Soda, my sister

**An open letter to my baby sister (who’s not much of a baby anymore)**

Hey girl,

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. Have respect: for everyone.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 🙂

Xoxo,

Aissatou ❀

P.S. Don’t be afraid to cry.

Notre “DiinĂ©â€ (religion): Oustaz Pape Hane

**Qui est Pape Hane?**

Je m’appelle Macoumba Hane, mais on m’appelle Pape Hane. Je suis nĂ© Ă  ThiĂšs, au SĂ©nĂ©gal. Je vais rĂ©sumer mon enfance en disant que j’ai appris le Coran Ă  un jeune Ăąge – mon maitre coranique s’appelait Makhtar Cisse. J’ai terminĂ© le Coran, puis j’ai dĂ©mĂ©nagĂ© Ă  Kaolack pour apprendre le “xam-xam” ou la connaissance au-delĂ  du Coran.

**Pouvez-vous nous parler un peu de votre parcours pour devenir un Oustaz?**

Quand j’avais 12 ans, je faisais partie d’un dahira (congrĂ©gation). J’étais le plus jeune dans le dahira et souvent jouĂ© avec des discours et Ă©coutĂ© Ibou Sakho (Googlez le). J’ai donnĂ© des sermons Ă  mes camarades et je leur ai enseignĂ© ce que j’apprenais. C’était avant que je ne sois allĂ© au daara (Ă©cole coranique) pour apprendre le xam-xam. Donc dĂšs mon plus jeune Ăąge, j’ai eu l’envie et je l’ai juste poursuivie avec les apprentissages supplĂ©mentaires requis.

**En parlant d’apprentissages supplĂ©mentaires, qu’est-ce qu’il faut pour devenir un Oustaz?

On doit Ă©tudier diffĂ©rents livres aprĂšs avoir appris le Coran, comme Fiqh. Une fois les nombreux livres Ă©tudiĂ©s, on doit alors apprendre Ă  interprĂ©ter (firi en wolof) afin qu’on ne puisse relayer le message Ă  quelqu’un qui ne parle pas arabe ou n’a pas appris ces livres. Le processus est difficile, mais Masha’Allah quand on a l’amour pour ça et l’amour pour le ProphĂšte (PSL), ça devient facile.

**Dans la sociĂ©tĂ© d’aujourd’hui, nous entendons dire qu’il y a une « crise des valeurs » au SĂ©nĂ©gal, en particulier chez les jeunes. Quel est votre position Ă  ce sujet ?**

Oui, c’est une rĂ©alitĂ© grave et triste. La façon dont les gens Ă©duquent leurs enfants n’est pas la mĂȘme. Les valeurs ont changĂ© et les gens se soucient de moins en moins du bien-ĂȘtre de toute la communautĂ©, de sorte que tout le monde agisse juste en leur propre faveur. Personne ne semble s’inquiĂ©ter des prochaines gĂ©nĂ©rations Ă  venir.

Kersa (mot Wolof qui signifie une certaine modestie) n’existe plus. Pas dans la façon dont les gens parlent, s’habillent ou se comportent. Autrefois, quand un homme dit Ă  une femme qu’il l’aime, elle est timide ou peut sourire timidement pour dire “Je t’aime de retour” mais aujourd’hui, tout le monde est audacieux et regarde directement les yeux des autres et dit ce qu’ils ressentent. On pouvait compter le nombre de personnes qui boivent ou fument dans un quartier, mais aujourd’hui, c’est rĂ©pandu. La liste des choses continue encore et encore.

Une autre chose est qu’il y a de la pression aujourd’hui avec le temps. Tout le monde se prĂ©cipite et veut s’en sortir du jour au lendemain, il y a beaucoup de fraude en cours pour gagner de l’argent facile. Les gens avec des valeurs qui travaillent dur diminuent et le pire de tout ça, personne ne fait rien au nom d’Allah les autres, semble-t-il. Il y a toujours du bien, mais beaucoup de mauvais vraiment.

** Comment inverser cette tendance négative alors ?**

Nous devons revenir Ă  l’essentiel. Le Coran et la Sunna (enseignements du ProphĂšte (PSL)) nous ont Ă©tĂ© donnĂ©s en tant que guide et nous devons nous rappeler qu’Allah ne se soucie pas de la façon dont vous commencez, il se soucie de la façon dont vous finissez. Donc, nettoyons les cƓurs et aimons-nous les uns les autres.

** Oustaz, je dois vous demander parce que les gens continuent d’en parler. Qu’est-ce que c’est que Akhirou Zamane (fin du monde) ?**

Le prophĂšte a dit: Je ne serai pas couche 2000 ans dans le sol.
1 441 ans depuis son décÚs.

Fais le calcul.

Maintenant, au-delĂ  de l’aspect chronomĂ©trage de celle-ci, il y a beaucoup de signes de « Akhirou Zamane ». La diminution des valeurs que j’ai mentionnĂ©es prĂ©cĂ©demment est un signe, les catastrophes naturelles en sont une autre, beaucoup de divergences en sont une autre aussi, et la liste continue. C’est essentiellement une Ă©poque oĂč les choses seront trĂšs complexes et dĂ©sordonnĂ©es et cela nous mĂšnera Ă  la fin du monde telle que nous la connaissons. Ce n’est pas un processus de dix ans – ce sont des siĂšcles et des siĂšcles de signes qui culminent tous Ă  ce jour fatidique oĂč nous sortirons de nos tombes et rĂ©pondrons Ă  notre CrĂ©ateur.

Aissatou s’exprimant principalement par urgence LOL : Je suppose que cela signifie n’importe quel jour maintenant peut ĂȘtre la fin du monde. Qu’Allah (Dieu) nous guide tous de retour vers lui !

**Ok, donc maintenant, je dois vous poser quelques questions brĂ»lantes sur le sujet trĂšs controversĂ© de la polygamie qui fait l’objet de discussions intenses. Que dit le Coran ? **

Tout d’abord, le Coran dit que vous devez ĂȘtre en mesure de le faire. Cela signifie financiĂšrement et ĂȘtre assez responsable pour garder votre mĂ©nage dans l’ordre. Vous devez yamale (garder les choses Ă©gales). Si vous ne pouvez pas garder les choses Ă©gales, alors l’Islam vous a libĂ©rĂ© du fardeau d’avoir plusieurs Ă©pouses.

Il y a un moyen de le faire et chaque situation est diffĂ©rente de sorte qu’il soit important de chercher des connaissances et des conseils de ceux qui ont appris ce que les livres disent. L’ignorance de toute orientation n’est pas une excuse.

