good price].
Buyer: I’d like 4 of them.
Codou: Take 5! 4’s not a good number! That’s how many wives our husbands claim they can have, sis. Stay away from that number!
Her husband laughed at my comment and shook his head. They were a young couple. I laugh as I brush the sound of the word “four” off of my ears! It’s bad luck!
Buyer: Haha! You’re right deh! Wa okay, make it 5 then.
Codou. There you go. See, life isn’t so hard. Gimme 2.000 rek.
Buyer: Shiii sokhna si, that’s expensive deh!
Codou: I swear it’s a good price. They’re big mangoes and I guarantee you’ve never had a better mango!
Buyer: Hmm, that’s what you all say!
Codou: You have my word.
Buyer: And if they’re not good?
Codou: Like I said, you have nothing to worry about! Na ress ak diam [bon appetit]!
I kept this up with every customer I encountered throughout the day, just like every other day. 7 days a week, more than 12 hours a day. I keep a smile on my face and joke with every customer. In my 8 years of doing this, and even with previous jobs I had, I learned that there is reality and then there is fantasy. But when you learn to be grateful and gracious about the hand that you’ve been dealt, the two start to merge. No matter what I encounter in life, I accept it as part of Allah’s bigger plan for me and I haven’t been disappointed yet. Many look at me and feel sorry for me but I can’t tell you how many cars have pulled up next to me and I could just feel the tension between the husband that’s driving and the wife that’s picking out mangos. Something simple as picking out mangos becomes a point of conflict and I in turn feel sorry for them. This is why I joke and try to lighten the mood. I don’t know what battles my customers are facing but I try to be a reminder that there is a silver lining in every situation and life isn’t so serious.
Codou: Today was a good day baby!
Fallou: Oh yeah? Kone deh dangua mako walleu [You must have rubbed off on me then]!
Codou: Let’s check our progress.
Fallou: Before that, I have a surprise for you.
This wasn’t anything new coming from him. He always brought me little gifts and I still act surprised each time.
Fallou: Close your eyes hun.
I closed my eyes and smiled in anticipation of what the surprise would be. Just then, I felt Fallou’s hands hover over my head and a cold object touch my neck. He clasps it on and turns me around.
Fallou: Okay, open your eyes.
He held up a small mirror in front of me and I was greeted with a beautiful gold necklace around my neck.
Codou: Woah! What is this?
I couldn’t help but smile.
Fallou: Just a little something I picked up after work today.
As quickly as I was basking in my happiness, I remembered our plans to finish building a new, better house, and how we had been saving up for close to 2 years now for it.
Codou: GOLD!? Honey, I really appreciate this, I do, but you know we have other plans lined up. How can you afford this?
Fallou: Yaw do nopi? [You be quiet (jokingly)]. I have my ways.
Codou: Tell me.
Fallou: Listen, our plans are still intact and on track. And we’ve saved up enough to finish the house. All that’s left is furniture and we’ll get there. But you know we’ve both been working so hard, we need to enjoy a little.
Codou: Okay, you said WE. Not just ME!
Fallou: Cherie, I have been saving up for this for some time now. I didn’t take anything from the money we’ve been putting away. It’s my personal gift to you. l’Honneur ne se refuse pas!
Fallou: Amoul mais. Damakay dello deh! [There’s no but. You want me to return it]?
I immediately shut up!
Codou: Haha, no! I just don’t want to add another burden to your already hectic work. You’re tired.
We both paused for a second and stared at each other. 23 years with this man and he still amazes me. He’s much more quiet than I am. So focused. So driven. And always keeps his word. I wasn’t as happy about the necklace as I was about my luck in having a life partner who could stop and enjoy life with me.
Fallou: Never tired.
Codou: Hmm, never tired huh?
I smiled slyly as I slowly walked towards him, licking my lips.
Codou: Door, fayou lasi kham 😉 [Now you know I believe in payback]!
