Thursday, August 28, 2008


No time for a post, but here's a pic of our little Cricket. She's eating much more moderately and seems to have relaxed about food, although she still loves it and we are careful to never let her get very hungry.

She loves it all: yogurt or cheese, eggplant or broccoli, lentils and split peas. In fact, she has only ever refused two things: Camembert cheese, and wheat-free macaroni (made from rice flour).


Monday, August 25, 2008


Our cat mostly killed this little guy and then left him for dead in the hallway. I was hoping he was just stunned and put him on the balcony for some fresh air and a new start -- he was still breathing a little. He moved his leg a bit. I had hopes.

Well, he might not have been dead, but in Africa, you have to be actively moving at all times or you don't have a chance; this is him less than 10 hours later. (Don't you love the fly on its back? Poetic.)


In Africa, every mouth is wide open to the sky, and everyone -- and everything -- is hungry. I did not realize this at first. I knew the cats were hungry, so we feed them sometimes. I knew the street boys were hungry, so we boil eggs and buy them bananas and try to make their days a little better here and there. But what I did not know was that even my maid is hungry, so that she does not eat lunch except for an occasional piece of bread, and that my guard and my gardener and most of the people of Senegal eat just one meal per day, because there is no money for more.

I thought the Senegalese were just thin people.

It was my friend Amber who told me, when I was complaining (yes, complaining) that my maid was kinda moody (I really do not like moody. Especially in the house with me all day.) And we started talking about all the things that could be wrong in her life, just how hard life IS here, and then Amber asked about how the maid was eating. I told her about the bread. I told her about how I thought it was odd that she didn't take time to eat lunch, and how I figured it was a cultural thing to skip lunch.

I am such a stupid stupidhead.

One day my maid was going shopping and I didn't feel like going out and I asked her if she'd hand the boiled eggs to the street boys, and she kind of looked at me funny and said okay. I said, "Do you mind? Is it okay?" "Yes, it's okay," she said. I wonder what she was thinking. She probably was not thinking, "Boy, that Lindy is sooooo nice."

Last week, our gardener punctured his foot with a pitchfork. The next day it was really swollen, and we sent him to the doctor, who cleaned the wound and ordered antibiotics. The prescription was for 20 pills, but when the gardener came back asking for money to fill it, he said, "I could just take three or four of the pills," so it wouldn't cost so much, and the naivete of that, plus his willingness to save us about $3, just about kills me. A bare-bones education, if any at all, just leaves room for learning Wolof and basic addition. There was no health class, no earth sciences. I started to wonder, does he even know that the world is round?

A friend asked her maid to cut the recipe in half for dinner. She couldn't do it, because she didn't know what one cup would be if you took just half of it.

It is hard to wrap your head around the contents of an uneducated mind. For probably 60% of the people of Senegal, absent are the baseline understandings and assumptions Westerners bring to every decision and conversation and thought that foams up out of our brains. For many Senegalese, there is little sense of the order of the world, or how our bodies work, or how the continents line up.

Which brings into question exactly what your responsibilities are as an employer. You consider whether you should hand the gardener an antibiotic each morning with a cup of water (which I did not do), or if you should provide your maid with lunch every day (which we do), or offer to send her to night school (which she declined) -- your ability to determine exactly what your responsibility is to people who know so much less than you is confused.

On the one hand, they are adults, I pay them money, they decide how to spend it and what to eat or not eat, and that's that. On the other hand, even though we pay our maid 30% more than most other people I know, she is still probably poorer and hungrier than most homeless people in America. Senegal faces skyrocketing food prices and large hotel and development projects that have forced local people into inland slums choked by dusty roads, open sewers and spotty water supplies. And 40% unemployment.

There are so many problems floating around in this disorganized post of mine: uneducation, unemployment, skyrocketing costs of living, hunger, infrastructure, scarcity, corruption.

The usual heartbreaking suspects.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hey! I know you!

After Dessi learned to crawl, one of the first things she discovered was her buddy in the stainless steel garbage can. La femme de la poubelle. Every day for a week, she'd crawl on into the kitchen, sit herself down, and get chatty with her new friend. Now they meet up only occasionally; she's onto bigger and better, like emptying the cat food bowls. Holy hilarity!


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Our little cricket

Not too much is happening in our world, just Dessi getting taller, smarter, chattier and stronger. Oh, and happier. Every day, just continuing to laugh her tail off. We love her beyond what there are words for.



And, here's what I've been doing. Stuff like this. Being a stay-at-home mama is a strange trip.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Our shipment came (called our HHE, HouseHold Effects). The government provides furniture for us, but we brought some of our own, anyway. It's SO great now to have my own couch, and our giant king-sized bed, and Dessi's own crib and pretty pink curtains. It came in four large plywood crates, fresh off the boat (from Montana and then DC), and nothing broke but MAN did they use a lot of packaging. It made me feel sick to my stomach. Beautiful, perfect paper used for cushioning, brand-new cardboard boxes and bubble wrap ... what a waste! My friend said that when her own HHE arrived, word got out and some of the locals came to ask for her cardboard boxes, etc. They use them for prayer mats, to burn as fuel, or as cushions to sleep on. How stupid is this world? That the things used to package my effects are treasured as a Senegalese's effects. It's so inequitable. And not at all do I wish that I had less stuff or that the movers had skimped on packaging and stuff had broken. Just that, somehow, things could be a little more fair.

We've changed the housekeeper's schedule so she has Monday off. Let me tell you, I feel like I have it off, too. I can't believe how much I've missed just having no one in the house! It's like heaven! I've been singing my head off all day, Dessi and I danced for 20 minutes this afternoon (I might be able to sing in front of people, but I definitely, definitely should not dance), and I just feel so ... alone. I love it. I NEED it. I wonder if it was a mistake to have hired full-time help. And she's a fabulous person, too; I really like her. Well, maybe just Mondays will be enough for me.

OK, maybe in a few weeks I'll have some photos. Lind