** Que devons-nous faire pour maintenir notre « diinĂ© » (religion) tout en vivant Ă  l’étranger? **

Travailler dur. Et pas seulement dans le sens professionnel, mais investir du temps dans votre diinĂ© (foi) pour en apprendre davantage et vivre les choses que vous apprenez. C’est votre responsabilitĂ© ultime et vous serez interrogĂ© le Jour du Jugement.

———

Un MERCI trĂšs spĂ©cial Ă  Oustaz Pape Hane pour cette interview rafraĂźchissante. Je suis honorĂ©e et profondĂ©ment motivĂ©e chaque fois que je vous entends parler de la belle religion qu’est l’Islam et votre amour profond pour notre prophĂšte Mahomet (SAW). Yallah na sa jam yagg Oustaz. JĂ«rĂ«jĂ«f !

Maguette, on behalf of all the women holding it together during Ramadan

Reading time: ~4 mins

File:Alarm Clock Vector.svg - Wikimedia Commons
4:45 AM

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.

Mix dried fruits (date palm fruits, prunes, dried apricots, raisins) and nuts, and traditional arabic tea. ramadan (ramazan) food. Premium Photo
4:55 AM

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.

5:15 AM (actual size of the stairs at my house)

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.

5:25 AM

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.”

Ramadan Islamic Art Muslim - Free vector graphic on Pixabay
5:35 AM

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.

Codou, the street vendor

Reading time: ~8 minutes

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!

Codou: Waw, lolou yepp deug la mais- [Yes, that’s true but-]

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].

Beauty & Brains: NDÉYE <3

Shameless plug, she’s my little sister!!! 🙂

**Who is Ndeye?**

Ah, I really hate this question. I usually have to answer it in this formatted elaborate elevator pitch so I’m going to take this chance to just freestyle. I’m a 24-year old Senegalese woman who has an immense hunger for human interaction and a thirst for success. I was born and raised in a small town in Senegal called Ngaaye, Meckhe until the age of 7 when we moved to the U.S. My dad was a Calculus professor at the time and my mom was the quinsecental housewife and mother extraordinaire. We started in Florence, Kentucky and soon ended up in Cincinnati, Ohio where I spent my teen and early adult years. I’m currently in medical school in Atlanta, GA. I like to think I’m the type of person who puts my mind to something and doesn’t stop until it manifests for me. This has lead me to be where I am today but also serves as one of my greatest weaknesses and entering my 20s was the slap in the face I needed. Having spent literally my whole
entire
life
 in school, I reached a point where I began to have better discernment in what I place value in and what really makes me feel good. This explains my need for human interaction, for meaningful relationships and experiences, for meaningless activities, for a closer relationship with Allah, for the need to just lay down and do nothing. So yeah, thats me.  I just be chilling, though 🙂

**Who is your role model?**

My mother. She embodies strength in every fashion and form. She’s become my best friend in my adult years and I see myself in her in so many ways it’s actually funny to me now how much we argued when I was younger. She works harder than anyone I know and would do anything for her family. 

**What do you do currently?**

I’m currently in my third year of medical school wrapping up my clinical rotations. Essentially this means I’ve gotten a snippet of some of the major fields in medicine including surgery, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, to name a few. I have been able to participate in the care of patients in inpatient units, in the OR, and in clinic. A little over a year from now I can call myself Dr. Guisse!

**How did you become passionate about medicine?**

I was always good at math and science and I love to use my hands and stay busy (to a certain degree) so once I realized human beings are actually not so bad (lol), I found medicine to be the perfect fit. I think there’s something special about human interactions because they stick with us in a very memorable way. Medicine for me was where I felt I could both be challenged and stimulated by tough clinical decisions while forming relationships with patients. Additionally, traveling back to Senegal I saw opportunity to give back to my home which only strengthened my passion. 

**Scaling things back to Africa/Senegal, what’s your biggest qualm about how medicine is perceived/practiced?**

There’s a lot of mistrust in the medical system in Senegal, a lot of which is merited and based on anecdotal experiences. Healthcare is simply not a priority in the way that it should be and that coupled with all that comes with being a underdeveloped nation AND questionable government policies leads to an infrastructure that is not for the welfare of the people. It’s unfortunate but it’s a problem that won’t be solved overnight and I hope to contribute in my own small way to hopefully make an impact to even a small population.

**What practical advice do you have for anyone who wants to get into the medical field? Actual steps they can take and some non-negotiables like standardized tests, expected test scores, etc.**

When it comes to the medical field and medical school, there are so many things that are out of your control.The best advice I can give is to identify things that you can control and be excellent in them. For example, if you are studying for the MCAT or board exams, understand that it comes with sacrifice and it takes time to learn how to approach these tests. Give yourself the necessary 2-3 months to study for these exams and stay focused. It’s helpful to understand early on that there are just going to be things that you may want to do that you will have to miss out on but it will make your life easier down the road. For the Black prospects reading this, you will feel defeated often and it’s easy to beat yourself up or question if you’ve earned the merit to be in these spaces. The key is to recognize that it is okay to feel that and process that, but you have got to pick up and keep going. One of the best ways to do this is to identify mentors of all types and keep them a phone call away. I could go all day but every student is different so you all know where to find me!

**In leveraging your education, what do you want to be your contribution to the development of Senegal?**

I think about this almost every day. I think Senegal, like any developing nation, has a true need for tertiary care. I’ve seen in my own family and loved ones unfortunate outcomes due to the lack of adequate healthcare and resources. My goal is to aid in the alleviation of this through organizations and collaborations providing medical devices and excellent surgical care as I feel an inherent responsibility and desire to see my home country grow. First, I have to pass these boards though, lol. 

**When I think about medicine, I think of human life and the value attached to it. What does medicine mean to you?**

Medicine to me means opportunity to empower and to connect. There is an inherent power dynamic because of how vulnerable patients are with their physicians and this is why it’s important to build genuine rapport with your patients but the beauty in all of it is that you get to help a fellow human being get back to feeling like themselves. I’ve learned so much about human nature just through my few years as medical student and I can’t begin to think about all of the things I’ll learn from my future patients as a surgeon!

KBF said … your stepchild is not your child

“Doomu jiitle du doom”

**ATTENTION ALL PARENTS**

Friends. Social media. Television. Travel. iPhones. Androids. Google. Spotify. Apple Music. Hulu. HBO. Netflix. Disney. School. Prom. Homecoming. Boyfriend. Girlfriend. Detention. Starbucks.

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)!

Photo from The Economist article.