Ahem, the rest of this, you’ll have to excuse us for. We’ll catch up another time… mais boulen fatei ni kou KOU KHEBOUL SA NOSS KENN DAKHOULA NOSS [If you don’t underestimate how blessed you are, nobody is more blessed than you].
The entire blog has been about empowering WOMEN and empowering PEOPLE! I think this statement is soooo unfair that I can’t even expend energy justifying it so we will just include it for the purpose of completeness for Kocc Barma’s sayings.
I’m going to speak on behalf of all women when I say that we’re done explaining and justifying our worth. Don’t @ me.
When I polled my social media friends to list out characteristics of a good leader, I got things like this:
A good listener
Someone with empathy
Someone who is honest, open minded and has courage
Someone who knows how to motivate a team
Someone who doesn’t always need to be at the front of the people they’re serving
Someone who is selfless
Someone who has the courage and power to fight for the current & future generations
A mentor, coach and servant-leader
That last one resonated with me because this post is all about Kocc Barma’s saying Buur du mbokk! Loosely translated, that means a king is not loyal!
So, why did Kocc Barma say that? A leader is technically a king, without the royal context. At the end of the day, they’re both leaders so how should we think about this? How do I reconcile all the positive attributes my lovely friends listed above with this bold statement that leaders are essentially not loyal? Hmmm…
Below, I’ll give examples of good and bad leaders, along with researched opinions, and see if I can reconcile this in my head. Bear with me.
Good listener. Empathetic. Know when to follow. Selfless. Charismatic. Courageous. Servant-Leader. Loyal.
Notice how all of these leaders are male. I did this on purpose and will dissect this dynamic another day but now, let stay on topic and just say WOW! We’ve got all kinds of “styles” of leadership here and it’s safe to say there’s no magical recipe to getting it done right but I can tell it’s not done right by oppressing your constituents; it’s not done right by overstepping your rights and power; it’s not done right by overstaying your welcome. A good leader, among all other things, knows when it’s time to leave!
That looks like a list of random but popular things that look familiar to all of us probably. But all of those things have something in common. They all play a role in raising kids today. You know the old saying “it takes a village to raise a child?” Well, Kocc Barma had his own saying and it went something like this – “Doomu jiitle du doom,”or in English, your stepchild is not your child. I’d like to take it one step further and inform you that even your child is not your child. What do I mean by that? Follow along.
We live in a world today where your precious little girl or your handsome little boy is being raised just as much outside of the home, if not more, than inside the home with you. The factors surrounding kids today are abundant and there’s no escaping the reality that the lessons you teach your kids today will surely be diluted by what he/she is taught out there. Yeah, out there. Out there is endless opportunity and possibility of all things. You will not be able to control everything your child comes in contact with and you certainly will not be able to completely influence how your child reacts to it.
I always have to bring it back to Senegalese society and I must say before I delve deeper into that analysis that the tendency to want to control everything isn’t a “Senegalese parent thing.” It’s all parents. The reason I will speak on Senegalese parents specifically is because that’s what I know. What I know is that Senegalese parents have this illusion of having everything under control and having definitive authority [see my previous post about Kocc Barma’s saying about elders]. It’s this illusion that they always know best and when they tell their children to jump, they’ll respond with “how high?”
I hate to break it to you but the world doesn’t function like that [anymore]. It’s important, now more than ever, to be a responsible, aware, realistic, and accountable parent. It’s imperative to become humble and accept that Kocc Barma may have been right when he said your stepchild isn’t your child and neither is your own child. In this day and age, your child is the world’s child and you better believe the world will have something to say about who your child becomes.
Who your child becomes – a great segue into the topic I want to talk about today: prostitution. The transition may not have been as smooth as I put on but it’s partly because there’s really no easy way to bring this up with African societies and the other part is because I think I’ve softened the crowd enough with my intro up top. Let’s get to it.
Again, I’m going to talk about Senegal because that’s what I know.
