Since this week, Roos switched schools because her ‘old’ class didn’t have a teacher yet. She now takes the local schoolbus by herself and is super happy with the autonomy she can claim.
Stien is still in the local school at Mbaling, her teacher is super friendly - and although the educational level is way below her level, we think it’s good to let her get used to things.
There are, however, critical sidenotes to be made.
First of all, the division of tasks is very gender based. Women should do women things (cooking, washing,...) and men do men things (fishing, building,...)
Secondly, the hierarchy in a family is super important. Younger brothers or sisters should always listen to the older brothers - this is regarded as showing respect to older family members.
Lastly, there are some other very clear rules ... which we still don't grasp fully.
When a member of the family goes out, is home late or is ill s/he can be sure that any children are taken of by others. Food gets cooked and laundry gets done.
In our perception, this gives so much peace of mind knowing that people truly care for each other in a way that it is not "forced" or "according to contract".
This goes as far as money too. When somone in the family earns money, it is shared with all family members. For example, when Liesbeth's colleague gets her monthly wage (paid in cash) she returns home and hands out money to whoever needs it. She holds on to the rest. Everything is shared.
For example, in the Mbaye family (Mballing) one person makes a large pot of coffee in the morning. When everyone wakes up they trickle in and sit down to drink coffee. Some people will get some breakfast and share with whoever asks or needs. When Dries goes running in the morning, he also stops by the family to drink a cup of coffee and have a chat. You come and go as you please once you are part of the 'gang'.
Even after our short stay here, we have built up enough trust in a few families where we can just show up and join for coffee or food should we feel like it. This is, in our percpetion, unimaginable in Belgium.
(Extended) family members can come and go, they are free to join for meals and stay for the night with the family for as long as needed. They are not expected to pay nor contribute in any way. A family cares for its members unconditionally.
The concept "family" is intruiging, one person explained it as an elastic band which you can keep stretching.
Also last week, Roos and Stien took an African paiting class. They spent 4 half-day sessions in the Mbour 'village artisanal' where they went from paper sketch to painted canvas. For us, parents, it was good to rediscover Roos' intrinsic interest in art. Something we need to keep stimulating back home we believe.
The past week, we joined the 4th of April (national independence day) celebrations in the nearby village Mballing. It was supposed to start at 10AM, but as things go in Senegal the whole thing actually started at 1PM. It was a fun afternoon, Stien participated in a small dancing contest and Dries took part in a sack race. We learned that by participating in events like these is the best way of showing respect to the local people and culture. Also, it was a lot of fun - obviously.
As our day of departure closes in (only 10 days to go 😱 ) we're really starting to struggle with the idea of 'returning' home.
The more embedded we become in the local life here, friendships and (new) interests that are in development as well as the overall 'peace and quiet' we have here make it hard to think about moving back to Belgium ... where life's viscosity is low, things have to move fast, stress is high and social contact tends to be (mostly) superficial.
Family of four, spending time in Mballing, Senegal.
Home to the Roeckoe family & some friends