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…

Sources

Disclaimers

  • I do not talk about male prostitutes in this article. But they exist.
  • I do not condone prostitution as a viable solution to life’s unfortunate series of events.
  • I look on the bright side of things…
  • This is a reminder that SENEGAL is not operating on Sharia, despite being a majority Muslim country. Laws are not on the grounds of the Quran or the Bible.

KBF said … An old man is needed in a country

“Mag mat naa bayyi ci’m reew”

Ahhh – the elders. “Respect” was the only word I ever associated with them growing up. It was like their word was law. If you ask my mother, she will still tell you that their word IS law. It may be because she’s one of them now … an elder.

I love the wisdom that they bring to our lives. They carry so many stories and intellectual artifacts that can be valuable in understanding some of the things we’re going through as the “younger generation.” I admire their resiliency and persistence. Because in my mind, being around after everything they’ve been through says a lot. And I want to get to that point where I can pass down this knowledge I’ve gained over the years to my “younger generation.” I want to be able to provide stimulation and provoke the minds of the youth so that, I too, may learn from what they have encountered. That last point is what I think is missing for our older generation, our Senegalese elders.

You see, in Senegalese society, there is no room for the youth to have opinions, thoughts, room for mistakes, and God forbid, the freedom to make their own choices. We are bound by sayings like “fii laniou ko fekk, tei fii laniou koy bayi” or “khale khamoul dara.” Loosely translated, it means “we leave things as we found them (generation-to-generation) and “kids don’t know anything.” The first one, I’m more lenient about because of the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Some things are broken but we’ll get to that later. The second saying that children don’t know anything bothers me to my core. Because what it should say is something along the lines of “children don’t know the same things we do.” That gives credit where credit is due.

As a child, respecting your elders in Senegalese society means the following (not an exhaustive list):

  • Don’t disagree with anything elders say.
  • Don’t challenge their decisions or thought processes.
  • Don’t disobey them.
  • Even if they are telling a blatant lie, agree with them.
  • Don’t turn down their unsolicited “barging in” in your life.
  • Don’t talk back, even if they ask you to answer them, because that counts as talking back.
  • Don’t make your own decisions. Always consult them and make your choice, their choice.

A quick glimpse into the hierarchy of elders-to-youth in Senegalese culture shows you that Kocc Barma’s saying that “an old man is necessary in a country” holds true in many ways. Not because it’s true. And not because it’s not true. But I want to challenge you to think about this differently. In this series, starting with this chapter, I want to invoke a new way of thinking about this and other historical sayings so that we can adopt new ways of understanding them. Allow me to elaborate.

If I start with the saying that adults are necessary in a country, I can’t help but agree. As I stated earlier, they bring wisdom, experience, knowledge, and tried-and-tested methods to surviving this life. After all, they did make it to old age. I don’t just give children credit where credit is due. The elders deserve it here too. So what exactly is my problem with this saying? Well, my problem is when the valid experiences, knowledge, wisdom, and rationale that the youth bring with them is invalided by feelings of hierarchy and/or dominance. The youth, in this saying, don’t have consideration or weight in “grown-up” discussions. No matter how old they become, they will always be seen as children in the eyes of their elders and thus, must succumb to the same treatment of children.

This becomes much more prominent and problematic when it becomes time for said youth to make not-so-youthful decisions, such as who to marriage, career choices, traveling (informing versus asking for permission), how to raise their kids, and even how to spend their money on large purchases. In each of these pivotal moments, an adult must be consulted. And more than consulted, their “advice” must be taken as final or else, the youth runs the risk of being called disobedient, hard-headed, and/or “too westernized.”

This leads me to a point I want to talk about – the theory of cultural modernization. This idea that the evolution of norms and traditions applies also to the cultural realm. I’ll spare you the technical details and boil it down to a Wolof saying I adore: su diamono di dox, danguay dox ande ak mome, loosely translated to as generations walk, you must walk along with them. I love this saying because it simplifies the theory of cultural modernization so well. As the world becomes smaller, as the displacement of people becomes more and more commonplace, and as tradition merge with modernization, we as a people must adapt. It’s not about throwing away our values. It’s not even about plagiarizing those of others. It’s about creating a cocktail of the old, plus the new, to have a more holistic view of the real, true world we live in today. It’s about integration and harmonization. It’s about the first generation 20 year old young woman who was born in Senegal and must find the balance between hanging on to her roots but assimilating to her known life in the US. It’s about the 6 year old bilingual boy who must instantaneously switch between English and Spanish during a parent-teacher meeting to translate for his mother whose English isn’t perfect. How about the 28 year old African-American man who must practice basic Japanese customs and phrases the weekend before he meets his future parents-in-law because he wants to impress them? Let’s not forget about the Muslim hijabi who has to educate men around her office that her not shaking their hand isn’t a sign of disrespect towards them – and not get side eyes for daring to step out of her “traditional role” as a house wife. Cultural modernization looks different everywhere we look… with one common denominator: the world as we know it is changing. Things are looking different, more interconnected and old sayings/traditions/norms are simply no longer a litmus test for “right.” Right looks different depending on who you ask and yes, it’s the youth that brought on this change. Whether it’s the youth of today or the youth of tomorrow, it really doesn’t matter. In every generation, the youth brought something that wasn’t there before and we, as humans, are forced to adapt.

If I pull the reins in a little, back on topic, I insist that yes, elders are necessary for a country. Because of the wisdom they bring and the experiences they share. But they must remember they were the youth to whatever was their older generation at some point. It’s a cycle and everyone must have their turn. So when I throw out the challenge for Senegalese elders to give a little more credit and dare I say respect to the younger generation, I say it with full acknowledgement that one day, I will be part of the older generation that must accept that things will look just a little bit different than from my time. But it’s just that: different.

As we journey through the remainder of Kocc Barma’s sayings, let’s keep this in mind: it’s hard to know what is better or worse – you’ll always get a different answer depending on who you ask. All we are certain of is that something is different. So let’s not punish the younger generation for having a fresh way of doing things, especially when forced to do so by their surroundings. I’m sure when Kocc Barma said mag mat naa bayyi ci’m reew, he didn’t mean at the expense of the youth.

TIDIANE

CLARA: “ ñaareel xaritu jĂ«kkĂ«ram” – deuxiĂšme Ă©pouse

Je sais qu’il m’aime plus. Il a quittĂ© sa maison tant de fois pour ĂȘtre avec moi et je n’ai jamais compris pourquoi il est restĂ© avec elle s’il disait qu’il m’aimait tant. Elle est essentiellement sa bonne ; elle fait tout dans la maison. Je dois le lui donner Ă  elle parce que je n’ai pas la patience.