Prostitution is legal in Senegal. I’ll be honest that I didn’t explicitly know that. I was implicitly aware but I never gave it a second thought because honestly even though it’s legal, it’s so morally frowned upon that my subconscious decided to mute it. But today, we’re not going to be quiet about it; we’re going to confront it head on.
Prostitution is not only legal, its regulated. I, for one, think this is a positive thing. I don’t condone prostitution in the least bit. But I know that not condoning it, be it me or any one of the 16 million inhabitants of Senegal, isn’t going to make it go away. People will sell their bodies for sex irrespective of if it’s legal or not. So why not take a stance like Senegal did and put regulations around it? The Economist wrote a short article in April 2018 calling Senegal’s approach “innovative.” At first, I raised an eyebrow like “hmmm, where are they going with this?” But then I read on and learned that Senegal’s approach led to a drop in the HIV prevalence rate. Specifically, “between 2002 and 2016, the prevalence of HIV among sex workers fell by 21 percentage points to an impressive 7%.” Violence against women is a problem in Senegal (and worldwide). When this occupation is illegal, it puts sex workers at a higher risk for being victims of violence/discrimination. This is generally in the form of exploitation by corrupt officials (I’m talking about the corrupt police officers who take advantage of under-the-cover sex workers and expect “free services)!
I’d like to say that Senegal is not the only Sub-Saharan country that has legalized prostitution but it is the only country to regulate it! You may be asking why I keep insisting on that. Let me tell you why. By regulating this occupation, sex workers are able to obtain an “identification card.” With this identification card, sex workers can:
Have monthly check-ups at one of the centers managed by social workers and nurses
Have access to free condoms (including education sessions on proper condom use)
Take advantage of the mandatory annual HIV screenings
Take advantage of mandatory bi-annual blood tests for syphilis
Take advantage of annual tests to assess HIV serologic status
In the midst of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s, Senegal took a stance on vulnerable populations, including and especially sex workers. The steps this small country took bold steps to get ahead of the epidemic and those efforts paid off. Today, those efforts have contributed “to low HIV prevalence rate of 0.4%.” For context, “the average in Sub-Saharan Africa is 4.3%. In Washington, DC the rate is 1.9%.” Go Senegal!
Now, I’ve bombarded you all with facts and statistics. Let’s get back to the social aspect of this whole thing. In no way, shape, or form will prostitution ever be seen in a positive light and that’s not just for Senegal (or anywhere in the world really). It’s been seen as a disgraceful and lowly occupation for generations and generations and that’s not going to change. But at some point, we have to stop jumping to conclusions about things such as this legislation (which I’ve talked enough about for now) and the humans being the personas of “sex worker.” Let’s take a moment to meet some of these ladies (I do not personally know them. I am summarizing a few from the 2004 ResearchGate article linked below – for more women’s stories, check out the full article).
Never has a child been asked what they want to be when they grow up and they said “a prostitute.” The journey to becoming a prostitute is a long and painful one, usually catalyzed by a feeling a destitution after a series of events. Whether it is losing one’s job, being sex-trafficked, losing all family members, and/or feeling hopeless, it isn’t an easy decision one takes. Once in the milieu, it can be very hard to get out. So let’s not be so quick to point fingers or pass judgment. I could jump into the topic of “modern prostitution” with young girls and men who have sugar daddies and sugar mama, respectively but I will save that for my podcast ;).
Kocc Barma was talking about step-children when he said doomu jiitle du doom. I for one say this is a fact for all children, biological or otherwise. In today’s world, blood relations is just one of many ways a child can be linked to something or someone. There are so many factors impacting how a child is brought up and who/what they eventually become. Let’s be vigilant and mindful of these things. Because prostitution is just one example. But can you imagine if this article was about depression in Senegalese society (which could very well be relevant when talking about reasons why one might go into the prostitution business). I’ll stop here so I won’t digress but I think you get the point…