The characters: Marie-Hèlene, Ussman Ndiaye, Corinn, A 20-something year-old woman, an 18-ish-year old soccer enthusiast named Ahmadou, the maid, Omar, and Pàppi.
The house itself was entered via a corridor aside a barbershop, which lead to an open-air courtyard. One ascended the stairs to the house’s first floor. There was no basement. The first floor consists of a kitchen, Corinn’s bedroom (always closed), a bathroom with a showerhead and floor-toilet, and a dining room/ living room area where the meals were eaten and the family congregated. The second floor consisted of five rooms. A bathroom (showerhead, sink, and a sit-down toilet), three bedrooms (one of which was ours), and the master suite (always closed) consisting of two rooms. The third floor was the roof. Omar and Pàppi were the adorable six and four-year olds, respectively. Unfortunately Pàppi had been stricken with Meningitis and no longer had control of his motor skills or his speech. He wore a red helmet on his head and was under the constant surveillance of the younger women in the household. The house was ruled by a matriarch: Marie-Hèlene, “La Reine”, called and ordered people around to do jobs at her leisure. Typically all of the women got younger men to do their bidding, except for Ussman, who was also considered an elder. I played cards with Omar the first day and Ahmadou one night when the power was out. Corinn could usually be found on the roof, Marie-Helene on the couch watching TV, and I rarely saw Ussman. We also experienced during our stay cold-water bucket showers, a product of the lack of running water. There are so many things I could tell about the stay with the families that I simply cannot write them all down in detail: the endless fish, the lack of garbage, the mosquito nets, keys, courtyards, barber shops, “meetings”, water, bread, chocolate, meals, friends, planes, religions, Americans, go-fish, clotheslines, cadeaux, and candy, to name a myriad of family episodes. I hope that explains my choppy writing. We stayed with the families from Monday to Thursday, then Saturday night and Sunday morning. For the first stay we spent most of the days at the school St. Marie de Hamm, and for the second stay we toured the streets of Dakar. Although only lasting a short time, the experience I have had with my families will be unforgettable and has been a very important aspect of my Senegalese experience.