Quand on sortait ensemble, il m’avait toujours dit comment elle le harcelait au point oĂč il se sentait comme s’il devait aller chercher la paix ailleurs. Il m’appelle son paradis, son al-jannah ! ❀

On est sorti ensemble pendant trois ans avant de nous marier. Il a fallu trois ans parce que j’Ă©tais Ă  l’Ă©cole et mes parents voulaient que je finisse mes Ă©tudes avant de rentrer dans le mariage. Je n’ai toujours pas attendu jusqu’Ă  ce que je sois fini ; tous mes amies se mariaient et je peux allier l’Ă©cole et la vie conjugale en mĂȘme temps. Ce n’est vraiment pas si grand problĂšme.

Je dirais que notre diffĂ©rence d’Ăąge porte beaucoup de gens Ă  rĂ©flexion. Il a 19 ans de plus que moi. J’ai 20 ans. Personnellement, je ne pense vraiment pas que ce soit un si grand Ă©cart d’Ăąge, il n’a pas encore 40 ans ! Nous sommes heureux ensemble et c’est tout ce qui compte.

Sa femme est tombĂ©e enceinte avant mĂȘme qu’ils ne se marient. Je ne peux jamais vraiment la respecter. Il m’en a parlĂ© pendant qu’on sortait ensemble et c’Ă©tait dans mon esprit chaque fois que je pensais Ă  la rejoindre dans cette maison. C’Ă©tait un avantage que j’avais sur elle. J’avais hĂąte de pouvoir l’utiliser comme arme un jour. 

En fin de compte, s’il Ă©tait vraiment heureux Ă  la maison, il ne serait pas venu me voir. Ces premiĂšres Ă©pouses pensent qu’elles ont une telle emprise sur leurs maris. Elles ne savent pas non plus ce qu’ils font quand ils quittent leurs maisons. Ma thĂ©orie est que je n’ai pas couru aprĂšs quelqu’un – il est venu vers moi et nous avons cliquĂ©. J’apporte un nouveau sens Ă  sa vie que sa femme ne pourrait jamais lui donner et si elle n’aime pas ça, ce n’est pas mon problĂšme. Nous sommes toutes les deux ses Ă©pouses maintenant de sorte que tout ce rĂ©cit de, “Je suis ici depuis plus de 15 ans”, est mort. J’ai autant de droits qu’elle et mes enfants auront autant accĂšs Ă  son hĂ©ritage qu’aux siens.

HENRIETTE: La mĂšre de Clara

Je voulais plus pour ma fille – des visions plus Ă©levĂ©es et des espoirs ! J’ai grandi dans une famille polygame et j’ai vu tous les ennuis qu’elle a apportĂ©s avec elle. Il n’y a jamais de vraie paix et de tranquillitĂ© Ă  l’intĂ©rieur de ces maisons ; quelqu’un est toujours contrariĂ© par quelque chose. Pour moi, c’Ă©tait de voir ma mĂšre dĂ©penser tous ces efforts pour plaire Ă  mon pĂšre, seulement pour que lui rince et de rĂ©pĂšte ce mĂȘme traitement avec ses autres Ă©pouses Ă  des jours diffĂ©rents. Rien de tout ça ne semblait rĂ©el.

Je voulais que Clara termine ses Ă©tudes et obtienne un excellent travail de sorte qu’elle puisse se prendre en charge elle-mĂȘme. Mais elle s’est prĂ©cipitĂ©e dans ce mariage malgrĂ© mes avertissements – surtout entrer dans une situation oĂč d’un, l’homme est tellement plus ĂągĂ© qu’elle et de deux, elle ne l’a pas pour elle seule. Tout le monde a cette idĂ©e que tous les hommes sont infidĂšles. J’aime Ă  penser que ce n’est pas vrai. J’ai Ă©pousĂ© mon mari aprĂšs 3 ans de frĂ©quentation et j’ai tenu fermement Ă  mes valeurs de respect et d’honnĂȘtetĂ©. J’ai imposĂ© cela Ă  notre relation dĂšs le dĂ©but et il savait exactement quel genre de traitement je voudrais et n’accepterais pas. Je ne dis pas qu’il ne me tromperait jamais. Je dis qu’il sait que s’il le faisait, je ne resterais jamais lĂ  pour ça. C’est la principale diffĂ©rence. Nous ne pouvons pas dire aux gens ce qu’ils ne peuvent pas faire, surtout les adultes. Mais vous pouvez vous dire comment vous allez rĂ©agir et j’ai passĂ© toute ma vie d’adulte Ă  souhaiter le scĂ©nario dans lequel j’ai grandi Ă  mes propres enfants. Je voulais mieux pour eux alors je suis allĂ©e Ă  l’Ă©cole et j’ai construit une carriĂšre pour moi-mĂȘme et leur ai montrĂ© que chacun d’eux doit ĂȘtre indĂ©pendant !

Je ne dis pas que j’ai Ă©chouĂ© avec Clara. C’est une adulte et elle doit faire ses propres choix. Je dis juste que j’aimerais qu’elle en fasse une autre.

ABIBATOU: “Aawo buuru kĂ«ram” – premiĂšre femme

Je l’ai rencontrĂ© quand j’avais 14 ans. Nous sommes allĂ©s Ă  l’Ă©cole ensemble et tout le monde savait que nous nous aimions. Vers l’Ăąge de 16 ans, nous avons commencĂ© Ă  sortir ensemble officiellement et nous sommes ensemble depuis.

Mes parents l’aimaient dĂšs le dĂ©part. Nos pĂšres Ă©taient des compagnons et ont Ă©tĂ© touchĂ©s par l’idĂ©e que leur lien allait encore Ă©tĂ© renforcĂ© si leurs enfants se retrouvaient ensemble. C’Ă©tait agrĂ©able … jusqu’Ă  ce que ça gĂšne chaque fois que je me plaignais Ă  mon pĂšre du comportement de Tidiane. Qu’il s’agisse de tricherie, de violence verbale, de violence physique, de m’ignorer pendant des jours ou de m’humilier devant d’autres femmes, la rĂ©ponse Ă©tait toujours la mĂȘme : « le divorce n’est pas une option. Retourne chez toi. Â» 

Le fait d’avoir eu notre premier enfant avant que nous ne nous soyons mariĂ©s officiellement n’a pas aidĂ© non plus … et ne me donne pas beaucoup de possibilitĂ©s pour une nĂ©gociation.

