Diaries of a Wimpy Tubaab Volume 5: The Art of Sitting

If you haven’t noticed a theme through my prior posts is that the wimpy tubaab is sitting while the Gambian women are working.  The Wolof enjoy what we Americans would call “stating the obvious”.  So, dozens of times each day someone would come up to me while I was sitting at a compound and say “Yaa ngee toog” (You are sitting) and I would reply as was appropriate “Maa ngee toog” (I am sitting).  Honestly, this got a little annoying and I had to keep reminding myself of what those words meant.  Nowhere in the sentence was anything said about me being a wimpy tubaab although I felt it was implied.  However, there were many other conversations discussing how much stronger Gambians are because they have to work so much and they start working at such a young age.  I hope after reading my previous entries you agree.  

     I know this sounds crazy and I am really not writing this to complain, but the sitting wasn’t easy either.  First of all, even after living here for almost a year i am still a typical American and like to move and do.  To just sit, sometimes in silence or to chat for hours on end was definitely challenging, but also very rewarding.  The thing I enjoyed most about my village experience was the time and flexibility to spend hours with people just being a part of their day.   The art of sitting is not just learning how to be still and sit, but it is also the physical act of sitting.  I appreciated their hospitality greatly, but they just don’t own comfortable furniture and without Aleve I definitely would not have made it the full month.  I really need to work more on my core strength.  Whenever I arrived to visit and chat with a compound or at an event, the hospitable Gambians went out in search of a “chair” for me.  Many compounds have one or two of those American style inexpensive hard plastic outdoor chairs (some of which have been sewn back together after cracking), but many did not even have these.  Some compounds would invite me inside to sit, usually on their beds or a hard wood couch and some would even bring their large and heavy wood couch outside for us to sit.  Some compounds have a cement or wood slab or porch area to sit on or a donkey cart (no cushioning with these) and they are ingenious at making do with “chairs”.  The family I stayed with owned 4 of the plastic chairs.  If all of us were at the compound we would number about 15, where do you sit?  Well, you can just squat (they are great at that), you can sit on a brick, a small wooden stool, reclining wooden chair (that I could not get in and out of gracefully), mat on the ground (they actually usually lounged on these and even fell asleep), margarine container, car battery casing, a pair of shoes (for dinner an adult would sit on a low wooden stool and then a kid would sit on their feet), large margarine containers, buckets (I was offered a bucket to sit “in” once and that was tough as I did not want to ruin her bucket).  Chairs are in high demand at parties and if you get one it goes with you everywhere (see the picture of the very industrious lady and her chair), people walking with heavy wooden chairs to a party was a common site (they emptied their houses of furniture).  I did have a camping chair in my house and was very grateful for it’s comfort and for the wonderful people from the US who sent it in my container.  I was very impressed with the many innovative “chairs” I saw and I was humbled at truly how little they have and ihow content they are with so little.  The important thing was to have something or somewhere for people to sit, because the visiting and chatting and spending time with others is what they value.   As I type this I am back home in my village in a comfy and squishy chair all alone, but I am very much looking forward to heading out this afternoon and seeing my friends here that I have not seen for the last month and sitting in some uncomfortable “chairs” while we visit and catch up (assuming the storm eases up).  Thanks for reading diaries of a wimpy tubaab and I hope you enjoyed some insights into life here and the amazing Gambian women.  Please keep them in your prayers. 

Our dinner table and chairs
One of the kids at my compound in the “comfortable” chair
This lady worked at the party, but had her “chair” attached to her and ready to sit at all times
Some of my new family sitting on the mat 
Even chickens find interesting ways to sit

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