Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Arranged Marriage

I am not sure if this is weird but I sort of feel like I have entered into an arranged marriage. Now I have never been married so I am not going to claim to be an expert but I think that the relationship that I have naturally formed with someone would be what I would expect an arranged marriage to be like; my counterpart, Amadou. 
Amadou and I
Sure we are work partners, that’s obvious, but he is sort of my key to the city. He is like the cool kid at school and I am the new student who just wants to be liked and fit in. Now I guess I consider our relationship this way because as lazy as I want to be sometimes I feel almost forced to go to his house and sit in the awkward silence of no common first language in attempt to “integrate”. I know its important to be a part of the community that I want to someday help, and I get that, but I thought it would come with time. And Amadou, being truly Senegalese, questions if I am mad at him or miss my family back in America if a few days go by without contact on my part. And have you ever been forced to be friends with someone? It’s a lot of work. I have to admit though as time passes of me being in Vélingara it is becoming less and less of a chore to go over to his house, create small talk and show interest in his family. I kind of like the guy now. I would guess he is in his forty’s, two wives and I am not sure how many children but if I were to throw a number out there I would say five, all of whom look EXACTLY like him. While we are becoming more comfortable and familiar with each other I feel more like an old married couple than a young wife of an arranged marriage. I am beginning to have fun on our trips; when we go to the bank where I pull the “I’m a white volunteer here to save the city and I don’t want to wait in line to withdraw money” card. Just the other morning during my morning jaunt, I would call it a run but I would be a disgrace to those who actually call themselves runners, I found him walking down the road because his motorcycle broke down. I recognized his outfit from a mile away and when I was about to pass him I instead decided to start running circles around him as he continued to walk. He was mildly amused to say the least. I think he was more surprised in the fact that when I say I went running and return home all sweaty I actually did go running, and there I was caught in the act and he saw it with his own two eyes. To circle back to my original point though we started off almost being forced to have a relationship I thoroughly get a kick out of him now and am excited for the work we have ahead of us. He is a go-getter, which is a rarity in this country, and I couldn’t have gotten stuck with a better work partner.
While on the topic of men in this country I am learning to appreciate being born in the US. As a woman in the global community it has become more real just how unfair life is for many women. You see articles on the news or hear jokes about how men are more superior but being raised by a very strong woman I never really saw just how insignificant my gender gets treated. I was always taught that my twin brother (shout out Eddy Spaghetti) and I could be whatever we wanted to be when we grew up and it didn’t matter that I was a girl or he a boy. I grew up seeing one side of the story, the one where women and men are equal; mom and dad taking turns working, cooking meals, going to school/taking classes, showing up to sporting events. But now, after living in Senegal for a very short period of time, I am seeing the other side. The side that I hope won’t last forever and my children will never see. My host brother’s wife for example; born from a father working in politics on a national level and marrying a teacher but never had the chance to finish middle school. I hold out for hope for other women but if someone who was dealt those cards can’t get minimum education in this country, who can? Instead, after my brothers wife meet a potential husband, her teacher may I add, she was expected to drop out of school and start a family. Being a year older than she is right now I could not imagine my life raising three young children while doing all the housework. No way. Again how lucky I am to be born in a country with women’s rights and parents who expected more of me than to be a housewife.
To wrap up my random thoughts I can see why so many projects focus on working with women’s groups here in Senegal. They need all the encouragement and tools for success they can get. While my stint as a bank teller woo’ing, budget keeping wife will be short lived I will forever be grateful for just how important and appreciated women are back in the mother country. Girl power.



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