Ce n’est pas toujours mauvais. En fait, certains jours sont vraiment bons. Il peut ĂȘtre doux et gentil quand il veut l’ĂȘtre. C’est juste quand cette chemise n’est pas lavĂ©e correctement ou que ce plat n’est pas prĂ©parĂ© comme il aime qu’on se dispute. Et quand on le fait, c’est mauvais.

Je me souviens du jour oĂč il m’a dit qu’il avait Ă©pousĂ© Clara. Eh bien, pas vraiment beaucoup de choses Ă  dire ; juste que je l’ai dĂ©couvert et l’ai confrontĂ© Ă  ce sujet. Une de mes copines m’a appelĂ©e un soir et m’a annoncĂ© la nouvelle. Je n’ai toujours rien dit parce que je voulais l’entendre de lui directement. Il a plutĂŽt envoyĂ© son meilleur ami Pape quelques jours plus tard. Il y avait trĂšs peu de respect ou de considĂ©ration par rapport Ă  ce qu’il avait fait. “J’ai le droit d’avoir jusqu’Ă  quatre femmes Aby. Je n’ai pas signĂ© pour un mariage monogame avec toi ! Il n’y avait pas grand-chose que je pouvais dire Ă  cela et en parler Ă  mes parents serait une perte de temps. Mon pĂšre Ă©tait polygame.

Je ne sais plus du tout comment me sentir. Au fil des ans, j’ai appris Ă  censurer mes sentiments au point oĂč ils ont presque cessĂ© de compter. Il n’y a jamais rien que je puisse dire pour lui faire faire quelque chose qu’il ne voulait pas faire. Notre mariage est trĂšs unilatĂ©ral, je fais la plupart du travail, Ă©motionnellement et autrement, pour maintenir la paix.

SOKHNA: La fille d’Abibatou

Je sais que ma mĂšre souffre, mais je suis plus furieuse.

Clara a mon Ăąge. Elle ne peut pas ĂȘtre ma tante. Pas dans ces circonstances-lĂ . Et ce qui est plus frustrant c’est que les gens me regardent comme si j’avais 10 yeux quand j’exprime ma colĂšre – comme s’ils ne pouvaient pas concevoir pourquoi Diable je me fĂącherais.

Je suis l’aĂźnĂ© de mes frĂšres et sƓurs. J’ai deux frĂšres et trois sƓurs. Nous sommes Ă  l’Ă©cole et nous essayons de tout faire et de rendre nos parents fiers. Je suis dans ma 3Ăšme annĂ©e d’Uni et tellement en colĂšre que je reçois ces appels tĂ©lĂ©phoniques avec un nouveau problĂšme tous les jours. Ce serait une chose si Clara venait chez nous avec des dĂ©clarations de paix. Tout le monde est dĂ©jĂ  mĂ©content de la dĂ©cision de mon pĂšre et elle vient ajouter de l’huile au feu. Elle est irrespectueuse, mesquine et a un regard complice. Mon pĂšre ne peut voir aucun dĂ©faut en elle. Donc, gĂ©nĂ©ralement, si elle entre se dispute avec n’importe qui, elle est automatiquement protĂ©gĂ©e et pardonnĂ©e par mon pĂšre tandis que nous autres recevons des sermons comme « respecter et accepter la volontĂ© de Dieu. Â» C’est vraiment une excuse bidon.

Je dĂ©teste rentrer Ă  la maison lors des vacances ou des pauses scolaires ces jours-ci. C’est toujours de l’Ă©nergie nĂ©gative. Je dĂ©fends ma mĂšre, mais elle essaie de me faire taire aussi… elle ne veut pas que je sois impliquĂ©e d’aucune façon. Mais je m’en fiche. Tant que cette sorciĂšre continuera Ă  poursuivre ma famille, je serai sĂ»re de la mettre Ă  sa place Ă  chaque fois. Épargnez-moi du drame genre “C’est la femme de ton pĂšre”. C’est une salope et c’est tout ce qu’elle sera Ă  mes yeux.

PAPE – Le meilleur ami de Tidiane

J’ai dĂ» ĂȘtre celui qui a annoncĂ© la nouvelle Ă  Abibatou. Elle fait partie de ma vie depuis notre plus jeune Ăąge, on est tous les deux allĂ©s Ă  l’Ă©cole ensemble. C’Ă©tait un jour sombre en lui disant que Tidiane allait se marier. J’ai Ă©tĂ© entraĂźnĂ© dedans parce qu’apparemment, je devais ĂȘtre celui qui la console. Moi. Pas Tidiane. Dites-moi si cela a un sens !

J’ai dĂ©cidĂ© de ne jamais avoir de seconde femme. Pas aprĂšs avoir vu comment il a dĂ©chirĂ© Aby et surtout pas aprĂšs avoir vu comment la vie de Tidiane est devenue 10 fois plus difficile depuis qu’il a Ă©pousĂ© Clara. Nos conversations tournent autour de ses problĂšmes tous les jours. On ne peut pas parler d’autre chose. Cela a pris toute son Ă©nergie. 

Je ne veux pas de ça pour moi. Notre groupe d’amis est constituĂ© d’un mĂ©lange d’hommes qui ont plusieurs Ă©pouses et ceux qui n’en ont qu’une. Et je peux vous dire que ceux qui n’en ont juste une ont beaucoup moins de stress quand il s’agit de la vie conjugale. J’avais averti Tidiane de ne pas le faire, mais ces choses, une fois lancĂ©es, il y n’a que trĂšs peu de choses qui peuvent ĂȘtre rĂ©cupĂ©rĂ©es. Les espoirs de Clara Ă©taient au rendez-vous et il Ă©tait allĂ© trop loin, il ne pouvait rien reprendre.

J’ai de sympathie pour mon frĂšre. Il doit juste accepter les consĂ©quences de ses actes et les prendre au jour le jour, je suppose. Je veux dire que c’est littĂ©ralement quelque chose de nouveau tous les jours. Si les femmes ne se battent pas, ce sont ses enfants qui se rebellent. C’est fou Ă  quelle vitesse les choses peuvent changer.

TIDIANE: “ndĂ©yu mbill mi” – la cause de tout cela

Je les aime de diffĂ©rentes maniĂšres. Chacune d’entre elles signifie quelque chose de diffĂ©rent pour moi.

Abibatou est mon cƓur. Je l’ai rencontrĂ©e si jeune et on a grandi ensemble. Nous nous sommes appris tant de choses dans la vie et il n’y aura jamais une autre femme qui puisse la remplacer dans mon cƓur ou dans ma vie. Rien ne pourrait jamais me faire enlever l’amour que j’ai pour cette femme. Au cours des 18 derniĂšres annĂ©es de mariage, elle s’est un peu lĂąchĂ©e. Je sais que les enfants prennent beaucoup de son temps, mais elle n’essaie plus. Nous avons eu des disputes plus frĂ©quentes parce que tout a un retour – elle a une rĂ©ponse pour tout et je ne peux pas tolĂ©rer cela. Je ne vais jamais l’abandonner, mais elle a certainement ses dĂ©fauts.

Clara, ma douce Clara. Elle est ma fontaine de jouvence. De l’avoir rencontrĂ©e m’a donnĂ© un nouveau billet pour la vie quand j’ai pensĂ© que la mienne se dirigeait vers le bas. Elle a Ă©tĂ© si parfaite et comprĂ©hensive de ma situation. Beaucoup de gens me reprochent d’avoir “abandonnĂ©” sur mon mariage et “laissĂ© tomber Aby.” Je n’ai rien fait de ces choses-lĂ  ; Je viens de rĂ©cupĂ©rer un bonheur qui m’a Ă©chappĂ© depuis si longtemps. Et je ne pouvais pas laisser passer ça. Beaucoup ne seront pas d’accord, mais Clara signifie quelque chose de si spĂ©cial pour moi. C’est une fille douce avec tant d’ambitions. L’Ă©tincelle dans ses yeux enflamme mon Ăąme ! Je ne vois que de la grandeur dans notre avenir.

Je n’aurais jamais choisi entre elles deux. Elles occupent des places spĂ©ciales dans mon cƓur et je m’en tiens Ă  cela.

Les arguments et les combats, ils vont s’adoucir. Au fil du temps, le cƓur de chacune deviendra plus tolĂ©rant de la situation et ce sera plus facile. Mes poches n’y parviendront pas (cette affaire de polygamie est chĂšre !), mais nous y arriverons et tout cela en aurait valu la peine. Il faut observer !

Pour ma famille, sachez que je n’ai rien fait de tout cela avec de mauvaises intentions. Je vous aime tous tellement et j’espĂšre que nous pouvons faire ce travail ! Allah a dĂ©cidĂ© que ce serait mon destin et il n’y a rien que je puisse faire Ă  ce sujet.

THIANDELLA

C’Ă©tait la nuit de leur mariage et tous les invitĂ©s Ă©taient rentrĂ©s chez eux. Ils se prĂ©paraient pour leur lune de miel, mais il y avait quelque chose qui se tenait sur le chemin. Madeleine devait Ă  sa famille une clarification avant de partir : sa virginitĂ©. Ils ont dĂ» rendre leur verdict.

Il Ă©tait 4 heures du matin, trois heures aprĂšs que le couple s’est faufilĂ© hors de la fĂȘte de mariage et s’est rendu Ă  leur suite de lune de miel. Les deux avaient pris une douche et se sont mentalement prĂ©parĂ©s pour leur premiĂšre nuit ensemble. Ni l’un ni l’autre n’Ă©taient vierges, mais ils ont attendu leur nuit de noces pour ĂȘtre ensemble. Ce fut une rencontre difficile, malgrĂ© l’annĂ©e oĂč ils sont sortis ensemble et ont passĂ© de nombreux moments seuls.

le lendemain matin…

Madeleine était assise sur le lit, pleurant de façon incontrÎlable. Elle ne savait pas quoi dire.

Thiandella : Madeleine, parle-moi. ArrĂȘte de pleurer.

Madeleine : Je suis vraiment désolée !

Elle ne pouvait mĂȘme pas le regarder.

Thiandella : Regarde, il n’y a pas besoin de pleurer. Parle-moi comme adultes que nous sommes. 

Madeleine : Que pourrais-je dire aprÚs une telle déception ?

Thiandella : Quelle dĂ©ception ? Madeleine, s’il te plaĂźt, ne me dis pas que tu pleures Ă  propos de cette histoire de virginitĂ© ? Ecoute, je sais que c’est une tradition, mais je ne suis pas dans ce genre de choses. Je veux dire, ça aurait Ă©tĂ© bien d’ĂȘtre ton premier homme, mais je n’en ai jamais fait une exigence.

Madeleine : Tu ne comprends pas. Toute ma famille attend ton appel en ce moment.

Thiandella : Je peux les appeler.

Madeleine: Et leur dire quoi!? Ils vont vouloir des preuves.

Madeleine Ă©tait d’une famille trĂšs conservatrice qui « n’a jamais Ă©tĂ© dĂ©shonorĂ©e » et elle ne voulait pas ĂȘtre la premiĂšre Ă  apporter cette honte.

Thiandella : BĂ©bĂ©, je vais leur dire que je suis trĂšs heureux avec ma femme … parce que je le suis. Je t’aime et je ne voulais pas que notre premiĂšre nuit ensemble soit ainsi, toi pleurant sans arrĂȘt. 

Madeleine: Ils vont vouloir des preuves … le drap blanc que ma mĂšre m’a donnĂ© hier soir. Il n’y a pas de sang.

Thiandella : Je ne peux pas croire que nous faisons cela en ce moment.

Madeleine : C’est facile Ă  dire pour toi. Ma  badiane  est probablement en route ici en ce moment mĂȘme. C’est ce qu’ils font.

Thiandella : Et penses-tu vraiment que la nuit de notre mariage Ă©tait le bon moment pour me parler de tous ces protocoles ? Pourquoi tu n’as rien dit plus tĂŽt ? 

Madeleine : Je suis dĂ©solĂ©e ! J’ai juste peur de ce qu’il faut faire … Je ne sais pas quoi dire.

Thiandella se leva Ă  ce point et entra dans la kitchenette de leur suite de l’hĂŽtel. Madeleine s’assit, inquiĂšte, sur le lit, contemplant son prochain mouvement. Elle entendit la machine Ă  cafĂ© vrombir du lit. Elle se lĂšve tranquillement du lit et entre dans la cuisine, pour rejoindre son mari.

Madeleine : Je ne peux pas assez le dire, mais je suis dĂ©solĂ©e de t’avoir mis dans cette situation. J’aimerais savoir quoi faire.

Thiandella : Tu m’aimes ?

Madeline : Plus que tu n’en sais.

Thiandella : D’accord et je t’aime. C’est vraiment tout ce qui compte pour moi Ă  ce stade. Et je sais que ta famille est dans cette merde de virginitĂ©, mais je pense vraiment qu’il est temps de les remettre sur les choses au clair. Sois honnĂȘte avec eux. Combien d’annĂ©es encore vont-ils garder cette tradition?

Madeleine: Tu veux qu’ils me tuent ?! Tu es en colĂšre ? Ma mĂšre ne me laisserait jamais vivre et Dieu, mon pĂšre. Je ne peux mĂȘme pas imaginer. 

Thiandella : Tu es ma femme. Si je n’en fais pas tout un plat, pourquoi le feraient-ils ?

Madeleine : Cette utopie mentale dans laquelle tu vis est tout simplement trop belle pour ĂȘtre vraie. Je sais que nous ne vivons pas ici, mais les rĂ©alitĂ©s existent toujours! 

Thiandella : C’est peut-ĂȘtre vrai, mais tu sais que j’ai raison. Je ne veux mĂȘme pas appeler qui que ce soit au sujet de la virginitĂ© de ma femme. Ce n’est l’affaire de personne.

Madeleine : C’est l’affaire de toute ma famille.

Thiandalla : Je vais te blĂąmer sur celle-ci. Pas parce que tu n’es pas vierge parce que je le savais, mais parce que tu attends jusqu’Ă  maintenant pour avoir cette conversation avec moi. On aurait dĂ» ĂȘtre en lune de miel ! J’aurais Ă©tĂ© mieux prĂ©parĂ© si j’avais su que ta famille Ă©tait si zĂ©lĂ©e Ă  ce sujet !

Madeleine Ă©tait calme; elle savait qu’il avait raison. Chaque fois qu’elle voulait en parler, elle pensait que ça l’enfuyait. Que ce serait trop pour quelqu’un qui n’a pas grandi dans cet environnement de comprendre. La famille de Thiandella Ă©tait si ouverte d’esprit et libre. Sa sƓur n’a jamais eu Ă  subir cette phase quand elle s’est mariĂ©e. Mais sa famille Ă©tait diffĂ©rente. Ils sont trĂšs traditionnels et n’ont pas l’intention de bouger sur ces traditions de sitĂŽt. Elle et Thiandella vivaient Ă  Seattle, Washington, mais voulaient avoir leur mariage de retour au SĂ©nĂ©gal autour de leur famille et de leurs amis. Ils ne se rendaient pas compte que cela venait avec un prix Ă©levĂ©.

Thiandella : Écoute, je suis dĂ©solĂ©, je ne veux pas ajouter plus de stress Ă  ce que tu traverses dĂ©jĂ . Prends une douche et rafraĂźchis-toi pendant que je nous fais un petit dĂ©jeuner. Ça te fera du bien.

Madeleine: D’accord.

Pendant que Madeleine Ă©tait sous la douche, Thiandella a entendu quelqu’un frappĂ© Ă  la porte. C’Ă©tait la tristement cĂ©lĂšbre badiane de Madeleine, ici pour rĂ©cupĂ©rer Ă  la fois les nouvelles de sa virginitĂ© ainsi que la feuille blanche sur laquelle elle a passĂ© sa premiĂšre nuit conjugale.

Thiandella : S’il vous plaĂźt, asseyez-vous. Je reviens tout de suite.

Thiandella a discrĂštement saisi un couteau sur le chemin du retour Ă  la chambre. La douche Ă©tait toujours en marche et Madeleine fredonnait une chanson. Il Ă©tait heureux de l’entendre se dĂ©fouler un peu au milieu de tout ce drame. Il se dirigea vers le lit, couteau Ă  la main, et examina un endroit sur son corps oĂč il pourrait couper. Il allait honorer sa femme d’une façon ou d’une autre. Rapidement, il a fait une petite incision sur sa poitrine, faisant sortir de minuscules gouttes de sang. Avec ses doigts, il guide le sang de sa poitrine Ă  la le tissu blanc, qui le tachait. Il frotta le tissu en essayant de rĂ©duire la fraĂźcheur du sang. Se sentant satisfait, il soulĂšve le tissu du lit, la plie soigneusement, et le mit sur une capuche, et sortit dans le salon.

Thiandella : Badiane, je veux que vous sachiez que je suis trĂšs heureux avec ma femme. Tout ce que j’ai toujours voulu, je l’ai eu. Tenez.

Il lui tend le tissu, qu’elle accepte volontiers.

Badiane : Alhamdoulilah. Tu viens de soulever un poids Ă©norme sur mes Ă©paules, sur les Ă©paules de toute notre famille. Merci beaucoup!

Thiandella : Ce n’est pas un problĂšme, Badiane. Merci pour tout. 

Badiane : Qu’Allah vous rĂ©compense tous les deux avec de beaux enfants de l’Islam !

Thiandella : Ameen Badiane.

Badiane : Amatuma toogaay [je ne peux plus rester]. Sa mĂšre m’attend pour que je ramĂšne les nouvelles. Je vais m’en aller.

Thiandella : Ici, utilisez-le comme pass (argent de taxi).

Thiandella prend 10.000 cfa de son portefeuille et le remet Ă  Badiane.

Badiane : Yallah na ko Yallah dom yombal. Jërëjëf !

AprĂšs la douche de Madeleine…

Thiandella : Badiane est passée.

Madeleine a laissé tomber sa lotion en état de choc.

Madeleine: Quoi?! quand?! Qu’est-ce qu’elle a dit ?

Thiandella :   Shhh, calme-toi. Je me suis dĂ©jĂ  occupĂ© de tout. 

Madeleine : Qu’est-ce que tu veux dire ?

Thiandella saisit sa main et l’assit sur le lit. C’est Ă  ce moment qu’elle a remarquĂ© que le drap blanc que sa mĂšre lui avait donnĂ© avait disparu. Elle regarda son mari avec incrĂ©dulitĂ©. Thiandella ouvrit la fermeture de sa capuche, montrant sa poitrine meurtrie.

Madeleine : Oh !

Elle s’est immĂ©diatement mise Ă  pleurer.

Thiandella : Je t’ai fait un vƓu de toujours t’aimer et de te protĂ©ger. Et ça n’a rien Ă  voir avec ta famille. Je ne pensais pas que je devais te protĂ©ger de ta propre famille, surtout pas si tĂŽt dans notre mariage, mais je veux que tu saches que je suis prĂȘt Ă  le faire et encore plus si ça veut dire te garder en sĂ©curitĂ© et heureuse. Tu vaux plus que ça pour moi Madeleine. 

Elle Ă©tait Ă  court de mots. Elle ne pouvait pas croire ce qu’il avait fait pour elle.

“Comment puis-je jamais te rembourser ?”

Thiandella l’a prise dans ses bras et l’a consolĂ©e. « Notre relation ne sera jamais contrepartie. Nous ne nous devons jamais mutuellement des faveurs ou de garder une trace de notes. Nous sommes dans le mĂȘme bateau et c’est tout.

Elle ne savait pas quoi dire. Cela semblait ĂȘtre son hymne tout au long de la nuit.

Thiandella : Mais tu dois tout me dire. Cette nuit aurait pu se passer complĂštement diffĂ©rente si tu m’avais parlĂ© de ta mĂšre et de Badiane il y a longtemps. On ne peut pas avoir un mariage solide quand les choses sont laissĂ©es de cĂŽtĂ©.

Madeleine : Je sais et c’Ă©tait 100% ma faute. Je suis vraiment dĂ©solĂ©. Pardonne-moi, s’il te plaĂźt.

Thaindella : ConsidĂšre-toi pardonnĂ©e ! Maintenant, puis-je s’il te plaĂźt profiter de nos premiers moments en tant que couple mariĂ© en paix ? Bari nga ay caprices trop !

Madeleine sourit timidement et suivit son mari dans la cuisine. Elle sentit une vague de soulagement couler Ă  travers elle.

Madeleine : Je t’aime tellement.

Thiandella sourit et saisit le paquet de bienvenue de lune de miel posĂ© Ă  cĂŽtĂ© de la machine Ă  cafĂ© ! “Alors, Tanzanie, hein?!”

MOUTAROU

Au SĂ©nĂ©gal il y a beaucoup de pressions sociales. Pratiquement, tout le monde fait face Ă  ce phĂ©nomĂšne dans tout le pays, les femmes aussi bien les hommes. 

En ce qui me concerne, je suis l’aĂźnĂ© hommes, ce qui me donne un statut de soutien de famille. Au SĂ©nĂ©gal, on a des familles nombreuses, ce qui fait que souvent, les enfants sont appelĂ©s Ă  fournir le soutien de famille pour subvenir aux besoins des frĂšres et sƓurs et des parents. Je suis dans cette situation-lĂ  car je suis le troisiĂšme enfant et le premier garçon. 

Donc, je dois subvenir aux besoins de ma famille puisque, mon pĂšre Ă©tant ĂągĂ© maintenant, je suis le seul qui a un travail dĂ©cent alors, c’est une obligation de donner la dĂ©pense quotidienne et assurer les autres besoins familiaux comme l’Ă©ducation de mes frĂšres et sƓurs et gĂ©rer les besoins de mes deux parents. 

Ce fardeau au-dessus de ma tĂȘte pesait tellement lourd que cela a eu des consĂ©quences sur toute ma vie, dans tous les domaines. Il fallait que je rĂ©ussisse dans mes Ă©tudes et que je gagne un bon travail qui pourrait me satisfaire et me permettrait de subvenir aux besoins de ma famille. Etant donnĂ© qu’Ă  l’UniversitĂ© il y avait beaucoup de grĂšves, je ne pouvais pas me permettre de retard les Ă©chĂ©ances alors, j’ai quittĂ© plutĂŽt les Ă©tudes pour aller chercher du travail pour aider mon pĂšre. L’autre consĂ©quence c’est que je ne pouvais plus choisir vraiment ce que je voulais dans ma vie. Je devais juste trouver un travail quel que soit le salaire. 

En quelques sortes, ma vie ne pouvait plus compter vraiment car mon devoir Ă©tait d’aider la famille quel que soit le sacrifice de ma propre vie.  

Toute la famille s’attendait Ă  ce que mon succĂšs soit effectif pour apporter de la nourriture sur la table, pour permettre Ă  tout un chacun d’avoir une Ă©ducation et de pouvoir assurer la bonne santĂ© de tout le monde. Jusqu’ici tout va bien et que la famille ne manque de rien mais quand mĂȘme il y a une partie de moi qui ne vit pas totalement ce dont elle aurait aimĂ© vivre. Mais c’est la vie, c’est le SĂ©nĂ©gal, c’est comme ça quoi. 

Ce qui est bizarre dans tout ça c’est que mon pĂšre m’a poussĂ© tout le temps Ă  me marier trĂšs tĂŽt en mĂȘme temps, il voulait que je le seconde dans sa propre famille. Pour moi, les deux ne pouvaient aller ensemble car, si je me mariais comme il le voulait, je n’aurais pas eu la possibilitĂ© de l’aider convenablement puisque j’aurais eu une Ă©pouse Ă  nourrir et peut-ĂȘtre des enfants en charge. Mais, mon pĂšre ne voyait pas ça et disait que seul Dieu sait ce qui devant nous. C’est vrai mais en mĂȘme temps, l’ĂȘtre humain propose et Dieu dispose.

Une autre pression que j’ai subie pendant longtemps et continue de subir c’est de me marier. Mon pĂšre voulait que je me marie Ă  l’Ăąge de 24 ans. Il a voulu que je marie une fille que je n’avais jamais vue de ma vie. Il continue toujours Ă  me mettre la pression puisque je suis sorti d’un mariage avec une femme amĂ©ricaine qu’il n’a pas du tout digĂ©rĂ© car pour lui, marier une femme qui n’est pas Peul c’est comme si je ne me suis toujours pas mariĂ©. MĂȘme quand j’avais ma femme amĂ©ricaine, il continuait toujours Ă  me dire de me marier. Je rigolais et je lui disais oui bientĂŽt. Il n’a pas arrĂȘtĂ© de me mettre la pression et surtout, il me rappelait toujours mes devoirs de musulman et surtout en tant qu’homme et d’aĂźnĂ© de la famille. Il voulait que je montre un exemple positif Ă  mes frĂšres qui venaient aprĂšs moi. 

Au dĂ©but il me disait que je devais me marier avec une femme d’ethnie Peul comme moi de ma famille, c’est-Ă -dire une cousine. Ensuite, Ă©tant donnĂ© que je n’ai pas suivi, il a changĂ© de tactique en me disant de chercher une fille musulmane seulement. Puis, il me disait que cela ne le dĂ©rangerait pas si la fille n’Ă©tait pas d’ethnie Peul mais une musulmane de bonne famille. 

Il me rappelait chaque fois que je le voyais. Etant donnĂ© que je vivais Ă  Dakar et que j’allais Ă  ThiĂšs chez nous une fois par mois, il n’hĂ©sitait point de me mettre la pression pour que je me marie. Depuis, je vis avec ce fardeau et cette pression sociale. Je pense que nous devons changer la façon dont nous faisons les bĂ©bĂ©s et nous devons penser Ă  leur avenir.